The Energy Efficiency Fund Raid
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Earlier in 2018, the battle began to restore $145 million ratepayer dollars taken from Connecticut's Energy Efficiency and Clean Energy Fund and moved by the state legislature to the General Fund in 2017 to help mitigate the state's budget deficit.
These ratepayer funds were intended to be used for the goal of moving Connecticut towards a cleaner, more energy efficient future. These were dedicated funds meant to benefit our residents and businesses by saving on energy bills, increasing energy efficiency and reducing pollution. In May 2017 ratepayers and environmental businesses and advocates filed a federal lawsuit to fight this fund raid, on the basis that using ratepayer dollars for uses outside of their intended purpose violates the Contract Clause and Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution and functions as an illegal tax in certain circumstances.
From our own Sierra Club Connecticut chair, Martha Klein: “Sierra Club Connecticut supports this legal appeal by Connecticut Fund for the Environment and allies, and the advocacy of groups including Efficiency for All, to restore the misappropriated energy efficiency monies that our General Assembly voted to take away and use as a stop gap for our budget woes. It was a myopic mistake, as these funds have been proven to create jobs, make revenue for the state, and reduce climate-destroying greenhouse gas emissions.”
Unfortunately, on October 2018 the court denied the plaintiffs, as the judge stated there was no indication that these dedicated ratepayer funds could not be transferred to the General Fund.
The fight, however, is not over. At the end of November an appeal was filed in the United States District Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York. According to Stephen J. Humes, one of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs, "We are confident in our legal arguments that a contractual relationship existed between the state and the ratepayer who paid into the energy programs, and that the sweep of the funding was an unconstitutional and illegal tax that has harmed the plaintiffs and other ratepayers."
Now, we wait for a hearing to be scheduled.
As Martha Klein notes, “This type of fund raiding hurts all of us in the long run. That money was taken from ratepayers specifically to improve the efficiency of our whole state, which would save all of us money on energy costs, and improve our health and climate.”
Stay tuned for further updates on this issue, and as always, we encourage you to contact your legislators to let them know your thoughts. Find Your Legislators.
For more information, read the latest press release on the court case.
Jessica Kurose is editor of The Quinnehtukqut, Sierra Club Connecticut.