Energy and Technology Committee Tackles Electricity Issues

by Paula Panzarella, Fight the Hike

On Feb. 24 (as PAR goes to print), the Energy and Technology Committee of the CT State Legislature held public hearings on a number of bills. At least six bills were scheduled about capping or lowering the fixed customer charge. Since many different legislators submitted bills on the same topic, the concern of customers from around the state was heard and there is good chance the bills will be merged and go before the general assembly.

Why cap the base rate? If ratepayers conserve but still have ever-rising bills because of the base rate, all the advantages of efficiency, conservation or using solar won’t necessarily result in lower costs. Here are the different bills on this one issue: 5281 (441), 5402 (673), 6014 (1553), 6029 (1811), 570 (2226), 574 (2402). The CT Roundtable on Climate and Jobs has worked on getting the rate capped for months. You can contact the organizer John Humphries for updates: john.humphries1664@gmail.com or (860) 216-7972.

Other bills scheduled were to ban variable electric rates, Bill 573 (2222); to improve transparency and increase opportunities for public comment on proposed changes in electric rates, Bill 575 (2235); have the tax on electric bills itemized on the monthly bills, Bill 625 (2293); require the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority to develop policies to lower electric rates, Bill 728 (1668); prohibit companies from raising electric rates to cover costs of repairs from actual or anticipated storm damage, Bill 5019 (11); for every five days of power outage, customers to be credited with one day of service, Bill 6013 (510); public service companies prioritize restoration of services for customers with disabilities, Bill 6018 (2706); establish a cap for electric rates and have more public hearings on the rate-making process, Bill 6019 (2686); improve the microgrid development, Bill 6027 (1803).

Written testimony can be sent in up to a week AFTER the hearing. E-mail testimony to ettestimony@cga.ct.gov.  Or write to: Energy and Technology Committee
Legislative Office Building, Room 3900
Hartford, CT  06106

It’s not too early to let your legislators know what you think about these bills. Phone numbers for state senators and representatives are in the box on page 6. The website of the Energy and Technology Committee is www.cga.ct.gov/et/.

News from People’s Action for Clean Energy

by Judi Friedman, PACE

A Pure House in Westport: www.ThePureHouse.com

PACE is excited about this concept : a high performance building envelope that has eliminated carcinogens!

Doug McDonald, owner and builder of a PASSIV house in Westport, has taken the next step! He has built a design/build team which will construct houses that are safe to live in and absolutely energy-efficient! Using pure and natural products he will have a house ready for market in three weeks in Westport, Conn.

More Research to be Done at Millstone Nuclear Power Plant

Each day, some two billion gallons of water are pumped from Long Island Sound into the Millstone Power Station in Waterford, CT – our state’s only nuclear power plant – and used to help cool systems and support the station’s two operating reactors. After it heats up, about 90 percent of that water is discharged back into the Sound at about 20 degrees warmer than when it was taken in, said Ken Holt, a spokesman for Millstone.

Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman (I-Montauk) wants to better understand what, if any, impact that heated water is having on the ecology of the Sound and has reached out to researchers at Stony Brook University’s School of Atmospheric Science, hoping they can determine whether Millstone might be “overheating” the Sound’s waters.

“No one has really studied the broader impacts of this plant,” Mr. Schneiderman said in a recent interview, noting that biology experts have recorded an “undeniable” increase in Long Island Sound water temperatures over the last few decades, which has affected the health of local fisheries, including lobster and flounder populations.

Soon the Waterford plant, which is just under 10 miles north of Plum Island, will need to renew a permit mandated by the federal Clean Water Act. Known as a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit, it helps the government regulate pollution – in this case thermal pollution – discharging into ground and surface waters.

Report on Rick Wolff’s January Talks in New Haven

by Allan Brison, CT Green Party

Over 20 people gathered to hear Rick Wolff in January at the Unitarian Universalist Society. He spoke about his evolution from his education attending three of the nation’s most prestigious schools (Harvard, Stamford and Yale), to being one of the rare Marxist economists in the Economic Department at Yale, and, in turn, to his present incarnation as being in great demand for radio and TV interviews across the nation, and having his advice sought by such luminaries as Bill Moyers, as well as being a driving force behind the Left Forum every year in Manhattan.

Contributions were made to Democracy At Work, Rick’s organization to bring real democracy to the workplace and everywhere else in American society (donations can also be made on his website http://www.democracyatwork.info/).

Then Rick spoke to the Yale Political Union for the debate on the question: Should US Banks be Nationalized? But his position is not for either Nationalization or Privatization, but rather what he calls Socialization – a more nuanced form of collective ownership of goods and services by those most affected by those goods or services. Though he believes that Socialization is the way to go, he did point out that there have been some very successful examples of public owner-ship. These include the Bank of North Dakota and the much larger publicly owned Bank of Germany.

Rick gave other examples where public ventures have outperformed their privately owned counterparts, including the Wallingford, CT Electric District, the publicly owned utilities in Los Angeles and Sacramento, and the Green Bay Packers football team in the NFL.

One of the largest and most striking examples of Socialization in the ownership of goods and services is the Mondragon Corporation in Spain. This company started in 1956 and today is the largest corporation in the Basque Region. It employs 74,000 people in 257 companies and organizations in four areas of activity: Finance, Industry, Retail, and Knowledge.

For more on the Mondragon Corporation, see Rick’s website or http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mondragon_Corporation.

At the end of the YPU debate, the students voted in favor of nationalization of banks by a narrow margin. The debate was captured on videotape for public showings.

Please contact me for more information. Allan Brison, (203) 782-6808

Three updates from People’s Action for Clean Energy

by Judi Friedman, PACE

1) We are breathing a sigh of relief. Vermont Yankee nuclear plant has been a dangerous neighbor for too long.

Thanks to decades of citizen organizing and protest plus the wise backing of the elected officials of the state of Vermont, the Vermont Yankee nuclear reactor has been shut down permanently. The Vermont governor, Peter Schumlin, said: “Thanks to investments in renewable energy such as solar, Vermont energy future is on a different and more sustainable path that is creating jobs, reducing energy costs for Vermonters and slowing climate change.”

The lights will not go out. The closing will not affect regional grid stability.
This important information comes from  BEYOND NUCLEAR To see how scary Vermont Yankee was, go to www.beyondnuclear.org  and briefly watch “Shut Vermont Yankee” and/or “The Activists.”

2) A cozy and uniquely informative PACE meeting will be held at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, February 11 at the very special home of Nevin and Julie Christensen on 44 West Mountain Rd. in West Simsbury. Good food included! Note: snow date: Thursday, February 12.
Please come to discuss and act on many of the following subjects: solar expansion in Connecticut, shared solar, hemp agriculture (hemp pellets), solar awards, legislative priorities, cyber security, the status of Millstone nuclear plant and Vermont Yankee, the Pure House, the utility rate structure, and the exciting spring solar tour!

If possible, please bring tasty treats to share and your favorite solar device. See the new iPhone solar cell charger and the amazing Luci inflatable solar lantern… plus meet some really nice people!

3) Listen to this important broadcast about Fukushima if you can: http://www.nuclearhotseat.com/category/uss-ronald-reagan NUCLEAR HOTSEAT is a fascinating weekly radio program on nuclear energy and nuclear weapons. This interview is with Dr. Alex Rosen of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War blasting the UN Report on Fukushima. The second interview with Joseph Mangano is about the US sailors who came to try to help Fukushima victims and were exposed to radiation.

Help Decide Connecticut’s Energy Future!

by Onté Johnson, CT Beyond Coal, Sierra Club

The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) is making long-term plans for our state’s energy future and we have until Feb. 11 to weigh in.

DEEP’s plan, known as an Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), includes some good things, like an increase in energy efficiency, but also some bad things, including a continued reliance on coal-fired power from the Bridgeport coal plant. These plans are for the next ten years, so it’s important that we make our voices heard for solar, wind and efficiency today! Submit an official comment to DEEP to make plans for retiring coal and replacing it with solar, wind and efficiency in Connecticut’s long-term energy plans.
The Bridgeport plant was rated the 8th worst environmental justice offender out of 431 coal plants across the country and needs to be replaced with clean energy to protect our health and the environment.

Connecticut has the skilled workforce and resources we need to move beyond coal to clean energy, but we need a plan to get there. Help move Connecticut beyond coal to a clean energy future!

Let DEEP Commissioner Rob Klee know that you support better energy efficiency, increased use of solar and wind, and the retirement of the Bridgeport coal plant. DEEP is taking comments on the draft 2014 IRP until February 11. Submit comments at DEEP.EnergyBureau@ct.gov, or via the Department’s Energy Web Filings system.

Thanks for all you do to protect the environment, Onté Johnson, Organizing Representative, Connecticut Beyond Coal–Sierra Club

News from the CT Roundtable on Climate and Jobs

by John Humphries, Convener/Organizer

The CT Roundtable on Climate and Jobs is launching their public campaign to pass legislation capping the monthly fixed charges for residential and small business electricity customers. There is a new Facebook page and website to share information and build a broad-based coalition. Like them on Facebook!

Use your social media networks to share information about the campaign with groups all across the state. We posted this meme to the Facebook page as our first public outreach, and our following is already starting to grow.

CTEnergyRelief.org is the new webpage that will serve as a source of more detailed information about the campaign and legislation. It already provides good educational materials to help you understand the details about fixed charges. Use #CTEnergyRelief as the hashtag when sharing info about the campaign via Twitter.

Legislative handout – We have already gathered 16 organizational endorsements for the legislative handout developed in partnership with Acadia Center. We will continue to update the handout, as we receive additional endorsements, so please encourage your group to sign on by contacting me directly. Download the handout: bit.ly/ctenergyrelief-handout

Like us on Facebook to get all our updates and action alerts. We anticipate a public hearing in the Energy and Technology Committee in the coming weeks, and there will be many opportunities to contact your legislators at key points during the session. Donate online via IREJN (our fiscal sponsor); include “Roundtable” in the comment box. Or mail a check, payable to IREJN, with Roundtable on thememo line to PO Box 270147, West Hartford, CT 06127.

In faith and solidarity, John Humphries, Convener/ Organizer, john.humphries1664@gmail.com
The CT Roundtable on Climate and Jobs is a partnership between the Interreligious Eco-Justice Network and the AFL-CIO that seeks to strengthen collaboration among Connecticut’s labor, environmental, and religious groups in advocating for public policies that address urgent concerns about climate change while creating good-paying jobs right here in our state.

SWITCH! Campaign encourages switching to clean energy

by Chris Schweitzer, New Haven Healthy City/Healthy Climate Challenge

switch-campaignThe New Haven Healthy City/Healthy Climate Challenge launched an eight week SWITCH!

Campaign to have hundreds of New Haven residents switch to clean (wind, solar, etc) electricity in their homes. Between Dec. 1 and Jan. 19 (MLK Day) the campaign will – with your help – result in a reduction of thousands of tons of green-house gas pollution in the coming years.

By switching residents will:

  • Immediately cut greenhouse gas and other pollution by 3-5 tons per year per person.
  • Send a message to the power industry that they need to move away from dirty fossil fuels to meet growing demand for clean healthy energy.
  • Let the State government know that future investment in fossil fuel infrastructure is going the wrong way.

The SWITCH! Campaign is using public art, posters, PSAs (on WXPN), and tabling to get out the message that it’s very easy to switch.

Please join us and spread the word, get your organization to promote SWITCH! too! The directions are at healthyclimatechallenge.org, or contact Chris at nh@newhavenleon.org for more information or materials.

The campaign launched as the COP 20 [Conference of the Parties] meeting on climate change happened in Peru, where the future widespread use of fossil fuels is being questioned. Ahead of the talks, U.S. Climate Envoy Todd Stern made news by openly acknowledging that it was “obvious” that a proportion of what the coal, oil, and gas companies count as financial assets cannot possibly be dug out of the ground and burned if the world hopes to meet global targets. The solution, Stern said, will ultimately be one that leaves “a lot of fossil fuel assets in the ground.”

Shocking Electric News from Fight the Hike

Paula Panzarella, Fight the Hike

On Monday, Nov. 17, the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) approved excessive rate hikes for UI and CL&P customers who are on the standard offer. The generation rate increase was requested eleven days prior to PURA’s approval and did not require public testimony. It is estimated the average UI customer with the standard offer will have an increase of $35 a month starting January 1, 2015.

CL&P customers who have the standard offer will, on average, have an increase of $18 a month.
This is blatantly disregarding and disrespecting the residents and businesses of Connecticut by foisting such huge increases without any warning. Can you imagine if it were known that the companies wanted this raise prior to the election? Electricity and energy rates would have been a major issue in the debates, forcing candidates to take positions and discuss ways to nullify or at least forestall these increases.

We urge people to contact PURA and CT Attorney General George Jepsen and let them know your thoughts about this.

  • PURA: phone: (860) 827-1553 and toll free (800) 382-4586, fax: (860) 827-2822 e-mail: pura.information@ct.gov Ten Franklin Square, New Britain, CT 06051
  • CT Attorney General George Jepsen phone: (860) 808-5318 fax: (860) 808-5387 e-mail: attorney.general@ct.gov 55 Elm Street, Hartford, CT 06106

People might also want to contact their state senators and representatives. Shouldn’t we have legislation to prevent such an increase going into effect without a public hearing?

In other news, the CT Roundtable on Climate and Jobs met on Nov. 17 in East Hartford for a discussion concerning CL&P’s proposed 60% increase in the monthly fixed charge for residential delivery of electricity. PURA is scheduled to issue its draft decision on this raise Dec. 1. A petition is being circulated via the internet at http://bit.ly/RTstatement11-14. To get more information about CT Roundtable on Climate and Jobs, please contact John Humphries, (860)216-7972, john.humphries1664@gmail.com.

Rising Tide Member Found Not Guilty for May 27 Vermont Gas Protest

by Sara Sullivan, Rising Tide Vermont, Nov. 20

The trial of Henry Harris, charged with trespassing at Vermont Gas Systems’ (VGS) headquarters in South Burlington on May 27, ended today with a not guilty verdict. Harris and other members of Rising Tide Vermont blockaded the main entrance of VGS and dropped a massive banner from the roof, demanding the company immediately cancel its plans to build the fracked gas pipeline.

Harris, a volunteer organizer with Rising Tide Vermont, said, “Today, the court ruled in my favor because the jury recognized Vermont Gas and the state of Vermont had no basis in their charges against me. The state’s prosecutor, with pressure from VGS and the Shumlin administration, was attempting to stifle future protests against the fracked gas pipeline and Shumlin’s hypocritical climate and energy policies.”

Since the May 27 protest, hundreds of Vermonters have taken part in rallies, blockades, and an occupation of the Governor’s office to demand an end to the pipeline project. The 64 activists who were arrested at the occupation on Oct. 27 are also facing charges of trespass. “We asked the Governor to revoke his support of the fracked gas pipeline,” said Stuart Blood, 63, an organizer with Keystone XL Resistance from Thetford Center, “and to recognize the need to ban all new fossil fuel infrastructure, because new fossil fuels move us in the wrong direction.”

Read the article at: http://vtdigger.org/2014/11/20/rising-tide-member-found-guilty-may-27-vermont-gas-protest.

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