Connecticut is nearing final approval of a state budget (it appears). Grassroots advocates are mobilizing to stop the legislature from raiding critical clean energy funds to plug holes in the budget ─ the Energy Efficiency Fund, Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and Green Bank, the primary sources of revenue to help homes, businesses and government save energy and money. This includes raiding $27.5M from the CT Green Bank. A cut that big would, according to Green Bank president Bryan Garcia, “put us out of business.”
It's clear that there’s a need for fresh thinking about the politics of energy in Connecticut.
That starts with a better understanding of the issues. A solar executive fumed to me, “They axed an increase in the tobacco tax because the tobacco lobby is well known and powerful. It’s harder to protect the clean energy funds because not enough legislators really understand what they do.”
We need to see the connections – the benefits of clean energy investments, not just the dollars. The health benefits of clean energy programs are huge. The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), prevented 1950 lost work days and saved $300M in health care costs in its first 5 years. Everyone, from grassroots activists to elected representatives, need begin thinking about systems and how energy fits.
In the meantime, we are making an impact. When Governor Malloy vetoed a recent version of the budget, he pointed specifically to the raids on clean energy as one of his reasons. That is a result of solidarity among state and national organizations and a new spirit of collaborative leadership. Now we need to extend that to allies in the Legislature and agencies.
Fortunately, the seeds of fresh thinking are in our midst. Many will be visible at our fall dinner, Sunday, October 29, 2017 from 3:00 – 6:00 pm at Indian Springs Golf Club in Middlefield. In fact, we’ve designed this event knowing it would be time to vision and strategize (and commiserate, and connect).
We will be honoring two thought leaders: Lynn Stoddard, Director of the Institute for Sustainable Energy at Eastern CT State University and State Rep. Jonathan Steinberg (D-Westport). And we will be presenting a framework for engaging communities to build legislative power.
We’ll hear Jonathan’s thoughts on educating legislators, and the potential for creating a Clean Energy Caucus.
We’ll get a full update from Lynn on her last 18 months’ work in creating SustainableCT, an exciting new organization for municipalities.
We’ll strategize about ways that our Clean Energy Task Forces and local networks can build local momentum and envision a critical path forward that more and more players can agree on.
A Sunday afternoon with hot cider and wine will not transform state politics. But we hope it will energize our network and move us a few steps closer to a winning strategy that can endure.