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OP-ED | Don’t Water Down CT’s Clean Energy

by | Mar 26, 2013 10:00am
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Posted to: Opinion

While both of us have served as leaders in our respective communities here in Connecticut for decades, we met for the first time in March 2012 to begin a conversation about how to move beyond the false choice of “jobs versus the environment.” And while we certainly do not agree on everything, we have found common ground in our shared concern about the moral imperative to heal the planet while protecting the livelihoods of workers here in our own communities.

Connecticut needs to implement policies that move us from a fossil-fuel-centered economy to one focused on clean and renewable resources like wind, solar, fuel cells and other renewable technologies, building a sustainable economy with good-paying jobs here at home while reducing the threat of climate disruption here and around the world.

One of the current policies that the state uses to help with this transition is the Renewable Portfolio Standard (“RPS”), a requirement that electricity sellers must purchase certain quantities of electricity from renewable sources. Connecticut’s RPS, in combination with similar policies in other New England states, is already driving major investment across the region. These investments create good-paying jobs that we are confident will last far into the future.

Two weeks ago, the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (“DEEP”) put forward a bill that would make major changes to the RPS.  Although the details of the bill are complicated, the net impact would be a shift away from truly renewable sources in Connecticut and New England and towards large hydroelectric suppliers in Canada. This lessens the local environmental and economic benefits of this important policy.  To be sure, there are aspects of this bill that are environmentally friendly. For example, the bill would allow DEEP to sign long-term contracts for wind projects. This provision is particularly urgent because projects need to meet a deadline to qualify for federal tax credits that will reduce the costs to Connecticut ratepayers.

The overall framework of the bill, however, is fundamentally flawed, shifting investment and jobs across the border to Canada while providing substantial economic benefits to the corporations involved in the hydropower projects. The electricity generated by the hydroelectric suppliers is expected to be competitive on the open market and does not need the incentives of the RPS, which are intended to encourage long-term investment in renewables here in Connecticut and New England.

Despite these flaws, the bill’s supporters are attempting to make it law as soon as possible, scheduling votes on the floor of the Senate and House in the coming week. As a result, the process has become even more troubling than the substance. As a part of landmark energy reforms, the legislature required DEEP to study possible changes to the RPS to better carry out its goals. The draft study on this matter was not released until five days after this bill was rolled out, and the study is not scheduled to be finalized until mid-May – almost two months from now.  Rather than rushing this bill into law, legislative leaders should allow time for these important policies to be fully debated.

As a state with a strong history of environmental leadership, Connecticut can do better.  We oppose having Connecticut’s renewable energy portfolio watered down with Canadian hydropower, and we strenuously object to the process by which these changes are being rushed through the legislative process. Legislators should vote against this legislation in its current form and support only the truly urgent provisions concerning long-term wind energy contracts.  The remainder of the bill should be slowed down and subjected to further study and a more robust debate.

After Superstorm Sandy, Connecticut has a glimpse of what climate change holds in store for us. It is our obligation both to ourselves and to the rest of the world to do our part to reduce the greenhouse gasses that cause it.  And after five years of the Great Recession, we know that we must create good jobs for ourselves and our neighbors.  We can build on the growing consensus among a diverse group of constituencies, including religious communities and organized labor, that we can both create good-paying green jobs and fulfill our moral and spiritual obligations to protect the ecosystems that sustain us.  We owe it to ourselves, our neighbors, and our world not to let short-term thinking divert us from what we know we have to do.

Rev. Thomas Carr is the senior minister of the First Baptist Church of West Hartford and co-founder of the Interreligious Eco-Justice Network. John Olsen has served as president of the Connecticut AFL-CIO since 1988. This past year, they have collaborated in creating the Connecticut Roundtable on Climate and Jobs.

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Comments

(5) Archived Comments

posted by: ASTANVET | March 26, 2013  11:59am

Oh boy, here we go again… so, how much money did Great Britain spend on the north atlantic wind farm?  (you know the north atlantic where it is VERY WINDY)?  30 Billion dollars or so, and how much energy did they get from that wind farm?? less than 3%, and it was unreliable power so the coal/gas fired generators still had to operate… net loss, 30 billion and counting.  We’re in new england, and as any new englander can tell you, the sun doesn’t always shine.  Soooo… Solar power?  Really?  How many boondoggles have we seen already with massive govt waste for solar power?  and how environmentally friendly is it to manufacture?  That would be if you cared about the environment beyond your front door.  Here in CT, it is damn near impossible to get an exterior wood fired boiler.  Even though the double gassification boilers are cleaner than oil, the DEEP restricts them because… they smell like burning wood.  Come on guys - really?  If you wanted to do ONE THING that would help it is getting rid of stupid regulations like that.  Lowering the cost would allow people to use wind, solar, wood, geothermal for their homes, and removing some demand from the grid. The most important thing here is independence, don’t rely on candada for our energy, don’t turn to MA for our energy, let’s produce locally and produce consistent, reliable power… not brown outs.  Coal is clean, it is plentiful, natural gas is reliable cheap and clean.  CT could benefit greatly by taking realistic steps to produce our own energy, making it cheap and available to spur economic activity and take the burden off the lower income families who can’t pay for the increase in cost.

posted by: gutbomb86 | March 26, 2013  3:30pm

gutbomb86

“oh boy here we go again” ... sure enough. Here we go again with another ridiculous tirade against the common sense logic of clean energy in the comment section.

ASTANVET, coal is MOST CERTAINLY NOT CLEAN and the very idea that you’re supporting exterior wood-fired boilers that send heavy smoke into neighbors’ windows means you really don’t care about anyone else. Any form of energy generation that spews toxic smoke into the air we breathe is no bargain.

posted by: dea | March 26, 2013  4:17pm

ASTANVET, while I agree with most of your comment, I have to disagree with you about coal and natural gas being clean, they are not both are CO2 emitters and coal also emits mercury and other toxins.

As far as subsidies for renewables, where do you think the money comes from, if you guessed from us taxpayers, you guessed right.

posted by: ASTANVET | March 27, 2013  3:13pm

Clean Coal

Wood Gasification

Come on man, don’t paint me with a broad brush of some right winger - I LOVE alternative energy, which is why I do so much research on it… I also know the costs, here and abroad with the manufacturing process for some of this article’s favorites (solar/wind) - nobody talked Nuke power or Molten Salt reactors - geothermal…etc… but there is a huge regulatory cost for people to do these things on their own, which makes them cost prohibitive.  Gutbomb, you don’t have a fireplace or a wood stove in your home?  Should I stop using those too?  Don’t be rediculous.  My neighbor has a wood boiler, never had an issue with the smoke, and he hasn’t bought oil in 7 years.  Not any one solution is better or best.  But the goal is for people to have options (cost effective options) to have reliable, safe, power/heat.  You want to drive up the cost of gas/oil/coal/NG/Nuke?  What happens to the people who can’t pay that higher rate?  They choose between eating and having heat…Must be another call for higher taxes to pay for another low income heat program…Rediculous.

posted by: ASTANVET | March 27, 2013  3:14pm

Gutbomb has been listening to too much Al Gore -