October 29, 2018

CT gov't beats back $145M energy-raid challenge

PHOTO | HBJ File
PHOTO | HBJ File
Connecticut state Capitol in Hartford.

State government has prevailed in a lawsuit challenging its authority to raid millions of dollars from a ratepayer-funded pot of money for efficiency and clean energy efforts.

To help close a budget deficit, the legislature and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy last year authorized that a total of $155 million -- later lowered to $145 million -- be transferred to the general budget over two fiscal years from two energy and efficiency funds, which are funded by charges on ratepayer electric bills.

A group of efficiency contractors and not-for-profits sued the state in May, challenging the constitutionality of the raid.

Last week, U.S. District Judge Janet C. Hall ruled that the plaintiffs do not have an implied contractual right over how the funds are spent and lack any right to legally enforce their expectations that the money be spent on energy and efficiency.

Despite the seemingly dedicated nature of the funds, Hall wrote that state statute gives policymakers full discretion over the use and disbursement of the money.

Hall also dismissed the plaintiffs' Equal Protection claim for lack of jurisdiction, ruling that the "taxpayer standing doctrine" dictates that the they don't have standing to challenge how the government spends the revenue.

Having dismissed the federal law claims, Hall declined to exercise jurisdiction over the plaintiffs' state law claims.

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