Reforming Environmental Act Could Boost Economy
As the state strives to pull out of a long recession by growing the economy and creating jobs, lawmakers could help by reducing one of the greatest impediments to attracting economic investment–regulatory and legal uncertainty.
Specifically, legislators should reform an important–but oft-abused–law that allows anyone from literally anywhere to file for an injunction that will halt a development project over possible concerns with its impact on the environment.
The Connecticut Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) was enacted in recognition that each citizen, as a steward of the environment, should have the right to raise environmental concerns associated with development. These concerns can be raised to local boards or commissions and later be used to challenge their decisions in court.
While some environmental organizations, advocates and citizens have used CEPA appropriately, too often it has been abused by others as an anti-development tactic to significantly delay or stop development in its tracks while a lengthy and costly legal drama plays out.
Because the statute does not specify the evidence required and the timeframe within which CEPA claims must be filed, actions can be raised at any time (again, by anyone) – even after a project has been constructed.
This only harms Connecticut’s ability to attract investments—forcing attorneys for those considering investing in projects here to tell their clients that they can’t be certain that an individual or entity won’t file a CEPA claim, triggering months or years of legal wrangling. This can be astonishingly bad news for potential investors, who could direct their attention to other states.
But lawmakers can take steps to help fix this problem while fully maintaining the integrity of CEPA and the ability of citizens or others to raise legitimate environmental concerns in a timely manner.
Requiring CEPA claims to have at least some basic evidence of a reasonable risk to the environment, and compelling legitimate concerns to be brought to the attention of the appropriate authorities in a timely fashion, would greatly improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the process.
This would also help to lessen the perception that, in Connecticut, a developer can never really be sure these issues won’t be raised in the future. And it would make CEPA consistent with the 2002 opinion of the Connecticut Supreme Court in Nizzardo vs. State Traffic Commission. In that case, the Court declared that a CEPA petition ”must contain specific factual allegations setting forth the environmental issues” to be raised.
CBIA urges the legislature to take a step forward in making Connecticut a more attractive place to invest while preserving our citizens’ important right to be active stewards of the environment.
For more information, contact CBIA’s Eric Brown at 860.244.1926 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
EXPLORE BY CATEGORY
Stay Connected with CBIA News Digests
The latest news and information delivered directly to your inbox.