With the help of the business community—through CBIA’s Environmental Policies Council and other association members—several environmental bills that would have harmed Connecticut’s business climate were stopped before coming to a vote in the legislature this year.

Principal among these were two Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) initiatives:

  • SB-871 would have authorized the DEP to unilaterally impose stiff criminal penalties and fines of up to $100,000 for certain violations. It set a very low criminal threshold, in that alleged offenders could be charged even if they were unaware that they were violating a law.
  • SB-1106 was a shock from the DEP because it had not been discussed with any stakeholder prior to its release just before a public hearing in February. The bill proposed aggressive and substantial changes to the state’s cleanup and spill-reporting programs. Any current or historic spill would have triggered the need to hire a licensed environmental professional to clean up the spill to state remediation standards.

Finally, SB-1019, a bill that would have required the inclusion of biofuels in the state’s diesel fuel supplies, was defeated primarily due to cost and reliability concerns.

On a positive note, measures promoting beneficial reuse of certain waste materials as an alternative to expensive disposal (SB-995), streamlining the development of mill properties (SB-271), and facilitating the development of a workable green building code for Connecticut (HB-6284) all passed.

A Commerce Committee bill (HB-6097) designed to promote redevelopment of more brownfield properties also passed. The bill provides important new liability relief for municipally owned brownfields and certain other sites transferred to a developer for cleanup and revitalization. It also limits cleanups at these sites to the contamination on the property itself. Under the program, off-site contamination would not have to be investigated or remediated by the municipality or developer.

Smart growth
Following a lengthy stakeholder process throughout most of 2008, the state’s “Smart Growth Working Group” offered many proposals intended to encourage redevelopment along existing infrastructure corridors, reduce local reliance on property taxes and address concerns about sprawl. Several CBIA staff members served on subcommittees of the working group, covering tax policy, land use and economic development.

Two major bills ultimately were adopted this year. HB-6467 defines “smart growth” and “smart-growth principles” and establishes a commission to help the state implement these principles into state policies and projects. HB-6585 promotes regionalism by providing municipalities with incentives to enter into formal agreements for the sharing of services such as education and health care. These agreements could result in greater efficiency, lower costs and potentially some property tax relief.

For more information, contact CBIA’s Eric Brown at 860-244-1926 or eric.brown@cbia.com.