New DEEP Commissioner Pledges Continuity, Regulatory Reform
Connecticut manufacturers, including members of CBIA’s Environmental Policies Council, gathered at The Lyceum in Hartford on Feb. 21 for a conversation with legislative leadership from the Environment and Energy Committees as well as Q&A sessions with Robert Klee, newly appointed commissioner of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, and DEEP Deputy Commissioner for Environmental Quality Macky McCleary.
Klee, who replaces Dan Esty, pledged to continue his predecessor’s commitment to “transform the way we do business, to better serve the public and the business community.”
The agency’s immediate goals, according to Klee, include:
- Leaner processes
- Considerable investments in IT, enabling us to move quickly to act on permits
- Moving more parcels of industrial land into productive use and reinvesting in Connecticut’s urban areas
- Implementation of Connecticut’s Comprehensive Energy Strategy, including increasing natural gas access, renewable energy options, and electric vehicle charging stations; developing microgrids; making the state’s infrastructure more resilient; and reducing costs
- Dramatic reduction in permit backlogs
“We’re going to continue to get rid of outdated, outmoded, inefficient regulatory processes,” he said.
The agency historically has had a reputation, as several audience members noted, for “allocating too many resources to regulating minutia” “becoming very bureaucratic,” and “spending too much time on low-hanging fruit”—issues that pose negligible, or even questionable, environmental risk.
Klee agreed, reiterating his commitment to continuity in DEEP’s efforts to lessen the regulatory burden without lowering environmental standards; establish the agency’s relationship with manufacturers as “partners, not adversaries”; and create a regulatory system “focused on the real risks, the right risks, and higher-risk contaminated sites.”
2014 Legislative Agenda
Manufacturers also heard from four key lawmakers on ongoing and upcoming environmental issues:
- Sen. Ed Meyer (D-Guilford), Senate Chair, Environment Committee
- Rep. Linda Gentile (D-Ansonia), House Chair, Environment Committee
- Sen. Clark Chapin (R-New Milford), Senate Ranking Member, Environment and Energy Committees
- Rep. John Shaban (R-Redding), House Ranking Member, Environment Committee
“The greatest priority of the Environment Committee for 2014 really should be streamlining our permit processing,” said Meyer, adding that this legislative session offers a “golden opportunity to get rid of regulations that are unnecessary.”
On the energy front, Chapin noted, most of the heavy lifting has already taken place in previous legislative sessions, putting the focus now on implementation of the state’s energy strategy through the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA).
Calls for Action
With regard to environmental permitting and regulations, manufacturers asked legislators and agency officials for greater predictability and consistency. They also noted that precision manufacturers, who make up the majority of manufacturing businesses in Connecticut, are frequently overlooked in favor of advanced manufacturers.
“These are resource-strapped companies,” said Robert Klancko of Analytical Consulting Technology in Waterbury. “Most have fewer than 100 employees and can’t keep up with the plethora of regulations and Connecticut’s tendency to tweak federal regulations to make them even more stringent.”
Precision manufacturers, said Klancko, need help “to bring them into compliance and better economic viability so that they can invest more in this state.”
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