Attorney General: Pamela B. Katz, P.E., Chairman, State of Connecticut Siting Council, Formal Opinion 2006-011, Attorney General State of Connecticut

Attorney General's Opinion

Attorney General, Richard Blumenthal

May 4, 2006

Pamela B. Katz, P.E.
Chairman
State of Connecticut Siting Council
Ten Franklin Square
New Britain, Connecticut 06051

Dear Chairman Katz:

You have requested an opinion on whether the one million dollar annual cap on assessments by the Connecticut Siting Council (“Council”) contained in Conn. Gen. Stat. § 16-50v (b)(1)  is a cap on assessments on individual energy companies or a cap on total assessments on the energy industry as a whole.  This subsection states:

Before December thirty-first of each year, the council shall review the anticipated amount of expenses attributable to energy facilities for the next fiscal year, excluding expenses under subsection (c), (d), (e), (g) or (h) of this section at a public meeting, notice of which shall be given to each person subject to assessment under this subsection, and at which interested persons shall be heard.  After the meeting, the council shall determine the anticipated amount of such expenses and submit its determination to the joint standing committee of the General Assembly having cognizance of appropriations and the budgets of state agencies.  After the committee completes its review, the council shall apportion and assess the anticipated amount of expenses among those persons having gross revenue from the sale of electric power at retail in the state in excess of one hundred thousand dollars during the preceding calendar year, in the proportion which the gross revenue of each person bears to the aggregate gross revenues of all such persons.  Each such person shall pay the assessment in three equal installments on or before July thirty-first, October thirty-first, and January thirty-first of the fiscal year.  During the fiscal year the council may further apportion and assess the additional amount of such expenses as could not reasonably have been anticipated prior to the fiscal year, apportioned in the same manner after notice and hearing in the same manner.  The total of such assessments for any fiscal year shall not exceed one million dollars.  No proceeds from any assessment under this subsection may be used by the council after June 30, 1984, for any proceeding concerning hazardous waste facilities. 

 

Conn. Gen. Stat. § 16-50v (b)(1) (emphasis added).1

 

In construing a statute, we make "a reasoned search for the intention of the legislature…[w]e look to the words of the statute itself, to the legislative history and the circumstances surrounding its enactment, to the legislative policy it was designed to implement, and to its relationship to existing legislation and common law principles governing the same general subject matter."  State v. Courchesne, 262 Conn. 537, 577 (2003).  "The meaning of a statute shall, in the first instance, be ascertained from the text of the statute itself and its relationship to other statutes. If, after examining such text and considering such relationship the meaning of such text is plain and unambiguous and does not yield absurd or unworkable results extra textual evidence of the meaning of the statute shall not be considered."  Conn. Gen. Stat. §  1-2z.

 

According to the plain language of  Conn. Gen. Stat. §  16-50v(b)(1), the legislature placed a cap of one million dollars on the assessments the Council could make under that statute in any fiscal year.  "The total of such assessments for any fiscal year shall not exceed one million dollars."  (emphasis added) The word “total” is defined as “Whole, not divided, lacking no part, entire, full, complete, the whole amount.  Utter, absolute.”  Black’s Law Dictionary, Fifth Edition. The language of the statute is plain and unambiguous:  The Council may only assess a total of one million dollars under section 16-50v(b)(1) in any fiscal year.  That total amount applies to the total of all assessments on the energy industry as a whole in each fiscal year.  This interpretation is bolstered by a review of the statute's legislative history. 

The language contained in Conn. Gen. Stat. §  16-50v (b)(1) first appeared in Public Act No. 77-276.2 Originally, the cap was set at $200,000.  Subsequent legislation gradually raised the cap up to the current level of $1 million.  On April 11, 1977, Professor Colin Tait, a member of the Council, testified before the Regulated Activities and Energy Committee of the General Assembly, stating that the Council’s funding was from applications from power companies, and that:

We have had eleven applications to date, 10 from Northeast Utilities and I think one from United Illuminating, and that has been our source of revenue.

 

We have been in business for about five or six years and we feel that that method of financing is probably not fair to the utility.

 

There are functions in terms of housekeeping functions, that don’t depend upon a particular application and then expenses generated by particular applications to a particular line.  There are housekeeping functions such as telephone, postage, secretarial services.

                                                                   . . .

Our bill proposes to put out to – to have two ways of financing; one would be our housekeeping finances would be done by a general assessment to all utilities generating electricity in the State, based upon their gross revenue.  These are salaries, postage and this sort of item.  The rest of our budget if you identify in reply to particular applications for a transmission line here or a transmission line there.

 

Joint Standing Committee Hearings, Regulated Activities, 1977 Session, pp. 618-619.

During the debate in the House of Representatives, Representative Allyn asked the bill’s proponent, Representative Balducci, whether there was a cap:

 

MR. ALLYN (43rd):

Is there any cap on the amount of money that this agency can spend in one year in proportion to the utilities?

 

MR. BALDUCCI (27th):

Yes, Mr. Speaker, through you, there is a cap and that’s two hundred thousand dollars.  But now that’s a cap.  They can be anything up to that, whatever is necessary.

 

20 H.R. Proc., Pt. 8, 1977 Session, p. 3248.

 

The legislative history clearly indicates that the agency may only spend assessments under Conn. Gen. Stat. § 16-50v(b)(1) totaling one million dollars in any fiscal year.  This one million dollar spending cap, therefore, limits to one million dollars all assessments made and collected by the Council from the industry as a whole.

 

  The language of the statute, the testimony before the Regulated Activities and Energy Committee, and the discussion on the floor of the House of Representatives are consistent.  The cap applies to assessments on the industry as a whole, not to each individual company.

Please advise me if any further clarification is required.

Very truly yours,


RICHARD BLUMENTHAL




1 In addition to the assessments set forth in Section 16-50(v)(b)(1), the Council may charge companies for expenses associated with applications filed with the Council.  The one million dollar cap established by section 16-50v(b)(1) does not include “expenses under subsection (c), (d), (e), (g) or (h)” of Conn. Gen. Stat. § 16-50v.  Subsection (c) of Conn. Gen. Stat. §  16-50v refers to applications “for a certificate for a facility described in subdivisions (1) to (4), inclusive, of subsection (a) of section 16-50i”.  These include applications for electric transmission lines, fuel transmission facilities, electric generating or storage facilities, and electric substations and switchyards.  Under Conn. Gen. Stat. §  16-50v (c), the applicant for these facilities may be assessed to meet the expenses of the Council in processing the application.

2 Substitute Senate Bill 1677, “AN ACT CONCERNING FEES AND ASSESSMENTS IMPOSED BY THE POWER FACILITY EVALUATION COUNCIL TO MEET EXPENSES OF ADMINISTRATION.”  The agency was then called the Power Facility Evaluation Council, and instead of a December 31st deadline, the Council had a June 30th deadline.

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