HARTFORD -- Legislators yesterday blasted the Connecticut Siting Council's approval of the 69-mile Norwalk-to-Middletown power line saying it did not fully consider health issues and disregarded legislation to bury as much of the line as possible.
"We believe that the Siting Council of Connecticut with this decision has not complied with, nor obeyed the law," said state Rep. Mary Fritz, D-Wallingford.
Fritz said the council has not provided a cost analysis of the facility and underground alternatives; has not filed a full environmental impact study, including a specification of every significant adverse effect and the impact of electromagnetic fields; and has failed to minimize the impact on camps, playgrounds, schools and day-care centers.
State Sen. Leonard Fasano, R-North Haven, called the decision "lawless."
"They did not adhere to the intent of the Legislature and they did not listen to the safety concerns of the residents," Fasano said.
Fasano questioned whether the council had fulfilled its responsibility, citing part of the decision that says with respect to issues of tower heights, tower locations, environment, aesthetic mitigation and landscape design, the council would meet with the towns.
"Whose going to vote on this? Town council? Zoning boards? What if you can't agree?" Fasano said.
Fritz said lawmakers are planning on introducing legislation to block the project, though she declined to provide details.
On Thursday, the council approved the project by a 9-0 vote. It is expected to cost nearly $1 billion and be completed in 2009. The council spent about 18 months and held 30 public hearings on the controversial proposal.
Under the panel's decision, the cable, which will pass through 18 cities and towns, would be buried underground from the Norwalk substation on Ponus Avenue to the proposed Singer substation in Bridgeport to the East Devon substation in Milford.
The rest of the cable would be strung along towers, some more than 100 feet high.
Opponents of the plans as originally submitted by line partners Connecticut Light and Power, and United Illuminating have been pushing for more of the cable to be built underground and for above-ground portions to be built as far away as possible from homes, schools, day-care centers and camps because of the possibility that electromagnetic fields created by the power lines might cause cancer or other health problems.
The line is needed because there is a transmission bottleneck for electricity to Fairfield and New Haven counties, something those opposed to the line agree needs to be addressed.
The lawmakers said they will ask Attorney General Richard Blumenthal to appeal the decision.
In a statement issued yesterday, Blumenthal said his office will determine next week what additional actions are warranted, after the Siting Council issues its final report.
"My office will assist and work closely with towns and cities," Blumenthal said. "I will continue to work to balance the need for new lines with legitimate health and environmental concerns, which the council should have done more to address."
Siting Council Executive Director Derek Phelps said the council will work with the affected cities and towns to decide details such as how the towers will be sited.
Phelps said efforts by state lawmakers to discourage that cooperation are not helpful. "It's apparent that the legislators as much as promised that this will be the subject of litigation," he said. "Therefore, I think the responsible and prudent thing is to withhold comments about the nature of the charges that have been raised."
CL&P spokesman Frank Poirot said the applicants took all necessary steps to address safety concerns. He cited the agreement to bury 24 miles of the line, at an additional cost of $80 million.
Gov. M. Jodi Rell issued a statement late Thursday night after the Siting Council's unanimous vote, noting that everyone would not be happy with it and saying she was disappointed more of the transmission line would not be buried under the council's decision.
wish the Council had recommended
more undergrounding, but I know they had a difficult decision to make
they listened to the experts who said putting more than 24 miles of the
line underground would reduce reliability," Rell said. "I also know
there were calls for me to delay or impose a moratorium on the decision
of the Council. An earlier opinion by Attorney General Richard
made it clear that I had no authority whatsoever to do that."
Tuesday March 29, 2005 CT POST:
Power line arguments' last chance
By ROB VARNON
Milford and other municipalities that have been fighting for more than a year to get two utilities to agree to bury a proposed electric transmission line are down to one day of arguments.
"It doesn't appear to be going very well," Milford Mayor James Richetelli Jr. said Monday, the day before the Connecticut Siting Council reveals its draft opinion on the $993 million, 69-mile Middletown-to-Norwalk transmission project.
The council will hold oral arguments on its opinion Thursday, when representatives from Milford and other communities fighting the proposal are expected to make a final plea to have the lines buried before the final decision is rendered April 7.
But Richetelli admitted that it looks like an uphill battle, as the council appears ready to approve the project as originally proposed. Last week, the council indicated that United Illuminating Co. and Connecticut Light & Power Co. had proved that the line is needed and that only 24 miles of it could be buried.
The utilities want to replace existing 115-kilovolt lines with 345-kilovolt lines because demand for power brought into southwestern Connecticut through those lines is approaching the older lines' capacities. The companies need the council's approval to start the project, which could cost more than $993 million if built as proposed, with 45 miles of the line running overhead from Middletown through Milford and the remaining 24 miles running underground through part of Fairfield County.
The utilities must prove the lines are needed and that the design conforms to state laws instituted to protect residents' health and the environment. Milford and several communities north of it, including Orange and Woodbridge, have been fighting to get the lines through their communities buried since the application was filed in October 2003.
Richetelli said opponents of the line never claimed it isn't needed but object to its design because of the impact to property values and the chance that electro-magnetic fields emitted by the lines might affect people's health.
There are no studies that conclude that EMF is harmful to health; several, including a 1997 National Cancer Institute study, have concluded there is little chance that EMF causes cancer. No studies, however, rule it out.
"It's the city's position that [ill-health effects] can't be proved one way or another, but we ought to err on the side of caution," Richetelli said. He said he thinks one way to mitigate the dangers from EMF is to bury the lines.
The council is mulling whether burying the lines would mitigate the possible danger of EMF. It has specifically asked to hear argument on whether buried lines emit the same amount of EMF as overhead lines, and, if so, what steps should be taken to protect people from buried lines.
a UI spokeswoman, said Monday her company maintains that the magnetic
the new lines will generate pose no health concerns. The
Siting Council will meet today at 11 a.m. and on Thursday at 10 a.m. to
continue deliberations on UI and CL&P's application at 10 Franklin
Square, New Britain.
New Power Rates
8:43 PM EST, March 22, 2005
WASHINGTON -- Federal regulators approved a new electricity pricing system for New England Tuesday that will increase rates for some Connecticut consumers in order to provide incentives for more energy generation.
In two unanimous votes, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission reaffirmed its decision to approve the proposed plan outlined by ISO New England, which operates the region's power grid. And it agreed to split Connecticut into two pricing regions - the southwestern part and the rest of the state.
Final FERC action on exact rates - which will affect Connecticut and the Boston region - will not take place until later this year, and the plan would not go into effect until January 2006.
"We believe the proposal represents the best course of action for New England to insure power plants here in the region are appropriately valued by their location," said Ellen Foley, spokeswoman for ISO New England. "And investors will have a clearly defined market signal to target their infrastructure investment."
The plan - called Locational Installed Capacity - would shift some energy costs currently shared across New England to southwestern Connecticut and the Boston region. The extra money would be funneled to electricity generators as an incentive to build new modern transmission lines and power plants to meet the growing energy demands.
FERC spokesman Bryan Lee said the plan is an effort to more fairly assign costs for the energy inefficiencies in southwestern Connecticut, where consumers are dependent on older power plants that are more costly to operate.
But state officials have opposed the plan, and have vowed to block it in court.
"Federal regulators seek to slap more than $300 million in new charges on Connecticut consumers and businesses," said Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal. "These charges will reward generators with an unwarranted windfall and fail to spur construction of new power plants."
FERC, Blumenthal said, "must stop using Connecticut as a guinea pig for its unwise and unworkable policies."
Lee, however, said it is not fair for the rest of New England to bear the costs of Connecticut's failure to develop more power generation.
"The potential for California-style blackouts is the economic threat Connecticut should be concerned about," Lee said.
According to Foley, consumers in southwestern Connecticut would pay about $230 million in new charges during 2006, while customers in the rest of the state would pay $163 million.
She said southwestern Connecticut customers would see about a 2.1 percent increase in their average bill. Customers in the Boston region and in other parts of Connecticut, she said, may actually save money under the new pricing plan, compared to what they would be paying next year in projected energy costs without the new plan.
Connecticut and Boston area customers, under the current system, pay additional fees to subsidize the operation of the older, inefficient plants because they are not economical for power companies to run. If the pricing plan is not implemented, Foley said those costs will continue to increase and could be higher next year than those under the new pricing plan.
Beginning next January, the additional fees would start flowing to power generating companies as incentives to build more power plants or transmission lines. But there is nothing in the agreement that requires such construction, only mandates that energy capacity be met.
Why does the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission want to inflict harm on Connecticut's economy?
Every citizen of this state should be asking that question and seeking answers from the members of the state's congressional delegation.
FERC has initiated the misguided notion that if it places a $393 million surcharge on the electric bills of Connecticut consumers and distributes those monies to firms that generate electricity it will be an incentive for more power plants to be built in Connecticut.
Sadly, FERC's logic is knowingly skewed and yet the agency persists in promoting it.
No one has put forth any evidence that such a surcharge has power generators salivating to build plants in Connecticut, where our air. Incidentally, already violates national air quality standards. The real problem is that a large portion of Connecticut doesn't at the moment have the power transmission lines to handle increased power generation and FERC knows that.
So what the plan amounts to, as state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal pointedly observed this week, is the imposition of "catastrophic costs on consumers" and resulting "wild windfalls" to electricity generators without any benefits to state residents.
Who would have thought that a federal agency would become a bona fide robber baron?
The real issue for Connecticut is a sorely needed upgrade of transmission lines, a matter currently being grappled with, although obviously not as swiftly or as argument-free as FERC and ISO-New England, the region's grid operator, desire.
FERC must drop its plan for a two-tiered pricing surcharge for Connecticut in 2006. Consumers will soon be paying more for the transmission line upgrade now estimated to cost $1 billion.
Why add still more charges onto Connecticut electric bills unless the federal government seeks to undermine the state's ability to attract new industry and jobs and keep the ones it has now?
Energy costs are a major part of doing business. Southwestern Connecticut is already an expensive environment in which to operate. Increasing electric rates with the misguided notion that it will attract new power plants will only be a disincentive to economic growth.
The next six months will be tough for electric ratepayers, as most bills go up a little more than 16 percent after the first of the year and by 30 percent in March. The state's entrance into the world of electric competition has given financial windfalls to utilities and their subsidiaries but has so far been a failure for consumers. Many state officials blame conditions beyond their control, among them the ever-rising price of oil and gas, and punitive federal policies that will increase the price of electricity here for no good reason.
But that's just part of the reason the state finds itself with some of the highest electric rates in the country. In recent years when given a choice between helping ratepayers or the state's utilities, most state legislators have been egregiously over-generous to the state's utility companies, United Illuminating and Connecticut Light & Power. Restructuring is working much better in other states. The reason why restructuring hasn't worked here is because the legislature has fought initiatives that would increase competition and help the consumer.
The state has a unique chance to change that sorry track record beginning Jan. 5. That's when the next session of the General Assembly will start. By then, Gov. M. Jodi Rell will have been in office just six months, as will have state Senate President pro tempore Donald Williams (D-Brooklyn). The new Speaker of the House will be Rep. James A. Amann (D-Milford).
Gov. Rell has said that the hike in electric rates is unacceptable. That's good. But it makes the decision of Sen. Williams and Rep. Amann in choosing the new leaders of the Joint Committee on Energy and Technology even more critical. The House and Senate chairmen of that committee will have a lot to say about whether ratepayers will continued to get skewered quite as badly as they have recently.
Committee chairmen should be willing to do the following:
• The state should stop diverting the money citizens pay on their electric bills for conservation. State ratepayers plunk down $88 million a year for that purpose, and used properly, the money would save them hundreds of millions more in electrical costs. Instead, too much of the money is sent to the state treasury for other purposes.
• Allow state conservation programs to be run by companies other than state utilities, such as is already done in Vermont. Currently, Connecticut's utilities run conservation programs. They shouldn't because they have an inherent conflict-of-interest: the more successful such programs are, the less money the utilities will make. Other companies independent of the utilities should run the initiatives.
•Call for transparency. Utilities solicit bids to buy power and sell to consumers, and those contracts should be open to public scrutiny, as should dealings between utilities and their affiliates. To its shame, the legislature rejected attempts last year to make the process more open.
• Let competing electric companies directly contact their own customers, as occurs in states such as Pennsylvania. Now the legislature allows only state utilities to communicate directly with customers. This makes it more expensive for competitors and gives state companies the edge.
• Encourage municipalities to band together and invite bids from companies to offer their citizens lower-cost power. This is called, “aggregation,” and Connecticut doesn't allow it. Why? States such as New Jersey and Ohio do. In Ohio, more than 100 communities have formed energy buying pools in which more than 500,000 residential and commercial customers are participating and saving money. Connecticut should, too.
competition has been a bust here because the General Assembly hasn't
enough to help it succeed. It's past time for that to happen.
Stifling Economic Growth
Hartford Courant editorial
November 24, 2004
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission wants to drive a stake through the heart of southwestern Connecticut by "throwing a wet blanket over economic development."
That's the view from Gov. M. Jodi Rell's perch, and it's hard to disagree with her.
In fact, rarely have the state's elected officials, Democratic or Republican, raised their voices in such unison as they have over FERC's decision to charge higher prices for electricity in 54 towns in New Haven and Fairfield counties. The energy commission's decision was announced last week.
Almost immediately, U.S. Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman called the pricing scheme "unworkable." Attorney General Richard Blumenthal dubbed the higher rate "a punitive tax." Meanwhile, Mrs. Rell fired off a blistering letter to FERC in which she said the proposal is "inherently unfair," would put "an extraordinary burden on ratepayers" and would do "incalculable harm" to job growth.
The three officials were joined in their opposition by state energy regulators, the attorneys general of Massachusetts and Rhode Island and by business groups. United Illuminating, whose customers would all be in the new higher-rate zone, also weighed in.
FERC devised the plan in an attempt to provide financial incentives to energy providers to build new power plants and increase generation capacity in a part of Connecticut that is sorely lacking both.
While that free-market idea sounds great in theory, state leaders say the dual-zone system would drive up electricity costs in the 54 targeted communities, where 70 percent of the population lives, by as much as 7 percent. Mr. Blumenthal argues it could be even higher - perhaps reaching 12 percent.
That would have a significant dampening effect on economic development in a region that already suffers under the burden of high energy costs.
What's more, public officials say the higher rate would be a windfall for utilities because it could be years before new power plants are built and fully operational, if they're built at all.
In light of the outcry and unanimity of opposition, FERC ought to rethink its plan, which is scheduled to take effect in 2006.
Hartford — Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said Friday he must devise new strategies to challenge a proposed electric rate increase that will likely be approved by state regulators.
The almost 17 percent rate request, which primarily seeks to recoup Connecticut Light & Power's rising energy supply costs, leaves Blumenthal with little room for a challenge.
“We're not going through a normal rate-setting hearing. It's a compliance proceeding where our challenge may be limited,” he said. “But we still have weapons in our arsenal. We're now in our weapons testing phase.”
CL&P on Tuesday asked state regulators for permission to raise rates Jan. 1. The request drew immediate criticism from Blumenthal, Gov. M. Jodi Rell and other state officials.
The Berlin-based utility, which serves about 1.1 million customers in Connecticut, said 1 percent is a rate increase, with the remainder reflecting the rising cost of fuel to generate power and a federally required charge related to bringing electricity through transmission bottlenecks in southwest Connecticut.
An average monthly residential bill using 500 kilowatt hours would increase by $10.70, to about $71 for 500 kilowatt hours of electricity a month.
DPUC said generating services and the federally mandated costs must be recovered from customers. The agency said it is unlikely it can deny or delay CL&P's request. That has forced Blumenthal to find new ways to try to block CL&P.
He said Friday he will seek to reduce a “competitive transition assessment” approved by the General Assembly when electricity was deregulated in Connecticut in 2000.
About 10 percent of residential non-heating bills are earmarked to pay over several years so-called stranded costs, said Beryl Lyons, a spokeswoman for the DPUC. Stranded costs are investments, deferred expenses and long-term contractual commitments for power that were approved by the DPUC when electricity was regulated. The costs may have since become too expensive to recover after the market became competitive.
But reducing the competitive transition assessment could lead to a longer payout time, Lyons said.
“If he proposes that we'll at least take a look at it,” she said.
Calls seeking comment were left with CL&P on Friday.
Blumenthal also said he will ask the DPUC to strictly scrutinize CL&P's contracts for oil and gas that make up most of its request for higher charges.
Lyons said that already has been done. “We set up absolute procedures and guidelines for the contracts and bids,” she said.
And Blumenthal said he will challenge CL&P's request for the 1 percent increase, though it was approved in December 2003 to take effect in January 2005.
Blumenthal, backed by DPUC, also has challenged a decision by federal energy regulators splitting Connecticut into two regions paying electricity rates that would increase costs for customers in the southwestern part of the state by about 7 percent.
said he will file a lawsuit in
federal court if his administrative challenge fails.
The federal government continues to trample on Connecticut and its citizens.
The latest example was Monday's approval by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission of a two-zone pricing scheme for Connecticut that could boost electric bills for residents and businesses in Fairfield County and most of New Haven County by 6 to 7 percent beginning in 2006.
In a decision devoid of logic, FERC ruled that Connecticut should be split into two zones with 54 municipalities paying higher prices to encourage private construction of generating plants in southwestern Connecticut.
But that's not this region's energy problem. Our problem is the inadequacy of the present transmission lines in this region to distribute electricity efficiently.
FERC should be addressing the transmission upgrade that's currently before state agencies and not shilling for higher profits for utilities that may or may not be moved in the future to build new generating plants in the region.
Mark our words: If this new pricing scheme goes into effect in 2006, the utilities will end up with enhanced profits for several years before the region ever sees a new power plant.
Meanwhile, residents, businesses and municipalities in southwestern Connecticut would take a hit at a time when energy costs are already soaring, even without a pricing differential.
What a way to put a damper on the economic vitality in this 54-community region, which houses 70 percent of the state's population.
FERC's decision is part of a larger strategy to establish separate energy market areas in New England to provide financial incentives that will encourage construction of more power plants. The plan has met with fierce opposition from Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
FERC's decision has raised the hackles of Gov. M. Jodi Rell and Attorney General Richard Blumenthal. They must go all out to get FERC to reconsider this outrageous plan.
Beginning in 2006, southwestern Connecticut electricity customers would pay about 7 percent more for power than the rest of the state, under a plan approved Monday by federal regulators.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ruled that Connecticut should be split into two electricity-pricing zones to encourage private construction of generating plants where they are needed most - particularly in the power-poor southwestern corner of the state.
The policy would allow new power plants built in higher-priced zones to charge more for electricity than new plants built in lower-priced zones. But the decision was immediately criticized by opponents, who said it would raise costs for consumers and businesses, provide a windfall for the energy industry and fail to address bottlenecks in the electric-transmission system.
"This two-zone decision divides Connecticut against itself and is an outrage," said state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal. "We'll continue to fight this very misguided and mistaken policy."
The federal agency's decision is part of a broader effort to create separate market areas in New England with financial incentives to attract development of power plants. As now planned, New England would have five such pricing zones: two for Connecticut, one for Maine, one for eastern Massachusetts and one for the rest of New England.
The higher-priced southwestern Connecticut zone would include 54 municipalities in New Haven and Fairfield counties, including customers of both Connecticut Light & Power and United Illuminating company. The federal regulatory commission is still considering how the pricing mechanism would work within each zone. A final decision is expected by June 2005 for implementation in January 2006.
ISO New England, the organization that operates New England's power grid, estimates that electricity prices will rise in southwestern Connecticut by about 6.34 percent as a result of the commission's ruling, while prices in the rest of Connecticut would fall by 0.64 percent.
Blumenthal said the higher prices would amount to a $375 million a year surcharge on Connecticut ratepayers. "The burden will be humongous and it will inhibit economic growth for the whole state," he said. These costs for generation capacity are in addition to so-called congestion charges paid by electricity consumers as the result of bottlenecks in the power transmission system.
Ellen Foley, a spokeswoman for ISO New England, said electricity customers have always paid for generation capacity, but that the market mechanism is being changed as a result of deregulation. The changes, she said, will "help achieve the overall goal of bulk power system reliability and wholesale market efficiency" and meet the energy needs of southwestern Connecticut.
But Joseph McGee, a senior vice president at SACIA, the business council of Southwestern Connecticut, said the higher generation capacity charges expected under the regulatory commission's plan could harm the region's economic vitality.
Worse, he said, the higher costs and the prospect of new generating capacity don't solve the transmission problems that plague the region at times of peak power demand. "We know the system in New Haven and Fairfield counties is weak and needs to be improved. And that's where we believe the emphasis has to be placed," McGee said.
Other state leaders have argued the higher charges could be in place for years before additional generating plants are built. Word of the commission's decision comes just days after Blumenthal and attorneys general from Massachusetts and Rhode Island filed testimony with the agency opposing the planned pricing mechanism for the generation charge. Blumenthal said he would ask the commission to reconsider its decision and would consider suing in federal court if the plan moves forward.
"If the power can't be distributed, there's no point to producing it," Blumenthal said. "So they most certainly have put several carts before the horse, seemingly to provide incentives for actions that shouldn't happen before we upgrade our transmission lines."
That is the amount that went toward preparing the appeal, overturning a motion to dismiss it, attending settlement conferences and hearings, and appearing in court, said Corporation Counsel Louis S. Ciccarello. The Hartford law firm of Halloran & Sage LLP represented Norwalk in its appeal of two Connecticut Siting Council decisions last year that will allow Northeast Utilities and local affiliate Connecticut Light & Power to construct the high-voltage line.
Mayor Alex Knopp launched the appeal after Silvermine neighborhood residents protested the siting council-approved plan, which calls for an above-ground 345-kilovolt line to run from southern Wilton to the New Canaan Avenue substation Last week, state Superior Court Judge Henry S. Cohn in New Britain rejected the appeal, which was spearheaded by Halloran & Sage attorney Peter Boucher. Boucher argued, among other things, that the siting council did not consider the Bethel-Norwalk project within the utility companies' larger plan to upgrade the power grid in southwestern Connecticut.
a lot of work involved, and it was highly technical. The evidence
the siting council was enormous," Ciccarello said. "We needed outside
to get expertise in this peculiar area of the law." Ciccarello said
was chosen because of his "extensive background" in utility issues.
is a former siting council member and Department of Public Utility
Ciccarello said Boucher gave the city a "good reduction" in hourly legal fees; he could not quantify that reduction offhand. So far, the city has paid the law firm $186,474; about $20,000 remains unpaid, he said.
attorneys to handle complex and time-consuming litigation is not
The city sets aside money within the Corporation Counsel portion of it
annual operating budget for "other professional services." The money
covers tax appeals not handled by city attorneys. For fiscal year
-- from which the power line appeal bills are being paid -- the Board
Estimate and Taxation budgeted $5,892 for other professional services.
The amount later was revised upward to about $290,000, according to the
Finance Department. For the current fiscal year that began July 1,
was requested, and the board approved $75,000, according to the Finance
Knopp said it is unlikely that the city would prevail, if it carries the appeal to a higher court, and that he doesn't believe any additional money should be spent to battle the power line. He also reminded that overturning the siting council decision would have forced the utility companies to rethink their plan -- not bury the line.
said progress was made by pursuing the appeal. He noted that the court
rejected Northeast's rejection motion; that the siting council hired an
underground cable expert for the Norwalk-Middletown transmission line.
And he believes that municipalities have gained more say in council
Ciccarello and the Finance Department readily provided The Hour the
cost of appealing the siting council decision.
In an independent inquiry, Republican Town Committee Chairman Art Scialabba requested the cost under the Freedom of Information Act. He used the $207,076 bottom line to blast the Knopp administration.
"This is yet another example of the mayor running off and costing the taxpayers thousands and thousands of extra dollars," Scialabba said. "Our money could have been spent by hiring more teachers, police, officers or repairing some additional roads." Knopp critics maintain that he left Norwalk out of the planning process, as selectmen and attorneys for neighboring towns -- Redding, Wilton and Weston -- successfully fought to have the transmission buried through portions of their communities.
Not all share
that feeling, including one person who lives close to the proposed
line and led the grassroots battle against it.
Leigh Grant, president of the Norwalk Association of Silvermine Homeowners, said she is grateful that Knopp pursued the appeal but added that no more money should be spent. She traced the court loss to the siting council process, changing laws and the complexity of the issue.
"We had very much hoped that the city would win this. They made a try, and they made a very good try," said Grant after Cohn issued his decision. "I don't want the city to spend a lot of (additional) money on this."
With the appeal lost, Grant indicated that her organization and The Coalition to Protect Wilton will fight the power line in other ways, perhaps by co-signing a letter to Gov. M. Jodi Rell.
The Connecticut Siting Council has agreed to reconvene with municipalities and utility companies to discuss ISO's stance, which Knopp says is a positive step. But in the meantime, the attorney general announced that he will consider litigation against ISO's stance.
In a written statement issued Monday, Blumenthal said that he would "go to court against ISO New England if necessary to uphold the law and defend Siting Council decisions in implementing it and selecting underground routes." On Thursday, ISO representatives testified before the Siting Council that they do not believe that underground power lines are feasible or reliable and that burying the line would create system failures, including outages and damaged equipment.
The second phase of the proposed power line from Norwalk to Middletown is slated to be buried beneath Route 1 in Norwalk and Westport. If the line is forced above ground on poles, it would be on an alternative route in Weston and Wilton. ISO's announcement was unexpected by others involved in the power lines fight and one that they are refusing to take lightly.
"For ISO to weigh in at the 11th hour is irresponsible," Knopp said. "We are urging the Siting Council not to be bullied by this last-minute extreme action," the mayor said. The power line fight has been ongoing for several years and the ISO announcement could set the project back several more, officials said.
"Those of us who have been working on this for the last few years have worked to get the lines underground and we understood that would be the way it was going to be," Duff said. "But ISO just threw a bomb on us and all we've worked for. If they try to exert their veto power, it will send us right back to square one and we will essentially have to start all over again. It will takes years to get this far," he said.
to the underground lines is evidence of its lack of knowledge regarding
underground lines, Duff said. "ISO is uninformed about
power lines," Duff said. "We understand the need for additional power
our area but we want them to see that it can be done in an
friendly way that does not tax our neighborhoods," he said. Leigh
Grant, a local resident who has been vocal in the fight against
above-ground lines, said that underground technology is above the current scope of ISO.
"Overhead technology is what ISO knows and is familiar with," Grant said. "Underground lines are progressive and they are new technology and they (ISO) just don't know about it. The above-ground technology is out of date." Duff and other local decision-makers are not willing to let ISO have the last say. Officials say they will do whatever it takes to oppose ISO and to keep the power lines underground.
In addition to meeting with the Siting Council again, officials are also prepared to be proactive in their fight with ISO. "We will fight any proposal to put these lines above ground until all of our avenues have been exhausted," Duff said. "We expected these lines to be underground and we will fight to keep them there."
From a LWV of Weston Observer report on August 2 Joint Meeting regarding power lines:
This was a special Joint Meeting of three (3) Boards held by the Board of Selectmen--only the Chair. of Conservation and Planning and Zoning sat at the front table, however, and a quorum only of the Board of Selectmen was present. Few citizens were in the audience, as this was not billed as a "Public Hearing" but rather a public meeting (open to all); by the end of this almost three hour session it was clear that a larger room would be needed for the truly public input event--date uncertain at this time. Although the present application to the CT Siting Council does not include information beyond the most superficial, the second part of the upgrade by CL&P in the South Western part of the state will cut straight across the lower part of Weston--from Weston Road to Tall Pines by way of Slumber Corners--just follow the line of CL&P towers that exist now, picture 130' average metal structures with three levels of high tension wires that hum in wet or humid weather and then assume that the right-of-way will have to be widened from 80' to 125' or possibly more (this means condemning properties), and you have the long and short of the situation.
The public present, as well as the elected Town officials sharply questioned the CL&P staff and consultants on the need for this upgrade, the power situation in CT generally, why the need to cross Long Island Sound--is it that CL&P is now competing with out of area power suppliers and wants the competitive advantage of even more power than Connecticut may need...lots of questions, and this is just the beginning of a community dialogue. One citizen pointed out that this very same proposal had been made 30 years ago...CL&P said it was now more than time to institute the upgrade.
By Paul Choiniere - Published on 12/30/2001
A dramatic change in how you buy your electricity was
supposed to begin two years ago.
It was expected that long before now salespeople
would be calling and mailing consumers to offer great
deals on electricity, much as the phone companies
pitch long distance service.
None of that has happened.
The much debated, discussed and ballyhooed
restructuring of the electric industry has so far provided
very little change for the average consumer. Prices
have remained stable and the vast majority of
consumers are buying electricity as they always have.
It appears none of that is likely to change any time
The lack of competition has resulted because the
market has yet to be truly opened, say industry experts.
Instead, utilities are operating in an artificial
environment — created by the Connecticut legislature
and the state's Department of Public Utility Control —
that does not truly reflect market trends. No one has yet
figured out how to make money in it. And without
money to be made, it is difficult to attract competitors.
'A bit of a stall mode'
“We are all in a bit of a stall mode,” says said Lisa Thibdaue, vice
regulatory affairs and compliance at Northeast Utilities.
Competition has been stifled because the legislature, in creating the
to guarantee savings and protect consumers from price spikes. To accomplish this the
legislature created a “standard offer” price. It represents the price at which electricity will be
sold to you, Joe Consumer, if you do not choose a particular supplier.
The standard offer was set at 10 percent below the price of electricity
back in 1996,
guaranteeing that consumers, by simply doing nothing, could benefit by the regulatory
The competition was expected to begin when companies could offer
at prices below
the standard offer, but so far practically no one has been able to do that. For residential
customers not using electric heat, which means most people reading this article, the standard
offer was set at 5.5 cents per kilowatt hour by the state Department of Public Utility Control.
By the time competition was set to begin in January 2000, the wholesale
cost of electricity
was between 5 and 6 cents per kilowatt hour. None of the suppliers could get on board
because at that wholesale rate they could not beat the 5.5-cent retail price that consumers
were getting by default.
Two years later, they are still not competing.
If you divide your electric bill in half, the figure you come up with
roughly the amount subject
to competition. It is the generation portion of the bill, reflecting the price at which a provider
buys electricity and resells it to the consumer.
The rest of the bill is based on fixed rates, which include the cost of
transmitting the power,
the substantial administrative and bookkeeping costs associated with changing from a
regulated to a competitive system, and money that is set aside for environmental conservation
and development of alternative energy sources.
In the old days the state set the price of electricity. Northeast
was the supplier for most
of the state, with United Illuminating serving the southwest region. These were monopolies.
When they wanted rate increases they had to go before the DPUC and present their case.
Profits were built into the approved rates.
Competition, it was argued, would force prices down by motivating
to operate more
efficiently. A debate continues about whether bringing competition to electric markets is a
good idea. Unlike the breakup of Bell Telephone, which was a federal initiative, deregulating
the electric industry has been a hodge-podge with each state deciding whether to make the
change and, if so, how.
Sixteen states have passed laws restructuring their electric power
discussions but have delayed action, while 26 others continue to utilize regulated monopolies.
In New England, all states but Vermont have broken up their electric utility monopolies.
In Connecticut, NU and UI were forced to sell off their power plants,
monopoly. They continue to operate the distribution systems that bring electricity into homes,
businesses and industries. The cost of sending that electricity over the power system remains
regulated, ensuring a level playing field for all participants. But suppliers are now free to buy
electricity from the generator that offers the best wholesale price.
The only exception to the new market in Connecticut is municipal
serving the City of Groton, Norwich and Jewett City. In those cities local boards set electric
California, where it all began seven years ago, has caused the most
and has slowed
the deregulation movement nationwide. California has now effectively suspended its
restructuring program, with the legislature stepping in to reinstate substantial regulation there.
Early last summer California experienced an energy supply crisis.
dropped because of persistent dry weather. The problem was exasperated because, for many
years, counties and cities in the state had not approved construction of new power plants
despite rapid population growth.
Without price controls, the shortfall caused wholesale prices to
higher, but the
California restructuring law prohibited utilities from passing on the higher costs to consumers.
The result was blackouts and utility bankruptcies.
Connecticut state Sen. Melodie Peters, D-Waterford, said Connecticut
able to learn from
California's mistakes. She does not expect the same problems here. There has been
substantial power plant construction in the region, largely natural gas-fired facilities, and New
England has wholesale pricing safeguards, she said.
But Peters said the law will need adjusting to generate the kind of
envisioned when it was passed three years ago.
Both NU and UI have called for the Department of Public Utility Control
to adjust the standard
offer. If it was increased, they argue, suppliers would be able to get into the market and
competition would begin to percolate, in the long term keeping prices lower.
If the legislature and DPUC wait until the end of 2003, when the
offer ends, the
market could reset at a much higher level and hit consumers with painful price hikes, said
“The standard offer has dissuaded players from entering the market,”
said. “We have to
get people involved.”
Attorney General Richard Blumenthal opposes any increase in the standard offer.
The idea that a rate hike is necessary to foster competition “should be
laughed out of the
DPUC,” Blumenthal said. The purpose of the restructuring law was to encourage economic
efficiency and lower customer bills, which has been done with the mandated reduction under
the 1996 rates, said the attorney general. The intention of the law “was not simply to promote
switching companies for its own sake,” he said.
Eugene Koss, who as assistant counsel in the state Office of Consumer
the interests of ratepayers, said that NU's argument for a higher standard offer defies logic.
“What they are saying is: 'We are going to help consumers by charging
NU, in particular, has been hit hard by the lack of competition in the market.
When you do not choose a supplier — and few people have had any choice
— the power has
to come from somewhere. Much of it is coming from NU. At the start of competition the utility
sought approval to be the primary standard offer supplier through its subsidiary, Select
Select Energy supplies 50 percent of the power that is being sold at
standard offer price.
NRG Inc., based in Minnesota, provides another 40 percent of the power, and Duke Energy
Trading and Marketing Northeast, a subsidiary of Duke Energy of North Carolina, the other 10
At the time, being a standard offer provider appeared to be a good
a way of assuring lots
of business from all those homes and industries that did not choose a supplier.
Instead it has turned into a financial anchor. With wholesale prices
mandated standard offer price over the past two years, selling the electricity has been a losing
NU has reported third-quarter 2001 earnings of $34.6 million, compared
with earnings of $65.5
million for the same period a year ago, continuing a downward trend. NU's competitive energy
subsidiary, Select, lost $9.7 million in the third quarter of 2001, according to the company.
Consolidated Edison of New York cited concerns over NU's standard offer
breaking its planned deal to merge with the New England utility this past year.
“Basically we are saying the market is different than when they set the
standard offer and that
needs to be looked at,” said NU's Thibdaue.
While so far rejecting calls for adjusting the standard offer, the DPUC
did announce recently
that beginning early in 2002 it will open proceedings to examine the effectiveness of the
restructuring rules and explore ways of improving them. Among the issues it will be looking at
is whether the standard offer contracts should be tied to market conditions.
The legislature appears to be moving in the same direction.
Sen. Peters, who as co-chair of the legislature's Energy and
a major role in the passage of the deregulation law, said changes will have to be made to
provide a smooth transition to a more open market starting in 2004. It is at that point that the
standard offer provision is scheduled to expire.
“We will be making legislative proposals that would buffer consumers,
provisions,” she said.
That could mean some form of indexing that would tie a new standard
to the market in an
effort to promote competition while avoiding a dramatic price hike come 2004, she said.
The only supplier that appears to have made a go of it, though in a
fashion, is the
Connecticut Energy Cooperative. The cooperative, collectively owned by its members, has
gotten a toe into the competitive market by finding a special niche: green energy.
The cooperative has 2,000 members buying electricity from it, a tiny
with the 1.2 million households in Connecticut. The vast majority of the co-op's customers
prefer its EcoWatt product, sold at 6.5 cents per kilowatt hour. These customers are willing to
pay a premium price of several dollars a month for power that is only purchased from “green”
renewable sources, such as water power, methane gas from landfills, and wind power.
Though the power flowing into their homes comes from a consolidation of
serving the grid — coal, nuclear, oil, gas, as well as renewable power sources — these
customers can at least know their dollars are supporting environmentally friendly plants.
The cooperative also provides ValueWatt, offering electricity .25 cents
per kilowatt hour lower
than the standard offer price. The difference can save a consumer a dollar or two a month.
Offering the discounted price is a means of trying to get into the market, said Larry Union,
president of the cooperative.
“We are not making any money on it, obviously,” he said.
To remain viable the cooperative must attract about 10,000 members in
next couple of
years, said Union. Right now the group faces a classic Catch-22. It needs to get the word out
to attract potential members, but until it gets more members it cannot afford to advertise
extensively, he said.
By Dirk Perrefort, HOUR staff writer
State Attorney general Richard Blumenthal says his office is keeping a close eye on the controversial Northeast Utilities power line proposal.
Blumenthal was among a number of local and state officials attending a meeting on the power line plan here Thursday night. Her said he remains skeptical about the project.
NU ha sproposed constructing a 345-kilovolt power line from Bethel to Norwalk following an existing 115-kilovolt line. The utility has said the project is necessary to meet the region's growing energy demands, although opponents of the plan dispute those claims.
"My office is scrutinizing the proposal very closely," said Blumenthal during the meeting, which was held at Weston Town Hall and attended by more than 100 residents.
The power line proposal was submitted to the Connecticut Siting Council on October 15. The council has a year to approve or deny the application on the basis that the public need is balanced or greater than the environmental impact.
"So far I've yet to be convinced that the benefits of the proposal outweigh the environmental harm," Blumenthal said.
Other officials to speak during the meeting included Weston First Selectman Hal Shupack, Wilton First Selectman Paul Hannah, state Rep. John Stripp, state Sen. Judith Freedman and Rep. Toni Boucher.
"I understand that there is a need for additional energy capacity in the area," said Boucher. "But there may be better ways to provide that energy, such as running the lines underground. That's something I'd support."
Shupack said that according to energy usage projections, if NU installed another 115 kilovolt line, the energy needs of the area would be met up to the year 2017. He added that the current proposal for the 345 kilovolt line would provide enought energy for the next 40 years.
"I agree that there is a need to add capacity to the area but the 345 kilovolt line is not the best solution," he said.
David Hall, an attorney with Cohen and Wolf, which was hired by Weston, Wilton and Redding, said the application submitted by the company is not complete.
"The application doesn't allow the siting council to do its job" he said. "There is not enough environmental impact information for the council to make a judgement."
Ball added that the council has yet to discuss the application, although it could begin to do so by the end of Noveember.
Connecticut's electric system consists of approximately 1,300 circuit
of 115 kilovolt (kV), 392 circuit miles of 345-kV, 5.8 circuit miles of
138-kV, and 164 circuit miles of 69-kV lines. While much of the State's
electric transmission infrastructure is already developed, the electric utilities
maintain the system and expand it where needed to serve load centers. As
shown in Table 3, the majority of construction is planned to rebuild or
reconductor existing lines to increase each line's capacity as a result of load
growth and/or generation dispatch conditions. The new transmission lines
anticipated in the Towns of Milford and Wallingford are associated with
new merchant power plants. The new transmission line anticipated in the
Town of New Milford is for upgraded capacity at the Kimberly Clark
manufacturing facility. The Long Island Sound line is a project intended to
increase import and export capability between Connecticut and Long
Island, New York. In addition, the utilities seek transmission and
substation upgrading to improve system reliability, promote efficiency, and
reduce energy losses..."
These forecasts have modeled Connecticut's electric energy future for
next 20 years and show the conditions necessary for supply to meet
demand. Nonetheless, these forecasts are models that are based on
assumptions that are subject to change. The change in the State's fuel mix
for electric generation, over-reliance on natural gas as a fuel, and the
separation of electric generation from transmission and distribution raise
new concerns for the reliability of Connecticut's electric capacity. This
analysis and these models should not be used as a tool to simply predict
the future, but to increase learning curves, reduce risk, and to identify
prudent, flexible, and effective strategies to obtain desirable goals.
Issues that warrant attention include:
· emergency contingency planning;
· system reliability and cost containment;
· facility management for operation and maintenance;
· siting private power producers for retail access to the
· the allocation of C&LM and public policy costs;
· responding to a changing economy that has proven difficult
· long-term acquisition of politically volatile fuel supplies;
· managing loads for both overall demand and peaks with
efficient and reliable energy; and
· maintaining transmission and distribution systems to
accommodate high demand.
As a consequence of these unresolved issues, market mechanisms will
need to be continually assessed to determine if there are sufficient
incentives to ensure an adequate supply of generation, and reliable
transmission and distribution infrastructure to provide a high-quality
As they struggled to draft recommendations due by 5 p.m. Thursday, members dickered over everything from the merits of alternatives to the proposed 345-kilovolt power line to the verbs used in their report. Members even disagreed about how their disagreements should be presented in the report.
The bickering takes on even greater immediacy because a statewide moratorium on new overland power lines expires this week, and officials soon will have to rule whether Connecticut Light & Power can string the line through western Connecticut.
Opponents - including task force members from towns the line would pass through - fear its path through an existing right of way would lower residential property values and cause environmental damage. Utility officials on the panel favor building the line.
Paul Hannah, who represents the interests of municipalities, tried for
most of Monday morning and part of the afternoon to insert language
to the towns' alternative: two buried 115-kilovolt lines. However,
representatives objected to his
language, and the phrases were either changed or taken out entirely.
"It's not as strong as I would like," Hannah said during a 5 p.m. break. But he said the group was making good progress. "Clearly CL&P people and people from the towns don't agree on everything," he said.
The task force members have been meeting jointly since June with members of a second, larger task force examining issues related to power lines running through Long Island Sound. However, the Long Island group has another six months to issue its findings.
Both task forces, however, have been preparing a set of statewide energy policy recommendations for the legislature that includes setting up a new Connecticut Energy Coordinating Authority. The authority would look at the cumulative impact of energy lines across the state and the Sound.
Officials of CL&P's parent, Northeast Utilities, have questioned the setup of the authority and its limited advisory power. "All I want to do is avoid creating a process that won't add anything," said task force member Richard Soderman, who oversees regulatory affairs at NU. Supporters of the authority said the new entity would fill an important energy planning function for the state.
They said a gap exists between the Connecticut Siting Council, which can only respond to energy project applications brought before it, and the New England power grid operator ISO New England, which plans power line projects at the regional, but not state, level.
Other recommendations include creating a state energy plan, revising Siting Council guidelines, and establishing environmental preferences for energy projects that would minimize their impact. State Consumer Counsel Mary Healey, in an interview Monday, said she supported establishing a coordinating authority and a state energy plan so that disparate state agencies can agree on common energy goals for the public good. "It's a good thing if it works as intended," she said.
Craig Kazin, the representative from ISO New England, said it was good for Connecticut to discuss energy transmission issues publicly. So much of the power line planning has been done in corporate boardrooms, he said.
"This is probably the most public discussion we've ever had," he said.
The Energy Task Force and Working group is expected to deliver its report Jan. 1, 2003, but some members of the Southwestern Area Commerce and Industry Association (SACIA) were given a glimpse of some preliminary findings last month.
Joel Rinebold, the chairman of the group, is the executive director of the Institute for Sustainable Energy at Eastern Connecticut State University. Based on his comments at that briefing, it appears as if the group is heading in the right direction.
shift proposed is one that will get the state leaders and the state's
Council to look at energy decisions on a regional basis. Rather than
to a local need with a project that is too large or costly for the
of the problem, a regional approach will help in finding
alternatives that are less costly in the long run both to the regions economics and the environment.
Rinebold also sounds an alarm about electric deregulation. It is a warning that should concern all of us.
The Connecticut legislature voted in 1998 to deregulate the electrical industry, but have placed a "standard market offer" which serves as a way of controlling prices through 2004. However, Rinebold aptly points out that there has been no planning for the day when those controls are lifted and an advanced regulatory process will be needed.
The state and its leaders have a year to develop a plan that will not only determine those places where power generation facilities are to be located, but a process so that consumers have some recourse, a sounding board, perhaps, when there are problems with service or prices.
The task force
also has to address the proposed 345kV line that Connecticut Light and
Power has proposed for certain portions of Fairfield County, including
Weston and Norwalk. The plan was criticized when it was first announced
and since that time, some town leaders from the affected
municipalities have come together to study alternative options to the tall towers and miles and miles of electrical lines that have been proposed.
Have those suggestions been sent to the task force to help shape its proposal of an energy policy for the state? We hope that they have.
In addition to the briefings offered to business leaders, we suggest that the task force bring its recommendations to the public, as well. Town leaders can facilitate this by inviting the members of the task force to be a part of a public information meeting on the state's energy policy. If done early in 2003, public hearings could also assist the state-appointed group in gathering additional information about the Long Island Sound energy projects which is to be the topic of a second report due in June 2003.
We need the guidance of this group and our state legislators to keep the electorate informed about the changes in the electrical industry, as well as the future of the state's energy policy.
is in pretty good shape based on the numbers,'” he said. “'But that
change. Gas pipelines are tough to site ... as are transmission lines.'”