In Memoriam, Anne Hall Higgins, 1921-2019

by Lesley Higgins-Biddle

Anne Higgins died on October 21, 2019, at her home in North Haven, Connecticut. Known for her commitment to social justice and racial equity, Anne was active in greater New Haven as a founding leader of People Against Injustice (PAI), with a special concern for prison reform and changes to Connecticut’s drug policy. She was active in New Haven/León Sister City Project after traveling to Nicaragua in her 60s and in the United Church of Christ state conference Peace and Social Concerns committee, which led her to be arrested for protests against nuclear weapons in Groton at the submarine base and in Washington, D.C. As an ordained minister, Anne believed unequivocally in “talking the talk and walking the walk.”

Anne was born in Bridgeport where her grandfather had been a progressive minister at Park Street Congregational Church on the city’s East Side. She attended a new, John Dewey-based elementary school that encouraged young girls to play sports, explore their intellectual gifts, and challenge social norms. She graduated from Smith College (1943) with a major in art and then became one of the first women to graduate from Yale Divinity School with a Master of Divinity, subsequently becoming an ordained Congregational minister. At Yale Anne met the love of her life, Arthur Higgins, with whom she co-pastored small rural churches in upstate New York, Colorado and Maine, at a time when the profession was almost entirely dominated by men.

Anne and Arthur moved back to Connecticut to serve parishes in Chester and Wilton, and raise their four children. While in Wilton they became very active in civil rights, with Arthur attending the March on Washington and Anne becoming active in SNCC and CORE chapters in nearby Norwalk. Anne’s critique of the American power structure was a major inspiration for her art and she created many paintings that expressed both oppression and hope, often at the same time.

Throughout her life, Anne remained indomitably committed, both aesthetically and ethically, to a life well lived and that ‘spoke truth to power.’ From her friend Paula Diehl: “Her last years of ministry took the form of programming for elders in affordable housing. She always tried to increase residents’ world-view and help them to better tolerate and understand those who were not like them.”

Anne is sorely missed by her sons, Bart and Gerry, and her daughters, Lesley and Ethel, who are pictured here with her at an exhibition of her paintings at the New Haven Friends Meeting in 2018. Anne’s friends from PAI, the Nicaraguan Prayer Group, and the Friends Meeting, are grateful for having known her. The sparkle in her eyes will be missed by everyone who knew her.

Is Your PAR Subscription About to Run Out?

by PAR Planning Committee

The Progressive Action Roundtable newsletter publishes from September through June. Subscriptions from many of our readers will expire with the June issue.

We hope you enjoy your subscription and value the PAR newsletter as a community resource. To see if your subscription is due for renewal, please look at your address label. If “201906” is printed on the label to the right of your name, your subscription ends next month. Please send in $13 for 10 issues (Sept. 2019-June 2020) so that you can continue to read about what local organizations are doing and you can submit articles about your own organization.

The Progressive Action Roundtable was started in January 1993. After several months, this community Newsletter became the main activity of PAR, giving New Haven area organizations an opportunity for networking and for advertising their activities.

We hope to hear from you.

Lawsuit to Return the Clean Energy and Efficiency Funds

by Paula Panzarella, Fight the Hike

On Thursday, Sept. 13, I attended the hearing at the Federal Courthouse in New Haven regarding the legislature’s seizure last session of $155 million that was collected from United Illuminating and Eversource customers. The intention of the funds was to (as noted on the back of our electric bills) “promote energy conservation and efficiency” and to pay for programs that “promote the use of renewable (or environmentally friendly) fuel sources, such as solar power, wind, fuel cells, methane gas from landfills, biofuels, trash-to-energy, and water.”

The legislators voted to use these funds instead to put money into the State’s General Fund.

The Clean Energy funds must be returned. People depend on these funds for their jobs in the renewable energy sector. Consumers rely on the efficiency programs to save energy and money. These programs have helped people get low-interest financing for solar installations. Efficiency and clean energy save the state money, and people’s health is at stake because fossil fuels are increasing asthma rates and respiratory illnesses.

As of this printing, Judge Janet Hall has not yet made a decision on the legality of the legislators’ appropriation of the funds that were intended for clean energy and efficiency.

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).

Protect Our Care Regional Meeting, Wed., May 2

by Rev. Teran Loeppke, Protect Our Care CT

Please join us for a regional kick-off meeting about the Protect Our Care CT Campaign on Wednesday, May 2, 6-8 p.m. at the International Union of Operating Engineers, 1965 Dixwell Ave, Hamden. Learn about a new statewide campaign to take on the way our state deals with health care.

The Protect Our Care CT Campaign is reaching out to people like you across the state — exploring how we can work together to change the way our state’s elected leaders deal with the challenge of making sure every state resident has access to quality health care they can afford. We ALL need health care we can count on. Learn more about what’s at stake right now and discuss how to take action!

Our issue priorities:

  • Preserve and strengthen the gains made by the Affordable Care Act, including protecting women’s health programs and essential health benefits;
  • Restore and protect CT’s highly effective Medicaid program;
  • Ensure affordability of prescription drugs and insurance;
  • Explore new ways to expand coverage including a Medicaid Buy-in Option!

Our campaign goals:

  • Build a diverse, educated, empowered group of health care activists in CT;
  • Launch a nonpartisan Health Care Voter campaign to hold candidates accountable;
  • Provide training and skill-building for health care activists.

RSVP to Teran at tloeppke@universalhealthct.org or call (773) 827-4366. Learn more about Protect Our Care CT at: www.protectourcarect.org.

Lawsuit against State of CT to Restore Clean Energy Funds

by Paula Panzarella, Fight the Hike

Disgracefully, the legislature came up with a state budget that cut the funding for social service agencies and many programs that helped people. This betrayal includes their agreement to give to the General Fund approximately $160 million that consumers already paid into for programs that assist people with energy efficiency, energy conservation and with utilizing renewable energy, which were through the CT Green Bank and the CT Energy Efficiency Fund.

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 have helped build up Connecticut’s economy. There are over 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 funding for these programs has already been collected to keep these programs going. And the legislators decided to put the money into the General Fund.

Fight the Hike has joined a lawsuit against the state of Connecticut to restore these funds. We hope businesses and other organizations will consider signing on to the lawsuit. Please contact Michael Trahan of SolarConnecticut, Inc. for more information. His e-mail address is mtrahan@solarconnecticut.org and his telephone is  (860) 256-1698.

New Haven To UI: Not One More Dime | New Haven Independent

by Markeshia Ricks, Sep 13, 2016 ©2016 New Haven Independent

New Haveners concerned about a proposed rate increase said that they want United Illuminating to have the infrastructure to withstand superstorms, but that they’ve already paid for it.

The electric company is asking the state Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) to grant a more than $100 million distribution rate increase over a three year period. The increase would generate $65.6 million next year, $27.1 million the following year and another $13.4 million in 2019. This would raise individual customer bills by an average of about $30 a month over that three-year period, according to the Office of Consumer Counsel.

The counsel’s office opposes the rate increase. It also came out for reducing by almost $10, to $7.63, a residential fixed charge that UI levies.

UI said it needs the increase to replace poles and wires and make other investments to avoid power outages during major storms.

More than 35 residents from New Haven and other parts of the state attended a PURA hearing Monday in the Hall of Records at 200 Orange St. to oppose the rate increase. They said some people already can’t afford their bills. And they argued that the rate increase de-incentivizes energy-efficiency efforts.
Several people also argued that UI is primarily seeking to line the pockets of its new parent company, Spain-based Iberdrola.

Frank Panzarella said that stats already showed during the last rate increase request that Connecticut residents are having trouble paying their bills. He asked what made UI think that customers can afford to pay more. [….]

For the complete article, visit: New Haven To UI: Not One More Dime | New Haven Independent.

UI Planning Rate Increase of the Distribution Charge, Hearing in New Haven tonight! Sept. 12

by Paula Panzarella, Fight the Hike

UI is now owned by Iberdrola, one of the world’s largest utility companies, with over 31 million customers. This adds to the insult that Connecticut customers, already paying the highest rates for electricity in the continental United States, are faced with even higher bills if we don’t stop the proposed increase.

According to the press release from the Office of Consumer Counsel, “If UI’s rate phase-in plan were approved as proposed, a typical residential customer on standard service generation who is using 700kWh per month would see their total bill rise by approximately $9.34, from $162.46 to $171.80, effective Jan. 1, 2017. Monthly bills would also increase by approximately $9.50 per month on Jan. 1, 2018 and by an incremental $11.00 monthly on Jan. 1, 2019.”

Note this is only the distribution charge. Should there be an increase in the generation charge, transmission, basic service or any other charge on our UI bill, we’re looking at even more.
Again, we already have the highest rates in the continental United States!

How to fight this: we have to pack the public hearings in Bridgeport and New Haven.

  • Bridgeport hearing: Thursday, Sept. 8, 6:30 p.m., City Common Council Chambers, Bridgeport City Hall, 45 Lyon Terrace.
  • New Haven hearing: Monday, Sept. 12, 6:30 p.m., Hearing Room G2, Kennedy Mitchell Hall of Records, 200 Orange St.

This proposal is identified as Docket No. 16-06-04. Please use this number when you write, e-mail or call PURA.

To mail your commentary, write to PURA,10 Franklin Square, New Britain, CT 06051. Send e-mail to dpuc.executivesecretary@po.state.ct.us.

Thank you!

For questions or more information, please call (203) 562-2798 or e-mail paulapanzarella@yahoo.com.

In the Sept. 9 New Haven Register there is an article about yet another increase they want to impose on us.

News to Get All Steamed Up About: UI Is Planning a Rate Increase of the Distribution Charge

by Paula Panzarella, Fight the Hike

UI is now owned by Iberdrola, one of the world’s largest utility companies, with over 31 million customers. This adds to the insult that Connecticut customers, already paying the highest rates for electricity in the continental United States, are faced with even higher bills if we don’t stop the proposed increase.
According to the press release from the Office of Consumer Counsel, “If UI’s rate phase-in plan were approved as proposed, a typical residential customer on standard service generation who is using 700kWh per month would see their total bill rise by approximately $9.34, from $162.46 to $171.80, effective Jan. 1, 2017. Monthly bills would also increase by approximately $9.50 per month on Jan. 1, 2018 and by an incremental $11.00 monthly on Jan. 1, 2019.”

Note this is only the distribution charge. Should there be an increase in the generation charge, transmission, basic service or any other charge on our UI bill, we’re looking at even more.
Again, we already have the highest rates in the continental United States!

How to fight this: we have to pack the public hearings in Bridgeport and New Haven.

  • Bridgeport hearing: Thursday, Sept. 8, 6:30 p.m., City Common Council Chambers, Bridgeport City Hall, 45 Lyon Terrace.
  • New Haven hearing: Monday, Sept. 12, 6:30 p.m., Hearing Room G2, Kennedy Mitchell Hall of Records, 200 Orange St.

This proposal is identified as Docket No. 16-06-04. Please use this number when you write, e-mail or call PURA.

To mail your commentary, write to PURA,10 Franklin Square, New Britain, CT 06051. Send e-mail to dpuc.executivesecretary@po.state.ct.us.

Thank you!

For questions or more information, please call (203) 562-2798 or e-mail paulapanzarella@yahoo.com.

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.