August 13, 2018
- Laura McMillan, CT Fund for the Environment (Plaintiff), 540-292-8429
- Leticia Colon de Mejias (Plaintiff), 860-690-5522
- Mike Trahan, Solar Connecticut, 860-256-1698
“No clothes”: Efficiency allies respond to State’s claims in Energy Funds lawsuit
Electric ratepayers, efficiency employers, environmental organizations continue push to restore efficiency, clean energy funds
Hartford, Conn. – The lawsuit to restore $145 million in Energy Efficiency and Clean Energy funds is moving swiftly through the U.S. District Court system as today the Plaintiffs and Defendants each filed responses to the others’ motions for summary judgment. The Plaintiffs’ response may be read here.
Energy efficiency businesses, clean energy businesses, environmental nonprofits, and utility ratepayer organizations filed a federal lawsuit on May 15 to repeal the legislative sweep of Connecticut’s energy efficiency and clean energy plan funds, and to prevent future diversions of ratepayer funds. Attorneys from the firms of Holland & Knight in New York City and Hartford-based Feiner Wolfson, representing the Plaintiffs, filed briefs on July 20 with the goal of allowing U.S. District Judge Janet C. Hall in New Haven to render a speedy decision on the merits of the case. State attorneys for the Defendants—the Governor, Treasurer, and Comptroller of the State of Connecticut—submitted their own summary judgment motion papers at the same time.
“Every one of the Defendants’ claims is incorrect, and not supported by the facts in the record,” said Attorney Stephen J. Humes, partner at Holland & Knight. “The Defendants created fanciful arguments about lack of contracts and damages out of whole cloth to cloak the absence of a basis to support the sweeps. And to deny the sweeps have had a negative impact on ratepayers and businesses is to ignore the evidence in front of their own eyes. In Hans Christian Andersen’s 1837 tale The Emperor’s New Clothes, a child observing the monarch parade in his invisible clothes declares: ‘But he isn’t wearing anything at all!’ The Court should likewise see through the Defendants’ justifications and perceive that their claims offer no rational basis supporting these illegal sweeps.”
The Plaintiffs’ brief notes that:
- The efficiency and clean energy charges constitute a contract between the electric distribution companies and their customers to fund energy efficiency and clean energy projects to benefit ratepayers. The July 20 brief from the Defendants points to previous much smaller sweeps in 2003 and 2005, to argue ratepayers should have expected the diversion of their funds. As the Plaintiffs have noted previously, a few prior acts of petty theft do not justify grand larceny.
- The funding sweep takes away the benefits ratepayers were supposed to receive from energy efficiency and clean energy projects. Funding available for efficiency projects in 2017 was 17 percent lower than budgeted, and for 2018 it is projected that spending will be a devastating 39 percent below expectations. This has already resulted in layoffs in the efficiency industry and will soon lead to potential customers being turned away.
- The judge should be skeptical of the sweeps as they benefitted the state at the expense of ratepayer contracts.
- Transferring the dollars raised from electric distribution company (EDC) customers’ bills to the state General Fund violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment by effectively imposing a new tax on EDC customers but not on municipal electric customers.
Prior to the 2017 raids, energy efficiency dollars have created more than 34,000 local energy efficiency jobs, built up the state’s solar industry, increased the Gross State Product, and added millions to the green energy economy. The State’s Plan to invest in energy efficiency consistently has reduced energy demand year after year, lowering air pollution and water pollution, and strengthening the energy grid to protect vulnerable populations.
In contrast, the raids have led to extensive layoffs and efficiency dollars running out. Programs may close for the year as early as September, denying Connecticut residents access to their money that can make their homes less leaky and drafty and lowering their energy bills just when those pre-winter upgrades are needed most.
“The theft of these funds has undermined successful programs that were benefiting the whole state of Connecticut and has already resulted in thousands of layoffs and several business closures. I have personally been forced to lay off several employees due to this irresponsible action by our state leaders,” said Leticia Colon de Mejias, chair of Efficiency For All (EFA) and founder/owner of Energy Efficiencies Solutions. “As a ratepayer, employer, environmental activist, and concerned mother, I stand strongly against this illegal state action to tax our electric and gas bills, tax nonprofits, and misdirect ratepayer dollars away from our state energy demand reduction plan. Leaders must be held accountable, and must halt the ongoing damage.”
With today’s filing, the case is now in the hands of U.S. District Judge Janet C. Hall.
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.