DEEP’s en­ergy strat­egy

Hear­ing to dis­cuss CT’s en­ergy use draws fire from some providers

The Register Citizen (Torrington, CT) - - FRONT PAGE - By Ben Lam­bert wlam­bert@reg­is­ter­ci­t­i­zen.com @WLam­bertRC on Twit­ter

TOR­RING­TON » A de­bate over the fu­ture of en­ergy use in Con­necti­cut came to Tor­ring­ton Tues­day dur­ing a pub­lic hear­ing on the lat­est Com­pre­hen­sive En­ergy Strat­egy for the state. The event was hosted by the state Depart­ment of En­ergy and En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion.

Most of the speak­ers at Tues­day’s hear­ing were mem­bers of the de­liv­er­able fuel in­dus­try, in­clud­ing home heat­ing oil providers, who are con­cerned about how the plan could im­pact their liveli­hood.

One of the goals of the lat­est draft plan is to “strate­gi­cally se­quence de­ploy­ment of cleaner ther­mal fuel choices to tran­si­tion build­ings from fos­sil fu­els,” in­clud­ing a shift from oil to nat­u­ral gas and re­new­able sources.

The plan also pro­poses levy­ing a tax on de­liv­er­able fu­els like oil and propane. Ac­cord­ing to the DEEP, those who use elec­tric­ity or gas to gen­er­ate heat al­ready con­trib­ute to the Con­necti­cut En­ergy Ef­fi­ciency Fund through a fee on their monthly bill, while oil and propane users do not.

“Once we start down the road of putting charges on home heat­ing oil or on propane, I re­ally feel like there’s no limit to how far it goes.”

— State Sen. Joe Markley, R-Southing­ton

Both of these mea­sures drew push-back from mem­bers of the heat­ing oil in­dus­try Tues­day, who said that the use of “bio­heat” — a blend of diesel pro­duced through re­new­able sources and low-sul­fur heat­ing oil — made it more en­vi­ron­men­tally-friendly than nat­u­ral gas.

“This plan would con­vert peo­ple from an in­creas­ingly-green, re­new­able fuel — home heat­ing oil — to a dirt­ier fuel with no path to­wards clean­li­ness or re­newa­bil­ity — nat­u­ral gas and elec­tric­ity... (It) would dec­i­mate the en­ergy in­fra­struc­ture of the state and hand over all con­trol to the gas and elec­tric util­i­ties, which are abysmally un­re­li­able,” said Peter Aziz, one of the own­ers of Ban­tam Wes­son, which has of­fices in Ban­tam, Can­ton, and Water­bury. “The peo­ple of Con­necti­cut elect and em­ploy you... to cham­pion the en­vi­ron­ment and our en­ergy se­cu­rity. The world is up­side down when the heat­ing oil guy has to tell you that this plan is bad for the en­vi­ron­ment and for Con­necti­cut’s en­ergy sup­ply pic­ture.”

Jeff Jen­nings, a co-owner of Dan­bury-based Jen­nings Oil, said that the shift would elim­i­nate jobs and re­duce com­pe­ti­tion while ben­e­fit­ting util­i­ties.

“A gov­ern­ment pol­icy that specif­i­cally states its goal is to elim­i­nate an in­dus­try that in­cluded hun­dreds of fam­ily-owned busi­nesses that have been in op­er­a­tion for decades, and to put thou­sands of state res­i­dents out of work, de­serves closer study and fair anal­y­sis,” said Jen­nings.

State Sen. Joe Markley, R-Southing­ton, also ar­gued against the im­ple­men­ta­tion of a tax on home heat­ing oil and propane.

“Once we start down the road of putting charges on home heat­ing oil or on propane, I re­ally feel like there’s no limit to how far it goes,” said Markley. “How­ever good your in­ten­tions are as a depart­ment to use this for the pur­poses of con­ser­va­tion, I think it’s a dan­ger­ous prece­dent.”

Funds put aside for spe­cific pur­poses may be used else­where, es­pe­cially as the state deals with fi­nan­cial pres­sure, Markley said. It could also add to the bur­den on low-in­come in­di­vid­u­als who use heat­ing oil to heat their homes, he said.

The Com­pre­hen­sive En­ergy Strat­egy is not a new con­cern for the home heat­ing oil in­dus­try.

The Con­necti­cut En­ergy Mar­keters As­so­ci­a­tion, which rep­re­sents the in­dus­try, ar­gued in a le­gal chal­lenge of the 2013 plan that its rec­om­men­da­tions, in­clud­ing the con­ver­sion of homes and busi­ness from oil heat to nat­u­ral gas, should have been sub­ject to en­vi­ron­men­tal re­view. The state Supreme Court up­held a dis­missal of this claim in De­cem­ber 2016.

The Com­mis­sioner of En­ergy and En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion is tasked with pre­par­ing such a strat­egy for the state ev­ery three years, ac­cord­ing to statute 16a-3d. DEEP is­sued a draft of the 2017 strat­egy in July and ex­pects to com­plete it by Oc­to­ber or Novem­ber.

“This draft an­a­lyzes the state’s cur­rent en­ergy use; it iden­ti­fies chal­lenges and ex­am­ines op­por­tu­ni­ties to meet our fu­ture en­ergy needs; and imposes a se­ries of rec­om­men­da­tions that give Con­necti­cut res­i­dents and busi­nesses the power to choose from a va­ri­ety, an ar­ray, of en­ergy op­tions,” said Tracy Bab­bidge, chief of the Bureau of En­ergy and Tech­nol­ogy Pol­icy with DEEP. “(It) also guides the path on a state to­wards (a) cheaper, cleaner, and more re­li­able en­ergy fu­ture.”

Martha Klein, chair­woman of the Con­necti­cut Sierra Club, ar­gued that while the draft plan does rec­om­mend some mea­sures she sup­ports, such as elec­tric trans­porta­tion op­tions, the plan did not go far enough to pro­mote the use of re­new­able en­ergy, mit­i­gate cli­mate change, guard against frack­ing, and aid con­sumers with costs.

“We’re re­ally dis­ap­pointed, and we were look­ing to you to come up with some­thing trans­for­ma­tive that was go­ing to pre­vent the worst ef­fects of cli­mate change,” said Klein. “We feel like this was an op­por­tu­nity to do that, and we feel like it didn’t hap­pen.”

Litch­field County res­i­dents also spoke up. Betsy Glass­man, a Litch­field res­i­dent and mem­ber of Democ­racy Awak­ens, said she was con­sid­er­ing leav­ing the state, her home of 30 years, due to the com­bined bur­den of taxes and elec­tric and heat­ing costs.

“It goes on and on, and if the state wants to keep peo­ple here, the state needs to some­how lower these costs,” said Glass­man.

Ac­cord­ing to the U.S. En­ergy In­for­ma­tion Ad­min­is­tra­tion, a sub­group of the U.S. Depart­ment of En­ergy, the av­er­age re­tail cost of elec­tric­ity in Con­necti­cut was 17.77 cents per kilo­watt in 2015 — the sec­ond-high­est rate in the na­tion, trail­ing only Hawaii.

Joyce Hem­ing­son of FairWindCT, a lo­cal non­profit, ad­vo­cated for stricter stan­dards on the amount of noise gen­er­ated by wind tur­bines. The group formed

BEN LAM­BERT / HEARST CON­NECTI­CUT ME­DIA

A pub­lic hear­ing on the draft 2017 Com­pre­hen­sive En­ergy Strat­egy cur­rently be­ing crafted by DEEP was held Tues­day in Tor­ring­ton. Above, Martha Klein, chair­per­son of the Con­necti­cut Sierra Club, speaks dur­ing the hear­ing.

BEN LAM­BERT / HEARST CON­NECTI­CUT ME­DIA

A pub­lic hear­ing on the draft 2017 Com­pre­hen­sive En­ergy Strat­egy cur­rently be­ing crafted by DEEP was held Tues­day in Tor­ring­ton. Above, Tracy Bab­bidge of DEEP speaks at the start of the exchange.

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