The closed-door meetings with the chairs of the Energy and Technology Committee continued Friday as they pushed for a Saturday debate in the Senate on a ominbus bill to overhaul Connecticut’s energy policy.
The bill, which co-chairman Vickie Nardello, D-Prospect, described as “complex,” has been praised by some and panned by others. Amongst the controversy is whether the draft legislation pulls Connecticut out of ISO New England, the entity that ensures distribution of electricity and helps pay for construction of transmission lines.
“I never pulled Connecticut out,” Nardello said Friday evening outside the Senate chamber. “There’s an awful lot of misrepresentation about what this bills does and doesn’t do.”
The bill, which was being edited late Friday night, 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.
It’s fair to say the bill has ruffled some feathers.
Sandi Hennequin, vice president, of the New England Power Generators Association Inc., said her group was given a draft of the 170-page bill Tuesday. She said the bill’s intention is to cut electric costs, but it’s unclear if that’s what it will accomplish.
Former lawmaker Jesse Stratton, who now works for Environment Northeast, said the difference between this bill and previous bills, is “it’s an aircraft carrier.” She said a lot of its components have been vetted during the session, but now they’re all in one big bill.
She said it’s very hard, especially for rank-and-file lawmakers, when all the concepts are crammed into one bill.
Not counting the energy lobbyists there are probably a handful of lawmakers at the Capitol that understand the bill, House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero, R-Norwalk, said Friday afternoon.
Sen. Minority Leader John McKinney, R-Southport, said “it was by all accounts drafted in a closed-door meeting. Who was in there what lobbyists what special interests, no one knows.”
“This is a massive rewrite of our electric regulatory system that was not a product of any open, free discussion or a public hearing,” McKinney said. “Again the Energy Committee has shown it is the most dysfunctional committee in our legislature.”
Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s administration also seems to be hesitant to support it.
“Generally speaking, the ultimate budgetary implications of this proposed legislation as well as the potential and likelihood of adversely affecting ratepayers present significant deterrents to achieving the voiced intent of this proposed legislation,” Office of Policy and Management Secretary Robert Genuario and DPUC Chairman Kevin DelGobbo wrote Thursday in a letter to the chairs and ranking members of the Energy Committee.
“There are proposed changes contained in this legislation that we feel we can come to agreement on and which we are willing to discuss,” they wrote. “However our overall concern is that most of the provisions of this bill will result in significant increases in ratepayers’ costs and will have a considerable state budgetary impact that are not accounted for in the adopted budget or any proposal under consideration.”
DelGobbo was at the Capitol Friday talking with the Nardello and Sen. John Fonfara, D-Hartford, about the legislation, which would reconfigure his department and the state’s energy policy.
Chris Phelps of Environment Connecticut said his group is supportive of the legislation because it supports solar and renewable energy. He said it helps develop financing mechanisms to help both residential and commercial customers purchase solar panels.
The Senate is expected to convene around noon Saturday.