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Following energy issues in the state of Connecticut and beyond.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Fonfara Catches Heat Over Failed Solar Legislation

State Senator John Fonfara, D-Hartford, is not the kind of guy to back down from a fight.

So when proponents of solar energy legislation, which died Wednesday with the close of the state's 2009 Legislative session, started blaming Fonfara (who is shown in the photo at right) for keeping House Bill 6635 from being voted upon, the veteran lawmaker fired back at his critics.

"It's 10 times more expensive than any other type of energy out there," Fonfara said Friday. "The state pays for renewable energy by charging everybody a little bit on their bills and what these guys wanted would have required us to buy a lot more solar energy than we've ever done before. It just wasn't a responsible thing to do; it would have broken the bank."

Christopher Phelps - who is program director for Environment Connecticut, a West Hartford environmental advocacy group - laid the blame for the failure of HB 6635 squarely upon Fonfara.

"He failed to bring this out (for a vote) and he said he was fully in support of this bill," Phelps said of Fonfara. "There has been a log jam on energy issues in the legislature for a long time. But at least this year, the House stepped up ...to create a consensus on this bill."

HB 6635 passed the House unanimously on Tuesday and renewable energy supporters like Phelps had hoped that the momentum created by that vote would help the legislation make its way through the Senate in the final day of the session.

But Fonfara had other plans.

"I believe in the environment, but there's an attitude among some people that no price is too high when it comes to supporting renewable energy and I'm here to tell you that there is no such thing as free lunch," Fonfara said. "I represent some of the poorest people in state in Hartford. Maybe those two guys (Phelps and fellow solar supporter Roger Smith, campaign director for Clean Water Action, a national environmental group with offices in Hartford) can afford to pay more money on their electric bills, but I hear from senior citizens and groups like Fight The Hike in your area every day and they tell me that they're paying too much already."

Renewable energy supporters say they will seek to reintroduce the legislation when the 2010 legislative session begins in February. But Fonfara said the state needs more comprehensive approach in addressing energy issues.

"We need an approach where ratepayers aren't bearing such a heavy burden," he said.

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