Connecticut is long overdue for what the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection calls a “21st century regulatory model”—one that abandons outdated processes and focuses on incentives for businesses.

That was the overarching message DEEP Commissioner Dan Esty [pictured, above] delivered to more than 200 business leaders at CBIA’s 2013 Energy & Environmental Conference June 19 in Waterbury.

“One of the stories that wasn’t told [during the 2013 Connecticut General Assembly session], ”he noted, “was the great bipartisanship in the legislative and executive committees…partnerships we saw in constructively developing an [environmental and energy] agenda” and “a platform of legislative accomplishments that we have to build on.”

This spirit of cooperation, he says, “presents a model for how we are going to do business in a time of limited budgets."

“We are grateful to CBIA, who really sat with us, hour after hour, day after day, helping us sharpen provisions and reconcile controversial aspects of legislation,” he said, offering examples pertaining to brownfields liability rule changes aimed at getting private-sector capital flowing and putting contaminated properties back into productive use.

Acknowledging that progress in some areas of regulatory reform has been “slower than we would like,” Esty pointed out his agency’s early success in revamping the permitting system, “mapping out the current process and re-engineering it so that it’s faster, lighter, more efficient, and more economical,” “stripping out many duplicative and unnecessary laws” and “getting these off the books.”

He cited DEEP’s new streamflow regulations and a pilot return-to-compliance process for small businesses (rolling out this week) that waives penalties for first-time violators of RCRA. He also pledged to continue leaning processes and “focus limited DEEP staff and resources on areas of highest risk.”

On the Energy Horizon

In his keynote address, Esty also summarized DEEP’s near-term energy priorities for the state, which include:

  • Lower, more stable energy costs
  • Resiliency, in particular with microgrids
  • Multimodal mobility, including the development of walkable, bikable communities
  • Expanding the framework of electric vehicle (EV) charging stations, creating a baseline infrastructure that eliminates consumers’ “range anxiety,” or concerns about a lack of charging stations.
  •  Minimizing the impact of power outages
  • Scaling up Canadian hydropower, which Esty said “presents an extraordinary opportunity for New England to obtain cheaper, cleaner, more reliable energy”
  • Low-cost loans, longer payback periods, and green banks to attract capital for business projects involving clean energy and energy efficiency
  • Increased access to natural gas to a potential 300,000 customers

2013 Accomplishments, Setbacks

In a luncheon panel discussion, key legislators on the state’s Energy & Technology and Environmental committees identified accomplishments, disappointments, and unfinished business of the 2013 General Assembly session.

The panel featured Sen. Edward Meyer (D-Madison), chair of the Environment Committee, Sen. Bob Duff (D-Norwalk), chair of the Energy & Technology Committee, Sen. Clark Chapin (R-New Milford), ranking member of both committees, and Rep. Laura Hoydick (R-Stratford), ranking member of both committees.

By and large, the four lawmakers characterized their committees’ decisions as products of bipartisan negotiation, compromise, and positive communication—citing examples such as their work on Connecticut’s Comprehensive Energy Strategy and Renewable Portfolio Standards.

They also commended CBIA for its “very strong presence at the Capitol” and for sharing with policymakers “information that is important to the business community.”

Disappointments, said Hoydick, included last-minute budget negotiations that reduced funding for energy efficiency and clean energy--though the impact was less than expected.

In a session dominated mostly by energy issues this year, the legislators expect next year will focus more on brownfields and investments in technology.