Connecticut's Property Transfer Program exemplifies burdensome, confusing, and expensive policies that must be revised or removed, business leaders told state legislative leaders Feb. 15.
The chairs of the Environment Committee, Sen. Christine Cohen (D-Guilford) and Rep. Mike Demicco (D-Farmington) attended with Energy and Technology Committee chairs Sen. Norm Needleman (D-Essex) and Rep. David Arconti (D-Danbury), and ranking member Sen. Paul Formica (R-Niantic).
One of the first issues discussed was the Connecticut Transfer Act, which places onerous restrictions on the transfer of certain properties, even where no pollution may be present.
Adopted more than 20 years ago, it requires parties in the transfer of affected properties to assign responsibilities among them for investigating the site's environmental condition, and financial responsibilities for cleaning up any contamination.
While the concept is sound, the act's implementation has been a nightmare for many business and property owners throughout the state.
The act also requires forms to be filed with the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, which determines if the property is clean or requires remediation or monitoring by DEEP or a licensed environmental professional.
The problem, business leaders said, is that definitions in the act pertaining to what properties are affected and what constitutes a "transfer" are confusing, legally complex, and impractical with respect to how real estate transactions occur.
And worst of all, once a parcel falls under the Transfer Act, it's often extremely costly and nearly impossible to comply and and resolve.
Debra DeFelice of Ulbrich Steel of Wallingford said the company spent $500,000 over 15 years to test and retest a nearby parcel of land it acquired because it contained a small amount of ash.
"It bogs down businesses from being able to grow and it saps resources," said Frank DiChristina of Allnex, which is still under stipulations from a Transfer Act sale 26 years ago.
CBIA's Eric Brown said dealing with a Transfer Act property can be more difficult from a regulatory perspective than a brownfield.
"I've spoken with a lot of local business owners with similar feelings," Cohen said.
"Obviously, we need to take a look at it," Demicco added.
Lawmakers said they appreciate the opportunity to hear from the business community on energy and environmental policy concerns.
The Transfer Act bogs down businesses from being able to grow and it saps resources.
Brown said one frustration is when lawmakers pass a bill intended to create change at DEEP, yet the change may take years, if it happens at all.
"We've seen examples in recent years of this on the topics of adopting regulations defining what spills need to be reported to DEEP, and also regarding the updating of hazardous waste regulations," Brown said.
Dave Weinberg, safety and environmental manager at Windsor-based Stanadyne, and others expressed frustration over the legislative process.
Unlike most other environmental and energy organizations, CBIA is a registered lobbying organization and therefore can work directly with lawmakers to craft legislation.
"We put a lot of energy into certain bills and they often don’t come up for final action until the last days of the legislative session, when nothing gets done because the focus is often on last-minute efforts to pass a state budget," Weinberg said.
"What can we do to help to help you get a bill out of committee earlier so it can get voted on in March?"
"You're doing it right now," Demicco responded. "Leadership on the House side has encouraged us to get our bills out earlier.
"You need to keep up the pressure. The squeaky wheel gets the grease."
Small Business Owners
Brown noted that three of the legislators at the meeting—Cohen, Needleman, and Formica—are small business owners.
"It's good to have leadership on these committees with small business experience," he said.
He also acknowledged lawmakers' support in not repealing a 2017 law, which takes effect this year, requiring certain energy bills be analyzed for the potential impact to electric ratepayers before legislative votes.
You need to keep up the pressure. The squeaky wheel gets the grease.
Wojciech Krach of Kaman Corp. noted the many different codes and regulations governing waste in Connecticut.
"When I visit other states, I'm enviable of their flexibility on nonhazardous waste," Krach said.
The waste coming from a typical household is far more hazardous than waste coming from industry, he said, yet the household waste is incinerated and industry must take costlier steps to remove its waste.
"If we have to take nonhazardous waste to Massachusetts, that's a significant cost to businesses here in Connecticut," Krach said.
Although it's early in the legislative session, lawmakers said waste management would be among their focus areas.
"Every business owner in the state should be thinking, 'How do we improve our options and minimize waste?'" Needleman said.
"How do we ensure that regulations are not onerous? Every business, every individual, has an obligation to do that."