Connecticut Sued for Using Clean Energy Funds to Fill Budget Gap

by Paula Panzarella, Fight the Hike

The state legislature’s attempt to raid $155 million from the clean energy and efficiency funds has met with strong resistance.

On May 15, with CT Fund for the Environment as the lead plaintiff, a lawsuit was filed in federal court in Hartford. Fight the Hike is one of twelve groups suing to get the funds restored for clean energy, conservation, and efficiency programs. These programs have helped Connecticut’s economy, improved health by lowering pollution from fossil fuels and resulted in lower costs for taxpayers. We demand their funding be fully restored!

These funds were for the energy programs that we have paid for through the surcharge fee on our United Illuminating and Eversource electric bills. The money was collected specifically to help consumers improve energy efficiency, take part in energy conservation programs, low-interest loans to help with solar panels, modernize furnaces, water heaters, etc.

Besides these programs helping consumers, they helped build up Connecticut’s economy. There are more than 34,000 people working in the energy-efficiency industry in Connecticut. It will be a staggering blow to these businesses and their employees if people cannot continue to have the assistance of these clean-energy programs.

The “Combined Public Benefits Charge” portion of our electric bill is how the Energy Efficiency Fund, CT Green Bank, and Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative are funded. To bolster the General Fund, the state is planning on seizing $155 million that was collected and earmarked for clean energy and efficiency programs.

By crippling these programs, it’s estimated that more than 6,600 jobs will be lost in the next two years, $21 million in state tax revenue will be lost, tens of thousands of people will not be able to receive energy assessments, weatherization upgrades, energy efficiency programs, and financial assistance for low-income ratepayers. The case will be heard before the end of June for a ruling to be made to stop the planned seizure of funds on July 1.

In other news, the legislature failed to pass an important large-scale community solar bill that would have allowed for 300 megawatts of new solar power. They passed a bill that would sunset net metering, another blow to the growing clean energy industry. Net metering allows homeowners to be credited for solar energy produced by their home that exceeds their usage (like rollover minutes on a cell phone).

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