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Source: Hartford Courant

Protests Over Deficit Plan To Take $22 Million From Clean Energy Fund


Posted: April 13, 2016
Originally Published: April 12, 2016

HARTFORD – Environmentalists, union leaders, solar company executives and several lawmakers joined forces Tuesday to condemn a proposal to "sweep" up $22 million in clean energy funding to help close a major state budget deficit.

The protests came in response to a Democratic plan intended to partially close a projected state budget gap now estimated at $933 million. The recent proposal, which includes using the $22 million in clean energy funding, would take care of about $570 million of next year's deficit.

But Gov. Dannel P. Malloy came out with a new budget proposal Tuesday that appears to close the gaps in the coming fiscal year's budget without taking that $22 million in clean energy money.

It's uncertain at this point whether the plan offered by the General Assembly's Democratic leaders or Malloy's new proposal will prevail.

The loss of the $22 million in clean energy funds would cripple Connecticut's clean energy programs, costing jobs and outside investment in highly successful efforts to promote solar power and home energy efficiency, according to speakers at Tuesday's Legislative Office Building news conference.

John Harrity, president of the Connecticut State Council of Machinists, warned that taking away that clean energy funding would dramatically undercut Connecticut's efforts to combat climate change, which he called "the most critical issue facing all of us for the rest of our lives."

"We cannot afford to take a break," Harrity insisted, "We have no right… to hesitate on our responsibility to future generations."

Other speakers said the state should invest in energy efficiencies such as installing solar power on state buildings rather than taking money away from clean energy programs.

Several speakers at Tuesday's event pointed out that the $22 million in green energy money in question was raised from energy rate-payers and was specifically intended for programs to help businesses and homeowners install solar power and increase energy efficiency.

"Diverting these funds is a breach of public trust to all the ratepayers who supported this program to help meet our clean energy and energy efficiency goals and to give us a cleaner, safer environment," said Louis Burch, program director for Citizens Campaign for the Environment.

"This idea [of taking the money to help solve the budget crisis] will result in killing clean energy jobs in Connecticut," said Chris Phelps, state director for Environment Connecticut

Virtually every major environmental group in Connecticut was represented at Tuesday's news conference.

Shannon Laun, energy and environmental attorney at the Connecticut Fund for the Environment, called the taking of the $22 million "a short-sighted move" that will end up costing the state far more.

Several owners and executives of private solar power and energy efficiency companies also spoke out against the $22 million reduction.

Leticia Colon de Mejias, CEO of Windsor-based Energy Efficiencies Solutions, said the loss of those funds will "have an immediate detrimental impact" on efforts to help low-income families improve energy savings in their homes.