Blogs > Power to the People

Following energy issues in the state of Connecticut and beyond.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Maybe somebody out there was listening....

Government often moves at a glacial pace, but folks in Washington may have actually been listening two weeks ago when Governor M. Jodi Rell sent a letter to members of the U.S. Senate's Committee on Energy and Natural Resources to oppose language in a piece of legislation that would have expanded the powers of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Rell, in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, said that language that was in the Clean Renewable Energy and Economic Development Act at the time would have effectively given FERC the right to put power lines wherever it wanted and was "an assault on state rights."

You have to give Rell credit for standing up for what she feels is in Connecticut's best interest, particularly given our state's experience with FERC over issues like the Broadwater project in Long Island Sound and the natural gas pipeline project across the same body of water between Branford and Long Island. Having said that, though, you had to wonder if Rell's effort was too little, too late, especially with all the talk about "smart" electric grids that has become the hot topic du jour under President Obama.

Turns out somebody in the halls of power was listening because on Wednesday word came out that the U.S. House of Representatives is now considering its own version of Reid's legislation in the Senate that doesn't include increased powers for FERC. The draft bill from House Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Representative Ed Markey (D-Mass.) would require FERC to set “grid planning principles” and establish a regional planning process as the nation tries to expedite the growth of renewable energy resources.

Rell said Wednesday that's good news for Connecticut and other states.

“I have long supported the idea of increased development and use of ‘clean’ energy,” Rell said. “But we cannot – and will not – allow the need for our nation to increase its energy independence to come at the expense of residents or irreplaceable natural resources like the Long Island Sound. This is exactly why forward-looking states like Connecticut created bodies such as the Connecticut Siting Council – and why they must be a part of an ongoing dialogue about how that infrastructure is developed.”

Siting Council Chairman Daniel Caruso said Wednesday that he is encouraged by the House version of the bill. "I want to publicly thank Governor Rell for her unambiguous and very public leadership on this issue, which has clearly led to these positive developments in Washington," Caruso said.

The importance of the House legislation is that it comes at time when the Siting Council is about to begin hearing the first of three high voltage transmission line upgrade projects that has been proposed by Northeast Utilities. That process will start next week in New Britain.

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