HARTFORD -- A new proposal is on the table that could add fees to the bills of Connecticut households that heat their homes with fuel oil or propane.
The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection said the "energy conservation fee," is part of a new Comprehensive Energy Strategy, which DEEP said hasn't been updated since 2013.
According to DEEP, 44 percent of homes heat with oil or propane but don't contribute to the energy efficiency and conservation programs. Commissioner Robert Klee said those homes are being subsidized by everyone else.
"We made a proposal to level the playing field and add a moderate, a small fee similar to what's charged in natural gas customers to enable the oil customers to take full advantage of our efficiency programs," Klee said.
He said the charge would be about 5 cents per gallon, on heating oil and propane consumption, a number not set in stone.
"Every dollar you spend on efficiency, can bring you 3 or 4 dollars in benefits in reduced overall energy use, and more comfortable home, and frankly a cleaner, greener more sustainable home," he said.
This proposal is not welcome news for some oil companies. Co-owner of A-1 Propane and E-Z Oil Lance Roberts said this could add on average about 10-20 bucks to some homeowner's bills.
"They’re struggling to pay for a minimal amount of oil now so you’re just adding a burden onto them," Roberts said. "We have people many times calling us up they let their oil tank, their propane tank get down next to nothing, they have children. Many times they call and they just could barely afford 100 gallons."
Klee said the money collected would support programs that help families and businesses take steps to reduce their monthly bill for power and heat.
"Everyone who’s a natural gas customer pays into this fund, and we’ve been seeing tens of thousands of homes participating in these programs and seeing dramatic reductions in their energy costs, saving millions and millions of dollars," Klee said.
Klee said there are a lot of historic homes in the state that aren't up to today's standards, dealing with poor insulation, leading to wasted energy.
"They participate with that very small fee on their bills, that opens up this wide array of benefits and services," he said. "The home energy audits, rebates for insulation, improved windows, improved boilers and heating units."
In order for this proposal to become reality it needs legislative action.
Republican State Senator Joe Markley is sounding off on the proposal calling it both unwise and inappropriate.
He's encouraging taxpayers opposed to the fee to email him comments using the subject line "Heating Oil and Propane Tax," to Joe.Markley@cga.ct.gov.
Before a decision is made, DEEP wants to hear from the community on the entire Comprehensive Energy Strategy.
Public Meetings will be:
- August 14, 6:30 p.m. at Eastern CT State University's Webb Hall, Room 110
- August 16, 6:30 p.m. at Housatonic Community College's Beacon Hall Events Center, Room 214
- August 21, 6:30 p.m. at Fort Trumbull State Park Conference Center, 90 Walbach Street, New London
- August 29, 6:30 p.m. at Torrington City Hall Auditorium, 140 Main Street, Torrington
There will be additional public meetings in September.
This is just a draft of the 2017 Comprehensive Energy Strategy (CES). DEEP plans to issue the final version in the fall.
According to DEEP, a CES is "an assessment and Strategy for all residential, commercial and industrial energy issues, including energy efficiency, industry, electricity, natural gas, and transportation." The first CES was created in 2012.