Norm Needleman


Norm Needleman



June 2, 2021

State Senator Needleman Leads Senate Approval of Key Energy Bills Aiming to Provide Relief to Utility Ratepayers

Today, State Senator Norm Needleman (D-Essex) led the Senate’s approval of multiple key energy bills that will hold utility companies accountable to their ratepayers. These bills will take action to support public safety and ensure ratepayers’ interests are considered, better representing the people of Connecticut.

“There are thousands of miles of underground wires and pipes delivering vital utilities like water, electricity, telecommunications and natural gas in our state, and work without care around them can create hazardous conditions,” said Sen. Needleman. “By passing legislation that closes a loophole in the Call Before You Dig program, one utilities have used to sidestep liability and penalties for violations, and requiring them to be liable for issues they’re responsible for instead of blaming third parties, we take action to better protect our workers and our systems alike.”

Senate Bill 858, “An Act Concerning ‘Call Before You Dig’ Program Violations And Certain Modifications To Gas Pipelines Processes,” makes various changes in laws related to gas pipelines and underground utility facilities, most notably requiring violations of the “Call Before You Dig” law’s marking requirements be directly paid by the entity being penalized without recovering that penalty from a third party. Additionally, PURA commissioners can stop work on a “Call Before You Dig” project if there’s a life-threatening hazard resulting from a willful violation of the law.

The bill also expands PURA’s authority over certain gas transportation entities; PURA can gain access to facilities, investigate them, order certain improvements or repairs, can impose penalties, gives whistleblower protections to employees and will be required to be notified about certain accidents. PURA would further gain authority over gas transportation entities by explicitly citing federal regulations the state adopts as safety standards for pipeline facilities and gas transportation and capping maximum penalties at maximum amounts allowed under federal regulations rather than federal law.

The bill previously passed the Energy & Technology Committee by a unanimous 26-0 tally.

“When as many as 30% of low and moderate-income households needing energy-efficient updates but having too many safety hazards, we need to enact change to protect residents,” said Sen. Needleman. “By adding voting members to the state’s Conservation and Load Management Plan Energy Efficiency Board, specifically representing these low-income residential customers and municipalities, we give them a seat at the table and a voice to ensure their needs and desires are properly reflected.”

Senate Bill 856, “An Act Increasing Representation on the Energy Conservation Management Board,” rectifies an oversight limiting consumer activity in key energy oversight boards and adds two voting members to the Conservation and Load Management Plan Energy Efficiency Board to represent low-income residential customers and municipalities. This board helps develop the state’s conservation and load management plan before it’s submitted to the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection for approval. Adding these members will better represent the ratepayers of Connecticut.

It previously passed the Energy & Technology Committee by a unanimous 26-0 tally.

“As electric distribution companies continue to impact vulnerable customers, many on fixed incomes, we need to take action to protect them,” said Sen. Needleman. “This legislation will eliminate early termination fees, ensure third-party contractors selling electric generation services are legal agents of such a supplier, and permit PURA to regulate electric supplier assignments and transfers as well as suppliers as a whole. This protects customers from being taken advantage of.”