HARTFORD, Conn. (Legal Newsline) - Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal on Monday criticized Gov. Jodi Rell's plans to use funds from a multi-state greenhouse gas initiative for ratepayer relief.
In a legal opinion, Blumenthal said Rell's idea is illegal, going against state law that authorized Connecticut's involvement in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. The RGGI is designed to cut power plant emissions.
Rell wanted to use the estimated yearly $14 million-$35 million to provide rebates on electric bills. Blumenthal said it would amount to only a few cents relief per month.
"Legally, most important, these revisions contradict the statute authorizing Connecticut's participation in the RGGI," Blumenthal said. "Even if they were likely to yield significant savings - which seems contrary to fact - they would still be contrary to law.
"To change the law requires legislative action. Your proposed revisions must be made by the legislature."
Blumenthal said there is plenty of time to steer the legislature in that direction, but it must be done by Dec. 31, 2009.
Rell told Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Gina McCarthy to add a consumer rebate provision to the regulations drafted by the DEP.
"I am insisting that we take this extra step to soften, in any way we
possibly can, the unexpected costs that may result from this very important regional initiative," Rell said.
"This provision is intended to provide real relief at a time when families are struggling just to cover the basics: Gasoline, groceries, electricity and heat."
Blumenthal said lawmakers intended to use the funds to protect the environment and provide the best return to ratepayers.
"Ratepayers desperately deserve and need rate relief -- real relief from spiraling electricity prices, making our rates the highest in the continental U.S., double levels just a few years ago," he said.
"I have fought vigorously and consistently for such rate reduction. The Rell Administration's proposed revisions, however well-intended, would provide rate relief that the legislature deemed -- at best -- short term, speculative and small. They would come at the cost of larger, longer term rate reduction that the legislature seeks to achieve through uses specified in the statute."
Other states involved in the RGGI are Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont.
From Legal Newsline: Reach John O'Brien by e-mail at email@example.com.