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Sound Bites: A key Connecticut committee seeks utility shutoff moratorium extension

Power lines are seen on Feb. 16 in Houston. The Public Utility Commission of Texas has declined to reverse $16 billion in charges from the worst of February's winter storm.
David J. Phillip
Power lines.

Good morning! Connecticut State Senator Norm Needleman (D-Essex) and State Representative Jonathan Steinberg (D-Westport) joined the legislative Energy & Technology Committee to urge the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority to extend their utility shutoff moratorium to Halloween this year. 

The moratorium was created in 2020 to assist low-income residents in paying energy utilities during the COVID-19 pandemic. The moratorium has been extended several times in recent years. 

The goal of extending the moratorium until Oct. 31 would avoid a gap in support for residents seeking energy assistance from the state’s annual Winter Protection Program beginning on Nov. 1. The moratorium is scheduled to end on May 1.

Here’s a bite-sized look at what else we are hearing: 

New York will temporarily allow cleaning product manufacturers to avoid restrictions on over 1,000 harmful products for one year. 1,4-Dioxane is a carcinogen commonly found in soaps, shampoos and detergents and has been linked to cancer, as well as liver and kidney damage. This waiver is in compliance with legislation implemented last year, limiting the amount of 1,4-Dioxane found in products to one part-per-billion. The chemical is treated in Long Island public drinking water sources.

Connecticut Attorney General William Tong is calling for the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority to lower natural gas costs. A recent earnings report indicated that the Connecticut Natural Gas Corporation over-collected $8 million from Connecticut families and businesses. Of that $8 million, half will be returned to ratepayers this winter to offset bills, while the other half will be redistributed to shareholders. Tong said a new energy rate will help ensure customers won't be overcharged for CNG services.

Eversource and Ørsted awarded over $200 million to a Long Island-based contractor. Haugland Energy was hired to construct an underground electrical transmission line for Sunrise Wind’s offshore wind project. This grant is the largest New York offshore wind industry supply chain contract in local history. Installation will begin in September and is expected to bring over 400 new jobs for New York union workers.

An audit found that Connecticut’s program for removing hazardous materials is missing financial documentation. The state Department of Administrative Services released an audit Thursday reviewing the Hazardous Materials Abatement Program to remove hazardous materials in state-owned buildings. Documentation for the program’s funding was missing from 2019 to 2020. Auditors blame two former state employees, Konstantinos Diamantis and the late Michael Sanders. Diamantis resigned amid a federal probe.

Cold Spring Country Club is suing the Town of Huntington and Oheka Castle for approving the construction of luxury condominiums. According to Newsday, the club already had a contract to build a condominium on 13 acres of land in the area before the Town Board approved Oheka owner Gary Melius to construct housing units there. The club wants the board to annul their approval for Melius.

Connecticut public defenders may sue without a pay bump. The legislative Appropriations Committee is concerned that the Division of Public Defender Services may file a lawsuit. Standard hourly rates for public defenders have not increased since 2007 and remains one of the lowest wages for defenders in all of New England. Several defenders resigned last month, forcing government officials to hastily recruit new members.

To curb illegal gatherings, Bridgeport will increase police presence and open checkpoints early at Seaside Park. On April 13, over 200 people gathered at the park for an unauthorized music event where gun fire wounded three people with non-life threatening injuries. On April 18, close to 400 people gathered at the park for an unauthorized car show where attendees drove donuts on the grass, destroying public property. Starting on May 6, park attendees will need to purchase day or seasonal passes in order to enter the park.

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Eric Warner is a news fellow at WSHU.