A coalition of environmental groups said Tuesday that an 11th hour decision by Gov. M. Jodi Rell to alter the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative threatens Connecticut’s participation in the cap and trade program to cut power plant emissions.

Late last week Rell announced in this press release that she was instructing the Department of Environmental Protection to add a provision for consumer rebates to regulations the agency has drafted.

“Every dollar diverted from efficiency programs under the governor’s scheme ultimately costs consumers four dollars on their electricity bills,” Jessie Stratton, Director of Government Relations for Environment Northeast, said in a press release.

“We estimate the “rate relief rebates” proposed by Governor Rell would save the average homeowner about $2.70 a year on their electric bill for every dollar that a ton of carbon exceeds the $5.00 threshold,” Stratton added.

“When the legislature required power generators to pay for their pollution there was a reason they directed the proceeds towards permanent lasting relief to consumers, rather than symbolic one-time rebates,” Christopher Phelps, Program Director for Environment Connecticut.  “We need to invest in energy efficiency and clean energy to cut our electric bills and reduce global warming pollution.”

But the economy is driving Rell’s decision. “While we are taking historic steps to protect our environment now and for future generations, we must also be mindful of the very real economic pressures that Connecticut businesses and families are facing,” Rell said in the press release. “Connecticut families and businesses are under enormous pressure created by rising energy costs.”

Connecticut is one of 10 northeastern states participating in a 2005 “cap-and-trade” program aimed at controlling carbon dioxide emissions in the United States.