March 1, 2011
QUESTIONS FOR DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION COMMISSIONER NOMINEE
By: Kristen L. Miller, Legislative Analyst II
COMMISSIONER OF ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION (CGS § 22a-5)
The commissioner is responsible for implementing the state's environmental policies; coordinating the management of water, land, and air resources; protecting plants and all types of wildlife, including endangered species; abating pollution, controlling pests, and regulating pesticide use; and regulating waste disposal.
Department Structure and Management
1. In recent years the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has lost many of its most experienced staff because of early retirement. Which divisions have been hardest hit? What impact has the early retirements had on DEP services? Given the number of retirements, can DEP maintain service levels or will some services have to be curtailed?
2. DEP has been heavily criticized for its inability to timely process permit applications.
a. Do you believe that DEP takes an inordinate amount of time to process permits? If so, what are the obstacles to decreasing the amount of time for processing and approving permit applications?
b. Is there an optimum number of staff needed to expeditiously process permits?
c. What steps has DEP taken to expedite the permitting process? How do these steps compare with those taken by similar agencies in other states?
3. The Governor has proposed consolidating DEP and the Department of Public Utility Control (DPUC) into one agency called the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP). While there is clearly overlap between energy and environmental issues, how will this consolidation impact telecommunication regulation and policy? How will you ensure that telecommunication issues will continue to be adequately addressed?
4. As a private consultant, you advised business and government clients. How will you ensure that DEP remains impartial towards your former clients?
5. Some critics claim that DEP is not aggressive enough in enforcing environmental laws and regulations against the regulated community. Is that criticism warranted? If so, how will you address it?
6. Inner-city residents believe they have historically been overburdened by siting landfills and incinerators in their neighborhoods. Do you think these beliefs are justified? How does DEP address environmental justice issues and ensure that such residents' voices are heard on environmental concerns?
Water and Natural Resources
7. Access to water is a major issue for communities and businesses in several parts of the state because it requires balancing recreation and business needs against ecological ones. DEP's proposed stream flow regulations have drawn ire from some municipalities and business groups. These proposed regulations were twice rejected by the legislative Regulations Review Committee and the legislature is considering making statutory changes to the stream flow statute. How familiar are you with this issue and could DEP strike a balance between recreational, economic, and ecological needs?
8. Does DEP believe that more state forest land can or should be harvested? If so, under what circumstances should that be done?
9. Each year, operators of all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) seek to have DEP set aside state land for the operation of their vehicles, as the law requires. What is DEP doing to accommodate ATV operators? How is DEP addressing illegal ATV operation?
Air and Water Pollution
10. Has the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) reduced greenhouse gas emissions and addressed climate change? What other steps can Connecticut take to combat climate change?
11. How can the state encourage the use of biodiesel, ethanol, and other alternative fuels?
12. What are the best strategies to reduce diesel emissions from trucks and buses?
13. Using outdoor wood burning furnaces is a current issue in Connecticut. Many people purchased them as alternative heat sources, but the stoves produce more soot and toxic air pollutants than gas- or oil-fired home furnaces. Should homeowners be prohibited from installing these furnaces or limit their operation?
14. Connecticut's recycling rate has hovered near 30% for a number of years. DEP's amended Solid Waste Management Plan calls for increasing the recycling rate to 58% by 2024. Do you think this is a feasible goal? What is DEP doing now to help achieve this goal?
15. DEP recently announced that the 2010 firearms deer season closed with a near perfect safety record. What can DEP do to ensure that record continues?
16. In recent years, Fairfield County and shoreline towns have seen an explosion in the deer population, which has led to an increase in car accidents, landscaping costs, and the potential exposure of more people to Lyme Disease. What is the department doing to control this situation?
17. What are the major obstacles to brownfield development? What are the best ways to overcome them? Does Connecticut's organizational structure for brownfield redevelopment help or hinder their remediation?
18. The Governor's proposed budget includes funding for dredging projects in our state's harbors. But people are debating the relative economic benefits and environmental harms that could result from dredging the Bridgeport, New Haven, and New London harbors. What is DEP's position on harbor dredging? What is its role in these projects?