State lawmakers generally kept Connecticut moving toward renewable energy this legislative session while taking important steps to better align environmental laws with economic development realities.
HB 5002, which won near-unanimous passage from the state House and Senate, makes several changes to the state’s energy statutes.
For example, the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection develops new building construction standards for using sustainable materials, structural resiliency, and electric vehicle charging stations.
The bill also delays for roughly two-and-a-half years implementation of the tariff system, adopted just last year, designed to bring stability and predictability to the cost of unused solar energy generated at residential properties.
It also increases residential solar investment provided through the Connecticut Green Bank by an addition 50 megawatts.
So how much will these changes cost Connecticut ratepayers?
That's unknown, according to the bill's ratepayer impact statement—a new legislative requirement under legislation pushed by CBIA last year.
The statement says the cost depends on how the bill affects electric markets—such as the cost of renewable energy itself—as well as the cost of the various requirements placed on electric distribution companies, which typically pass them on to ratepayers.
And ratepayers will also be investing in and using more energy generated from offshore wind. Under HB 7156, Connecticut will procure up to 2,000 megawatts of electricity from these new facilities.
This is also expected to help the economy and spur job growth, especially in southeastern Connecticut, as companies that build and install wind turbines invest in production and deployment facilities.
Connecticut will continue its policy and financial commitment to expanding the production and use of renewable energy.
This likely means energy costs will continue to experience upward pressure—making it more important than ever that businesses and residential energy consumers take advantage of the conservation and efficiency incentives they pay for in their electric bills.
In the early 1980s, there were no environmental standards for "how clean is clean enough?"
Most strategies for addressing environmental pollution, other than permitting, were reactive rather than proactive, and the lending community had yet to appreciate the magnitude of risk associated with issuing loans on properties with unknown environmental characteristics.
The properties were known as establishments.
In 1985, DEEP proposed and the legislature adopted the Connecticut Property Transfer Act, which requires that if pollution is found at a variety of affected properties, responsibility for environmental investigation and remediation be assigned when property ownership changes.
In the 1990s, environmental cleanup standards were adopted and the state created the licensed environmental professional program where private sector consultants could conduct investigations when establishments were sold and certify that any required cleanup met state standards.
DEEP can audit the work of those LEPs—which is one element of the Transfer Act that has continued to cause uncertainty and costly delays in commercial property transactions.
Today, essentially no commercial real estate transactions are financed by a bank or other financial institution without an environmental investigation and, where contamination is found, a cleanup that meets state standards.
And with the LEP and cleanup standards in place, many question the need for the Transfer Act.
This year, through SB 1030, the legislature took meaningful steps to address two components of the Transfer Act that can easily impede economic development.
First, the bill cuts the time frame from three years to one year in which DEEP must notify a property owner of its intention to audit the investigation or remediation conducted by an LEP.
Until such a determination is made, lenders and buyers have no certainty as to whether they are acquiring an expensive environmental liability.
Second, far too often, properties that have not released contaminants become caught in the Transfer Act net simply because once, since 1985, their facility stored more than about half a barrel of hazardous waste for more than a month.
SB 1030 clarifies such one-time occurrences and will no longer trigger designation of the property as an establishment, and therefore subject to the Transfer Act.
CBIA greatly appreciates the hard work of a bipartisan group of legislators, including Sen. Joan Hartley (D-Waterbury), Rep. Stephanie Cummings (R-Waterbury) and Rep. Caroline Simmons (D-Stamford) for their tireless efforts to substantially improve this complex environmental legislation.
We also thank them for including a provision to appoint a workgroup to next year address additional challenges the Transfer Act created.