Attorney General Richard Blumenthal urged lawmakers, again, Wednesday to return for a special session to enact legislation that would reduce gas prices and lower electric bills. He said Connecticut consumers need immediate relief from high prices. But didn’t the General Assembly already pass legislation that touched on these topics last fall?
Department of Public Utility Control Donald Downes who sat through a few hours of testimony Wednesday at the Energy Summit seemed frustrated by the short-term memory loss. Downes reminded the legislators it was just nine-months ago during the September special session that it passed the Energy Independence Act, which included many of the solutions being discussed at the summit. The Energy Independence Act addressed both short term and long term solutions to the energy crisis, Downes said. The act calls for the DPUC to issue a request for proposals to identify measures that would reduce congestion costs, including re-purchasing power plants or building new ones. Before 2005, the law under deregulation prohibited utilities from re-purchasing power plants or building new ones. Earlier Wednesday morning, legislators from the Energy and General Law Committees heard from Jerrold Oppenheim, a national energy expert who directed energy and utility litigation for the Attorneys General of New York and Massachusetts. Oppenheim said deregulation of electricity hasn’t worked because traditional supply and demand economics doesn’t apply. “Electricity is different because you can’t store it, it has to be produced exactly when you need it,” he said. The additional risk distributors now face in securing electrical power to deliver to consumers added increased the costs, which were passed along to consumers, Oppenheim said. Downes disagreed. He said the state should stay focused on controlling demand, which has increased two percent every year in the state. The problem with the argument is the high cost of fuel, Downes said. He said power plants still rely on fuel to generate power and at the moment there isn’t even enough fuel for the ones the state already has, not to mention the price of fuel has spiked. He said building another generation plant won’t resolve the issue either, but Oppenheim seemed to think it would. Downes begged lawmakers to be patient. He said there’s “no dramatic solutions” lawmakers would be able to implement to reduce electricity prices for consumers over the next few months as temperatures rise and demand on the grid for electricity increases. But the next few months are the not just any months, they’re the months before the election. Might the Energy Summit have been a way to lure people to Hartford for a political action committee fundraiser following the summit? An invitation from the New Majority Democrats PAC said the fundraiser started at 5 p.m. and the suggested contribution was $250. “Corporate checks accepted for ads only,” the invitation reads. Come 2008 they may also forget about campaign finance reform.