A bill that would overhaul Connecticut’s energy policy didn’t make it to a vote in the Senate Saturday, but could be called as early as Monday, according to the co-chairs of the Energy and Technology Committee.
Depending on whom you talk to the drafting process is complete, but the Senate didn’t have enough members present or enough support from those that were to pass it Saturday .
Meanwhile, various interest groups have flooded lawmakers’ emails encouraging them to vote against the bill, which the House Democratic caucus talked about late Saturday night behind closed-doors.
Referred to by some as the most sweeping energy legislation since the state deregulated the industry in 1998 the bill has been fiercely lobbied in the waning days of the legislative session.
Rep. Sean Williams, one of the ranking Republicans on the committee, said it’s an “aircraft carrier bill that sinks under it’s own weight.”
“I have serious enough concerns and it’s unlikely the governor will sign the bill in it’s current form,” Williams said. “If they want a bill then they can vote for this, but if they want a law changes will have to be made.”
There are ideas in the bill that could become law and Williams said he spent most of the day working on a compromise, but was unclear where things stood early Sunday morning.
Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-Cheshire, said her email server was clogged with 2,340 emails from the retailers, who don’t like the bill because it would require them to adhere to stricter consumer protections.
Rep. Vickie Nardello, co-chairwoman of the Energy Committee, said the retailers are upset because they will have to change their business model as a result of this legislation, but it “doesn’t end choice.”
She said for years Connecticut Light and Power subsidized some of their marketing and billing costs.
“What other business subsidizes another business’ costs,” Nardello said. The bill says “They can do their own billing or pay Connecticut Light and Power to do the billing.”
The bill reorganizes the Department of Public Utility Control, mandates a 15 percent drop in electricity rates, sets goals for expanding solar power, imposes new regulations on retail companies, and sets new standards for plant safety.
The bill also promotes renewables and requires the DPUC to investigate why Connecticut pays 12 to 15 percent more for its electricity than other states.
Sen. John Fonfara, co-chairman of the Energy and Technology Committee, said energy is “one of the most complex subject matters in the building,” and it makes people “nervous.”
He also admitted that for years he and Nardello have been at odds over the state’s energy policy and for the first time they were able to agree.
“It doesn’t violate my principles and it doesn’t violate hers,” Fonfara said.
He said legislators need to trust that the chairs of the committee know what they’re doing.
“There’s a lot of competing interests,” he said.
Kevin Hennessy of the Connecticut Business and Industry Association said the DPUC and the governor’s budget office have estimated that the bill could cost ratepayers $160 million a year.
Nardello argues the bill is good for ratepayers, will lower costs, and increase renewables in the state.
But Hennessy argues that the increased reliance on renewables, especially solar, will increase costs for ratepayers. He said there’s also an added cost to state government in the reorganization of the DPUC. It’s still unclear if the ratepayers or the state will be paying for the reorganization, Hennessy said.