Written on: October 21, 2014 by Greg Dool
For months, the battle over Connecticut’s energy future has raged in both the capitol building and the headlines. Soon, it will have its day in court.
The Connecticut Energy Marketers Association (CEMA) announced the filing of a lawsuit in Hartford Superior Court earlier this month against both the Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection (DEEP) and the state’s Public Utilities Regulatory Authority, arguing that the two agencies violated state law by recommending an expansion of the state’s natural gas infrastructure without conducting the required environmental assessment.
The expansion, part of Governor Dannel Malloy’s plan to provide Connecticuters with access to “cheaper, cleaner, more reliable energy,” calls for the conversion of nearly 300,000 residences and business from oil heat to natural gas by adding 900 miles of pipeline over the next ten years, according to CEMA.
“In pushing through the state’s multi-billion dollar energy plan, [the agencies] are blatantly ignoring state laws,” said CEMA in an official statement. “Since the state will not do the right thing, CEMA is asking the court to compel them to do it.”
CEMA also warned that expansion of the existing gas infrastructure will put citizens and the environment at risk of exposure to harmful leakage from transmission lines.
DEEP spokesman Dennis Schain blamed business interests for the lawsuit, calling it “baseless.”
“The scientific evidence is clear on natural gas burning cleaner than oil,” Schain said.
While natural gas may emit less carbon dioxide than heating oil when burned, numerous studies have concluded that unburned methane is a far more powerful greenhouse gas than CO2 emissions. When even small amounts of unburned methane gas escape into the atmosphere, the environmental impact greatly outweighs that of CO2.
“This lawsuit is about equal application of the law for all businesses,” CEMA’s statement read. “It is unacceptable that oil and propane dealers are required to follow every law, rule and regulation while regulated monopolies with a guaranteed rate of return can skip them.”
The lawsuit comes at a time when Governor Malloy is locked in an intense race for reelection against Republican challenger Tom Foley. The most recent polls at the time of this article’s publication show Malloy trailing by as many as 7 points just two weeks from Election Day.
Malloy was elected in 2010 on the promise of reforming the state’s energy policies. Data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration suggest that energy costs in Connecticut are among the highest in the nation.
“We are concerned because of the potential damage it will do to the environment and because no other industry gets a pass like this,” said Chris Herb, CEMA President. “The utilities are getting a free ride and no one is questioning the impact on our property and our homes.”