New Jersey-based NRG to Sell Middletown, Montville, Hartford and Devon Plants

MIDDLETOWN — NRG Energy, a New Jersey-based energy company, announced on Monday that it was selling 4.8 gigawatts worth of “non-core fossil assets” to a subsidiary of Boston-based ArcLight Capital Partners for $760 million. An NRG spokesman confirmed Tuesday that the sale includes all four of the company’s power plants in Connecticut: 1,548 megawatts worth of natural gas, oil and jet fuel-fired plants in Middletown, Montville, Hartford and Devon. NRG Spokesman Dave Schrader said the company is constantly reviewing the makeup of its portfolio, assessing the location, type and mix of assets to ensure they are suited to its customers’

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Lawmakers Look for Stopgap as Home Solar Projects Hit Year-end Reimbursement Caps in March

The solar industry has high hopes for a new home solar program set to start next year, but there’s concern the existing program won’t bridge the gap until then. Connecticut’s program for compensating owners of home solar systems for the power they provide the grid will be replaced in early 2022, and solar industry representatives say that could speed up solar development.  The existing program, the Residential Solar Incentive Program (RSIP) has reached a statutory cap with nearly a full year still to go before the new solar tariffs take effect. If lawmakers don’t raise the cap, solar developers say

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Florsheim Announces Sale of NRG Plant, Possible Energy Storage Plan

MIDDLETOWN — A gas-fired power plant that drew controversy over plans to build a new turbine was among the fossil fuel plants NRG Energy is selling, Middletown Mayor Ben Florsheim said Monday night. NRG announced Monday that it was selling 4.8 GW of fossil fuel generating assets to Generation Bridge, an affiliate of ArcLight Capital Partners, for $760 million. Florsheim said the company announced in a meeting on Monday morning these assets include the Middletown power plant, as well as plants in New York and California. The announcement comes just over two weeks after NRG failed to secure funding in

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Budget Adds State Troopers, Reduces Overtime and Decline in Ranks

Gov. Ned Lamont’s budget proposal calls for training 255 new state troopers over the next two years to make up for a wave of expected retirements at a department that has seen its ranks decline almost 20 percent over the last five years. The draft calls for state police to end the budget cycle in June 2023 with 1,093 state troopers. Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection Commissioner James Rovella told the Appropriations Committee last week that the State Police now have 913 troopers, with 50-60 typically on leave and a total of 216 becoming eligible to retire by

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State Officials Switch Gears, Ask for Halt to Water Shutoffs

Aquarion, a subsidiary of Eversource that provides water to about 700,000 people in 57 cities and towns in Connecticut, began disconnecting customers with the largest unpaid bills in early February.  Aquarion’s plans to resume disconnections were approved by PURA, the state’s energy regulator, on Jan.12, without filed objections from any state agency or official.  That silence from state agencies broke on Thursday, when the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection filed a letter with PURA requesting a halt to additional water disconnections.  The letter was filed about 7 hours after CT Examiner asked department officials why the state had not

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Largest Solar Farm in the Northeastern United States Approved for East Windsor

EAST WINDSOR — The Connecticut Siting Council on Thursday gave approval for the largest solar farm in the northeastern United States to be built in East Windsor. The council voted unanimously to approve Gravel Pit Solar, a proposed 120 megawatt solar project – enough to power about 23,000 homes – that will be built over a 485-acre site that includes tobacco fields, woods, and sand and gravel quarries. D.E. Shaw Renewable Investments, the New York hedge fund behind the project, told the council in filings that it plans to begin construction as soon as the third quarter of this year,

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Costs and Benefits Debated as Connecticut Approves New Plan for Home Solar Payments

Connecticut regulators this month approved a new method of reimbursing residential producers of solar energy – an issue that has in the past divided Eversource and the solar industry — but leaves unresolved key questions of the cost and benefit of residential solar to the state’s energy consumers. In 2018, lawmakers directed the state’s Public Utilities Regulatory Authority to revise the formula for reimbursements, in part in response to criticism by Eversource and others that the state’s net metering program was an overly expensive attempt to promote solar development. Connecticut has historically used net metering to pay homeowners for any

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Unpaid Electric Bills May Leave Eversource Customers on the Hook for Further Rate Hikes

Residential electric customers owe $276 million to Eversource for bills that haven’t been paid in over a month – a 20 percent increase since last spring when Connecticut Attorney General William Tong ordered energy providers to maintain service to customers in an effort to cushion the fallout of the pandemic. That debt amounts to about $250 for each of Eversource’s 1.1 million residential customers across Connecticut, and the company has told shareholders that it expects state regulators will approve rate increases to compensate for the unpaid bills. In its annual report, Eversource told shareholders last week that the company has

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Strong Revenues in Connecticut Boost $1.2 Billion Profit for Eversource

In a year that Eversource faced near constant public criticism over high customer bills, and perceived failures in its response to Tropical Storm Isaias — leading Connecticut lawmakers to tie future electric rates to measures of performance — the New England energy provider nevertheless made a considerable amount of money for its shareholders as its profits grew to $1.2 billion. In its annual report to shareholders and regulators issued Wednesday, Eversource boasted a profit of $1.2 billion across its subsidiaries, an increase of $304.3 million – or 34 percent over 2019.  The company attributed the gains mainly to electric rate increases, recovering

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As the Electrical Grid Collapses in Texas, New England Takes Note

As power grid operators restore power to the millions of Texans who have endured freezing temperatures and no heat or running water for days, experts say that it’s unlikely New England’s relatively hardy grid would fail due to cold weather. With the caveat that much still has to be learned about the root causes of widespread power outages and skyrocketing energy prices across Texas and the Midwest, they also cautioned that electric grids are going to have to prepare for the unexpected as the changing climate makes unlikely weather a reality. New England knows cold Dan Dolan, president of the

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East Lyme Plans for Two Additional Officers and Long-Term Increases in Police Staffing

EAST LYME — The town’s Board of Selectmen voiced support for adding additional officers to the town’s young police department, which its chief says does not have enough staff to handle investigations and traffic enforcement. East Lyme Police Chief Michael Finkelstein said that his officers spend most of their time running between calls, meaning they don’t have time for follow up investigations or to patrol traffic, which accounts for most complaints to the department, he said. “It also becomes a safety issue, because if you’re going to a domestic violence incident, and now you have another call like a burglary

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Labor Coalition Calls Lamont Budget ‘Profoundly Troubling’

The budget announced by Gov. Ned Lamont on Wednesday proposes a wage freeze for state employees in 2022 and 2023, that would save the government an estimated $141.75 million — a concession the state employee unions say they are not willing to make. Lamont’s plan would save $44 million from the general fund in 2022 and $92.4 million in 2023 by not allowing wage increases for union employees currently in bargaining. It would also save $4 million in 2022 and $8.5 million in 2023 for the state’s transportation fund. Assuming no wage increases for non-union employees in 2023, Lamont included

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Middletown Gas-fired Plant Misses Funding Again in Yearly Energy Market

MIDDLETOWN — A plan to replace two aging turbines on a Middletown natural gas-fired power plant will wait at least another year after the project failed to secure funding through the regional energy market this week. Princeton-based NRG’s plans to replace two gas-fired turbines built in 1958 and 1964 at its power plant on the Connecticut River in south Middletown hinged on the project being selected through a regional market meant to secure a reliable power supply three years in advance.  ISO-New England held its forward capacity auction on Monday and released cumulative results Thursday, which did not include individual

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With Transportation Funding in the Red, Lamont Proposes Gasoline and Trucking Taxes

With the tolls Gov. Ned Lamont proposed in his first budget address two years ago a non-starter in Hartford, he used his second budget address to propose a mileage tax for tractor trailers and a regional gas tax as cures for the state’s broken transportation fund. While there is universal agreement in Hartford that the state transportation fund needs a serious fix if Connecticut is going to even maintain transportation infrastructure at its current state, the best way to fill the $60 million budget hole is hotly contested, and Republicans cast Lamont’s proposals as regressive taxes that will fall mainly

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Democrats Split Over Proposed Moratorium on Fossil Fuel Plants in Connecticut

Amid finger pointing over who bears responsibility for approving a new gas-fired plant in Killingly — seemingly at odds with the state’s goals for zero-carbon energy — at least one state lawmaker says she wants the legislature to stop the plant from being built. State Sen. Christine Cohen, D-Guilford, has introduced a bill proposing a moratorium on new fossil fuel plants in Connecticut – a move that would halt approvals for the 650 megawatt Killingly Energy Center that Gov. Ned Lamont says he doesn’t want, but can’t do much to stop himself. State Sen. Norm Needleman, D-Essex, co-chair of the

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No Added Costs or Loss of Service Expected after Split with Recycling Contractor

Despite a lawsuit that cost MIRA $1.3 million, and its recycling contractor, the president of Connecticut’s largest waste collector said its single stream recycling service won’t be interrupted or cost more for its members. The Materials Innovation and Recycling Authority’s board voted earlier this week to pay FCR – owned by Republic Services – $1.3 million to settle a lawsuit in which the contractor alleged that the amount of contamination in loads of recyclables MIRA delivered was more than allowed by contract, and that the high levels of contamination were causing it to operate at a loss. The settlement also

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Essex Debates Fines as 73 Percent of Wetlands Permits are Issued After the Fact

ESSEX – According to Fred Szufnarowski, chair of the town’s Inland Wetlands Commission, 73 percent of wetlands permits in Essex — eight of 11 permits issued by the town in 2020 — were given out after the fact. That’s an increase from 2019, when five of 14 applied late, and from 2016, when three of 19 applied after the fact. “We see the trends there – instead of people coming to the enforcement officer to prepare an application and apply for a permit before the work starts, they go out and do the work, and if they get caught, then

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Eyeing Obstacles, Dykes Offers Optimism for State’s Green Energy Goals

“This goal of 100 percent, zero emissions resources is achievable, it’s feasible, and we’re already well on our way,” Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Katie Dykes told CT Examiner in a recent interview. “The key is, how do we continue to make progress?” The latest draft of Connecticut’s Integrated Resources Plan — a semi-annual assessment of the state’s electric supply needs and possible sources of energy supply — is being touted by the department as the first to identify sources of supply to meet the state’s goal of zero-carbon electric generation by 2040. The plan highlights a variety

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Contaminated Recyclables Cost Region’s Trash Collector $1.3 Million Settlement

Single-stream recycling has proven costly for the state’s largest trash collector, as the Hartford-based Materials Innovation and Recycling Authority, commonly known as MIRA, has agreed to pay $1.3 million to the contractor that processes its recycling over claims that excessive contamination violated the contract with the processor. FCR, owned by Republic Services, processes the recyclable materials that MIRA collects from 44 towns in the lower Connecticut River Valley. FCR sued MIRA in May 2019, alleging that deliveries to the recycling facility consistently contained more than 5 percent non-recyclable waste, which violated the terms of its contract. A November ruling from

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Amtrak Settles ADA Claims For Stations in Connecticut and Rhode Island

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Amtrak riders with disabilities may qualify in certain cases for monetary damages after the passenger rail service settled claims that dozens of stations across the country, including stations in Connecticut and Rhode Island, failed to meet legal standards for accessibility. Three stations in Connecticut — Windsor, Windsor Locks and Old Saybrook — and one in Westerly, Rhode Island were part of the settlement that included 78 stations across the country.  As part of the settlement, Amtrak agreed to fix problems of accessibility, and pay $2.25 million into a fund paying out claims to people with disabilities who were harmed by

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Environmental Priorities — Solar Energy and Land Conservation — Compete in the Legislature

Competing environmental priorities will come to a head again in Hartford as lawmakers consider whether to add more regulations in an effort to prevent new solar projects from impacting tracts of farmland and forest. The General Assembly’s Environment Committee agreed on Wednesday to consider legislation this session on the siting of solar projects on certain farmlands and forests. As part of a larger energy bill passed in 2017, the legislature adopted regulations requiring that the Connecticut Department of Agriculture review any solar project proposed for prime farmland with a total generating capacity of more than 2 megawatts, and that the

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East Lyme Hires Consultant to Help Solve Drinking Water Issues

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EAST LYME — The town’s department of public works has contracted Tighe & Bond, an engineering and environmental consulting company, to investigate issues with taste and odor in the East Lyme water supply. Brad Kargl, the town’s utility engineer, said that East Lyme has conducted a number of tests in an effort to get to the bottom of a musty odor evident in the water supply for the southern portion of the town. After receiving about 20 complaints about the odor about 8 months ago – enough to raise concern for Kargl – the town began testing its source water

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Lamont Remarks on Killingly Plant Raise Eyebrows of Green Energy Proponents

Remarks Gov. Ned Lamont made this week opposing a controversial plan to build a new 650 MW gas-fired plant in Killingly raised eyebrows, and questions about how to reconcile his words with recent approvals by state regulators of new gas infrastructure. The Killingly plant, which was first proposed by Florida-based NTE Energy in 2016, has become a key rallying point in the ongoing effort to promote new sources of renewable energy for Connecticut and to scale back – and eventually eliminate – power plants that burn fossil fuels. “I don’t want to build Killingly,” Lamont told environmental advocates assembled for

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State Orders Change in Tree Trimming by United Illuminating

The state’s energy regulator has ordered United Illuminating to make several changes to its tree trimming programs, changes that the energy provider has argued would make it harder for the company to ensure reliable service. According to the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority, United Illuminating relies too heavily on a program designed to respond to pressing and dangerous situations, for example when a branch is touching a power line, and is in effect using the program to replace regular tree trimming. In response, the state authority directed that the UI limit its targeted risk management program to priority situations where there

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Tong Outlines State and Federal Approaches to Connecticut’s Climate Goals

Speaking virtually to an audience of UConn law and environmental science students on Thursday, state Attorney General William Tong extolled the virtues of federalism — despite challenges of federal government — as a means to protect state climate goals. Tong said he was hopeful that the administration of newly-inaugurated President Joe Biden will make more of an effort to address climate change than the administration of former President Donald Trump – citing the U.S. re-joining the Paris Climate Accords as a positive early step. Still, he said, states like Connecticut have been waiting a long time for meaningful action on

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Connecticut Water Proposes Substantial Rate Increase, Tiered Pricing

Connecticut Water is asking state regulators to allow a rate increase the company says would raise a typical residential water bill by $10.50 a month. The Connecticut Water Company said in a news release that if the increase is approved its revenues would increase nearly 20 percent – a total of $20.2 million. The “typical” residential customer who uses 3,780 gallons of water per month would pay $10.50 more each month. The company, serving nearly 350,000 customers across 60 Connecticut towns, said that the increase is needed to recover its costs for the more than $265 million the company has

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Legislators Pledge No Cut in Municipal Aid at Annual COST Forum

In a Wednesday forum hosted at the annual meeting of the Connecticut Organization of Small Towns, state legislative leaders took questions from town officials on their legislative priorities.  The forum was moderated by WTNH anchor Dennis House, and included both Republican and Democratic leaders. Speaker of the House Matt Ritter and House Minority Leader Vincent Candelora, Senate President Pro Tempore Martin Looney and Senate Minority Leader Kevin Kelly, all fielded questions ranging from municipal aid to Eversource. Though lawmakers largely avoided making commitments to specific policies, together they expressed a commitment to provide municipalities with the full level of state

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East Lyme Goes to Court to Defend New Inland Wetlands Rule

EAST LYME – The owner of a local real estate company is taking the East Lyme Inland Wetland Agency to court to challenge its November vote to triple the town’s review area. Robert A. Blatt, of Niantic Real Estate, appealed the agency’s decision to expand its upland review area from 100 to 300 feet, a measure approved by a 5-2 vote in November after several months of deliberating over a proposal to increase the review area to as much as 500 feet. In a complaint filed in the Superior Court of New London in December, Blatt argued that the agency

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Subsidies a Bone of Contention as Renewable Energy Producers Seek Federal Ruling

Supporters of expanding renewable energy are headed for a showdown with New England’s energy market operator at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission over an arcane rule that could have major implications in the near future for how much is invested in solar and offshore wind compared to natural gas. Debate over the true cost of developing solar and offshore wind projects has led to two competing proposals – one from the regional energy market operator ISO-New England and the other from the New England Power Pool, a voluntary organization of stakeholders in the regional market including Eversource, energy producers, and

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Renewed Investment in Gas-Fired Energy Spurs Debate in Middletown

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MIDDLETOWN — A major energy company is pitching its replacement of two nearly 70-year old natural gas-fired turbines at a Middletown power plant as environmentally friendly, but local and statewide advocates for renewable energy question why new fossil fuel-fired infrastructure is being built at all. Princeton-based NRG has proposed replacing two gas- and fuel-powered turbines, built in 1958 and 1964, with one turbine that is more efficient and faster to start.  The 375-megawatt turbine will replace the same nameplate amount of megawatts as the two existing turbines, and generate lower emissions per hour, but the new turbine is also expected

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