HARTFORD – In the yearly flurry of activity on the last day of the Connecticut legislative session, a major issue slipped through the cracks: allowing heating oil customers access to state efficiency programs. At a time when all Connecticut residents are trying to save money on energy, fuel oil customers (48% of homes) are at a severe disadvantage. They are about to lose access to efficiency assistance programs that are available to natural gas or electric heat customers, because of the way these programs are funded.
This inequity would have been corrected by proposed legislation including Senate Bill 415 and Senate Bill 450. Efforts to provide reliable access to efficiency programs and to improve the structure of efficiency funds were supported by 350 Connecticut, other statewide environmental advocacy groups, energy efficiency businesses and private citizens. Unfortunately, ongoing negotiations among legislators meant that no compromise energy bill was finalized before the clock ran out on the 2012 legislative session Wednesday night.
Teresa Eickel, member of 350 Connecticut and executive director of the Interreligious Eco-Justice Network, testified in support of the policy at a public hearing. “This legislation will not only save Connecticut residents hundreds of dollars per year, it will also secure jobs for economic growth,” she said at the time. Owners and employees of home performance businesses testified that expanding access to and funding for state efficiency programs would enable them to hire more workers, while restricting access might force them to lay off workers–especially in areas of the state where oil is the predominant heating fuel.
Although the legislature failed to deal with this issue in regular session, there is still time to give oil customers access to these programs before funding runs out. “Our senators, representatives and governor need to act quickly,” said Laura McMillan, a member of 350 Connecticut’s Global Warming Solutions Act working group. “Providing all state residents with access to programs like Home Energy Solutions will help their constituents to save money, protect skilled jobs in the home performance sector, and reduce Connecticut’s carbon footprint.”