In this blog post, Acadia Center’s new Policy Advocate in Connecticut, Kerry Schlichting, shares her experience one month into her tenure at the organization.
I recently joined the Hartford team in late May, after eight years in Washington, D.C., working on energy policy issues with a national perspective, and was eager to apply my experience to challenges at both the federal and state level. As a new staff member, my experience over the past month in Connecticut’s exciting and fast-paced environment has shown me the depth and breadth of Acadia Center’s work and how much is possible in the state and regionally. With just over two weeks left in Connecticut’s legislative session, Acadia Center’s Hartford-based team made a final push for policies protecting and promoting the state’s clean energy goals while also fighting a proposal to divert funds from the state’s crucial energy efficiency programs. Meanwhile on the national stage, the decision to leave the Paris Climate Accord was announced, with lasting implications for climate and economy locally, regionally, and globally.
On just my second day, we organized a sign-on letter opposing proposed budget raids of ratepayer funds for energy efficiency and clean energy programs to send to CT officials. Over 70 signees—representing business, community, consumer, low-income, public health, environmental, and clean energy interests—came together against the harmful impacts that would flow from proposed raids on ratepayer-funded energy efficiency programs. The letter opposes two budget proposals, one made by Senate Republicans that would raid ratepayer-funded energy efficiency programs and another made by the Senate and House Democrats that would sweep ratepayer-derived revenues from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. These programs generate immense economic value for the state, from billions of dollars in electricity and natural gas bill savings to helping low-income families reduce the difficult burden of high energy costs, while also protecting the health and prosperity of our local communities. Budget negotiations are ongoing through the end of this month, and we continue to respond to changing proposals that threaten these important programs.
My second week saw the next major challenge as we learned of the threatened withdrawal of the Trump Administration from the Paris Climate Agreement. By pulling out of the Paris Agreement, the Trump Administration weakens our country’s position as an energy leader. This action also undermines progress being made globally, as well as at the national and state level, to address the growing harms of carbon pollution. The announcement by the White House underscores how much more important state leadership will be in advancing a clean energy future. The day of the White House’s announcement, representing Acadia Center, I spoke at U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal’s press conference to decry this shortsighted decision that risks our country’s global climate leadership and hurts our economic interests around clean energy.
Yet, this moment also offers states and regions an opportunity to aim high and lead the transition to a clean energy future. During my third week, Acadia Center joined other advocates to thank Governor Malloy for committing Connecticut to the Paris Agreement’s climate pollution goals and to pursue policies that will help achieve those goals, as well as for being a leader in the new U.S Climate Alliance, a bipartisan commitment by governors throughout the country to commit to reducing climate pollution. A recent analysis by Acadia Center, EnergyVision 2030, shows that Northeast states can be on the path to a low-carbon future by the year 2030 if they commit to and embrace clean energy technologies. With further strategic action and expanding adoption of modern, market-ready technologies, Northeast states can reduce climate pollution emissions 45% by 2030: a target needed to put the region on the path to meet scientifically directed emission reductions of 80% by 2050.
With a special legislative session called to address the state budget, Acadia Center’s Connecticut team continues to advance policies that benefit consumers and the environment. To reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions as well as to accelerate the growth of our clean energy economy, creating new jobs and state revenue, the state needs policies that support our award-winning energy efficiency programs. Additionally, we need policies that make us competitive with our neighboring states in pursing clean energy resources. This includes strengthening the state’s commitment to renewable energy procurement and encouraging electrification of the transportation sector and increased deployment of electric vehicles.
Both federal and state policies can affect the state’s clean energy economy, and it is from that perspective that I look forward to the many opportunities and challenges that lie ahead. My experiences this past month have made me look forward even more to being part of a team advancing the clean energy future through fact-based, solutions-oriented advocacy and collaboration.