Huge rate increases on the horizon for new pipelines we do not need

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An unpleasant surprise for Connecticut ratepayers that could cost billions of dollars is just around the corner, but the good news is that we still have a chance to stop it. What’s the surprise? Another round of huge rate increases is on the horizon from Eversource to build a new $6.6 billion fracked gas pipeline that our state doesn’t need. We have a chance to stop these rate hikes by supporting House Amendment #4118.

Just a few days ago, Eversource received yet another approval from Public Utility Regulatory Authority (PURA) to raise their electricity rates on consumers. Connecticut residents currently pay the highest electricity rates among all 48 continental states, according to information released earlier this year by the U.S. Energy Information Administration. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the number one reason for these high rates is our region’s over-reliance on natural gas.

As if it’s not bad enough that we pay the country’s highest rates today, Eversource is currently proposing to build a new $6.6 billion fracked gas pipeline (the Access Northeast Pipeline) that would be funded 100 percent by Connecticut ratepayers through future increases in our bills.

The evidence against the need for new fossil fuel pipelines is clear according to many major studies. One such study recently released by the CT Sierra Club and the CT Fund for the Environment which was conducted by Synapse Energy Economics shows conclusively that new natural gas pipelines are not needed in our state.

The Synapse study found that New England’s use of natural gas will actually decrease by 41 percent from 2015 levels by 2030. That is because of state requirements for energy efficiency, renewable energy and emissions caps. Furthermore, the study said, “even existing gas pipelines may operate under capacity.”

This is probably why the utilities don’t want to invest their own money in building the new pipeline. Instead, they want consumers to foot the bill through a surcharge on their bills – a pipeline tax.

The scheme was rejected by the Massachusetts’ highest court and the New Hampshire public utilities regulators. In its unanimous ruling, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court said the pipeline tax would “re-expose ratepayers to the types of financial risks from which the Legislature sought to protect them.”

But here in Connecticut, the pipeline tax is alive and well and we need to overturn it!

That’s why many of my colleagues and our state’s leading consumer and environmental groups are joining me to support Amendment #4118. I introduced the amendment along with my colleague Rep. Peter Tercyak of New Britain and 17 other State Representatives to ban the pipeline tax.

Instead of bowing to the pound-foolish expediency of fossil fuels, it is time to push for even more renewable energy to drive our current dependence on natural gas down even further. Connecticut was recently rated fifth in the country for its use of energy efficiency and ninth for its installed solar power. We are heading in the right direction without the pipelines, and we can do even better.

The utilities behind the Access Northeast pipeline are wooing business leaders and legislators in Massachusetts to keep their pipeline tax alive. The evidence is abundant that consumers should not help the utilities invest in infrastructure we do not need. If these pipelines are such a good idea for Connecticut, let the utilities pay for them. Connecticut ratepayers cannot afford another costly surprise increase in their rates.

State Rep. Christopher Rosario (D-Bridgeport) is the Chief Majority Whip and serves as the Appropriations Committee Sub-Committee Chair for Elementary Education. He is also Chair of the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus.


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