Environment Committee Passes Anti-Business Bills
Measures mean more brownfields, harsher enforcement authority, higher fees
In two voting sessions this week, the legislature’s Environment Committee finished work on its bills for 2013. While the business community was able to blunt some harmful measures, others that will cost businesses and harm brownfield and economic development did pass.
Probably the most damaging measure is a DEEP proposal (SB 1082) to radically change the state’s “significant environmental hazard” statute. Current law is designed to ensure that the discovery of environmental conditions creating an imminent risk to human health or the environment is reported to DEEP and addressed.
Under SB 1082, DEEP would transform this into an historic spill reporting program that will stigmatize hundreds or thousands of properties that have some contamination but are not necessarily creating imminent risks.
As a result, the bill would create a massive amount of new brownfields in Connecticut, and choke the ability to develop them and other contaminated properties into clean, productive economic sites. Against the advice of brownfield experts, municipalities, the business community and others who testified at the hearing on the bill, the majority of committee members approved the bill (see below for vote count).
Also of great concern to businesses is a section contained in SB 1019 that increases the authority of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) to refer enforcement cases to the state’s attorney general.
This so-called “Kreskin Proposal” allows DEEP to subject companies with any alleged violation, no matter how minor, to the punitive lengthy and expensive process of dealing with the attorney general’s office. But it also gives the DEEP commissioner the extraordinary power to refer individuals and companies if, “in the commissioner’s judgment,” he believes a violation of environmental law or regulation is about to occur.
Another bill, HB 6536 creates an annual fee on businesses that operate under general permits issued by DEEP. The measure increases the cost of each permit by 80% over the typical five-year term, and adds another yearly administrative burden on businesses–and DEEP.
CBIA asked the committee to change the bill to make any fee increase more modest and in the form of a one-time payment at the time the general permit is issued or renewed. Committee leadership said that while the bill was approved as proposed by DEEP, HB 6536 will be changed later, in the Senate.
HB 6653 would have gutted a piece of the major regulatory reform package lawmakers passed in 2010. The DEEP proposal focused on eliminating a provision of the law that promotes performance-based permitting and exempts certain categories of discharges from having to submit detailed plans on how the facility intends to meet discharge standards.
The committee, which was instrumental in passing the 2010 reforms, rejected DEEPs proposal and instead adjusted the date by which the agency must adopt regulations implementing performance-based permitting to 2015.
Unfortunately, a beneficial Commerce Committee bill that would have provided a penalty waiver for first-time minor violations (SB 759), died in the committee based on concerns raised by the committee’s legal counsel.
For more information, contact CBIA’s Eric Brown at 860.244.1926 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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