New DEEP Head Says Agency, Business ‘Have to Be Partners’
Many businesses regulated by the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection can share stories of delayed permits and red tape that stand in the way of job and economic growth.
But Katie Dykes, Governor Ned Lamont’s designee to lead the agency, wants to change that.
Dykes’ message was that Lamont’s top priority is turning the state’s economy around, which, she acknowledged, cannot be done without Connecticut’s businesses succeeding.
So while the Lamont administration wants to maintain environmental standards, it also wants to ensure a transparent and efficient regulatory process for business, she said.
“It’s important to me to get feedback from the regulated community. It’s incredibly helpful,” said Dykes, whose appointment is expected to win legislative approval.
“We have to be partners. That’s how we’re going to make progress.”
Dykes said she needs to hear specific concerns from the regulated community. We have to be partners. That's how we're going to make progress.
“This is a call to all of you to help us understand where we should be prioritizing,” she said.
“The governor’s message is that we can have a thriving economy and safeguard our environmental resources at the same time.
Dykes sat with a pen and legal pad, taking pages of notes as she listened to representatives from small factories to large utilities.
We have to be partners. That's how we're going to make progress.
Dave Weinberg, safety and environmental manager at Windsor-based Stanadyne, said his biggest issue is dealing with different people for different DEEP issues.
"There are way too many people to talk to," he said.
Weinberg asked Dykes to come up with a team of six to eight people who are knowledgeable about every area DEEP regulates and appoint one of them as a contact person for individual businesses.
"Give me one point person at DEEP for all my issues,”" Weinberg said. "And if that person can't answer my question, he or she will contact the person who has that information, then get back to me."
Debra DeFelice, EHS manager at Ulbrich Steel in Wallingford, called for spill regulations she could describe in simple terms to her employees.
"My truck driver may not understand technical regulations," DeFelice said.
"Make it something we can explain to people."
Ginny Ryan of Allnex, a chemical manufacturer based in Wallingford, urged Dykes to come up with a less burdensome permit process. we can have a thriving economy and safeguard our environmental resources at the same time.
It recently took Allnex nine years to finalize one permit and they are three years into finalizing another.
"I would encourage any sort of new model," Ryan said. "It's important. It's growth."
Chris Borowy, waste program manager at Sikorsky Aircraft in Stratford, called for state regulations to mirror federal rules and those of neighboring states.
"Perhaps some simplifications," Borowy said. "It's just a thought."
we can have a thriving economy and safeguard our environmental resources at the same time.
One of the biggest challenges Dykes faces is the retirement of many experienced DEEP inspectors and regulators.
She acknowledged that the loss of institutional knowledge will make the agency's job more difficult.
DEEP is working to replace those retirees, Dykes said, but the business community can help by telling lawmakers and the administration that having the agency fully staffed allows companies to grow jobs and expand the economy.
Afterward, Dykes, who was just five days into her new position, said the meeting was extremely helpful.
"If folks don't understand our process, if they're confused about where to go, if they're not sure what the standards are, or if they need help being able to translate those standards to their employees, we will address those concerns," she said.
"That's part of the success of achieving a goal of having a safe and healthy environment.
"We need to be partners in this."
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