October 26, 2018
Energy Funds: Court loss means CT legislators must act to protect ratepayers
U.S. District Court rules against ratepayers, energy efficiency and clean energy businesses, environmental orgs, and consumer groups; groups urge legislative remedy
New Haven, Conn. – Efficiency businesses and environmental organizations are pushing legislators to act after a federal judge ruled against the groups’ lawsuit to force the State of Connecticut to restore $145 million in ratepayer dollars intended to save families money on energy bills and reduce climate pollution.
Energy efficiency businesses, clean energy businesses, environmental nonprofits, and utility ratepayer organizations filed the federal lawsuit on May 15 seeking to stop the state legislature’s 2017 sweep of Connecticut’s energy efficiency and clean energy funds, and to prevent future diversions of ratepayer funds. The original complaint argued that using ratepayer funding for other than its intended purpose violates the Contract Clause and Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution and functions as an illegal tax on tax-exempt organizations like churches and nonprofits.
Plaintiffs are Leticia Colon de Mejias; Connecticut Fund for the Environment; New Haven-based Fight the Hike; Energy Efficiencies Solutions, LLC; Best Home Performance of CT, LLC; Connecticut Citizen Action Group; New England Smart Energy Group, LLC; CT Weatherproof Insulation, LLC; Steven C. Osuch of East Windsor; Jonathan Casiano of Windsor; and Bright Solutions, LLC. The plaintiffs are represented by attorneys from the firms of Holland & Knight in New York City and Hartford-based Feiner Wolfson. Defendants are the Governor, Treasurer, and Comptroller of the State of Connecticut.
Attorneys for the Plaintiffs and Defendants presented their cases in oral arguments before Judge Janet C. Hall at the U.S. District Court in New Haven on September 13. In a 27-page decision issued late Thursday, Judge Hall found that the state’s 2017 budget that swept ratepayer funds did not impair contracts between ratepayers and their electric distribution companies because neither utility tariffs nor state law ever promised ratepayers that their dollars would not be transferred to the General Fund for unrelated purposes.
“This case shows how incredibly difficult it is to stop the state from converting millions of dollars dedicated for a specific purposes—in this case, energy efficiency, renewables, and investments in clean energy—and converting the money into general fund purposes on a legislative whim even when the state treasury had already collected an unanticipated surplus of $1.7 billion dollars,” said Stephen J. Humes, a partner at Holland & Knight and co-counsel on the case. “While voters can hold their legislators accountable in 11 days, the sad reality is that more than 3,000 jobs have been lost and a number of energy efficiency projects across the state have been halted as a result. We disagree with the Court’s decision and are considering our right to appeal to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York.”
“We won’t stop fighting for fairness, for families, and for clean air,” said Leticia Colon de Mejias, chair of Efficiency For All (EFA) and founder/owner of Energy Efficiencies Solutions. “Even in these difficult times, it is obvious that stealing ratepayer funds intended to help Connecticut residents and businesses reduce energy waste and use cleaner resources is a bad choice. No matter your political party, efficiency is efficient. While we decide next steps, legislators don’t have to wait for anyone else’s decision—they can take action themselves. This is the message to send your legislators and those hoping to be elected in just a couple weeks. Let them know that Connecticut cares about our health, our local jobs, and our economy. Efficiency and renewable resources are the future. It’s now up to us to tell our leaders to stop stealing the funds that support our path forward to a clean, efficient, stable energy plan!”
“Our goal remains to remedy the injury the raids have done to Connecticut families and businesses,” said Roger Reynolds, chief legal director at Connecticut Fund for the Environment. “Residents paid the charge on their electric bills, trusting that their ratepayer dollars would go towards energy efficiency and clean energy programs that save money and reduce climate pollution—not be used to plug an unrelated budget hole. We are considering our next move in this case; in the meantime, legislative leaders must return the swiped ratepayer dollars promised for efficiency and clean energy programs to prevent further damage to Connecticut’s healthy energy.”
To speak with contractors who are experiencing direct harm or staff who were let go, please contact Leticia Colon de Mejias at 860-690-5522.