State & Beyond News

Operation Lifesaver

Operation Lifesaver, Inc., the nonprofit public safety education and awareness organization launched a national public awareness advertising campaign in Connecticut.

Operation Lifesaver, Inc. (OLI) is dedicated to reducing collisions, fatalities, and injuries at highway-rail crossings and trespassing on or near railroad tracks. The three video ads, ranging from 15 to 60 seconds, highlight rail safety protocols and aim to increase awareness among rail passengers and pedestrians. The OLI ads will run on Connecticut TV stations until mid-June for the first time.

“Trains can run on any track at any time in either direction. This ad campaign reiterates the message: if you see train tracks, assume a train is nearby,” Connecticut Department of Transportation Commissioner Joseph Giulietti said. “We encourage all pedestrians and rail passengers to never cross over train tracks unless there is a marked designated crossing. We all need to do our part to reduce train collisions by staying off the tracks and staying alert.”

Since 2017, 30 pedestrian strikes and nine motor vehicle collisions have occurred on Connecticut rails. Already this year, Connecticut has experienced six pedestrian strikes and one motor vehicle collision.*

“Operation Lifesaver’s goals with this ad campaign are to educate the public and increase awareness about the dangers of rail incidents and how quickly they can occur,” Operation Lifesaver Connecticut State Coordinator Kevin Burns said. “For our 50th anniversary as an organization, we’re encouraging all residents of Connecticut to take the Rail Safety Pledge. Only together can we prevent train tragedies throughout the year.”

The OLI ad campaign will air for the next several weeks and the videos are also available online for viewing and sharing on social media.

Find the Blue & White gives step-by-step instructions for motor vehicle passengers if they find themselves stuck on rail tracks. Drivers should safely exit their vehicle, find the blue and white Emergency Notification System (ENS) sign on the at-grade crossings, and call the number on the sign, providing the operator with the crossing number located on the sign. The operator will then alert train traffic to slow down or change tracks. “Remember, find the blue and white to save your life,” the video states. “If an ENS sign cannot be found at a train track crossing, drivers can dial 911.”

See Tracks? Think Train! depicts a pedestrian walking along rail tracks while listening to music, unable to hear a train driving towards them until it’s too late. “It’s no contest,” warns the video. “Every day, people tempt fate and die trespassing on railroad tracks. See tracks? Think train.” This ad is also available in Spanish.

An alternate See Tracks? Think Train! ad showcases the equal force of a car crushing a soda can to a train striking a pedestrian or motor vehicle on the tracks.

In addition to ad campaigns, Operation Lifesaver also conducts several community outreach events every year and spearheads Rail Safety Week in September.

For more information about rail safety and to take the Rail Safety Pledge, visit OLI.org

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2022 ENERGY STAR® Partner of the Year Sustained Excellence Award


NEW BRITAIN, Conn. – The sponsors of Energize Connecticut℠, Eversource and AVANGRID, Inc. subsidiaries United Illuminating, Southern Connecticut Gas and Connecticut Natural Gas, are proud to announce that they have received the 2022 ENERGY STAR® Partner of the Year – Sustained Excellence Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy. This is the seventh time the sponsors have been recognized for their joint efforts, continued leadership and commitment to promoting the ENERGY STAR program in Connecticut.

The Sustained Excellence award is the highest honor bestowed by the ENERGY STAR program. Winners in this distinguished group have made a long-term commitment to fighting climate change, protecting public health through energy efficiency and are continuing to increase adoption and implementation of energy efficiency measures. They are among the nation’s leaders in driving value for the environment, the economy and the American people.

“Energy efficiency is the most valuable tool we have to help all customers save money and reduce their energy use, and we applaud Connecticut’s leadership in clean energy and their support of these critical programs.”, said Eversource Executive Vice President of Customer Experience and Energy Strategy Penni Conner. “We’re proud to be recognized again this year by the EPA and DOE with the Sustained Excellence Award, and we look forward to continued collaboration with the ENERGY STAR® program, our states and communities, our small business partners, and our customers on energy efficiency initiatives that mitigate the effects of climate change.”

“At UI, SCG and CNG we are proud to be a part of EnergizeCT and receive the 2022 ENERGY STAR Partner of the Year – Sustained Excellence Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy,” said Frank Reynolds, President & CEO of UI, SCG and CNG. “For seven years in a row, our efforts with industry partners in the EnergizeCT program have proven to find more efficiencies in everyday energy use while making a positive impact on our environment.”

“We know it’s going to take all of us working together to tackle the climate crisis, and the 2022 ENERGY STAR award-winning partners are demonstrating what it takes to build a more sustainable future,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “These companies are showing once again that taking action in support of a clean energy economy can be good not only for the environment, but also for business and customers.”

Each year, the ENERGY STAR program honors a group of businesses and organizations that have made outstanding contributions to protecting the environment through superior energy achievements. In 2021, Eversource and the AVANGRID subsidiaries accomplished the following:

· Provided energy-efficiency programs and rebates to businesses and residents in 169 cities and towns throughout Connecticut.
· Tracked 994,368 instances of participation in programs and rebates delivering lifetime energy savings equivalent to 2.9 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity, 95.3 million ccf (one ccf equals 100 cubic feet) of natural gas, and 55.6 million gallons of fuel oil and propane.
· Helped customers across the state save $62.1 million on their energy bills.
· In conjunction with the Connecticut Green Bank, delivered $6.2 billion to the state’s gross state product (GSP) and supported 41,487 jobs in the HVAC, electrical, manufacturing, insulation, weatherization and solar industries.
· Reduced carbon dioxide emissions by more than 160,000 tons resulting in $5.5 million saved in public health costs.
· Developed a new Census Tract tool that will allow communities, municipalities, and vendors to reduce program participation barriers for residents in underserved communities.
· Led educational initiatives that reached over 8,000 teachers and students in grades K-12.
· Collaborated with the Connecticut Green Bank and other financial institutions to promote financing and clean energy programs, such as C-PACE and Smart-E loans.

Winners are selected from a network of thousands of ENERGY STAR partners. For a complete list of 2022 winners and more information about ENERGY STAR’s awards program, visit energystar.gov/awardwinners.

About Energize ConnecticutEnergize Connecticut is an initiative dedicated to empowering Connecticut to make smart energy choices, now and in the future. We provide Connecticut consumers, businesses, and communities the resources and information they need to make it easy to save energy and build a clean energy future for everyone in the state. It is an initiative of the Connecticut Energy Efficiency Fund, the Connecticut Green Bank, the State, and your local electric and gas utilities. The initiative has funding support from a charge on customer energy bills.

About ENERGY STAR
ENERGY STAR is the government-backed symbol for energy efficiency, providing simple, credible, and unbiased information that consumers and businesses rely on to make well-informed decisions. Thousands of industrial, commercial, utility, state, and local organizations—including more than 40 percent of the Fortune 500®—rely on their partnership with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to deliver cost-saving energy efficiency solutions. Since 1992, ENERGY STAR and its partners helped American families and businesses avoid more than $500 billion in energy costs and achieve more than 4 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas reductions. More background information about ENERGY STAR’s impacts can be found at www.energystar.gov/impacts and state-level information can be found at www.energystar.gov/statefacts.

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17th Annual eesmarts™ Student Contest

Energize Connecticut℠ sponsors, Eversource and AVANGRID, Inc. subsidiaries United Illuminating, Southern Connecticut Gas and Connecticut Natural Gas, announced today that the 17th annual eesmarts Student Contest is now accepting student submissions until April 29, 2022. The contest is open to Connecticut students in grades K-12 and topics are focused on energy efficiency, renewable energy, and sustainability solutions.

“For almost two decades, the eesmarts Student Contest has encouraged Connecticut students to tap into their imagination and knowledge to come up with solutions to address real-world energy issues,” said Eversource Vice President of Energy Efficiency and Electric Mobility Tilak Subrahmanian, “Every year we’re impressed with the creative energy and thought the students put into their projects to address critical energy issues and emphasize the importance of energy efficiency and sustainability.”

“It is so inspiring to see students across our state roll up their sleeves to solve issues around energy conservation, renewable energy, and how we can support a clean energy transition that benefits everyone,” said Erik Robie, Director of Customer Programs & Products at AVANGRID. “Our students are our future, and I am so proud that every year more and more students are engaged in the eesmarts Student Contest and looking to make meaningful change in our community.”

Students in grades K-8 are assigned grade-specific topics and asked to submit their entries in the form of a poster (Grades K-2), narrative (Grade 3), letter to the principal (Grade 4), book review (Grade 5), persuasive speech (Grade 6), persuasive poem or cartoon (Grade 7), or public service announcement (Grade 8).

Students in Grades 9-11 are asked to propose a community-based project to address an energy-related issue. Students may work in groups of up to five members. The winning team’s school will receive funding to help make their proposed project a reality and must complete it by March 31, 2023.

Students competing in the Grade 12 category will create a persuasive image that advocates for an energy topic and showcases their knowledge of the subject. Options include painting a picture, creating a sculpture or collage, drawing a cartoon strip (12 cells or less) or making a video (:30 seconds; Windows® Media Player). Entries will be evaluated based on scientific accuracy and concise and convincing imagery.

Winners will receive a certificate and an Amazon gift card. Finalists in all categories and grade levels will be honored at a special virtual awards ceremony to be held in June 2022.
For more information about the contest, please visit www.eesmarts.com/contest.

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Connecticut Insurance Department Seeks Public Comment on Proposed Industry Bulletin on Guidance for Managing the Financial Risks of Climate Change


The Connecticut Insurance Department (CID) has opened a public comment period on a proposed bulletin which will provide guidance to insurers in how to manage the financial risks associated with climate change.
The proposed bulletin details the Department’s expectations for domestic insurers and their taking a strategic approach to managing climate risks that considers both current and future risks and identifies the actions necessary to manage those risks. To review the proposed bulletin and submit comments online, click here.
“The risks associated with climate change are significant. Insurers must adapt to these risks to ensure solvency. The Department plays a critical role in protecting consumers and will continue to work with insurers on climate change issues,” said Commissioner Andrew N. Mais. “I look forward to reviewing the public’s comments and suggestions on how best to manage the industry’s risk associated with climate change.”

The bulletin, once finalized, will be consistent with the objectives of Connecticut Public Act 21-2 and is based upon ongoing dialogue with the insurance industry over the past few years along with initiatives taken by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) and other state insurance regulators.

Once the comment period ends on May 23, 2022 and the public’s suggestions are reviewed, a final bulletin will be issued to all insurers licensed by the Department.
The bulletin would direct insurers to:
Integrate the consideration of climate risks into its governance structure at the group or insurer entity level. Incorporate climate risks into the insurer’s existing financial risk management. Appropriately disclose its climate risks and engage with the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures, the NAIC Climate Risk Disclosure Survey, and other initiatives when developing its disclosure approaches.
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$8 MILLION TO CONTINUE CONNECTICUT’S SUCCESSFUL SUMMER ENRICHMENT PROGRAM IN 2022

HARTFORD, CT) – Governor Ned Lamont and Connecticut Education Commissioner Charlene Russell-Tucker today announced that the Connecticut State Department of Education is dedicating $8 million of federal American Rescue Plan funding to continue the state’s highly successful Summer Enrichment Program in 2022.

Launched last year in response to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the grant program was created to help connect students during the summer months to high-quality enrichment opportunities, including at summer camps, childcare centers, and other similar programs, with a priority for those in towns and communities that were most disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. It is funded using a portion of the state’s share of the federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund.

“The pandemic has created a challenging situation for many students, and it is a priority of mine to ensure that Connecticut has opportunities during the summer months to keep students engaged between academic years,” Governor Lamont said. “I don’t want any student to fall behind because they did not have access to high-quality summer enrichment opportunities, and I am glad that we can continue this successful program into another year thanks to the sustained federal funding championed by Connecticut’s Congressional delegation.”

“I am pleased to announce a second round of funding for the 2022 Summer Enrichment Program,” Commissioner Russell-Tucker said. “The impact of fun, challenging, and enriching summer programming on student growth and development cannot be understated. Today, we are proud to dedicate these federal dollars toward an initiative with a proven record of expanding access to affordable, high-quality summer programs.”

Similar to 2021, a competitive grant application will be launched to award enrichment grants to eligible organizations to provide students and families with engaging summer enrichment and learning experiences. Applicants can apply for either one expansion grant (up to $75,000) or one innovation grant (between $75,000 and $250,000) per program site. Camps can use the funds to expand the number of students served, add additional supper services and activities, and subsidize enrollment costs by providing scholarships to families from low-income backgrounds.

Earlier this year, an independent evaluation of the 2021 program was released, which concluded that the initiative successfully connected more than 108,000 students with summertime enrichment opportunities.

Application materials and other information can be found online by visiting portal.ct.gov/SDE/COVID19/AccelerateCT/Summer-Enrichment.

A virtual information session will be held on Monday, April 25, 2022, at 11:00 a.m. for interested grant applicants. (To register, click here.) An on-demand video recording of the session will be published on the Summer Enrichment website shortly after its conclusion.

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GOVERNOR LAMONT SIGNS LEGISLATION EXPANDING ELIGIBILITY FOR ABSENTEE BALLOTS

(HARTFORD, CT) – Governor Ned Lamont today announced that he has signed legislation (Public Act 22-2) expanding two of the six statutory reasons under which voters in Connecticut can qualify for an absentee ballot during an election, primary, or referendum by allowing out-of-town commuters and caretakers of those who are ill or have a disability to vote by absentee ballot.

The legislation removes more restrictive language on these qualifications from state statutes and better aligns state laws with the standard that is set in the state constitution.

“This slight change better aligns our state laws with that allowed under the constitution,” Governor Lamont said. “We should be doing everything we can to encourage qualified voters to cast a ballot, and this is a responsible step forward in that direction.”

“It is important that we work together to ensure that any person who is eligible to vote can cast their vote,” Lt. Governor Susan Bysiewicz said. “Voting is one of our most important civic duties, and this minor expansion of our state’s laws is another positive step towards facilitating voter engagement for all Connecticut residents.”

“No voter should ever have to choose between protecting their health and exercising their right to vote,” Secretary of the State Denise Merrill said. “The COVID-19 crisis is still with us, and this legislation will ensure that voters will be able to cast their ballots and make their voices heard.”

“Our democracy simply works better when more people have a say on the future of their towns, state and country,” State Representative Dan Fox (D-Stamford), co-chair of the Government Administration and Elections Committee, said. “Just because someone has to commute in order to bring home a paycheck each week or spends time caring for a loved one who cannot take care of themselves should not prevent them from making their voice heard. These changes are small but important steps to ensuring all Connecticut residents have the opportunity to exercise this vital right.”

The legislation was approved in the House by a vote of 126 to 16 and in the Senate by a vote of 30 to 4. It takes effect immediately.

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ATTORNEY GENERAL TONG RELEASES GUIDANCE ON GAS TAX HOLIDAY COMPLAINTS

Attorney General William Tong today released consumer guidance on reporting suspected violations of the state gas tax holiday.

Starting today, April 1, and ending on June 30, 2022, the 25 cent state tax on gasoline is suspended under Special Act 22-2. The law requires that retailers reduce their price per-gallon by the amount of the excise tax, $0.25. Any gas station suspected of charging that tax, or a portion of that tax, during this gas tax holiday will be subject to investigation by the Office of the Attorney General pursuant to the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act. Acting in coordination with the Department of Consumer Protection, the Office of the Attorney General may file suit against retailers found to be in violation of this law and seek appropriate relief, including injunctive terms, restitution, and civil financial penalties designed to deter future unscrupulous sellers.

“Starting today, April 1, the 25-cent state tax on gasoline is suspended. Any retailer suspected of charging this tax or a portion of this tax will be investigated and subject to penalties under the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act,” said Attorney General Tong. “It’s important to remember that prices at the pump will continue to fluctuate along with changes in wholesale prices. Not every increase, or decrease, in gasoline prices is related to the $.25 tax or constitutes price gouging. Every complaint will be investigated and all facts will be assessed on a case-by-case basis. You can help our investigations by sharing as much detail as possible in your complaints, including receipts if possible. Please include in your complaints the address of the gas station, the date and time of your purchase, and the exact price you paid.”

Consumers are encouraged to file complaints online using the Office of the Attorney General complaint portal: https://www.dir.ct.gov/ag/complaint/This press release was made possible by:

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NEW LICENSE PLATE OPTIONS HONORING VETERANS WHO SERVED DURING SPECIFIC PERIODS OF WAR

Governor Ned Lamont announced that the Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles is now offering 10 new license plate options for veterans that commemorate specific wartime periods, including the Afghanistan War, Grenada, the Iraq War, the Korean War, Lebanon, Operation Ernest Will, Panama, the Persian Gulf War, the Vietnam War, and World War II. These plates are offered in addition to the standard Connecticut license plate for veterans and are available exclusively for veterans who served during these specific periods of war and those who received campaign medals.

“Expanding the license plate options offered to veterans is a wonderful opportunity to honor their service,” Governor Lamont said. “Not only will it enable our state to recognize those who served during specific periods of war, but it will also serve as a consistent reminder that Connecticut is home to many thousands of veterans who have admirably served our nation. I thank all of the veterans and advocates who worked with our administration to turn this idea into reality.”

“Our military members and veterans exemplify what it means to be an American, to feel great pride for our country, to honor it, to and to work to continue to keep our great nation safe and prosperous,” Lt. Governor Susan Bysiewicz said. “We will never have the right words to fully express the gratitude we feel for their service and dedication to our country. These license plates are only a small token of our appreciation for our veterans, serving as a great way to honor them and to recognize them for their service.”

“We owe our freedoms to the men and women in the U.S. Armed Forces, past and present, especially those who have served in war and conflict zones,” Connecticut Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner Thomas Saadi said. “These new veterans license plates recognize that service and sacrifice by Connecticut veterans in wars and conflict zones from the Second World War II to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. My thanks to Representative Dorinda Borer for introducing this idea, which is now law, and thanks to the Department of Motor Vehicles leadership and staff for the great collaboration with Department of Veterans Affairs in making these license plates a reality for our veterans.”

“Bringing this idea to life was a true collaboration between the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Motor Vehicles,” Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles Commissioner Sibongile Magubane said. “Commissioner Saadi and his team were instrumental in helping the DMV to establish a process for validating information as it pertains to each war and conflict. Thank you, Department of Veterans Affairs, and to all veterans who have defended our freedom.”

“We would not be here today if it weren’t for our veterans. Thank you for your dedication and service,” Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles Deputy Commissioner Tony Guerrera said. “Thank you to the Department of Veterans Affairs and to Representative Dorinda Borer for advocating for Connecticut veterans.”

“We have a rich history of veteran sacrifice here in Connecticut,” State Representative Dorinda Borer (D-West Haven) said. “The designation of a war period license plate is a special way to provide our veterans with the recognition and appreciation that they so greatly deserve. I’d like to thank David Ricci, a West Haven Vietnam veteran who originally brought this request to my attention, secured hundreds of signatures from interested veterans to help draft the bill, and who strongly advocated for its passage. This bill passed with strong bipartisan support by my colleagues and I could not be more excited to see all our veterans drive with pride.”

“It seemed that there were already a number of specialty plates in Connecticut and that a specific war veteran plate would be a great way to recognize veterans,” David Ricci, president of West Haven Vietnam Veterans, Inc. and the West Haven Veterans Council, said. “Dorinda drafted the bill to include several wars, which I thought was a fantastic idea. Her determination and hard work on this bill resulted in the bill being passed by the General Assembly. I’m sure that this will be much appreciated by all Connecticut war veterans.”

The license plates are available for passenger, commercial, combination, camper, and camp trailer types, and cost $27.50. Veterans can request a new veteran plate by completing the Special Plate Application Form on the DMV’s website at portal.ct.gov/DMV-War-Vet-Plate.

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GOVERNOR LAMONT APPOINTS CLAIRE COLEMAN AS CONSUMER COUNSEL

Governor Ned Lamont announced that he is nominating Claire Coleman of Woodbridge to serve as consumer counsel for the State of Connecticut. In the position, which is a five-year term, Coleman will lead the Office of Consumer Counsel in its mission of advocating on behalf of Connecticut consumers on issues relating to electricity, natural gas, telecommunications, and water.

The office is an independent state agency authorized to participate on behalf of consumer interests in all administrative and judicial forums and in any matters in which the interests of consumers with respect to public utility matters may be involved.

“Claire’s expertise in energy law, investigations, and regulatory reform makes her a great fit to effectively advocate for the interests of all customers of electricity, gas, water, telephone, and cable services,” Governor Lamont said. “Above all, I am confident that she will be a staunch advocate on behalf of Connecticut’s utility consumers and effectively represent their interests before regulators, courts, and the legislature. At this critical time, when energy commodity prices are spiking globally due to the pandemic, we need a consumer counsel who will fight for affordable utility service for Connecticut residents and businesses. Claire is a brilliant, strong, and dedicated advocate who will work hard every day for consumers. I also want to express my appreciation for Rich Sobolewski, who has served as the acting consumer counsel for the past two years, and whose leadership has allowed the office to provide strong representation for the interests of Connecticut’s utility customers.”

“I thank Governor Lamont for giving me the opportunity to serve as the voice of consumers during this critical juncture of modernizing our electric grid and telecommunication networks,” Coleman said. “I am looking forward to joining the Office of Consumer Counsel and advocating on behalf of Connecticut consumers by working with state leaders, regulators, and stakeholders on innovative, equitable, and inclusive solutions that will improve the affordability, sustainability, and performance of our energy, water, and telecommunications utility infrastructure to the benefit of all consumers.”

Coleman is currently the undersecretary for legal affairs at the Connecticut Office of Policy and Management (OPM), where she has served since April 2019 providing legal and policy advice related to the formulation and implementation of the budget and public policy for the state. In this role, the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities recently honored her as a Municipal Champion for her work on emergency COVID-19 pandemic executive orders that supported the efforts of local governments to respond to and govern during the pandemic.

Coleman previously worked as an energy attorney at Save the Sound (formerly Connecticut Fund for the Environment), and as counsel to the U.S. House of Representatives Oversight and Government Reform Committee, where she conducted investigations into both private business practices and government programs and regulations, and prepared members of Congress for hearings on many areas of government policy and practice. She also worked as a litigation associate at Wiggin and Dana LLP in New Haven and Sullivan and Cromwell LLP in New York, and served as law clerk to the Honorable Ellen Bree Burns, United States District Judge for the District of Connecticut.

She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in government from Cornell University, and a Juris Doctor from the Northwestern University School of Law.

Coleman will begin serving in the role on an interim basis beginning December 3. Her nomination for permanent confirmation will be forwarded to the Connecticut General Assembly for its consideration when the next regular legislative session begins in February.

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