House Republican Leader Lawrence F. Cafero Jr. said Monday that he was “troubled” by Department of Energy and Environmental Commissioner Daniel C. Esty’s decision to delay Connecticut Light & Power’s application to install millions of smart meters.
Cafero said Esty is circumventing the process of the newly formed three-member Public Utilities Regulatory Authority, PURA to decide cases on their merits.
According to an article in the Courant Sunday Esty wrote Aug. 30 to the PURA, asking it to suspend consideration of CL&P’s application to install 1.2 million advanced “smart meters” for a few months until his department can “establish the state’s smart meter policy.”
“Our utility regulators have historically acted independently in deciding cases to ensure public confidence in the process,“ Cafero said. “Now, because of Commissioner Esty’s actions in the CL&P ‘smart meter’ case the process has been called into question, and rightly so.”
On Aug. 30 Esty stepped in and halted the CL&P application to install millions of meters after PURA held hearings and one member issued a draft recommendation rejecting the utility’s application. The proposal PURA drafted stated that it would not save ratepayers much money, but would instead cost ratepayers hundreds of millions of dollars.
Both the Attorney General and Office of Consumer Counsel have objected to the CL&P proposal.
“Tying energy policy to environmental policy sounds like the right approach, but we were assured that the autonomous utility regulation aspect of DEEP would remain intact,” Cafero said.
Esty, according to reports, halted the process to allow another division within DEEP to develop “smart meter’’ policy.
DEEP’s spokesman Dennis Schain said there’s nothing nefarious about the commissioner’s actions.
Esty respects the independence PURA must maintain on regulatory matters – even though it is housed within DEEP, Schain, said.
“Commissioner Esty’s request to PURA did not attempt to dictate an outcome. It simply asked that body to hold off on a decision until the energy policy side of DEEP had a chance to develop policy guidance on the critical issues of energy efficiency and the use of so-called smart meters,” Schain added.
He said this is exactly what the 2011 energy legislation that created DEEP envisioned: an energy policy branch of the agency establishing policies that serve as a foundation for PURA regulatory decisions.