Will Brownfield Legislation Move Forward this Year?

04.03.2009
Issues & Policies

For the third year in a row, the state’s Brownfields Task Force has submitted a report to the General Assembly with recommendations on how Connecticut can improve upon its limited success in revitalizing brownfield properties across the state.

Brownfields are properties that suffer the stigma of real or perceived contamination—generally stemming from the rich industrial legacy of our state.

Often, the primary focus for solving the problem is money. While allocating hundreds of millions of state dollars would undoubtedly help, the current fiscal crisis makes that kind of investment unlikely.

A more practical and effective short-term approach for the legislature is to make certain changes that will stimulate private investment in brownfield revitalization. The legislature took a good step in this direction in 2006 with the creation of a central Office of Brownfields Remediation and Development (OBRD) within the Department of Economic and Community Development.

This office is helping to clear up the confusion around multiple programs in several state agencies that affect brownfield funding and cleanup. The OBRD serves as a primary point of contact for those interested in developing a Connecticut brownfield.

Other, more substantive measures would go even further in stimulating interest in brownfield development.

For example, Connecticut currently assigns liability for contaminated properties based on the “polluter pays” concept. This seems to make sense at first glance. However, under Connecticut law, the term “polluter” includes the current property owner (including municipalities)—even if that owner has no connection to the property’s contamination.

Connecticut must change its perspective with respect to developers interested in investing in brownfield properties. These investors, be they private, public or nonprofit, should be enthusiastically welcomed for their interest in delivering environmental improvement, economic growth and job creation, rather than viewed as “polluters,” as is the case under current law, once they take possession of the property.

CBIA believes it is time to address this major fundamental roadblock to revitalizing brownfields in Connecticut by eliminating the “polluter pays” policy for brownfield developers who have no connection to the contamination associated with the site.

The association has submitted draft language to the Commerce Committee, and meetings are ongoing in an effort to produce a substantive brownfields bill in 2009 that makes significant progress in this area.

For more information, please contact Eric Brown at 860-244-1926 or eric.brown@cbia.com.

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