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Legislative committee moves to draft a new energy reform bill

The legislature’s Energy and Technology Committee, taking the first step to resurrect last year’s energy reform bill, on Thursday unanimously approved drafting a new policy bill.

The bill is expected to include provisions that would seek to lower electricity rates, promote renewable energy and stimulate the growth of Connecticut’s green industries. The planned legislation has not yet been drafted, and has no specifications on how those changes would be implemented.

Last year’s energy reform bill sought to reduce electricity rates by 15 percent, promote solar power generation and toughen regulation of companies that supply electricity. Those changes were to have been achieved by reconfiguring the Department of Public Utility Control – the state agency that sets consumer electricity rates – into a new Connecticut Energy and Technology Authority.

That bill was approved by the House and Senate but vetoed by Gov. M. Jodi Rell.

The energy committee, co-chaired by Rep. Vickie Nardello, D-Cheshire, and state Sen. John Fonfara, D-Hartford, is calling this year’s version Senate Bill 1, an “Act Concerning Energy Policy and Finance.”

“Lowering electric costs and growing an energy-based economy will be the focus of our work in the Energy and Technology Committee this year – that’s why we’ve made it Senate Bill No. 1,” Senate president Donald E. Williams Jr., D-Brooklyn said.

Committee members also plan to draft legislation that would put a moratorium on wind turbines until guidelines that regulate their height, number and distance from populated areas are developed.

“We are one of the few states without wind farm regulations,” Nardello said. “Regulations should be in place so that towns and developers know what to expect before they’re sited.”

Citizen’s groups and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal have called for regulations after a West Hartford developer, BNE Energy Inc. petitioned the Connecticut Siting Council for approval to construct wind farms in Prospect and Colebrook.

Under state law, the Connecticut Siting Council has sole jurisdiction over the location of wind turbines, which can tower as high as a 40-story building.