July 30, 2004
CONNECTICUT ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY ACT
By: Paul Frisman, Associate Analyst
You asked for a summary and flow chart of the Connecticut Environmental Policy Act (CEPA). The attached flow chart is a draft provided by the Office of Policy and Management (OPM).
The purpose of CEPA (CGS § 22a-1 through 22a-1h and Conn. Agencies Regs. § 22a-1a-1 through 22a-1a-12) is to ensure that state agencies consider environmental factors when deciding whether to take an action that may significantly affect the environment. It requires them to evaluate, in writing, the impact the proposed action would have on the environment.
Among other things, these environmental impact evaluations, or EIEs, must examine the direct, indirect, and cumulative environmental consequences of the proposed action, and any reasonable alternatives to it (CGS § 22a-1b(c)). OPM reviews EIEs, determining, among other things, if the agency has taken all practicable steps to avoid or minimize environmental harm. However, findings of adverse impact do not necessarily stop a project from proceeding.
The legislature added a public “scoping” process to CEPA in 2002 that allows the public to comment on a proposed action before an agency begins the formal EIE process. The public continues to be allowed to comment during the EIE process.
ACTIONS THAT MAY SIGNIFICANTLY AFFECT THE ENVIRONMENT
What Is An Action?
For CEPA purposes, an action includes individual activities or a sequence of planned activities (1) proposed by a state department, institution, or agency or (2) funded in whole or in part by the state, that could have a major impact on the state's land, water, air, historic structures and landmarks, existing housing or other environmental resources, or could serve short term to the disadvantage of long-term environmental goals.
These actions include new projects and programs supported by state contracts and grants. However, they do not include (1) emergency measures undertaken in response to an immediate public health or safety threat, or (2) activities in which state agency participation is ministerial in nature, involving no exercise of discretion on its part (CGS § 22a-1c).
What Is A Significant Effect On The Environment?
State agencies must prepare environmental classification documents, a list of typical agency actions that may have significant environmental impacts, and use these to determine which of its actions may significantly affect the environment. It must file these documents with OPM, and make them available to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) (Conn. Agencies Regs. § 22a-1a-4 and 22a-1a-5).
By regulation, a significant effect means a substantial adverse effect on the environment (Conn. Agencies Regs. § 22a-1a-3). The regulations list a number of factors the sponsoring agency must consider, including impacts on public water supply systems, effects on natural land resources and formations, use of pesticides or toxic or hazardous materials, a substantial increase in traffic, and substantial esthetic or visual effects (Conn. Agencies Regs. § 22a-1a-3(a)).
STATE AGENCY EVALUATION OF ACTIONS SIGNIFICANTLY AFFECTING THE ENVIRONMENT
By law, all state departments, institutions, and agencies must review their policies and practices to ensure they are consistent with the state's environmental policy. CEPA requires each agency recommending or beginning an action that may significantly affect the environment to prepare an EIE before deciding whether to proceed. However, an agency may decide after conducting the mandatory scoping process that an EIE is not necessary.
A sponsoring agency must provide notice of any public scoping meeting to CEQ, OPM, and any other agency whose activates may affect, or be affected by, the action. Notice must be on a form approved by CEQ, and include the date, time, and location of any proposed scoping meeting, and the length of time the public will have to comment on the proposal.
The council must publish the notice in the Environmental Monitor, the CEQ's twice-monthly on-line publication. Notices filed by 5 p.m. on the first day of each month must be published in the Monitor within 10 days. The Monitor must also notify people that they may petition for a scoping meeting. CEQ must email a copy of the Monitor to any state agency, town or person that requests it. It must also provide a copy to town clerks for posting in town halls.
The public and any interested agency have 30 days from publication of the notice to submit comments on the nature and extent of the proposed action (CGS § 22a-1b).
The Scoping Meeting
The agency may hold a scoping meeting at its discretion, but it must hold one if 25 people or an association of at least 25 people petition for one within 10 days of the notice's publication. The meeting cannot be held until at least 10 days after publication. At the scoping meeting, the sponsoring agency must provide:
1. a description of the proposed action;
2. a description of the purpose of, and need for, the proposed action;
3. a list of the criteria for a site for the proposed action, and of potential sites;
4. the resources of any of the proposed sites and any environmental limitations;
5. potential alternatives to the proposed action; and
6. any other information it deems necessary.
Any agency submitting comments or taking part in the scoping meeting (apparently other than the sponsoring agency), must include information about:
1. the resources of any proposed site of the proposed action;
2. any agency plans that may affect or be affected by the action;
3. any permits or approvals needed for the action; and
4. any appropriate measures that would mitigate the action's impact, including recommendations for preferred sites or alternatives to proposed action not identified by the sponsoring agency (CGS § 22a-1b(6)).
The public comment period must remain open for at least five days after the meeting.
The sponsoring agency must consider the comments and any other information it receives during the scoping meeting when deciding the action to be addressed in the EIE. It must evaluate in the EIE any substantive issues raised during the scoping process pertaining to the action, site, or alternative sites. If the scoping process indicates there would be no significant impact, no EIE is needed. If the agency does proceed with an EIE, it must adhere to the following process.
Environmental Impact Evaluations
EIEs must be clear, concise, and written in plain language (Conn. Agencies Regs. § 22a-1a-7(e)). They must set forth, in detail:
1. a description of the proposed action, including its purpose and the need for it;
2. the environmental consequences of the proposed action, including cumulative, direct and indirect effects that might result during and after the proposed action;
3. any unavoidable adverse environmental effects, and any irreversible and irretrievable commitment of resources should the project be implemented;
4. alternatives to the proposed action, including that of not proceeding;
5. an evaluation of the consistency of the proposed action and any alternative with the State Plan of Conservation and Development;
6. an evaluation of whether each alternative minimizes or mitigates environmental impacts;
7. an analysis of the proposed action's short and long-term economic, social and environmental costs and benefits;
8. its effect on energy resources; and
9. a description of its effect on sacred sites or archaeological sites of state or national importance.
In addition, when discussing minimization or mitigation of environmental impacts, an EIE must, where appropriate, include detailed mitigation measures proposed to minimize those impacts, and a site plan.
EIEs for proposed facilities. For EIEs of proposed facilities, the evaluation also must include:
1. a description of the proposed facility's infrastructure needs, including parking, water supply, and wastewater treatment, as well as the facility's size; and
2. a list of all sites controlled by, or reasonably available to, the sponsoring agency, that would meet the proposed facility's stated purpose.
EIEs for actions affecting housing. In the case of a proposed action that affects existing housing, the EIE must contain a detailed statement analyzing:
1. housing consequences of the proposed action, including direct and indirect effects that might result during and after the proposed action by income group and race; and
2. the consistency of the housing consequences with the long-range state housing plan (CGS § 22a-1b(c)).
Agency regulations provide more detail on what an EIE must include (Conn. Agencies Regs. § 22a-1a-7(g)).
PUBLIC REVIEW OF THE EIE
The sponsoring agency must submit the EIE, together with a summary and any negative findings, to the public for inspection and comment. It also must be submitted for comment and review to the town clerk of each affected municipality and to the:
3. Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism (formerly the Connecticut Commission on Arts, Tourism, Culture, History and Film), and
If an action would affect existing housing, it also must submit the documents to the Department of Economic and Community Development (CGS § 22a-1d).
The sponsoring agency must publish notice of the documents' availability in a general circulation newspaper in the affected town at least once a week for three consecutive weeks, and in the Monitor.
The sponsoring agency must hold a public hearing on the EIE if 25 people, or an association of at least 25 people, requests one within 10 days after notice appears in the Monitor. The sponsoring agency must allow the public at least 45 days to review an EIE; 60 days if the proposed action is of unusual scope or complexity (Conn. Agencies Regs. § 22a-1a-8(c)).
SPONSORING AGENCY REVIEW AND RECORD OF DECISION
The sponsoring agency must review all comments and other pertinent information it received during the public review process. If appropriate, it must conduct further environmental study or amend the EIE. In any case, it must prepare responses to the substantive issues raised.
It must also prepare a concise public record of decision, taking into consideration the findings of the EIE, stating (1) whether it intends to proceed with the proposed action, and (2) if it has adopted all practicable means to avoid or minimize environmental harm, or why it has not.
The sponsoring agency must send the record of decision, EIE, comments and responses to OPM for its review. All comments sent to the secretary must be made available to the public (CGS § 22a-1d).
OPM must review the EIE, together with comments and responses, and determine, in writing, whether it complies with the law and regulations. It must make that determination public and send it to the sponsoring agency. OPM may require the sponsoring agency to revise an inadequate EIE. The sponsoring agency must consider all public and agency comments in deciding whether or how to proceed on a proposed action (CGS § 22a-1e).
EXCEPTIONS TO CEPA REVIEW OR THE EIE PROCESS
The law does not require EIEs for projects for which environmental statements have previously been prepared according to other state or federal laws or regulations, as long as all such statements are considered and reviewed as if they had been prepared according to CEPA.
The law also exempted specific state projects from CEPA review. These were the Connecticut Juvenile Training School project in Middletown and the Connecticut River Interceptor Sewer extension. The law also exempted UConn 2000 projects that involved the conversion of an existing structure from office or commercial use to educational use (CGS § 22a-1f(b)).
Finally, the law authorizes a constituent unit of the state higher education system (a college or university) to provide for EIEs for certain priority higher education facility projects, or any higher education project costing less than $2 million, by either (1) reviewing and filing the EIE for each project with OPM, or (2) including the project in a cumulative EIE that OPM approves.
Priority higher education facility projects include any project that is part of a state program to repair, renovate, enlarge, equip, purchase or build instructional facilities, academic core facilities (library, research and laboratory facilities), student residential or dining facilities, or related utility systems under the jurisdiction of the board of trustees of any constituent unit of the state system of higher education (except UConn) (CGS § 4b-55(f)).