Eugene A. Guilford, Jr., the executive director of the Independent Connecticut Petroleum Association, noted the following in announcing a voluntary agreement between ICPA and the Connecticut office of the attorney general. The ICPA stated that at no time did it engage in a boycott of the Connecticut Energy Assistance Program. ICPA has voluntarily agreed to not engage in anticompetitive activities because, as the association noted, it does not engage in anticompetitive activities. DSS has maintained publicly that no consumer went without service under CEAP.
Five years ago, after 11 years without change in the state’s reimbursement to local retailers, ICPA went to DSS and asked that consideration be given to several reforms in the CEAP program. Among these changes was an update to the MOR reimbursement—reimbursing dealers more quickly than 45-60 days after delivery and harmonizing all CAA rules regarding reimbursements so dealers didn’t have to deal with numerous different sets of rules. DSS told ICPA that all dealers were in the program, and so changes didn’t appear to be necessary. ICPA informed its members of DSS’ reaction.
Under the leadership of Deputy DSS Commissioner Claudette Beaulieau, DSS subsequently did make changes in harmonizing rules among CAAs, encouraged faster reimbursements and overtime increased the MOR reimbursement. In 2005 a Low Income Energy Assistance Advisory Board was established by statute, giving all stakeholders a role in shaping future CEAP plans with OPM and DSS.
Commissioner Wilson-Cocker left DSS and was replaced by Michael P. Starkowski in 2007. ICPA stated that the relationship soured under the new commissioner.
In 2007 ICAP made several legislative changes to CEAP in the Energy Bill that passed the legislature. DSS bypassed the Low Income Energy Assistance Advisory Board with its plan, delivered late and directly to the legislature, that lacked many of the agreed upon changes.
ICPA informed its members that ICPA staff would not participate in meetings concerning this program as—somewhere between OPM and DSS—the state chose to ignore law changes and, as ICPA states, lied about their promise to treat this year’s program as though the law changes had passed intact. Even with the law change that was still in the statute, the requirement that all deliverable fuels be treated the same, the state failed to do that as only heating oil and kerosene are subject to the MOR—no other deliverable fuels are and all other deliverable fuels receive full reimbursement for their sales. The DSS spokesperson chose to regard ICPA’s response as a boycott of the program and has an e-mail from DSS admitting to the unfounded accusation.
ICPA states that at no time did it suggest or recommend to anyone that they should not participate in the CEAP. ICPA attended every DSS briefing and informed its members of what DSS said, including that it was a voluntary program, dealers could take it or leave it, and that if enough dealers complained DSS could consider changes. ICPA also encouraged its members to communicate to DSS directly about all the things DSS should do to reform the program.
On October 31, 2007 ICPA joined with CAFCA to publicly recommend that the CEAP plan be withdrawn and sent back to the Low Income Energy Assistance Advisory Board for further reforms in concert with the statute. Commissioner Stankowski strongly rebuked CACFA for joining with ICPA. ICPA further recognized that the state had appropriated no funds of its own for CEAP, and that the federal government – on the day before the Nov. 1, 2007, start of the program -- had not passed the FY08 Department of Health and Human Services appropriation that contained FY08 federal LIHEAP funding that is necessary for Connecticut to pay fuel vendors who had been delivering fuel since the Nov. 1 start date.
ICPA continued to lobby Congress for more LIHEAP funding, and in conjunction with the 2007 state Energy legislation, became a partner of Operation Fuel to raise funds to assist the needy with paying their energy bills, and encouraged the state on Oct. 31, 2007, to appropriate state funds in order to prevent a shortfall in funds necessary to pay vendors given the latest of the passage of the federal appropriation.
ICPA and its national partners succeeded in securing the passage of a doubling of federal LIHEAP funding for the 2008/09 heating season exceeding $5 billion.