Blogs > Power to the People

Following energy issues in the state of Connecticut and beyond.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

DEEP Commissioner Esty Speaks Out On National Greenhouse Gas Standards

Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Dan Esty weighed in Tuesday afternoon on the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s release of the first-ever national standards from greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel fired power plants.

Esty, shown at left in a 2011 New Haven Register photo, called EPA’s action “an important first step.”

“While Connecticut already participates in a program to limit these emissions, I am confident EPA’s requirements for new power plants can successfully co-exist with our program – the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative,” he said.

 “EPA’s proposed standards are both  reasonable and achievable.  These standards will help move Connecticut and the entire nation to a cleaner, cheaper and more reliable energy future.”

The standards released by the EPA will now face a 60-day comment period. And already, according to the Associated Press, energy industry representatives and Republicans have said the regulation will raise electricity prices and kill off coal, the dominant U.S. energy source.

At the same time, the AP is reporting that environmentalists are critical of the standards because they aren't tough enough on coal-fired power plants, which are one  of the largest sources of the gases blamed for global warming.

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Monday, March 26, 2012

Mushinsky Speaks In Support Of Two Energy Bills

State Representative Mary Mushinsky, D-Wallingford, testified at a legislative hearing Monday on a pair of bills before the General Assembly's Energy and Technology Committee.

One of the bills, S.B. 450, would exempt buyers of vehicles like electric and fuel cell cars from having to pay Connecticut's sales tax on those purchases through 2014. The proposed legislation would create a fund of up to $10 million through a gross receipts tax on petroleum that would be used to help home and business owners pay for more efficient oil heating burners and other types of equipment.

Another piece of legislation, S.B. 451, would add boilers to the list of heating devices that would be eligible for a state-backed loan program. The purpose of the program is to help make purchase of more efficient equipment more affordable.

"I would like these bills to be combined because many of my constituents live in old housing stock, heated by oil," said Mushinsky, who is show in the photo above. "Without an energy audit followed by furnace replacement and plenty of insulation, they face impossibly high energy bills. People who never applied for heating assistance in their lives applied this year and in 2011 because their small monthly incomes can not keep up."

Update: Gene Guilford, executive director of the Cromwell-based Independent Connecticut Petroleum Associationreacted to Mushinsky's comment late Monday. Guilford tweeted that while the two bills are "a nice idea ...there is no excess gross receipts tax money."

"(The) Budget director slammed the door on that one," Guilford said, in an apparent reference to the Malloy administration's budget director Ben Barnes.

Guilford said that "given the state's financial issues and deficit," there is no other place for the money to fund the energy efficiency efforts proposed in the two bills to come from.

"We've scoured Washington for grants," he said.

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Monday, March 19, 2012

Dems Fight Back In Connecticut's Gas Tax Battle

Having given Republican State Senator Len Suzio an almost nine-month head start in the battle over gas taxes in Connecticut, the legislature's Democratic majority is finally fighting back.

Democratic leaders are releasing what they term "a plan to provide relief at the pump" this afternoon outside the State Capitol Building. Senate President Donald Williams Jr. (shown at left) and Speaker of the House Chris Donovan will take part in the press conference, scheduled to get underway at 1 p.m.

Suzio has been trying to get his idea for putting a cap on the state's Gross Receipts Tax before a legislative public hearing. Having been unable to achieve that thus far, he has spent plety of time flogging the Democratic leadership for not allowing his proposal on a public hearing agenda.

  In order for a hearing on his proposal to happen, one of the chairwomen of the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee has to approve it. Both of them, Eileen Daily and Particia Widlitz, are Democrats.

Democratic lawmakers in Hartford have argued against Suzio's plan. But until Monday afternoon, the Democrats  hadn't countered publicly with a proposal of their own

Suzio’s legislation would cap the gross receipts tax when prices at the pump top $3 per gallon.

The gross receipts tax is one of two that the state collects on gas. One is paid directly by consumers, while the gross receipts tax is passed through to customers.

The gross receipts tax places a 7.53 percent levy on wholesale gas prices.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

You Can't Blame A Guy For Trying

I'll say this for State Senator Len Suzio: The man is persistent and has enough chutzpah for three people.

In his efforts to get a public hearing on Connecticut's Petroleum Gross Receipts Tax, which he wants to place a cap on, Suzio showed Wednesday he isn't above riding on other lawmakers coattails to get a little extra exposure for his cause.

Suzio (shown at left) used a press conference held by U.S. Reps. John Larson and Christopher Murphy on rising gas prices  at the corner of Capitol Avenue and Broad Street to plug a rally he is organizing at the Legislative Office Building next week.   A Republican from Meriden who represents the 13th District, Suzio hopes of convincing one of the chairmen of the Revenue, Finance and Bonding Committee to approve a hearing on the measure. Even though he didn't crash the press event that the congressmen held, following the event, he issued a statement

But in trying to glom on to the political star power of Murphy and Larson, the ever-cheeky Suzio couldn't resist tweaking the two lawmakers even as he attempted to elbow his way into their spotlight.

“I thought it was interesting that they held their press conference in front of a gas station which has posted my “Cap the Gas Tax” petition in the front window,” said Suzio. “I'll check to see if they signed it. The congressmen could directly help Connecticut motorists by helping me get tax relief passed at the state level"

 Suzio's rally seeking to force a hearing his gross receipts tax cap proposal for gasoline is scheduled for March 21 at 11 a.m. in Room 1E of the Legislative Office Building.

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Monday, March 5, 2012

Esty Names Replacement For DEEP Deputy Who Resigned

The Hartford Courant's Jon Lender is reporting that a former White House Counsel on Environmental Quality, Katie Scharf-Dykes, Schrag has been appointed to replace Jonathan Schrag, who resigned last week amid claims he made a harassing phone call to the head of a conservative woman's group.

 Dykes is shown in the photo at left from last August announcing her engagement to Michael McCormack Dykes.

In early February before the scandal surrounding Schrag hit, Schrag was out promoting the ideas of his boss, DEEP Commissioner Dan Esty, about the need to increase distributed power generation around the state.

Esty, Schrag said, wants to see a pilot program for distributed generation as part of a response to last year's two crippling storms that left hundreds of thousands of Connecticut residents without power twice in a little over two months.


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