TO: Department of Public Utility Control
FROM: Heidi Green, President, 1000 Friends of Connecticut
REFERENCE: Docket 08-07-04, United Illuminating Company’s request to increase rates and fees
DATE: May 8, 2009
1000 Friends of Connecticut is the state’s preeminent smart growth organization. Through research, citizen education and policy advocacy, we are working to change the template for how Connecticut grows. We work to strengthen and direct new development towards communities where infrastructure is already in place in order to reduce sprawl and related environmental damage, revitalize urban centers, and maximize taxpayers’ investments. I write today to encourage you to reject the United Illuminating Company’s request for a rate increase to move its corporate headquarters from downtown New Haven to out-lying Orange.
The proposed move violates all tenets of smart growth and all we know about environmentally- and economically-sustainable development. The utility proposes to move from a vibrant, transit-oriented urban center to a low-density, single-use, auto-dependent, suburban strip. It also proposes to consume active farmland in the process.
Connecticut loses between 7 and 9,000 acres of farmland a year and has made preservation of farmland a key priority for state action. The state’s official goal is to permanently preserve 130,000 acres of farmland. Because the state is far off the pace to meet that goal, the DPUC should honor it and do its part to protect farmland resources, even in areas zoned for commercial development.
This proposal violates the Connecticut Plan of Conservation and Development, the Connecticut Climate Action Plan, farmland protection goals, and regional economic development goals. We urge the Department of Public Utility Control to reject the request and suggest the United Illuminating Company find a transit-rich, urban site instead.
Healthy cities are critical to a competitive, sustainable future for our state. Healthy cities provide a robust mix of housing, jobs, transit and amenities that attract new residents and entrepreneurial thinking. Compact, walkable, transit-accessible places like downtown New Haven or Bridgeport combat climate change by reducing residents’ and employees’ greenhouse gas emissions. Every mile we drive, we produce 20 pounds of carbon dioxide. People who live and work in areas where transit is a safe, convenient option drive 7 fewer miles every day than those who live and work in auto-dependent locales like Marsh Hill Road in Orange.
The public health impacts of where and how we develop are substantial as well. People who live and work in walkable, mixed use environments have lower obesity rates, lower rates of diabetes, and a reduced incidence of certain cancers. They also tend to be more socially connected and suffer from less depression.
Connecticut’s competitiveness rides on the health of its cities. Our cities house tremendous cultural, educational and medical assets. And they are the seats of identity for our regions. Our major utilities should be headquartered in our cities. The State’s comprehensive plan makes state agency investment in our cities a priority. The DPUC should as well. Do not force ratepayers to foot the bill and enable the United Illuminating Company to abandon New Haven.
For more information about the relative merits and cost-savings for urban reinvestment over suburban sprawl, please contact me anytime.
Thank you for the opportunity to comment.