Despite Wide Opposition, DEEP Still Backing Bill that Would Hurt Brownfield, Economic Development
Despite clear and repeated objections from municipalities, business leaders, brownfield developers and environmental professionals, the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) continues to push measures that will significantly hinder environmental investigation, cleanup, and redevelopment in Connecticut. Most ironic, the proposals will expand Connecticut’s already long list of economically dormant and environmentally degraded brownfield sites.
SB 1082 contains positive measures to advance the state’s goal of brownfield cleanup and redevelopment, but it also includes proposals (in Sections 2 and 3) that will greatly undermine those efforts.
Specifically, sections 2 and 3 of SB 1082 change the state’s current Significant Environmental Hazard program—designed to ensure that imminent environmental risks are promptly reported and addressed—into a much broader historic contamination reporting and cleanup program.
Here are some of the reasons so many are opposing Sections 2 and 3 of this bill:
- Worsens the Problem: Many more properties (not even DEEP knows how many more, but it could be from dozens to hundreds) will be brought into the state’s currently complex and inefficient pollution response programs–programs now undergoing a legislature-mandated, two-year streamlining effort.
- Goes the Wrong Way: Numerous experts testified at the public hearing that these sections will increase the number of brownfields in Connecticut—the exact opposite effect of hat the legislature intended when it directed DEEP to streamline its cleanup programs.
- Creates Confusion: Even before its possible passage, the bill is creating great uncertainty in the marketplace about whether specific properties will be stigmatized and subject to new requirements in two years.
- Stops Progress: These sections will create a disincentive to investigate potentially contaminated sites because of the possible implications – thereby stifling development transactions including those involving financing (which require environmental investigation).
- Maybe Unnecessary: As DEEP moves to a “release-based” reporting and cleanup system (different from the current system that’s triggered at the time of a transaction), there may no longer be a need for the statutes Sections 2 and 3 are seeking to change because they may be addressed through regulations currently under development.
- Why Now?DEEP hasn’t explained why these measures need to be adopted now, before the comprehensive transformation that will occur over the next year, and especially in light of the fact that the bill’s implementation date is 2015.
CBIA is encouraging legislators, including those on the Commerce and Planning and Development committees, which are likely to review the bill, to make sure that Sections 2 and 3 of SB 1082, directly impacting the ability of municipalities to take advantage of positive brownfield liability reform contained in Section 1 of the bill, do not move forward in this legislative session.
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