New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan Wednesday called on Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy to oppose a renewable-energy bill that the Malloy administration has been pushing — siding with environmentalists from this state who say the bill would benefit giant power-producers to the detriment of the development of new energy sources such as wind and solar.
In a letter to Malloy, Hassan told her fellow Democrat governor that the Connecticut bill could, under certain conditions, reclassify large-scale hydroelectric power projects — such as the Northern Pass transmission line proposed by Northeast Utilities and Hydro-Quebec — as “renewable energy” sources.
The Connecticut bill was approved by the state Senate last week, and could be voted on this week in the state House of Representatives.
Said Hassan: “For years, the New England states have worked together to ensure that our RPS [Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard] policies provide appropriate incentives for renewable energy investments in our region,” Hassan wrote. “These incentives are aimed at keeping consumer costs as low as possible, while also ensuring that our states reap the economic benefits of renewable energy production.”
“It’s clear that Connecticut’s proposal is designed to benefit large-scale hydroelectric projects, even from outside the United States, by enabling them to qualify for Connecticut’s RPS program,” Hassan wrote.
“The regional RPS policies were carefully constructed to ensure that small-scale, local hydroelectric plants had incentives to keep operating for the benefit of the entire region,” she said. “The RPS policies excluded large-scale hydro – even within the region – because these plants don’t need incentives to stay in operation. To include large-scale hydroelectricity in your RPS undermines our common goal of fostering new and small-scale renewable resources here in New England.”
“Many in my state believe that the impetus for Connecticut’s legislation is your state’s desire to benefit from the Northern Pass project,” Hassan wrote. “As you know, Northern Pass raises many questions for New Hampshire. That project could have an impact on some of our state’s most important natural resources, such as the White Mountain National Forest, which are critical to the success of our tourism industry.”
“It is disappointing that Connecticut would make such a major change to its RPS law without taking the very real concerns New Hampshire and other states have into consideration,” she wrote.
“In light of these important issues and our region’s common renewable energy goals, I hope that you will not support the proposed changes to your RPS law. They are short-sighted, would send New England ratepayer investments out of the region, could cause environmental and economic harm, and would undermine our cooperative efforts around renewable energy policy over the last decade,” Hassan wrote.
Malloy’s chief of staff, Mark Ojakian, rejected Hassan’s argument.
In a statement released by Malloy’s press office, he said: “We strongly disagree with Governor Hassan. Accessing hydroelectric power is a win-win for Connecticut and the region because it will lower rates for Connecticut residents and increase our supply of renewable energy. Connecticut residents pay among the highest prices for energy in the country, and Governor Malloy believes our consumers deserve some much needed relief. This proposal does just that. The purchase of more expensive and less clean biomass is simply not an option.”
The renewable energy bill in Connecticut has been controversial for a number of reasons. A big reason was that on April 23, the day before the bill was first scheduled to be voted on in the state Senate, state energy and environment Commissioner Dan Esty went on a conference call hosted by UBS Securities to give a briefing to the investment firm’s clients and others about the provisions of the pending bill. The previous week, UBS had upgrading its rating of Northeast Utilities stock from “neutral” to “buy” based on the bill’s potential benefit to NU and the Northern Pass transmission project involving NU and Hydro-Quebec.
The April 23 vote was postponed after Esty admitted his participation in the call was ill-timed by harmless. The Senate approved it 26-6 the following week.