Efficient Session for Energy and Environment
Efficiency is a word not usually associated with the legislative process, but during Tuesday’s one-day special session, lawmakers approved a major environmental measure and several key energy proposals that failed to survive this year’s regular session.
Storage tank fund
Nearly 50 pages of the special session’s HB 6001 address critical problems with the state’s Underground Storage Tank Cleanup Fund.
The purpose of the fund is to satisfy a federal “financial assurance” requirement that businesses with regulated underground storage tanks have access to resources to pay for cleanups when needed.
But because Connecticut’s fund is so inefficient and underfunded, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) told the state earlier this year that it must fix it or the agency will decertify it.
If that happens, businesses would be forced to obtain extremely expensive private pollution liability insurance that might even be unavailable to sites where contamination has already occurred.
At risk are hundreds of gasoline stations in the state and their jobs.
In sections 252-264 of HB 6001, the fund is eliminated after $36 million is dispersed to pay for outstanding claims. That’s good, but it falls far short– there are currently about $100 million in cleanup claims that have been approved by the Fund or submitted to it for review and approval.
Most available dollars will be focused on helping small businesses, with smaller portions to be used for midsize and large facilities.
It’s unclear how EPA will view the proposal but it’s likely that agency will, at least in the short-term, delay any action to withdraw its approval of the fund.
Other environmental measures include a shifting of the cost for air testing at resource-recovery facilities from the state to the owner of the facility (section 251) and another provision requiring the Department of Economic and Community Development to prepare a plan for the support and promotion of industries that use, process or transport recycled materials.
A variety of energy measures found their way into the special session via SB 501. Among the more significant measures was the creation of a new program to promote energy efficiency investments at commercial and industrial facilities.
Under this commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program,the Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority (CEFIA) can provide financing to qualified commercial and industrial businesses in participating municipalities to cover the up-front costs for energy improvements.
The municipality will then levy a benefit assessment through the business’s property tax bill, which the business would pay with a portion of the energy savings it realizes from the energy improvements.
Other significant energy measures include a one-year suspension of the existing $500,000 cap on the amount of ratepayer funds that can be used to subsidize energy efficiency audits at homes not heated with electricity or natural gas. It also restructures the fees customers must pay for such audits from the current $75 flat fee to a scaled fee not to exceed $99.
The bill also gives CEFIA the authority to issue a variety of bonds to assist in accomplishing its mission of promoting renewable energy and financing energy efficiency projects.
The bill inserts CEFIA into the statutory definition of a “Quasi-Public Agency” for purposes of ethics rules and financial transparency. It refines the definition of “clean energy” to clarify that CEFIA may support and promote any type of Class I renewable energy source, and it increases the maximum output capacity for combined heat and power projects eligible for the state’s pilot program to promote such units, from 2 megawatts to 5 megawatts.
For more information, contact CBIA’s Eric Brown at 860.244.1926 or email@example.com.
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