Connecticut Utilities Want to Invest in More Polluting Gas – at Your Expense

If state regulators approve their requested rate hike, gas bills will only get more expensive, and Connecticut will continue its dependence on polluting fossil fuels

The top of a white thermostat is shown against a beige wall. Only the adjustment knob, the top, and the vents are visible. Inside one of the vent grills is a folded 100 dollar bill.

The last thing Connecticut residents need is more expensive heating bills and polluting fuels. Photo: Shutterstock.

Many households in Connecticut are facing high winter heating costs, and the recent snowstorm and frigid temperatures aren’t helping. But even as state legislators have recognized this problem by unanimously approving an extra $17 million in winter heating assistance, two of the state’s three gas companies, Connecticut Natural Gas and Southern Connecticut Gas, are asking state regulators to approve a rate increase.  

If approved, the gas companies’ request would raise customers’ bills and make it even harder for the many families and businesses that already struggle with high energy costs. It would also increase the state’s reliance on fossil fuels and make it more difficult to meet our climate goals. 

Using Gas to Heat Buildings is a Major Source of Climate-Damaging Emissions 

There’s one reason gas companies want their customers to pay higher rates: they hope to fund massive investments in pipelines and gas system improvements. And that is glaringly inconsistent with the state’s binding climate targets under the Global Warming Solutions Act. Under this law, Connecticut must cut carbon pollution by at least 45% by 2030 and at least 80% by 2050.  

Many homes and businesses use gas heating in Connecticut and the fuel is a major source of climate-warming pollution. Fossil fuel heating accounts for 30% of Connecticut’s carbon pollution. Worse, emissions from gas heating have increased over the past few decades.  

In the state’s most recent emissions assessment, the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection concluded that sharp reductions are needed to meet state climate goals. The state has identified electrification as the key pathway to cutting home and building emissions. This will require transitioning customers off fossil fuel heating, including gas, and shifting to zero-emission electric heat pumps. 

Gas Companies Want to Keep Investing in the Gas System – and Make Customers Pay  

Unfortunately, gas companies are not planning for a future in which gas use decreases in line with the state’s climate law. The companies continue to sink hundreds of millions of dollars into new gas pipelines, even though state and federal policy is driving a shift towards electric heating, which will shrink the gas customer base in coming years.  

As more gas customers move to electric heating, remaining gas customers will face the ever-mounting costs of maintaining an oversized gas system. And the last gas customers are likely to be low-income households and renters who can least afford rising bills. State regulators must ensure that the gas companies stop over-investing in pipelines (which they expect customers to pay for) and help all Connecticut residents access clean electric heating.  

The Path Forward: How Connecticut Can Achieve Clean Heating for Everyone 

Connecticut should follow other states, including our neighbors in Massachusetts and New York, that have taken steps to ensure gas companies do their part in meeting state climate goals – and facilitate a shift to clean, electric heating. With the right regulatory framework, gas companies can be part of the solution. 

The Connecticut gas companies understand the future of heating is electric. Indeed, their affiliates in New York are already helping gas customers switch to electric heating. And the best part is it’s often cheaper to electrify portions of the gas system rather than replace pipelines.  

Connecticut regulators must not allow the gas companies to profit from their scheme of building more and more pipelines, in clear defiance of state climate law. Instead, they should require the gas companies to plan for a clean energy future that all Connecticut residents can participate in.  

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