Environmental leaders very disappointed with Connecticut energy legislation (update)

Jun 4th, 2013 | By | Category: Energy

The the statement from CFE at the bottom of this post for their most recent statement:

A diverse coalition of environmental and consumer advocates, faith-based organizations, businesses, and labor organizations express disappointment over legislative raids of Connecticut clean energy funds, putting the state’s emerging clean energy sector in jeopardy and diverting funds from electricity customers to plug budget gaps.

The budget proposal passed by both the House and the Senate includes plans to steal millions from state clean energy funds, including $30.4 million from the Clean Energy Financing and Investment Authority and $5 million from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative account.

Groups respond to the recent budget deal, saying it’s “nothing more than a backdoor tax on electric bills,” “bad for ratepayers,” “eviscerates clean energy programs,” “a long-term loss for clean energy jobs,” “diminishes efforts to meet the state’s RPS goals,” “balances the budget on the backs of those who can least afford it,” and puts us “farther behind our neighbors in the race to build a clean energy future.”

The following statements come from local leaders in response to the funding raids:

Roger Smith, Co-director of Clean Water Action Connecticut
“This massacre would cripple the first ‘green bank’ in the nation, and threatens to end all residential solar programs. And the raid comes on top of bills to weaken the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (SB 1138), and put ratepayers on the hook for massive natural gas pipeline expansions (HB 6360). This is the worst legislative session for clean energy I have seen in the past decade. They are balancing the state budget on the backs of electric ratepayers, and harming our local clean energy businesses in the process.

William Dornbos, Connecticut Director for Environment Northeast
“While we recognize that Connecticut faces budgetary challenges, the recent decision to divert funds from energy efficiency and clean energy investments remains a poor policymaking choice. These investments should actually be protected in tough economic times because they alleviate economic hardship by creating new jobs, growing our state’s economy, and making our businesses more competitive. We know, for instance, that each $1 diverted from the auction revenue we receive from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative – the Northeast’s pioneering market designed to reduce carbon pollution – will result in a little over $4 in lost economic growth. So fund diversions just magnify economic losses. Connecticut’s policymakers should honor the important commitments made to the public when these smart investments were originally established and restore the full revenue streams immediately.”

Elise J. Willer, Legislative Organizer with Connecticut Working Families
“In terms of energy policy, this budget is incredibly short-sighted. By raiding funds designed to create in-state jobs, lower energy bills, and reduce Connecticut’s environmental impact, we have once again balanced the budget on the backs of those who can least afford it.”

Lori Brown, Executive Director of the CT League of Conservation Voters
“The legislature has raided energy efficiency and clean energy funds in the past to plug budget holes and the results were predictable – bad for our energy programs, bad for jobs, bad for ratepayers, bad for the environment. And yet, here we are again. It’s Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. We hope Legislators will rethink this action and stand strong in support of clean energy programs in Connecticut.”

Chris Phelps, Campaign Director for Environment Connecticut
“This move takes tens of millions of dollars from existing programs that help families cut their energy bills, create jobs building solar and other clean energy systems, and cut carbon pollution. These funds, paid by electric ratepayers for the express purpose of supporting clean energy and energy savings programs putting money back into the pockets of families and businesses across the state, are now being diverted to close the state budget gap as nothing more than a backdoor tax on electric bills.

“Unlike our neighboring states who are going big on commitments to clean energy, Connecticut is going backwards. The legislature has already taken steps to rollback the renewable electricity standard this year. Now they are poised to eviscerate programs that build new clean energy systems in our communities. This budget raid puts residential solar power programs, clean energy financing programs for small businesses, and more at risk. In return the state gets a one-time shot of revenue for the budget and a long-term loss of clean energy jobs and we fall farther and farther behind our neighbors in the race to build a clean energy future.”

Sue Coakley, Executive Director of Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships
“Clean energy has proven to be one of the most cost-effective investments states can make to help their residents and businesses thrive, particularly as we emerge from such a prolonged economic downturn. The actions of the legislature have harmed ratepayers and sent a clear signal to the clean energy industry that they should take their jobs and economic benefits elsewhere.”

Teresa Eickel, Executive Director, Interreligious Eco-Justice Network
“As a people of faith, we were very disappointed to hear about the effort to raid the clean energy fund this weekend. Every faith tradition speaks about caring for the earth and for those who are most vulnerable – the poor, the sick, and the elderly. In this light, the Governor’s and the Legislature’s refusal to protect clean, renewable energy sources is troubling on a moral, ethical, and spiritual level. We believe that our Creator provided these sources of energy so that we might live in just and loving concert with His planet, which He loves.”

“Raiding the clean energy fund is morally wrong and sends the message that we value corporate profits over protecting public health and the environment. Instead, we should be investing in clean energy technologies, utilizing the gifts God has given us to create a just and sustainable future for all.”

Seth Kaplan, Vice President for Policy and Climate Advocacy, Conservation Law Foundation
“Generations of smart New England farmers have known that in times of crisis, like famine and drought, the last thing (literally) you should do is eat your seeds. It is a desperate acknowledgement that you have completely given up on the future.”

“The proposal to raid the ‘Green Bank,’ which fosters energy efficiency and renewable energy in Connecticut, as well as the proceeds from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, allocated to lowering energy bills by making customers more efficient, can only be seen as our leaders taking that pathetic and horrible step. Trading away reduced energy bills and a cleaner healthier future to avoid harsh budget realities is an exercise in myopic self-destruction, which based on our decades of work across the region, we can say is unusual and thankfully rare.

“Avoiding a state budget deficit is essential. Robbing the funding streams that reduce energy use (and energy bills!) and helps build a new economy with jobs building solar and wind power is the wrong way to do it.”

Martin Mador, Sierra Club
“Energy advocates across the state fought long and hard to ensure legislation passed this year was as supportive as possible of renewable energy and efficiency programs. Those efforts have been severely undercut by two provisions in the budget bill. To stay under the budget cap, the budget raids funds from both RGGI and CEFIA, which support programs such as residential solar, C-PACE, and efficiency enhancements. These raids constitute a reduction of our commitment to clean energy, and diminish efforts to adhere to the state’s RPS. The raids make it harder to control the cost of energy for consumers. They send a signal to companies thinking of working on clean energy projects in the state that they should look elsewhere.”

Mark LeBel, Energy Fellow for Connecticut Fund for the Environment
“Connecticut’s clean energy authority and the programs funded by RGGI are recognized economic drivers for our state. Dollars invested in efficiency or clean energy are returned to the economy many times over as families save money and entrepreneurs take advantage of demand for energy services. And of course, they’re also successfully reducing greenhouse gas emissions. At a time when Connecticut is trying to meet its renewable energy goals and emissions reduction targets, it makes no sense to take funding away from the very programs that build our capacity in the clean energy sector. Connecticut has made itself a leader in recent years by establishing a ‘green bank’ and investing a large percentage of our RGGI proceeds in efficiency, and the benefits of those smart moves are starting to accrue. To realize their full potential, we have to stay the course; the drastic cuts in this budget threaten to set us back.”

Margaret Miner, Executive Director for Rivers Alliance of Connecticut
The administration and lawmakers are still looking for a magic solution to climate change. They want something faster and cheaper than proven low-emission technologies and conservation programs. This year the magic cure is natural gas and Canadian hydropower. Despite the well-publicized negatives associated with each, these sources are now promoted as the new hot investments, while solar, low-impact hydropower, wind, energy efficiency, are out of favor. Rivers Alliance believes the state should commit to supporting the best clean-energy technologies and programs available, similar to the long-term investment strategy of, say, Warren Buffet. Instead the state is acting like a day trader, chasing numbers on a screen instead of lasting value.”

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Connecticut Fund for the Environment opposes the raids on Connecticut’s clean energy funds contained in the two-year state budget passed by the House of Representatives on Saturday. The proposed budget, contained in House Bill 6704, would transfer $6.2 million from the Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority to the General Fund in Fiscal Year 2014 and $24 million in FY 2015, as well as $5 million from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative proceeds in FY 2015.

“Connecticut’s clean energy authority and the programs funded by RGGI are recognized economic drivers for our state, and are reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” said Mark LeBel, energy fellow for CFE. “Drastic cuts to CEFIA’s budget would set us back, right at a time when Connecticut is trying to meet its renewable energy and emissions reduction goals. It makes no sense to take funding away now from the very programs that build our capacity in the clean energy sector. The Senate must restore funding to CEFIA and RGGI when it passes the budget.”

CFE and its program Save the Sound also oppose several sections added to House Bill 6360, the act implementing Connecticut’s new Comprehensive Energy Strategy. Sections 61 and 62 open water company-owned lands to telecommunications towers. Section 48 makes economic development a consideration in formulating aquifer protection regulations, which is likely to lead to additional inappropriate development near aquifers that supply public drinking water.

“The sections weakening protections for drinking water lands are unrelated to the energy bill and are bad ideas for Connecticut’s environment,” said Lauren Savidge, legal fellow for CFE. “Water company lands not only protect public health by filtering our drinking water, but they have become essential components of our state’s open space network, providing wildlife habitat, beautiful vistas, and opportunities for recreation. Changes to laws protecting drinking water lands should be fully debated in public hearings, not tacked onto an unrelated bill in the final days of session.”

H.B. 6360 does contain a number of positive provisions that CFE strongly supports, including a significant funding increase for energy conservation programs.

The Senate is expected to vote on both bills soon. CFE urges the Senate to pass H.B. 6360 without the drinking water protection rollbacks, and to restore funding to CEFIA and RGGI when it passes the budget bill.

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One Comment to “Environmental leaders very disappointed with Connecticut energy legislation (update)”

  1. […] an improvement from the original proposal (read reactions to the original raid from CFE and allies here), it is a direct hit to these important […]

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