Sen. Fazio, CT legislators pitching relief plans as energy costs soar

January 17, 2023

Sen. Fazio, CT legislators pitching relief plans as energy costs soar: ‘The question is, can we do better?’

At a time of rising, record-high energy costs in Connecticut, Republican minority leaders in the General Assembly on Tuesday proposed several new laws aimed at cutting consumer bills, providing more oversight of utility companies, and planning for the future.

During an afternoon news conference in the Legislative Office Building, the GOP lawmakers said they want to remove as many as 15 consumer fees and taxes that had been enacted through legislative policies.

Under the plans, those costs, totally $280 million a year would revert to the state budget, saving the average family about $210 a year at a time when the average monthly bill is about $173.

“The question is, can we do better?” said Senate Minority Leader Kevin Kelly, R-Stratford, detailing the hardship being felt by the elderly, single-parent families and others. “These are essential services families need just to get by.”

The proposals come at a time when Eversource and United Illuminating customers are facing significant increases to their bill as a result of rising energy generation costs. Elected officials on both sides of the aisles have declared intentions to alleviate some of the burden on customers both in the short- and long-term.

“Bottom line is I think our lawmakers need to look to themselves and ask why these increases have been occurring time over time,” said House Minority Leader Vincent Candelora, R-North Branford, in a packed meeting room. “The reality is that government is deeply entrenched in energy and is a partner in energy. There are many costs embedded into our bills that are policies that lawmakers have passed. Some of them are laudable but they are all paid for by the rate payers.”

The proposals include removing the state Public Utilities Regulatory Authority from the purview of the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, establishing the agency as a more powerful independent organization.

The GOP lawmakers cited a 2015 request from the New Britain-based authority that said “At its core, having PURA adjudicate energy and utility issues with considerable financial consequences when its parent authority is a statutory party to every proceeding before it, presents an insurmountable conflict of interest.”

The Republicans also want to create a task force to investigate the ways that the state’s large utilities, including Eversource and United Illuminating Co. purchase power from producers. In 1998, the General Assembly approved a restructuring law that separated electricity distributors from producing power.

“This rise in electricity costs that we’re facing this winter is a disaster for our economy and our families, but Connecticut’s electricity costs have been far too high for far too long,” said Sen. Ryan Fazio, R-Greenwich, a top Republican on the Energy & Technology Committee. “Something’s wrong in the state of Connecticut and to a large extent it’s mistakes of public policy, of government policy in this Capitol dome that bear responsibility for the high costs we face.”