The final clean energy competition of the Malloy administration on Friday handed the Millstone Nuclear Power Station the lifeline it has sought for nearly two years claiming the plant was at risk of closing otherwise. In a blow to the environmental advocacy community, renewable power projects were awarded fewer than 20 percent of the total power production up for bid.
Efforts by the Malloy administration to move towards more renewable energy to help fight climate change are poised to shift to the Gov.-elect Ned Lamont, who has even more aggressive goals. But the battles the Malloy administration fought with the utilities for eight years, which are still unresolved, also are also poised to shift to the new governor.
The Trump administration has unveiled its proposal to dramatically weaken auto emission and efficiency standards. Few states will feel the consequences of it more than Connecticut.
Updated at 6:25 p.m.
After a near-death experience, energy legislation that will fundamentally change how renewable energy is valued financially in Connecticut passed the state House early Wednesday morning and is now headed to the governor for his expected signature. The legislature also completed action on an environmental bill.
After months of acrimonious wrangling over a new energy policy already delayed by more than a year, the Connecticut Senate overwhelming passed a plan that will fundamentally reimagine how the state values the solar energy people generate on their roofs.
The Environmental Protection Agency’s plans to ease auto emissions standards has particular resonance for Connecticut, with the potential to force the state to accept cars that are more polluting than it wants and make its notoriously bad air even worse.
The final version of Connecticut’s new energy strategy and the bills that would implement it are before the legislature. So is a controversy that has dogged the plan since it was first released – solar policy.
Slid into last year’s budget during final negotiations was a provision that limits the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to 90 days to either approve or deny a laundry list of nearly four-dozen permits. If DEEP doesn’t take action, the permit automatically goes into effect. DEEP calls the sneak change “awful public policy,” and the fight is on.
Connecticut, once a national leader in clean and renewable energy and energy efficiency, has slipped behind many other states, including its neighbors. Most of the finger-pointing is at the state’s budget problems and questionable choices by the legislature. But the state may have started to lose its energy edge before then. The question is, can it get it back?
Provisions in the Connecticut Comprehensive Energy Strategy that would drastically limit the number of solar systems people and businesses can put on their roofs and could change the payment structure for excess electricity those systems generate have riled the state’s solar industry and those who support it.
With TV ads and ferocious lobbying on both sides of the issue, it’s unclear whether any legislation to help out the Millstone Nuclear Power Station will survive this legislative session. A delay in the release of an updated state energy strategy isn’t helping matters.
The state could turn out to be one of the most uniquely qualified to challenge the Trump administration on environmental policy. “Connecticut fights way above its weight in a number of the areas on the national scene,” Attorney General George Jepsen said. “Environmental issues is one of those areas.”
The Trump administration called massive cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency an attempt to ease the burden of unnecessary federal regulations. Connecticut’s environmental commissioner called it an assault on public health and the environment.
Two well-intentioned environmental polices – one encouraging more renewable power and the other the preservation of farms and forestland – are colliding. They are pitting farmer against farmer and environmental interest groups against one another, putting state departments at odds, and raising the always explosive issue of private property rights versus state policy.
The three-year update to Connecticut’s Comprehensive Energy Strategy, underway now, faces dramatically changed energy, environmental and political landscapes that raise questions about whether the first strategy, with its focus on natural gas, may have partially wasted the last three years.