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1/1/2006 Starting today most Connecticut residents will have to pay 17 percent more to light up their homes. Come spring, rates will jump further, with the average monthly household bill topping $127 - a 22.4 percent increase over last year.

One hundred miles up the Connecticut River, it's an entirely different situation.


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As it stands now, customers of Central Vermont Public Service will be paying the lowest rates in the region in 2006: About $91 a month, 28 percent less than Connecticut households.

They are the only ones in New England not facing a rate increase from a dominant utility.

The sharp contrast between Connecticut and Vermont - and the significant differences in rates across New England - raises questions about why prices vary so much in a relatively small geographic region.

As it happens, Vermont is the only state in New England to still have a fully regulated market.

But the regulatory structure of the industry is only one of the many variables that determine electricity rates. Other factors - including the ability to hedge against rising costs, the fuel mix used to supply power, demand levels, the quality of the infrastructure used to transmit power and the cost to distribute electricity - all bear on the price of keeping the lights on.

Further complicating the picture, rates change at different times, and with different magnitudes, from utility to utility within New England. Vermont's electric rates look attractive today, because the rest of New England is paying so much more. But that wasn't always the case and may not be in years to come.

"Five years ago, it would have been a completely different story," said Steve Costello, a spokesperson for Central Vermont Public Service. "We would have been the ones with the higher rates."

In fact, from 2000 to 2004, Vermont's electric rates were consistently higher than Connecticut's, according to data from the states' dominant utilities. In 2000, Vermont residents paid 12.5 cents per kilowatt-hour - the units in which electricity prices are measured - to power their homes. That price was 34 percent higher than Connecticut's electricity rates at the time, and 52 percent above the rest of the nation's, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Fast forward six years, and Connecticut and other New England households are seeing a rapid rise in their electric rates, while the bills in Vermont remain stable.

One reason: Long-term power contracts signed in the 1980s and 1990s that allowed Vermont's electric utilities to lock in power at fixed rates through the next decade. Those contracts - with Hydro-Quebec and the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant - protect Vermont residents against rising electricity prices, a practice known as hedging.

Many utilities - regulated or not - shy away from such long-term deals. While the hedges look attractive now, the 20-year agreements could again backfire if market rates fall back below the levels fixed in the contracts.

"We could look like dogs again," said Bob Rogan, spokesperson for Green Mountain Power, a Vermont utility which has locked in power with Hydro-Quebec through 2015. "I doubt it, but it remains to be seen."

While Vermont's utilities are confident that the power companies they have contracted with will continue to honor their commitments at what are now below-market prices, that isn't always the case. One California-based provider is attempting in bankruptcy court to ditch eight electric contracts nationwide because it is losing money on those agreements.

To add to the mix, not all utility companies can lock in rates for a long period. Electricity demand in New England's more populous and industrious states, including Connecticut and Massachusetts, outstrips power providers' willingness to promise supplies, and by extension, lock in prices.

For example, when Connecticut Light & Power - which serves about 1.2 million customers - tried to secure a long-term power supply from merchant generators two years ago, it was only able to lock in one third of its 2006 electricity needs. By contrast, United Illuminating, which serves about 320,000 Connecticut customers, was able to lock in all power through the end of 2006.

"UI is a tiny little company. They found one supplier who could supply all of their needs for three years," said Beryl Lyons, spokesperson at the Connecticut Department of Public Utility Control. "CL&P is the single largest utility in New England. Nobody could meet their entire needs."

New England's less populated states, including Rhode Island and Maine, have had more success in securing their power needs for longer periods. Rhode Island's largest utility, National Grid, has locked in electricity through 2009, but with triggers built in for the power suppliers to increase rates if costs rise above certain levels. Central Maine Power, meanwhile, has laddered its purchases so that two-thirds of the following year's needs are already covered, buffering the impact of rate spikes in any given year.

Because of those contracts, Rhode Island residents will face just a 14.7 percent increase starting today, while Maine ratepayers will pay only 9 percent more for their electricity beginning in March, a rate increase that was approved last week.

Beyond the varying abilities of the different states to hedge their costs is the fact that Connecticut and parts of Massachusetts have an aging infrastructure that makes it difficult for the states to transmit power efficiently across the region. Regulators have slapped congestion charges on customers to make them pay for that inefficiency.

Yet another big difference between Vermont and the rest of New England is fuel mix. While about 40 percent of New England's electricity comes from burning natural gas, and another 17 percent from oil, only 3 percent of Vermont's electricity relies on oil and natural gas combined.

In Vermont's regulated market, the independence from fossil fuels makes a big difference. The relatively low price of electricity made by nuclear and hyrdo-power is blended in with the higher price of power generated from fossil fuels and other sources, resulting in an overall price somewhere in between.

In New England's deregulated markets, the price of electricity is set at a single level, regardless of whether it's produced by nuclear, hydro, fossil fuel or alternative sources. Because natural gas fuels about 40 percent of the region's electric supply, natural gas prices tend to set the region's electricity price. And the price of natural gas - up by nearly 90 percent on the year -- has skyrocketed.

"The real villain is the cost of natural gas," said Robert Knickerbocker, a retired partner with Day, Berry & Howard, who specialized in energy issues and represented Connecticut Light & Power. "And maybe, if there had not been deregulation, the utilities might have tried to diversify the fuel sources a bit."

While Connecticut consumers will feel the pinch of double-digit rate increases immediately, sometimes not raising rates can be more painful in the long run. Because Central Vermont Public Service has not been able to raise electricity rates since 2001, a credit rating agency downgraded the utility's bonds this summer to junk status on the fear that it could not keep up with the increasing costs of maintaining its transmission and distribution lines.

Because of the downgrade, the utility had to set aside extra cash as collateral for some of its power supply agreements, suspend investments in wind power and pay higher interest rates on its debt - all of which lead, ultimately, to higher costs for consumers.

 

3/15/05 Rowlands Fate sits in a judges hand

Governor Rowland Resigns

The Associated Press
Updated: 9:38 p.m. ET June 21, 2004 HARTFORD, Conn.

- Gov. John G. Rowland announced his resignation Monday amid a months-long cascade of graft allegations, a federal investigation and a rapidly gathering drive to impeach him for accepting gifts from friends and businessmen.

Rowland did not directly address the allegations against him but said he remained proud of his accomplishments.

**Well Gov. Rowland waited until the last moment when the Supreme court ruled he could be compelled to testify before the committee whom was in its third week of hearings. Real stand-up guy. He didn`t even fess up just acted as if this was all an unfortunate situation in his life and now he needs to find a new path. Read his Resignations speech below. And Below that is a an article and commentory from March 2004. -Kevin Beary

Governor John Rowland's Resignation Address
June 21 2004

Good evening and thank you for joining us this evening.

As you know, Patty and I have made a decision that we believe is not only in the best interest of our family, but in the best interest of the State of Connecticut as well.

The months leading to this decision have been difficult for all of us.

Effective at noon on July 1st, I will officially step down as Governor and pass this honor to Lt. Governor Jodi Rell, who is a very fine, capable and experienced public servant.

She shares many of the hopes and dreams that brought this administration to a third term, and I know you will work with her during this transition.

Tonight is both a beginning and an end for me.

I first ran for public office 24 years ago because I learned at the kitchen table in the Rowland household that you should always try to give something back to the community - whether it was volunteer service, being active in your school, or running for public office.

I am thankful to my family for instilling in me the principle that public service to others is a noble cause.

My political journey has brought me from the Connecticut State House, to the United States Congress and to the Governor's Office.

It has been an incredible, fulfilling journey - with a simple goal . . . to help and serve the people of Connecticut.

And it is the people of Connecticut that I thank for giving me this privilege.

Throughout these years I have never forgotten what the people of Connecticut have given me. I can only hope that when all is said and done - when the dust settles and time casts light on our time in office - that the people will see what I tried to give back.

Through times of prosperity and times of recession, through times of tragedy and times of celebration - we have made much progress together.

It has been an incredible honor and I am pleased to have served you.

I am proud that there is new life in our cities - especially in Hartford, Waterbury, Bridgeport, New Haven, and New London. There is new life, new business, and new opportunity.

What an enormous privilege to work with so many outstanding mayors, business people, local elected officials, clergy, volunteers and not for profit agencies - all focused on making their communities better - all striving to prove that the good in society will prevail against the bad.

This has been my motivation over the last 10 years - to lead this great state to even greater expectations and to achieve our fullest potential. And we are indeed on the right path.

I hope there have been times when I made you all proud, or made you all smile, or at least, piqued your interest in this wonderful phenomenon called government.

It has been especially gratifying to me to work with my colleagues in Connecticut state government.

Our constitutional officers, the men and women of the state legislature, and all the fine members of our judiciary - all from different backgrounds, demographics and political parties - working together for the betterment of our state.

I hope you take as much pride as I do in all that we have accomplished.

The future may be a bit uncertain for our family, but I do know that whatever the future holds, I have been blessed with wonderful family and friends.

Those of you who have had the privilege to know my wife will understand why she is the love of my life.

She has represented the office of First Lady with grace and dignity, has stood by my side with unfailing faith and love, and I am proud of the good will and good works she has brought to our citizens.

Patty and I, as well as our children, are looking forward to a new chapter in our lives.

Even in these most difficult times, I realize how fortunate my life has been.

I am truly thankful to all of our staff members, our security detail, Commissioners, and family and friends gathered with us today.

We have lived and worked together over the past 10 years and we can never repay the incredible loyalty, kindness, and dedicated work you have brought to our family and this administration.

Patty and I would also like to thank the thousands of people across our state that have sent us countless letters of support, given us words of encouragement, and prayed with us over these past months and years.

Please know that your thoughts and prayers have been a source of strength for all of us.

An ancient proverb says:
"We make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps."

There comes a time in everyone's life when you realize that it is time to take a new path.

This is our time.

Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your Governor.

God Bless you all, and God Bless the great state of Connecticut.

March 18th 2004 - Another scandalous moment for Governor Rowland.

How much more do we need to discover to realize that Governor Rowland has been abusing public office for personal gain and should be removed from office. Personally, I wanted Governor Rowland to win re-election because I did not want Curry in office, who promised to kill the Hartford projects including Adriens Landing and the convention center currently being built. This was before I knew about all the gifts, arrangements , backroom deals etc; Below is a quick summary of various abuses of Rowland. - Kevin Beary

Summary of selected (far from all) Rowland scandals:

1998 DEP selective enforcement. Appointee Vito Santosiero quits DEP after charges surface. They say he "fixed" environmental violations for those who gave, usually through major campaign contributions.

1999 Paul Silvester. Rowland appoints him Treasurer in '97, runs on ticket and raises funds with him in '98. Then Silvester pleads guilty to money-laundering and racketeering. The trials in this complex case are just beginning again.

2001 Illegal payback to nursing homes bosses. Rowland sends $30M to nursing homes, later ruled in court as an illegal attempt to take away union rights. Nursing home owners have been heavy Rowland contributors.

2001 Fired DEP whistleblower. Chief DEP Counsel Anne Rapkin was too honest in her professional assessments and was fired. CT has spent over $2M in litigation.

2001 Mark Trinkley. Former DECD official plead guilty of taking $35,000 in home improvements in exchange for awarding a $6.5M Connecticut grant to the same company.

2002 Enron and Peter Ellef. Rowland's Chief of Staff resigned after losing $220M to Enron in an "illegal loan". FBI is still investigating.

2003 Lawrence Alibozek. Former Deputy Chief of Staff plead guilty of taking gold and cash for steering big state contracts. $12,000 in gold dug up by investigators in his backyard.

2003 Tomasso. Rowland grossly underpays for use of Tomasso vacation estate. Tomasso gets over $217M in state contracts since 1995. They include $1600 a month to "cut grass and shovel snow" at State Lottery headquarters, says George Wandrak, Lottery Board Chair. (All Tomasso state contracts are under federal investigation.) In a bid to the Naugatuck Valley quasi-public development agency, Tomasso won the contract even though they were the HIGHEST-paid bidder, asking about a $5M fee. A second competent company had figured in a $3.5M fee, while a third gave themselves about $4M for the same work! Talk about the cost of doing business.

2003 GOP Gold Card. CCAG asks the Election Enforcement Commission to investigate after Rowland's illegal personal use of GOP Gold Card comes to light. Their investigation is still underway.

2003 Arthur Diedrick and Bob Matthews. Diedrick was Rowland's Chair of the CT Development Authority, a quasi-public agency like CRRA, where public money makes the transition to private hands. In 1995, Diedrick awarded his own company a $300,000 contract. Cooler heads later re-bid it. Rowland moved him to a like agency, CT Innovations. Now it becomes public that Diedrick's wife invested in a company, Pinnacle Food, that Diedrick's new agency was considering for a big low-interest loan of your money. Shadowy friend Bob Matthews, a professional political buddy and donor, had a fat contract riding on Pinnacle getting the loan and coming to CT. He was also a major shareholder. He had his buddy John call Pinnacle from the golf course to express his "support" for the loan. Alas, the deal fell apart because Pinnacle found even sweeter meat elsewhere. By the way, appointee Diedrick is also President of a local land trust, which, under his leadership, conveyed a North Litchfield lakefront house to John Rowland for $105,000. Gee, do you think it ever went on the market? As if that weren't smelly enough, the land trust loaned John the money to close the contract!

The Rowland Administration is the most consistently corrupt in the country. Let's demand that it be held to account.

Finally , something happening in Hartford, maybe the city will finally wake up. Going to Hartford on a Sunday when everything is closed has become depressing - Click for Story



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