Hearing Set on Major Brownfield Reform Bill

03.04.2011
Issues & Policies

After months of work by a variety of key groups seeking to spur more brownfield redevelopment in Connecticut —including the State Brownfield Task Force and the Governor’s Environment Transition Team–a major proposal (HB 6526) will be the subject of a public hearing in the Commerce Committee on Tuesday, March 8, at the Legislative Office Building. 

Committee co-chair Jeffrey Berger (D-Waterbury) is again leading the effort to promote brownfield redevelopment and is encouraging all interested stakeholders to provide constructive comments at the hearing.

Includes positive measures but needs important fix

Creating incentives for brownfield investment is a goal broadly supported by municipalities, environmental advocates, labor and the business community. HB 6526 would provide liability relief and other incentives to the development community to encourage investment in remediating these highly risky sites. It would also provide a more competitive option to placing new development in “unspoiled” greenfields.  

The challenge is that the proposal’s benefits are currently being limited in a way that could severely undercut its ultimate success. 

Most significantly, the bill saddles prospective investors with eligibility requirements in which the Department of Economic and Community Development would determine, through a subjective process, which sites can take advantage of the program. 

Developers say this subjectivity and uncertainty would continue to put Connecticut at a disadvantage compared with other states that have no such “review and approval” process. 

Many of the eligibility requirements are also tied to receiving financial assistance from the state for brownfield development projects.  CBIA and many stakeholders agree that major state investments in brownfields should be guided by eligibility criteria, but limiting projects that involve no state funding is equivalent to picking winners and losers — something the state should not do.

It also contradicts the spirit of the rest of the bill that cleaning up any brownfield — no matter its size or location — is a very positive step for the environment and the economy and should not be limited.

What’s more, the bill would limit the program to 20 properties per year.  If no state funding is involved, why should there be a limit on success?  What a positive “problem” the state would have if more cleanup projects came into the program.  

Perhaps the state should consider charging the developers a reasonable fee or create a “fee-for-service” program in which resources needed to monitor these cleanups could be billed to the developer. If reasonably applied, that kind of fee would not hinder environmental cleanups. But creating uncertainty and a subjective process that picks winners and losers, certainly would.

For more information on HB 6526 or the March 8 public hearing, contact CBIA’s Eric Brown at 860.244.1926 or eric.brown@cbia.com.

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