PRESIDING CHAIRMEN: Senator Finch
COMMITTEE MEMBERS PRESENT:
SENATORS: Meyer, Cook, DeFronzo
REPRESENTATIVES: Chapin, Alberts, Giuliano, Greene, Hennessy, Jutila, Kalinowski, Mushinsky, O'Rourke, Perone, Piscopo, Wilber, Willis
REPRESENTATIVE ROY: Again, the usual rules apply three minutes per speaker. Hopefully, no more than five minutes for questions. In one way we are fortunate today that some other committees are taking all of the heat. So we should be able to move this hearing along fairly well.
In case of an emergency, the two exits in the rear that you used to get into this room are the emergency exits, along with this exit to my left behind the Committee Members up here.
Please exit walking, and take orders from any Capitol Police as to which direction to go. Generally you go left and right out the Main Entrance. But if that is where the problem is they will direct you elsewhere. I think that's it. Are we ready?
Okay. Our first speaker is Senator Andrew Roraback. Good morning, Sir.
SEN. RORABACK: Good morning, Representative Roy, Senator Finch, Senator McKinney, Representative Chapin, distinguished Members of the Environment Committee. Thank you for providing me with this opportunity to testify in support of Senate Bill 470 AN ACT ALLOWING THE ABATEMENT OR WAIVER OF LOCAL PROPERTY TAXES ON HYBRID VEHICLES.
Mr. Chairman, there are eight of you now present, and my guess is if I were to elicit opinions from the eight of you on the Governor's Car Tax Initiative, I would probably get eight different opinions about how best to deal with that issue.
But I am hoping that if I were to elicit your opinions on the proposed bill, you would speak with one voice in recognizing that the right thing for us to do, as a matter of policy, is to open the doors for our municipalities to encourage socially responsible behavior by having a debate locally, as to whether our towns would like to extend a property tax benefit to individuals who purchase hybrid vehicles.
Mr. Chairman, this bill simply would enable that conversation to take place locally. It would enable municipalities to tailor, or fashion, a local property tax policy with respect to hybrid vehicles that promoted goals that they deemed important. None of us know.
I introduced this bill, Mr. Chairman, before the Governor's Car Tax Initiative was unveiled. None of us know where that may head. But I think that I would be very grateful if this Committee would look favorably on this particular piece of legislation, and I am very grateful to have the chance to promote it.
And I would be happy to try to answer any questions.
REP. ROY: Thank you, Senator. I think it is good to have all ideas on the table at this point, and as we narrow things down all of the good ones will move forward.
Any questions or comments? Representative Chapin.
REP. CHAPIN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Good morning.
SEN. RORABACK: Good morning, Representative.
REP. CHAPIN: Hybrid vehicles generally, I think, in this building and elsewhere, I think, most people think of electric and gas, and now there is a push by manufacturers to produce vehicles that will run on biodiesel and they are not lumped into the hybrid vehicle category.
There is another name that escapes me at the moment, but is it your intention to include those types of vehicles in this abatement as well?
SEN. RORABACK: Thank you, Representative. It is my intention to give towns the option to abate in whole, or in part, property taxes on vehicles which are not exclusively run by petroleum.
So certainly, as technology advances, and as we move away from a reliance on gasoline, I would like to think that we would want to provide inducements for biodiesel as well as hybrid electric and gas vehicles.
REP. CHAPIN: Thank you very much.
REP. ROY: Any other questions or comments? Very good, Senator. Thank you.
REP. CHAPIN: Thank you very much, Representative.
REP. ROY: Senator Mary Ann Handley.
SEN. HANDLEY: Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you to the Committee for the opportunity to speak. I am here to speak in favor of House Bill 5624 AN ACT CONCERNING AUTHORIZING BONDS OF THE STATE FOR THE CLEAN WATER FUND.
And here I am speaking particularly in the interest of small towns, two of which I represent, who have been able to benefit by the exclusion of a percentage of the Clean Water Fund for the use of abating or providing clean water in small towns.
The Fund has been greatly diminished recently, and what this has meant is that a great many small towns, particularly those who have lakes in them, are dealing with some serious pollution problems, and some serious run-off problems.
So I would encourage this Committee to expand the Clean Water Fund in order to not only make clean water available throughout the state, but particularly because of the needs of small towns.
If you have any questions, I would be happy to try to answer them. There will be people here from, at least, from the Town of Marlborough, who will be able to speak more specifically to the issues in that town.
REP. ROY: Thank you. Any questions or comments for the Senator? Say none. Thank you.
SEN.HANDLEY: Thank you very much for your time.
REP. ROY: My pleasure. Representative Betty Boukus.
REP. BOUKUS: Good morning, Senator Finch, Representative Roy, and distinguished Members of the Environment Committee.
I am Betty Boukus, Representative of the 22nd District, and I represent two great cities of New Britain, Bristol, and the town of which I live in, Plainville.
I would like to begin by saying, thank you for raising House Bill 5624, and tell you that, over the past several years, municipalities have been working on water quality projects.
They have presented their findings and cost estimates to the residents of their community.
In the referendums residents have voted the project up or down based on the information that they have received.
The project cost has included dollars the municipalities would have to raise, and the anticipated grants and low-interest loans provided by both the state and federal government.
The Department of Environmental Protection maintains a priority list based upon a ranking system for making project grants and loans.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Governor Rell. In the January Bond Commission Meeting, she had placed it on the Agenda, and it was voted upon by the Bond Committee to place in the Department of Environmental Protection, $87 million for water quality projects which were ready to go, and that differs from what had been done before.
You would have the project ready, and it would have to wait to get on an Agenda, and then it would have to get approved. Meanwhile costs are escalating, and it really was not the best solution.
I believe that the Department of Environmental Protection is best able to be able to get to the communities the dollars that are needed for projects.
We have one problem though, not enough money is out there. Unfortunately, this still leaves many other projects that are ready with very little way of getting General Obligation Bonds available.
Since the grants and the loans are a package deal, municipalities cannot apply for a low-cost loan if grant dollars are not available. For years, the state bond packages contained an average of $45 million annually in new General Obligation Bonds. Over the past few years they have lowered it to $20 million.
It is with this in mind, that I am proposing that the additional $70 million be included in this year's bond package to make up the difference.
In addition, I am also requesting that the Committee give consideration to amending the bill, before you to include the concept of decoupling grants and loans.
By doing so, should it happen that there are not enough General Obligation Bonds available, municipalities would at least have an opportunity to be able to get low-cost loans.
It is my belief, that such grants and loans provide true property tax relief to residents facing clean water projects. If we do not tend to these projects now, as time passes, they will only increase in cost, and I have read estimates between 3% and 6% annually.
This would require the municipality to either reduce their project, or ask voters for additional dollars through still another referendum.
And just an anecdote here, the Town of Plainville is going to do just this tonight to reconsider.
Again, taxpayers would be faced with additional costs. There are others here today who will give you testimony to provide more detail.
In closing, I would like to express my thanks to all of those who co-sponsored House Bill 5428, which subsequently became the Committee Bill 5624, and the Members of this Committee for not only raising the bill, but for your consideration in amending it to include the decoupling concept.
The passage of this bill will truly have a positive effect on Connecticut's quality of life from the borders of Massachusetts to the Long Island Sound.
Sitting next to me is my Town Manager in the Town of Plainville, and I have asked him to just say a few words, and then be open for any questions, if that is agreeable with the Chair Person. Thank you.
REP. ROY: Yes. Go ahead.
ROBERT LEE: Thank you. It is a pleasure to be here. We have done some analysis about the impact of the--
REP. ROY: Can you please give us your name?
ROBERT LEE: My name is Robert Lee, Town Manager for the Town of Plainville. We have done some analysis with regards to the impact to the sewer users if clean water funding is not available.
Currently the typical home in Plainville pays $386 per year for sewers. If clean water funding were available, we anticipate that those rates would increase about 21% to $470.
So this is relatively over the next six years, so relatively a significant increase to begin with.
Without the clean water funding we anticipate that those rates would increase by 79% or the typical user would go from $386 to $691. That is a $220 difference from what we anticipated to begin with. So as you can see, the lack of clean water funding does have a significant impact.
Representative Boukus spoke a little bit earlier about the coupling of the grants and the loans, if that were done, and the town was able to get just loan funding our rates, rather than increasing by 79%, would only be by about 39% to 40%.
So you can see the difference between under the Clean Water Program just having loans, and not having the program available at all has a significant impact on the taxpayers and the ratepayers in Plainville.
REP. ROY: Thank you. Are there any questions for either of the presenters? Senator Finch.
SEN. FINCH: Mr. Lee, how often do you find the technology changing your sewage treatment plant to the point where you have to make significant capital investments?
ROBERT LEE: This is probably [inaudible – microphone not on] the technology is there [inaudible – microphone not on]
SEN. FINCH: You would have to do it.
ROBERT LEE: [inaudible – microphone not on]
REP. ROY: Any other questions or comments? Thank you very much. Peter Hughes followed by Dennison Acceno.
PETER HUGHES: Good morning, Senator Finch and Representative Roy. I am Peter Hughes, the Clinic Development Director for the Town of Marlborough. I am here on Raised House Bill 5624 concerning the Clean Water Fund.
I am submitting this testimony on the behalf of the Marlborough Board of Selectmen, Dennis Hawrokylo, First Selectman Sharon Reiner, William Black, Selectman, the Marlborough Water Pollution Control Authority, John Murray, Chairman.
The result of the reduction of the DEP request for funding levels of the Clean Water Fund that has taken place in the recent past, now has reached the point that funding reduction is delaying the remediation of adverse environmental impacts to the state's service in groundwater resources.
This lack of funding is causing the delay in the ability of municipalities of all sizes, especially small communities to address pressing wastewater treatment issues through the lack of available funding in all three phases of wastewater treatment, facility planning, design, and construction.
What is currently occurring is that a municipality over the past three to five years, and have approved referendums for wastewater projects prior to this funding reduction are now facing delays that threaten the ability to implement these necessary projects.
This delay in providing Clean Water Fund money in a timely manner is resulting in project cost increases estimated somewhere between 6% and 12% annually, depending on the nature of the project.
As one can see, two to three years delay in the Clean Water Fund money will increase the project cost between 15% and 30%.
Clearly, one of the end results of this Clean Water Fund reduction, is the economic viability of municipalities to implement these projects is in serious jeopardy, thus jeopardizing the mitigation of adverse environmental impact throughout the state.
For a small community, this Clean Water Fund reduction has resulted in the DEP significantly reducing the small community setaside. From this traditional 35% of the available funds, typical funding levels over the past 20 years to 20% leaving many communities in a funding quandary. This year alone, they reduced a small setaside of $3.64 million.
The residents of Marlborough approved a $12,020,000 referendum for the Lake Terramuggus Marlborough Town Center Sewer Project. The funding of this project was to be obtained through the Clean Water Fund at a 25% grant with a 75% loan at 2%. We are a community of 6,000 people.
We submitted the Design Funding Request in August of 2004. It took seven months before the Town received design funding approval through the State Bond Commission in February of 2005.
It took until September of 2005, to obtain the actual funds. Now, we are six weeks from completing the completion design, and our projects have been eliminated from the Clean Water Fund Priority List for Fiscal Year 2007, to some undetermined date in the future. Hopefully Fiscal Year 2008,due to the reduction in Clean Water Fund authorizations.
The impact to Marlborough from this funding delay is that project costs will increase somewhere from $2.5 to $6.5 million which could jeopardize the viability of this project.
As in most small communities, we are servicing a limited area, approximately 600 properties. To keep the cost of individual homeowners reasonable at the time of referendum, it was estimated that the homeowners would spend $11 thousand over 20 years and the town was going to assume 30% of the project loan repayment that was equal to $175 thousand a year or a half-a-mill.
Now, if we have to wait another 18 months to receive construction funding on top of the seven months, the cost for the individual homeowner will go from $16,000 to $20,000, a 45% to 80% increase.
If we have to finance this without Clean Water Fund money, the increase will be between 100% and 150%, we will go to $22,000 to $27,000 per homeowner, increasing their yearly payout from $500 to over $1,100 a year for 20 years on top of their property tax, and the town will have to assume over a half-a-million dollars.
The additional impact is that we have major properties that are commercial-based that will now have to go into DEP septic systems and spend hundreds of thousands of dollars each to put septic systems in.
The town will have to spend $3 million to put a septic system at a school that we received a waiver for, because we approved our referendum by the Department of Environmental Protection. So this has serious consequences to all small communities. I will answer any questions.
REP. ROY: Thank you. Any questions or comments? Say none. Thank you very much, Mr. Hughes. Dennison Allen followed by Cathy Osten.
DENNISON ALLEN: Good morning. I am Dennison Allen, First Selectman Town of Sprague. Sorry, I am going to have to learn to print clearer, I guess, but good morning, Members of the Environmental Committee.
I would like to start by spending a moment or two by talking about the Town of Sprague. The Town of Sprague is made up of three villages. There is Hanover, Baltic, and Versailles.
In Hanover, there was a mill that was back in the 1900s, Allen Wollen Mill, and they put in sewer systems in Hanover. In Baltic it was the Baltic Cotton Mill, the largest cotton mill in the states, and maybe in the world at one time, and they also put in sewers.
In the course of that period, in time, the sewers dumped into the rivers, and so in the course of time to improve things we put in a sewer plant. Now that plant has been there for some 35 years and we have done the modifications necessary to maintain it.
However, there are some problems that have come up, and that is, over, since 1900, or 100 plus years, the pipes that were put in have now deteriorated, and we get infiltration of water coming in, which increases the flow.
Therefore, it is harder for us to maintain the nitrogen count that is required.
Through diligence, we have gone out and done the inspections, run the camera down the pipe to see the ones that are worse, and which have to be repaired.
Our filtration plant, our sewer plant rather, has got some other problems. When it was built we used drying beds, which were very effective and as farmers we took the stuff out of the drying beds and put on our fields, either in the fields of hay, or plowed it under for corn, and then they said, well that's a hazard, you can't do that.
And so we were shipping it, to probably Pennsylvania. Well, they probably did the same thing there, but it cost to get it to Pennsylvania.
Now we are told that the drying beds have to go away, and we have to now have the fluid, and so the cost now to suck out fluids, which would of course, contain the water, will be considerably higher, and it is a cost that is going to be astronomical.
In the same process, we have put in a pumping station in Hanover, which was put in at the time the mill was put into operation. Since the mill has burned, and has been long gone, that system has now become antiquated, and it is now under direction that we have to make some major modifications.
We will be talking more at the next meeting down in Norwich, next Monday. We will have a lot more facts and figures at that period in time.
But these upgrades are going to be required. We have, as stated earlier, we are not a huge town. We don't have huge amounts of money. We are a distressed community.
We have tried to look at things in the future. We have just purchased for $800,000 the Mukluk property to keep it from becoming a gravel bank alongside the Shetucket River that has a lead problem.
We also have water, and we thought we were very smart in the process of doing what they suggested, putting in wells. But we find we have three wells, one has arsenic, one has radiation of radon, and one has uranium, and then we have one that has fluoride. And so all of the things that we have done have not necessarily worked well.
We do have a reservoir that needs some work and later on we will be talking about it. But we will look forward to seeing you in Norwich, and I will be glad to answer any questions that you have.
REP. ROY: Thank you. It's nice to know that the road show is getting some publicity out there and people are aware of it.
Any questions or comments? Say none. They are probably saving them up for next Monday.
DENNISON ALLEN: All right. Thank you very much for allowing me to speak.
REP. ROY: Cathy Osten followed by DEP Commissioner Gina McCarthy. Cathy Osten? Commissioner McCarthy.
COMM. GINA MCCARTHY: Good morning, Mr. Chairs, Members of the Committee. I appreciate my ability to testify here today, and your willingness to hear from me. There are a number of bills that you will be hearing today that DEP has great interest in, and we have submitted written testimony on those bills.
But this morning I would like to focus my comment on one bill in particular, Raised House Bill 5623, a bill that seeks to have the Governor withdraw for the state from its participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which we call RGGI.
DEP is here to strongly oppose Raised House Bill 5623. We believe that climate change is one of the most pressing environmental challenges that we must face. We recognize and salute the past commitment of the General Assembly to address climate change, and a number of initiatives and bills that have moved forward.
In December of 2005, Connecticut joined what we call RGGI, which is a gathering of seven states and includes Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, and Vermont which formed what we call the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.
It is a cooperative effort that will address carbon dioxide emissions from large electricity generating units, which are the region's most significant sources of greenhouse gases.
The policies at RGGI events will encourage decision-making that will not only foster environmental improvements, but energy efficiency as well as energy independence.
The signing of this MOU was the combination of two and one-half years of planning and analysis by the participating states. It is slated to begin in January of 2009, and it is the first Cap and Trade Program to control carbon dioxide emissions in the United States.
We are strongly in favor of moving forward with the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. We believe it is not only good for the environment, but it is also good for the economy, and it is good for energy independence.
It creates funding for energy conservation, renewable energy alternatives that will allow us to do what I believe Governor Bush called to reduce our addiction on fossil fuels. It is part of that effort.
It is not the whole of it, but it is an excellent initiative that has been thoroughly analyzed, and we believe should move forward unabated.
We will be presenting a model rule that will be going out in draft very shortly. That rule will allow the public to enter into the debate in Connecticut in a robust way.
To comment on it, it is a serious regulatory process, and we believe that it should move forward, and that the citizens of this state should have an opportunity to comment on this agreement through that regulatory process.
You will, I believe, hear comments about concerns about the economic impact of this agreement, and just to tell you upfront that there was an extensive analysis that was conducted over the course of these two-and-a-half years that was crafted, not just by the environmental leads of these states, but also the energy leads of these states, as well as a broad group of stakeholders that inputted into this process for two-and-a-half years.
That extensive analysis has identified a cost to consumers in the neighborhood of just 1% to 2% in energy cost between now and 2015, which, we believe, is a small incremental price to pay for a step in the right direction that will allow us to move forward towards energy independence and decreasing our reliance on fossil fuels, which has not only wreaked havoc environmentally, but has also caused considerable difficulty for everyone's pocketbooks.
So we would encourage you to not approve of this bill, and to allow us to continue what we need to do to move this agreement forward. Thank you for the opportunity to comment.
And I am certainly here to take any questions on this bill, or any others that you might want to ask.
REP. ROY: Thank you. Any questions or comments? Representative Piscopo.
REP. PISCOPO: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Good morning, Commissioner. Commissioner, as we head into this carbon dioxide Cap and Trade Program the agreement calls for carbon dioxide short tons. Can you explain that to me briefly, what that means? Is that a goal that we have to come up with?
COMM. GINA MCCARTHY: Yeah. The goals of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative are both short term and long term. In the short term, the agreement is intending to keep the amount of greenhouse gases that are emitted from these facilities as they are today through 2015, and then achieve a 10% reduction in those greenhouse gases before the year 2019.
Now that is done through both onsite reductions, as well as opportunities to accrue what we call off sets, which is a cost-effective, flexible approach that allows facilities that cannot achieve onsite reductions in greenhouse gases to find other cost-effective ways to invest in both energy efficiency, as well as renewable energy projects.
REP. PISCOPO: So the report says, for instance, Connecticut is 10.7 million short tons of carbon dioxide, that is the goal by 2015?
COMM. GINA MCCARTHY: The goal is to maintain that through 2015. The actual agreement does not even take place until January of '09, and then the faculties are asked to provide a plan that they can design themselves, to maintain those levels of reductions through 2015, and then subsequent to that we are looking for some reductions.
REP. PISCOPO: When you say facilities, do you mean power plants, manufacturers?
COMM. GINA MCCARTHY: No. At this point, we mean the largest electric generating units which are 25 megawatts or larger in the state.
REP. PISCOPO: Thank you, Commissioner. And you know how economists sometimes give you different reports, have you seen the Connecticut Rivers Economic study on this proposal?
COMM. GINA MCCARTHY: Yes. We have done our own analysis, as well as looked at analysis that was conducted everywhere, and, I believe, the analysis you're referring to is called the Charles River Report.
A number of entities both within the states and the other stakeholders have looked at that report and believe it to be fatally flawed.
Coming from Massachusetts, I will tell you that the nickname for the Charles River, before we were environmentally enlightened, was the Muddy River.
I think it is probably a good name for this study, because it has done nothing but muddy the economic analysis that has been done to look at the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.
We believe, that all of the analysis that we have done that it is credible, and that we have seen from other entities that it was done well and indicates that this initiative will actually, long term, increase energy efficiency, increase our reliance on renewables, and decrease our reliance on fossil fuels, and have significant economic impacts, both short term and long term.
REP. PISCOPO: I think something that has sold a lot of Legislators on this original proposal was that we will all be in this together.
It was the New England States and those states that we were, in effect in competition with, will all be in this together. Massachusetts and Rhode Island have bowed out of this agreement.
And that is one of the reasons that you mentioned Massachusetts and that is one of the reasons why I asked the Chairs to raise this bill.
It gives me great concern, that we have usurped our process as a Legislature to pretty much hand this into a regional group of Governors and East Coast Premiers, Chancellors, and Canada. And we basically have no say, and now two of our competitors that live right next door have opted out of this agreement. So I guess that is just a rhetorical statement.
COMM. GINA MCCARTHY: Representative, if I may, I totally appreciate the interest of the General Assembly, and your effort to look at this in a thorough way. I think, it is a great opportunity for you, and, I think, that others should look at it.
The one thing that I would recognize, is that we still believe that this is a significant and cooperative regional agreement. While Massachusetts decided not to sign the agreement at this time, as well as Rhode Island, we have every reason to believe that looking at this moving forward before it is enacted in 2009.
We still have high hopes that this will be adopted by both Massachusetts and Rhode Island. As you know, Massachusetts through their regulatory process has already established requirements in regulation for greenhouse gas reductions from these same facilities.
They will be hoping to take some advantage of the offset market that this agreement will create, but Connecticut has not required by regulation similar reductions in greenhouse gases, and this is using what we believe, to be a more effective, flexible approach to achieve the same kind of environmental protection impacts in a positive way without some of the potential economic downsides.
We have great faith that Rhode Island in seeing that the rest of the region is moving forward, will want to be in the game, because there could be significant disadvantages to a state, in this region, with this regional agreement not taking advantage of the allowances that this agreement provides to their facilities.
An allowance is a basically economic shares, basically trading allowances that allow them to take advantage of the market initially, and not have to face any increased economic downsides.
So I think, you will see this play out and we have been seeing some very bright lights arising from this with California announcing that they are going to move towards a similar statewide agreement, hoping to also partner with us on the offset side.
We know the Midwest is having discussions. So this was not just a regional agreement that we wanted to undertake, but we felt it would start that kind of momentum, and we really hope that before 2009 hits there is a possibility for a national program that is robust enough that we don't need to do it regional and there won't be disparate programs popping up in different states and different regions, and we will begin to get serious about our efforts to reduce the emissions that lead to global climate change.
REP. PISCOPO: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
REP. ROY: Thank you, Representative Alberts, nope you're all set. Now Representative Chapin.
REP. CHAPIN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Just as a follow up so I am clear. If Rhode Island and Massachusetts don't participate in this agreement, do you believe that that puts us at a competitive disadvantage when it comes to business growth in the State of Connecticut?
COMM. GINA MCCARTHY: No. I do not. I do not at all. I think Massachusetts will be at a slight disadvantage, because of the way in which they have chosen to reduce greenhouse gases, and I think Rhode Island will be at a significant disadvantage in terms of their energy costs. But we believe, that this agreement has actually been beneficial regardless of whether Massachusetts and Rhode Island joins in.
REP. CHAPIN: Do you think that is beneficial economically?
COMM. GINA MCCARTHY: Yes. I believe, long term it is. I believe, short term we do recognize that there will be potentially a 1% to 2% increase in energy costs after 2015, but, we believe, that is a short term impact which will lead to significant economic savings, if we can use this as an opportunity to get less reliance on fossil fuels.
REP. CHAPIN: Thank you very much. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
REP. ROY: You're welcome. Any other questions or comments? Commissioner, thank you very much.
COMM. GINA MCCARTHY: I appreciate it. Thank you.
REP. ROY: Has Cathy Osten arrived? If not, we will go to the public portion, and Leah Lopez, followed by Megan Hearne.
LEAH LOPEZ: Good morning. How are you guys doing? Senator Finch, Representative Roy, and Members of the Environment Committee, my name is Leah Schmalz, and I am the Director of Legislative and Legal Affairs for Save the Sound, which is a program of Connecticut Fund for the Environment.
I am here to support Raised House Bill 5624 AN ACT AUTHORIZING BONDS OF THE STATE FOR THE CLEAN WATER FUND. I will be submitting more extensive written testimony from CFE, as well as from Rivers Alliance.
The legislation currently before you authorizing $70 million in bonding to Clean Water Fund Projects is essential, if we are to protect our state's water bodies, including Long Island Sound.
For most of the last two decades, Connecticut has reaped the benefits of a consistent, well-planned, and executed investment in clean water.
Capitalizing on this investment the DEP has successfully planned and partnered with towns and cities, and achieved remarkable successes in restoring our rivers, lakes, and Long Island Sound.
Since beginning this investment in the mid-70s, Connecticut has been able to reduce by about half the flow of raw sewage running into major rivers and the Sound caused by overflowing combined sewer overflows during rainstorms.
They have also been able to reduce by about 50%, the treatment plant nitrogen pollution released into the Sound. These reductions are legally required by the Long Island Sound Nitrogen TMDL Program, approved by the EPA to protect the water quality and fisheries.
They have also been able to replace leaky sewer pipes and rebuild worn and outdated sewage treatment plants with advanced technologies.
However, the average annual state clean water funding took a nosedive in the past four years, and we enter the 2006 Fiscal Year with the lowest Fund Reserve in the Clean Water Fund's long history.
Raised House Bill 5624 seeks to increase the $20 million annual rate of investment, which if continued into the future would set back Connecticut's goals, and delay legal obligations to achieve critically important water quality goals by decades to $70 million, is a great start on the road to recovery.
This increase would triple the investment in our clean water future and give us a new beginning. It would help us ensure that Long Island Sound's nitrogen cleanup is not delayed by over two decades, and that we do not have to wait over a century for sewage-free water, fates to be suffered if we continue with the original $20 million authorization.
In conclusion, the State Legislature is demonstrating with Raised House Bill 5624, that it is accepting responsibility, and is willing to continue the tradition of investing in clean rivers, lakes, and a restored Long Island Sound.
With Raised House Bill 5624, the state is stepping up to the plate and renewing its commitment to Connecticut's citizens, communities, and future generations. Thank you very much for considering our comments.
REP. ROY: Thank you, Leah. Are there any questions from Members of the Committee? Say none. Thank you very much. Megan Hearne followed by Christopher Phelps.
MEGAN HEARNE: Hello and good morning, Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee. My name is Megan Hearne, and I am with the Connecticut River Watershed Council. I am the River Steward for the Connecticut reach of the river.
The Connecticut River Watershed Council is the principle, nonprofit environmental advocate for protection, restoration, and sustainable use of the Connecticut River and its watershed.
We are taking a lead on water-quality issues, and focusing on public education to help reduce stormwater runoff and CSO events and we support Raised House Bill 5624.
The Connecticut River is New England's largest watershed, includes historic Atlantic Salmon habitat, is an important recreational and economic resource, and provides 70% of the fresh water to Long Island Sound. The Connecticut is only 1 of 14 American-Heritage Rivers.
The tidal wetlands of the lower Connecticut River were named by the Nature Conservancy as 1 of 40 last great places, and by the Ramsar Convention as wetlands of international importance. Yet, Connecticut allows it to be impaired by sewage, nitrogen, and many other pollutants.
One billion gallons of untreated sewage overflows into the Connecticut River and surrounding water bodies each year.
Inadequately-treated sewage harbors bacteria such as e coli, fecal coliform bacteria, viruses, nitrogen, ammonia, toxic chemicals, and other pollutants.
The risk of getting sick by swimming in waters directly adjacent to an outfall of partially treated sewage is 50%. But when sewage is properly treated that number decreases dramatically to .1%.
Municipalities alone cannot and should not bear the brunt of the enormous costs for infrastructure improvements that affect the environment and public health for everyone.
The federal government no longer provides adequate funding for clean water infrastructure. It's about 5% now, rather than the 75% provided when the Clean Water Act was passed. So that leaves state government.
Connecticut has, in the past, been a leader in funding clean water programs through cost sharing with municipalities, but the recent backsliding is unacceptable.
The DEP has done an admirable job compiling project needs and making the most of their minimal funding allocations. They have worked with communities and businesses around the state to reduce raw sewage and nitrogen pollution by half since the 1970s. That is a tremendous accomplishment, but halfway is not the stopping point.
DEP would have to postpone 80% of its clean water projects, resulting in decades more delay, if the current funding of $20 million continues. The legislation before you in Bill 5624 would more than triple the capacity of DEP to move forward with important clean water projects.
Clean water is so valuable it is hard to put an accurate dollar amount on it, but each year CSO abatement and denitrification projects become more expensive.
The Connecticut River Watershed Council urges you to accept responsibility for environmental stewardship and support this critical investment in the state's water quality. Thank you.
REP. ROY: Thank you. Are there any questions for Megan? Say none. Thank you very much Megan. Christopher Phelps followed by Jack Jolls.
CHRISTOPHER PHELPS: Good morning. Thank you, Chairman Roy and Members of the Committee.
My name is Christopher Phelps. I am an advocate with ConnPIRG, the Connecticut Public Interest Research Group, and I have submitted testimony on two bills for the Committee today, Raised Bill 5624.
We submitted testimony in support of that legislation. As was noted earlier, this bill really is vital. It restores funding for Connecticut's commitment to clean water projects to protect our waterways in the state, and we strongly support that legislation.
Additionally, we offered you testimony on Raised House Bill 5623 AN ACT WITHDRAWING FROM THE REGIONAL GREENHOUSE GAS INITIATIVE, and ConnPIRG is strongly opposed to this legislation.
As you know, I am sure, in 2004, this Legislature enacted a number of pieces of legislation committing this state to moving forward in its efforts to reduce emissions of global warming pollutants that contribute to climate change.
And these landmark steps that Connecticut has taken really establish our state as a leader in national efforts to combat global warming with commonsense, cost-effective policies.
The RGGI Agreement, Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative Agreement, is really critical to the success of that commitment that we and other states in the Northeast have made.
Frankly, it is not possible for our state or our Nation to achieve substantive effective reductions in global, warming influence, and to fight global warming, without dealing with emissions from the power sector, and this agreement gets us on that path.
As noted earlier by the Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection, this agreement is providing an example that other states, and other regions throughout this Nation are beginning to follow as well.
Really, Connecticut, and the six other states in the Northeast that have agreed in recent months in support of this are leading by example, and I would agree, on the behalf of ConnPIRG, that we really hope that this provides the impetus for a national coordinated and effective effort on this initiative that is really vital to both our economic and our environmental well-being in decades to come.
I am going to leave it at that, and just conclude by noting what, I think, the Commissioner also mentioned, which is that this program was designed not just with the environmental necessity of fighting global warming in mind, but also with the necessity of doing it in a smart way for our businesses and our consumers in Connecticut and throughout the region.
And it includes provisions that as she noted, will allow for investments in policies that can benefit energy consumers through energy efficiency programs, demand-reduction programs in the long haul, in essence making this a win-win opportunity for our state. I hate that phrase, but I am going to use it today.
So on behalf of ConnPIRG, I do urge you to reject this bill. I think, it would take us in the wrong direction and reverse a commitment, a very good commitment, that our state has made. I would be happy to answer any questions.
REP. ROY: Thank you, Chris. Any questions for Chris? Say none. Thank you very much. Jack Jolls followed by David Sutherland.
JACK JOLLS: Good morning. Chairman Roy, Members of the Committee, my name is Jack Jolls. I am the immediate past President of the American Council of Engineering Companies of Connecticut.
We represent 115 consulting firms in the state, many of whom provide environmental engineering services for state agencies and municipalities related to clean water projects.
While the Legislature has funded this program consistently since 1987, at an average of about $50 million per year, through 2002, the program was not funded during the state's fiscal crisis. Last year, the General Assembly increased funding to $20 million per year in the Biennial Budget.
House Bill 5624 would restore that funding and go a long way to meeting the demonstrated needs of communities throughout our state. This is important because these programs greatly increase the quality of life of Connecticut, and failing to address them jeopardizes health and safety.
Failing wastewater treatment plants, or wastewater treatment plants lacking in nutrient removal capacity, contribute to the decline of Long Island Sound, our rivers, our lakes, and waterways, as well as our wildlife, and agricultural industries.
For example, like other important infrastructure issues, inadequate funding over any appreciable length of time will eventually result in higher cost for maintenance, operation, and placement of worn-out equipment, as other presenters have said.
We are likely to see more unhealthy incidents of sewage spills, closed beaches, and basements flooding with raw sewage.
If antiquated wastewater treatment plants and facilities are at or near capacity [Gap in testimony. Changing from Tape 1A to Tape 1B.]
--housing when projects are postponed because of the lack of funding costs to the residents increase because of rapidly-rising material and labor costs, as Peter Hughes, so aptly explained.
I would like to comment also, that material costs in the last 24 months have been subject to unusual increases in cost, and that has been exacerbated by two events, not the least of which was the increase in the cost of fuels for motor transportation of these equipment and materials.
But also, we live in a world market and two years ago the People's Republic of China had a very, very strong demand for scrap steel, and at face value that would seem to be innocuous, but it's not, because as material demand rise and supplies do not rise to meet the demand, costs will go up.
And we found that to be particularly true with materials associated with water and wastewater infrastructure, and most particularly with pipe and steel, and we saw escalation of costs in the 15% to 20% range during that period.
So the message is the longer you wait, the more it is going to cost, and there are going to be more projects added to the list, the problem is not going away, costs will increase geometrically. Please, don't let that happen. Increase funding for the Clean Water Fund. Thank you.
REP. ROY: Thank you, Sir. Are there any questions for Jack? Say none. Thank you very much.
David Sutherland, followed by Michael Bisi.
DAVID SUTHERLAND: Good morning. Thank you very much for giving us the opportunity to testify.
I am here today on behalf of the Nature Conservancy and our 28,000 members here in Connecticut to express our strong opposition to House Bill 5623, which would call for the State of Connecticut to withdraw from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.
In opposing this bill, we want to express our appreciation of this Committee for your support and introduction of a variety of measures over the last several years that have helped us towards some of the goals that are called for in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.
I have submitted in my testimony, just some brief accounts of what we expect some of the impacts of climate change to be on some of our natural systems here in Connecticut. But in the brief time for my verbal testimony, I would just like to address the issue of why Connecticut should be doing something.
We do help many of our citizens here in Connecticut that face very severe economic hardships, and we would never want to diminish the difficulties or appear to be diminishing the difficulties of those impacts.
Any increases in the cost of living for some of our citizens are very serious, but one way or another, Connecticut has managed to remain probably the most affluent assemblage of three million people that has ever existed in history.
We do have some serious problems with some of our segments of our society, but as a whole, even if you take away Fairfield County, Connecticut still ranks, I think, second or third in the Country in per capita income.
So if we are not going to try to do something about this very, very serious problem looming ahead of us, how in the world can we expect anyone else in the world to do so.
It has got to be coming from us. We've got to be in the forefront of these efforts, and the RGGI Project provides us a way of doing this.
These impacts from climate change are not going to be abstract, happening somewhere else. We are going to be seeing impacts, very unpredictable impacts in a lot of ways, here in Connecticut, and we feel that it is paramount for us to move forward.
The solutions are not going to be perfect. We are going to make mistakes in trying to address this issue, but that is not a reason for not doing anything, and to do nothing in the face of this problem could be one of the most irresponsible acts our society takes in our generation.
So thank you very much for your support for a lot of related issues.
REP. ROY: Thank you David. Senator Meyer.
SEN. MEYER: Mr. Sutherland, I think I read that the current Administration in Washington believes that climate change is, there is no climate change. At least there is no climate change caused by human activity. Do you understand that to be the position of the Administration as well?
DAVID SUTHERLAND: Well, I think if you took it all of the way to the top, and they had to speak truly as one voice, yeah, I think that's what they are still saying.
I think we are seeing a variety of chinks in that position from different agencies, different officials in agencies that are looking at the problem. So I think they have probably got a little less unanimity than they did a couple of years ago.
That's my impression on it, but if you asked the White House, my impression is, yeah, they would say, at this point, we still need to do more study.
I think they have softened that a little bit. It is my impression that they have started to at least acknowledge that there might be a problem, and that we should at least look at it more.
SEN. MEYER: Are you persuaded that there is actually ongoing climate change, and that climate change results from human activity?
DAVID SUTHERLAND: Yeah. The scientists in our organization, we are a global organization with science staff, and our scientists and a lot of other scientists with whom they are constantly consulting, yeah, very much believe that it is going on now.
It's already started. It's going to get worse, and that while human impacts aren't the only cause, that they are a predominant cause. They are a major influence on that.
I don't know if you saw in the news, the Hartford Courant this morning, there is an article about the Canadian forests, the Lodgepole Pine, which is a major timber tree up in Canada, and they are seeing millions and millions more acres devastated by an insect that previously has been very restricted in its range, and they feel the major reason that it has spread, is because of warming.
They don't have as cold, persistently cold, winters, as they used to, and that is just having a devastating effect on millions and millions of acres of important forest.
And I think one of the problems we get into looking at any individual incident, whether it is that forest's infestation of a spreading insect or whether it is certain hurricanes.
I think it is very difficult to attribute any specific incident due to climate change. There are always going to be a variety of factors, but the prevailing signs that we are seeing is that the trends are not good. The trends are pointing towards climate change, and that is greatly exacerbated by human activity.
SEN. MEYER: Is there any scientific doubt that the climate is actually warming?
DAVID SUTHERLAND: Oh. There are certainly some people who doubt that.
SEN. MEYER: Isn't that provable?
DAVID SUTHERLAND: Well, I think in any area of scientific research or expertise, part of the job of scientists are to foster doubt and doubt themselves, create doubt, and I think, you could certainly work with some climate statistics.
To portray most climatologists that I have seen, have said yes, climate change is happening, and I think a big issue is whether it is just probably the bigger disagreement is whether it is part of just natural cyclical cycles that happen over tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, or even shorter periods of time, and again, most climatologists that I have seen or read, feel that human activity is exacerbating this.
That it is not just natural cycles. So I think that is the bigger argument.
REP. ROY: Thank you. Any other questions? Senator Piscopo.
SEN. PISCOPO: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Just to clarify, if we pull out of this, it doesn't mean that we are not going to do anything. I mean, we could still work on business to curb the cancer carcinogens, such as the sulfur compounds and the nitrous compounds, and those pollutants that actually harm us.
So I didn't want you to leave this Committee with that impression, that we will do nothing. We're always a pretty innovative state and try to clean our environment.
DAVID SUTHERLAND: Right. I think that's a good point. We feel that this regional agreement is a crucial part of doing something in that the solutions to climate change are going to have to happen on a variety of levels, not just individual states, or individual provinces and other countries.
It is going to take as many provinces, as many states, as many countries as possible working together to foster solutions, and just Connecticut doing this bill here or that bill here, it is very important for us, but I think for us to be joining with other states, coordinating our actions, studying them more in-depth to see what mistakes we are making, what successes we are having over a period of years is critical, and I think it will create a lot more attention.
There are a couple of, I think they call them states in Australia, states or provinces there that are looking at the RGGI process here in the Northeastern United States.
There are a couple of European countries that are looking at it, and there are other states in the country that are looking at it, and I think, they are looking at it more than they would be if it was just Connecticut.
So I think you're right. We do have to approach it on both levels.
REP. ROY: Thank you. Any other questions or comments? Thank you, David.
DAVID SUTHERLAND: Thank you.
REP. ROY: Michael Bisi, followed by Cathy Osten.
MICHAEL BISI: Good morning, Chairman Roy and Members of the Environment Committee. Thank you for allowing me to speak tonight.
My name is Mike Bisi. I am Superintendent of Sanitation from the Town of Glastonbury, and I am here representing the Connecticut Water Pollution Abatement Association to which I serve on the Board of Directors.
Although the Town of Glastonbury has the best interest in what I am about to speak about, because we always raise funding for a major treatment center. The CWPA fully supports House Bill 5624 to allow the desperately required increase in clean water funding.
Although Connecticut has been has been in the forefront of clean water projects and its Clean Water Funding Program is probably one of the best in the Country, recent years significant reductions of funding levels have occurred. These funding reductions come at a time when there is significant increased need to maintain our aging infrastructure.
Treatment plants are expected to continue their high level of effective wastewater treatment at the lowest level of cost for their users.
Increasingly, more stringent wastewater discharge requirements, which includes nitrogen reduction to enhance water quality on Long Island Sound have occurred, and many municipalities have planned their wastewater projects anticipating clean water funding, and will be faced with delaying or not doing them at all.
Not doing them or delaying them will result in significant increased costs while taxpayers have diminished water quality in the State of Connecticut.
So much has been invested toward the protection of the waters in the State of Connecticut, it would be irresponsible to not continue. The need for these projects will not go away and they will become more and more costly, because of delay.
Thank you for allowing me to speak, and I would be happy to answer any questions you might have.
REP ROY: Thank you. Are there any questions, Michael? Say none. Thank you. Cathy Osten, followed by Gian-Carl Casa.
CATHY OSTEN: Good morning. How are you today? Representative Roy, I am here today as the Treasurer for the Town of Sprague, and I am sorry I wasn't here earlier. I had a prior engagement.
I am here to ask for your support for Senate Bill 471, which allows state bonding for a sewer system in the Town of Sprague. We service three villages, the Village of Baltic, the Village of Hanover, and the Village of Versailles.
We are a very small community with less than 3,000 residents. Most of our residents are members of working families, and we cannot repair what needs to happen with our sewer system. Our sewer system was last serviced in the '60s and is in serious need of repair, and I am asking today for your support on that initiative.
REP. ROY: Thank you. Are there any questions from Members of the Committee? Say none. Thank you very much for making the effort, Cathy, I appreciate it.
Gian-Carl Casa followed by Kachina Walsh-Weaver.
GIAN-CARL CASA: Good morning, Representative Roy, Senator Finch, Members of the Committee.
My name is Gian-Carl Casa. I am the Director of Legislative Services for the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, and I am here to support Raised Bill 5624, the bill that would provide $70 million in additional bonding for the Clean Water Fund.
I have submitted written comments, and many of the points that I would have made before you today have been made already. I will try not to repeat them. But I do want to make a couple that I don't think have.
One is that at current levels of bonding, DEP has said its Draft Priority List that only one in five projects ready to proceed will be funded in Fiscal Year '06, and only one in seven in Fiscal Year '07, and the Department's Draft said that the limitation on available funding has significant negative impact on the state's ability to continue with nitrogen removal projects for removal to Long Island Sound, as well as projects which address reduction or elimination of combined sewer overflows to surface water.
So again, only about 20% of the ready-to-go projects are able to be funded at current bond levels.
I also want to say, that the municipalities are more than willing to pay their fair share, that even at the 30% grant rate for nitrogen removal, they end up paying, after they pay back the loan portion, about 85% for every $10 million of the project cost, and even at 50% grants for the CSO's, they are paying about 61% of total project cost.
I do want to address one issue that has come up, and that is the possibility having a loan-only program, which we think would not do the job for municipalities because of the great cost implications it would have, and we would urge you to maintain a strong grant component to the Clean Water Fund system.
But as you heard today from the Representative from the Town of Plainville, inadequacy of the grant program has put some communities in a quandary.
They want to go forward, but they can't get grants, and although we would not want to make such an option permanent, we would ask you to amend the bill before you to allow a window of opportunity for these communities, four months perhaps, so that they can go forward if they choose to do a loan-only project this year because of so many problems in funding that have occurred this year.
We oppose making the option permanent, as I have said. But we will stand with you in fighting for $70 million in additional bonding this year.
It is our understanding, from talking to DEP Staff this morning, that they believe, that will get us up to a level that we need to be, and that from here on out, the state needs just to keep it around $50 million in GO Bonding. So we urge you to favorably support the bill.
REP. ROY: Thank you. Any questions? Senator Finch.
SEN. FINCH: I just want to thank CCM and Representative Boukus for steering the General Assembly in a better direction. I don't think there is anything that this current Administration has done to me, but I have heard such negative discussion about it around the building.
And in light of it being not the most sexy issue in the world, I think that is pretty telling, and I hope that the Administration rethinks their position, because opposition to this is pretty much bipartisan.
And I think throughout the building I think it is largely due to the way you brought these things to light, and Representative Boukus has gotten a lot of signers on to her $70 million bill now.
What do you think about that bill in terms of being enough? Is that enough?
GIAN-CARL CASA: Again, what we heard from DEP Staff today is that if you add $70 million to the $20 million that is already in the bond package for this upcoming year, that that gets you to around $90 million, and that that should be enough to catch up to the number of projects that are ready to proceed.
So we think, at least as of today, it seems like $70 million is the right amount, and going forward into the future we would probably have to do $50 million.
SEN. FINCH: I just want to make this one comment, and as a new Co-Chair one of the things I have been overwhelmed by is the number of issues that come before us, and the severity of certain environmental problems. But if we look at our human existence on the planet, what is more fundamental than clean air and clean water?
And living on or near Long Island Sound all of my life, I have seen it go from an open cesspool, to Harbor Seals and Ospreys living on the coast again, and it has just been remarkable, and it seems like this is a terrible backsliding.
Whatever we could do as a Committee to get behind, keeping us on the 2014 schedule would be really important and again, I just want to thank you for providing the leadership on this issue, and I hope you don't become daunted at all.
Keep pressure on this issue, because in the fundamental ways that we as human beings can improve the climate and improve our living environment, air and water cleanliness are the two most important. There are a lot of things that we need to work on, but there is nothing more important than clean air and clean water. Thanks.
GIAN-CARL CASA: Thank you, Senator. I just want to make a point that in talking to people about this issue, and you have heard many of them today, it brings together environmental groups. You have heard from ConnPIRG and the Fund for the Environment, business groups.
You have heard from the Engineering Association, and we have also gotten support from the labor unions, from AFL-CIO, and the Connecticut State Building Trades. So it touches environmental groups, municipal groups, businesses, and labor. Thank you.
REP. ROY: Thank you. Any other questions or comments? Say none. Thank you. Kachina Walsh-Weaver, followed by Dan Simmons.
KACHINA WALSH-WEAVER: Good morning Mr. Chairman, Members of the Committee.
For the record, my name is Kachina Walsh-Weaver. I am with the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities. It is not often I follow my boss in testifying. Actually I am on the opposite side of the issue. No, just kidding.
CCM is in support of Raised Senate Bill 470, which would allow the abatement or waiver of local property taxes on hybrid vehicles.
This bill is essentially a municipal option, and it would allow those towns whose Legislative bodies choose to move forward with such a mechanism to do so, and we ask, what we have been in support of is that this is something that several of our municipal members had asked for several years in a row.
They would like to do more to encourage energy efficiency within their municipalities, and to reward those individuals who are moving in those directions.
We would ask only that you broaden the scope a little bit. The bill specifically stipulates vehicles utilizing hybrid technologies, and I am certainly not a scientist, but I do believe that there are alternative technologies out there, alternative fuels, along with hybrid vehicles, and I don't believe they all fall under the same definition.
So I would ask you to look at those different options carefully so that those people who are looking at different types of technology could also take advantage of these programs. Thank you.
REP. ROY: Thank you, Kachina. Any questions or comments? Representative Chapin.
REP. CHAPIN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I don't think you were in the room as Senator Roraback testified.
KACHINA WALSH-WEAVER: I was not. No, unfortunately I missed it.
REP. CHAPIN: I had asked him if his definition of hybrid included, I could not think of the term, but its flexi-fuel vehicles, are those types of vehicles you're talking about?
KACHINA WALSH-WEAVER: Yes, Yes. Exactly.
REP. CHAPIN: So you would support including those in the definition?
KACHINA WALSH-WEAVER: We would, yes.
REP. CHAPIN: Thank you very much.
REP. ROY: Senator Finch.
SENATOR FINCH: Why don't we just have the local option for vehicles that get better than a certain gas mileage? Why do we want to have alternative fuels and definitions? Isn't there a social policy to encourage conservation of scarce natural resources, and thereby lessen their pollutions?
KACHINA WALSH-WEAVER: I think that would be a very good idea, and that might just make the whole thing a lot easier.
REP. ROY: Thank you. Any other questions or comments? Kachina, thank you. Dan Simmons followed by Richard Boynton.
DANIEL SIMMONS: Chairman and Members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to testify today on House Bill 5623, AN ACT WITHDRAWING FROM THE REGIONAL GREENHOUSE GAS INITIATIVE.
My name is Daniel Simmons, and I am the Director of the Natural Resources Taskforce of the American Legislative Exchange Council. My message today is simple. The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative will produce no environmental benefits, but it will entail real costs.
In a paper published in Geophysical Research Letters, Tom Wigely of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, a federally funded research and development center, calculated that if the Kyoto Protocol were fully implemented, it would only avert 7/100 of a degree Celsius in temperature warming by 2050.
You have heard me correctly. If the full Kyoto Protocol which would commit the United States to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 7% below 1990 levels, or about 20% below today's levels, it would avert only 7/100 of a degree Celsius in warming by 2050.
This tiny amount likely isn't measurable, and because it is so small it won't have an effect on climate or on ecosystems.
Because RGGI will avert significantly less carbon dioxide emissions, the temperature rise averted will be lower than the 7/100 of a degree Celsius that would be averted if the Kyoto Protocol were fully implemented. In other words there are no environmental benefits to RGGI.
While RGGI will produce only symbolic benefits, the costs are real. The latest data from Charles River Associates show that RGGI will cost each Connecticut family approximately $180 in 2010, and $270 in 2020.
Admittedly, these costs are not gigantic, but it seems unwise to pay $180 a year for a program that doesn't result in real environmental benefits.
These costs will be disproportionately borne by low and middle-income families and the elderly. These groups will have to pay a higher percentage of their income to energy prices, and they will be less likely to be able to make their houses more energy efficient to deal with higher energy prices.
But these aren't the only costs. When choosing between policy alternatives, economists like to talk about opportunity cost. At its most basic level with dollars spent on wanting is a dollar that can't be spent on something else. In this case, a dollar spent on higher energy prices is a dollar that can't be spent on something else or invested.
Dr. Robert Crandall, an economist with the Brookings Institution has said every dollar dedicated to greenhouse gas abatement today could be invested to grow into $117 in the next 50 years at a 10% social rate of return. Even at a puny 5% annual return, each dollar would grow into $12 in 50 years.
He goes on to say that if a program can't produce benefits of this amount, then we should use our scarce resources in other ways.
In summation, RGGI will not produce any measurable environmental benefits, but unfortunately some people have to bear the cost of the program. Thank you very much for your time. I will be happy to answer any questions.
REP. ROY: Thank you. Are there any questions for Dan? Representative O'Rourke.
REP. O'ROURKE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Simmons, good morning.
You offer a sort of a rare opinion on climate change and global warming. Virtually all of the independent scientific information, studies, and opinion that I have read, suggests that global warming is real and that its effects are pervasive, and will be profoundly negative on life on this planet, both human and otherwise, and that we need to take extreme measures to try to avert it and lessen that impact in the future.
And yet your group, the American Legislative Exchange Council comes before us and asks us not to take action.
Your testimony relies a lot on this Charles River Report, Charles River Associates. I want to ask you, you're the Director, are you not of the Director of Natural Resource Taskforce of ALEC?
DANIEL SIMMONS: Yes.
REP. O'ROURKE: So you're the person in charge of making environmental policy and overseeing ALEC's position on these issues.
DANIEL SIMMONS: I am in charge of overseeing these issues, but it is really State Legislatures that develop the policy for the Committee.
REP. O'ROURKE: The State Legislators who are your members, but you do the research--
DANIEL SIMMONS: Yes.
REP. O'ROURKE: --And provide them with the information so you're personally very knowledgeable about this Charles River Report that you rely on in this testimony.
DANIEL SIMMONS: I am not, I mean, granted I do not understand all of the assumptions that were made in the report. I just know what those numbers are. I know that those numbers, they rely on different assumptions then for example, the RGGI Staff has used.
What those are, I do not know. I would be very happy to find out what they are and provide that information to you.
REP. O'ROURKE: Do you think the Charles River Report relies on numbers that our Regional Greenhouse Gas Imitative staff relied on? Is that what you just said?
DANIEL SIMMONS: That is my assumption, but I don't know that for sure. If I could take--
REP. O'ROURKE: It might not be a good assumption. Do you know when the Charles River study was completed?
DANIEL SIMMONS: This most recent study came out, I mean, the most recent numbers that I provided, that $180 a year in 2010 and $270 a year in 2020, those are numbers, they haven't been published yet.
I mean, that they are just within a couple of months old, so that is new data. Their previous data had much higher numbers, because they were relying on previous numbers that the RGGI staff had provided, like pre-September numbers.
But if I could take one step back for a second, you said that I was saying that global warming wasn't real. That is not correct. There is warming, climate changes, and I believe, the information that I have seen says that there has been some global warming.
The question is, is how much of this warming is manmade, and how much of it is because of natural processes and natural trends? That I don't know the answer to, but I just wanted to clear up, that I am not saying that warming isn't real, nor am I saying that we shouldn't take we shouldn't take cost-effective measures, because of global warming. I am not saying that at all.
What I am saying is the Kyoto Protocol, the Cap and Trade System, such as Kyoto Protocol, such as RGGI, isn't going to produce environmental benefits, and that we would be wise to spend our money in other ways, such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the Third World, working to make the Third World more energy efficient, because within just a few years their greenhouse gas emissions are going to be greater than the developed world, and that is really where we can the bang for our buck.
REP. O'ROURKE: I notice on your testimony you're very critical of the Kyoto Protocol and virtually every industrialized First World nation is a part of that except the United States.
DANIEL SIMMONS: The Kyoto Protocol has been signed by, I believe, it is approximately 174 different countries. The two major countries that have not signed are the United States and Australia.
There are about 30 countries that actually have binding commitments under the Kyoto Protocol, as in there are only 30 countries that have to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Europe is obviously the main player. Canada as well in the developed world.
Those countries, from the latest data, Europe is not on track to meet its commitments under Kyoto and neither is Canada. That's just a fact, but that is kind of like the size and scope of the Kyoto Protocol.
REP. O'ROURKE: Let's get back to this Charles River study. You mention that your numbers today, your new numbers, my understanding of the Charles River Report that was completed actually before our RGGI plan came out, and so wasn't really based on our plan came out, and so it really wasn't based on our plan at all, and so some wild assumptions have been made.
Do you know what they used to estimate the cost to reduce carbon in their report? What per ton?
DANIEL SIMMONS: I don't know, and that is a very critical number. From the information, the marginal cost of abatement per ton, under their latest assumptions, were $42, or more than that in 2010 and $71 in 2020. That is their marginal cost to abatement. I--
REP. O'ROURKE: Is that based on the idea of burying the carp?
DANIEL SIMMONS: I don't know what processes assume, but I will be happy to find that information and give it to you.
REP. O'ROURKE: Did you know that our RGGI, has a cap of $10 per ton, quite a bit less than your $40 and your $70.
DANIEL SIMMONS: That is, I mean, admittedly that will keep the prices lower.
REP. O'ROURKE: Will that change your opinion, your group's opinion of this bill?
DANIEL SIMMONS: No. Because at its most basic level that RGGI will not produce environmental benefits period. And that's the most basic problem.
Yes, there are going to be some costs, even at $10 a ton of abatement, we are still not producing environmental benefits, and that is what I care about the most is engaging in activities where the environment will benefit.
REP. O'ROURKE: [inaudible] just one last question. I know you have members of your group who are Legislators. Where do you get the bulk of your funding for ALEC?
DANIEL SIMMONS: I don't know where we get the bulk of our funding. As you can imagine, since the issues that I deal with are mostly energy issues, that oil companies, and other energy companies do provide funding for our organization, but--
REP. O'ROURKE: Mobil [inaudible]--
DANIEL SIMMONS: --Exon, Mobil, BP, Shell--
REP. O'ROURKE: DuPont?
DANIEL SIMMONS: I don't know about DuPont, for example. But I mean, and my point is, that is that, yes, we receive funding from the oil companies, and, as a result, you should be critical of my testimony. But then again, we should be critical of all information that comes before the Committee, and that's my message.
REP. O'ROURKE: Fair enough. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
REP. ROY: Thank you. Any other questions, comments? Representative Piscopo.
REP. PISCOPO: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Dan, I just want to thank you for coming up and offering this testimony, and with your testimony you brought in some books of the energy environment and economics, and the state factor, some testimony by Dr. Margaret Thorning, and it just offers some good, sound science that states that although there is some warming, it is not human-induced, and I am sure the Members will read, as well as the Chairs will read this stuff, and so I appreciate your dropping that stuff off.
DANIEL SIMMONS: Thank you very much, and then in the state factor that Representative Piscopo brought up, it is using the older number from Charles River Associates, as opposed to the newer numbers which relied on the cap of year 2000 levels.
REP. PISCOPO: It is my understanding that China, I have companies right in my hometown of Thomaston that are in competition with China, and are making the same electronic switches and stuff that we make here in Thomaston. We are in direct competition from China, India, and Brazil. They are exempt from Kyoto.
DANIEL SIMMONS: Yes. All of those countries do not have binding caps, as in they do not have to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions under the Kyoto Protocol.
REP. PISCOPO: Thank you, Dan. Thank you very much for coming up. I appreciate it. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
REP ROY: Thank you. Any other questions or comments? Say none. Thank you very much, Dan. Richard Boynton, followed by Roger Smith. Good morning, Richard.
RICHARD BOYNTON: My name is Richard Boynton. For the last 10 years, I have served as President of the Lake Beseck Association, an organization of over 100 members that is devoted to the ongoing mission of protecting the environment of the lake and the quality of life at the lake community.
And I am truly honored to be given the opportunity to express my enthusiastic support for House Bill 5625. This bill seeks funding for the elimination of the blue-green algae in the lake and the reduction of the invasive weed called Eurasian Watermilfoil.
On a sunny, summer day in June or July, there are often more than 30 boats on the lake, plus numerous residents and visitors swimming off of their docks or the public beach.
Unfortunately, starting in early August, the lake turns green, and we are talking about slime here. In addition to looking disgusting this blue-green algae causes allergic reactions to many swimmers, and particularly in water-skiers. As you wipe out on your skis and the water is forced up your nose, it is a little disgusting. You get a severely running nose.
The result is the lake is largely abandoned in late summer. I have been standing by the boat launch area in summer a number of times, because we are trying to stop people from bringing milfoil into the lake, and people come down, take one look at the lake, and just turn around, and bring their boat back up on the carrier, and drive away. That is really a crime for a lake that is a major recreational lake in Connecticut.
Lake Beseck is one of the few lakes in Connecticut that allows waterskiing. Lake Beseck, Silver Lake, and Batterson Park Pond are the only lakes over 100 acres in size available to all residents in the Central Connecticut area and our Batterson only allows trolling motors, so it is really just two lakes that allow waterskiing, and now Lake Beseck is not really usable after August sets in.
In DEP's next reporting on the status of Connecticut waters to the EPA under Section 305B of the Federal Clean Water Act, Lake Beseck will be listed as an impaired water body for aquatic life and recreation.
The primary reason for this impaired listing is the severe algae blooms that plagued Lake Beseck throughout part of the summer.
Although the major original source of pollutants was from failing septic systems and stormwater runoff, these problems were corrected using federal, state, and local funds in 1999, by installing both the sanitary sewer system, and stormwater infrastructure improvements.
And I am very grateful to everybody in government who approved the funding for that because that has made a major difference in our life there.
However, the algae blooms persist because the pollutants that were generated from the septic systems and stormwater runoff for 100 years prior to 1999, remains sequestered in the lake sediment.
These pollutants are nutrients that create the algae blooms by recycling from the sediments, to the water, and then back to the sediments each summer, and that occurs when the oxygen level is depleted at the lake bottom. Then there is a chemical reaction that releases these nutrients.
With funding from DEP's Lakes Grant Program, a study by a Ph.D., the limnologist determined that this internal nutrient loading could be created by using a method called Alum. It is an aluminum salt. Alum must be added at precisely the correct rate to avoid damage to the fish population.
So pre- and post-studies will be required in consultation with DEP and several lake water experts. We have estimated that the cost of these studies, plus the cost of the Alum, will be approximately $100,000, and I noted in my write-up here, that we didn't pad that, and I was hoping that you would maybe reduce it to what we really needed.
We really do need the $100,000 because the estimates, were, the lowest was $91,000, and the highest was $146,000, and more likely it is going to be tough to even do it with the $100,000.
In addition to the presence of blue-green algae, due to excessive nutrients in the water, Lake Beseck also has a problem with an invasive plant known as Eurasian Watermilfoil.
REP. ROY: Richard, can you wrap it up? Your three minutes is up.
RICHARD BOYNTON: Oh, dear. Okay. All right.
REP. ROY: You have got testimony you have given us, right?
RICHARD BOYNTON: I'm sorry.
REP. ROY: You have testimony that--
RICHARD BOYNTON: Yeah. I have given it to you, yeah.
REP. ROY: Okay.
RICHARD BOYNTON: Well, I just want to say that the lake is eutrophic, and it cost $5½ million for Silver Lake to fix it. We don't want that to happen to Lake Beseck, and so $100,000 now is a heck of a lot better deal than $5½ million three or four years down the road.
REP. ROY: No argument with that. Any questions or comments? Representative Kalinowski.
REP. KALINOWSKI: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Good morning, Dick. Thank you for your testimony. I want to also thank you for your most effective leadership with the Lake Beseck Association. You have really made some nice advances with that particular group of people who are so concerned with the health of the lake.
Let me ask you this. I have been told that there is a problem with dead fish floating in the lake, like in the late summer months, August or so. Do you have any comment on that?
RICHARD BOYNTON: Yeah. I probably should have put that in the written report. When we get the algae, after it gets pretty bad, then the fish start to die, and so you come down in the morning, and there will be just in my little section in front of my dock, it is only 100 ft. wide, I will have 10 or 15 fish that are dead, lying in this green, slimy water.
What we have to do, the people who live on the lake, is you get out in your canoe and you take a pair of gloves so you don't catch anything, and you pick up all of these dead fish, and put them in a plastic bag, and wrap it up tightly so it doesn't stink your garbage pail up.
I mean, basically the fish can't survive in the algae. As I understand it, the algae get into the gills of the fish, so they can't absorb the oxygen in the water, and also there is a problem with oxygen depletion in the lake.
That's is tied in with the nutrients that absorb the oxygen, so we have had a number of incidents of fish kills resulting from this basically excessive amounts of nutrients in the lake.
REP. KALINOWSKI: And this study will go a long way to making that this condition is not irreversible. I am sure that once the report comes back we can take very good steps to make that water better. Correct?
RICHARD BOYNTON: Yeah. What we are hoping here, we've had several studies done on the lake, and they told us what we already knew, because you can just take one look at it, and see dead fish and slime, and you know it is a problem.
But nobody has done anything about anything. They just simply studied it, and now we are hoping this bill, with $100,000, would give us the money to do something about this.
In time, it is getting worse rather than better, so the time has come to correct this problem, and that is what we are hoping will happen.
REP. KALINOWSKI: Thank you, Sir. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you very much, Richard.
REP. ROY: Roger Smith followed by Eric Brown.
ROGER SMITH: Good morning. Good morning, Representative Roy, Senator Finch, and Members of the Committee.
My name is Roger Smith, and I am the Campaign Director for Clean Water Action, and we are a nonprofit with 12,000 members in Connecticut, and about a million members throughout the Nation, and I am here to testify in opposition to House Bill 5623, AN ACT WITHDRAWING FROM THE REGIONAL GREENHOUSE GAS INITIATIVE.
There are a couple of points that I wanted to make. The first is, that there is tremendous pride across the state in our leadership on this issue of global warming. I was lucky enough to be able to spend much of my time giving presentations and speeches across Connecticut on this issue.
I was also able to represent environmental groups across New England at the recent U.N. Climate Change Conference, and in all of these situations, I am able to talk about what we are doing here in Connecticut as really a model for other states and for the nation as a whole.
Washington might be falling down on the job of dealing with global warming, but we are proud that Connecticut's actually doing something up for it, and that is a commitment that both our Governor has made, and then also the Legislature has made, and if to put this in a broader context, binding caps on our carbon dioxide emissions are inevitable.
If the entire rest of the world is going ahead with them, sooner or later Connecticut is going to be dragged along with it. So RGGI right here, has an opportunity to get ahead of the curve and actually reduce pollution on our own terms, instead of waiting until it is dictated to us from Washington.
RGGI also provides us an opportunity to get a handle on demand for electricity. We have a choice here between building more power plants, more transmission lines, paying congestion fees, or we could potentially use allowances created in the RGGI Program to invest in efficiency.
And efficiency will save consumers' money and have real direct economic benefits here in the state after spending less money on imported fossil fuels.
So for these reasons, I urge you to oppose this bill, and to keep Connecticut in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, and I am happy to answer any questions related to the science or politics of global warming as well. Thank you.
REP. ROY: Thank you, Roger. Are there any questions or comments for Roger? Say none. Eric Brown followed by Sandy Breslin, should she arrive.
ERIC BROWN: Good morning, Representative Roy, Senator Finch, Members of the Committee, my name is Eric Brown. I am with the Connecticut Business Industry Association.
I am here to testify this morning in support of two bills, Raised House Bills 5628 and 5629. Both of these bills relate and interplay well, we think, with legislation and existing law that originated in this Committee a number of years ago, for, with respect of 568, verification of the LEP's.
This, of course, relates to the very important voluntary cleanup program that was instituted here a number of years ago which recognized just the limitations on resources of DEP to be directly involved in cleaning up the many, many properties in Connecticut that needed to be addressed, and so the concept of using a licensed professional outside of the Department [Gap in testimony. Changing from Tape 1B to Tape 2A.]
--that was brought into play. Now even cleanups that are conducted by these outside licensed professionals, there are certain steps in the process where there, are [inaudible]
points where DEP still has an opportunity to take a look and have influence over on whether the cleanup can go forward under LEP cleanup,
to what extent it needs to be modified, etc., etc.
So at each of these [inaudible] points there is a hole if you will, and to the extent that DEP is not able to promptly, or in a timely fashion, respond, or act at these points, getting approvals, or what have you, that holds up the cleanup, and undermines the whole concept of the LEP Program.
So this bill proposed certain time limitations for DEP to act as those [inaudible] points. If they do not, there would be a presumption of approval.
Whether the timeframes in the bill are the right timeframes, you know I haven't discussed it with DEP. I don't know what their position is, and that perhaps the timeframes themselves need to be modified.
But the concept of having a timeframe, we think, is a good one, and hopefully the Department and your Committee can come together and come up with what you think is an appropriate timeframe.
Raised House Bill 5629, we think this bill is a law being passed a number of years ago concerning exemplary environmental management programs. The concept was to give incentives and rewards to companies that go forward with solid environmental management system programs at their companies.
Nothing too hard and solid has ever been implemented. That was kind of a theory that was legislated, but there has been little done to sort of implement it.
We think this bill goes to one area where the implementation of that type of reward and incentive system would come into play and we support it.
And I was going to say something briefly on House Bill 5623, but since I am out of time, I will not. Do you have any questions?
REP. ROY: Go ahead and say something.
ERIC BROWN: Well, just quickly. We are not here to tell the Governor that she ought to change her mind. We were involved in the 2½-year process that the Commissioners spoke of earlier. We expressed our concerns throughout that. We expressed our concerns to you in the last couple of years as legislation was passed.
We would only, that as the Commissioner said, this doesn't come into effect until 2009. In the interim, we hope that she is right about what she said, that the 1% to 2% energy cost increased the improved business climate, the greater opportunities, and so forth.
We hope that is all correct. What we would ask of you is to keep an eye on this thing as the years go by, and to see if, in fact, the assumptions that went into this do effect, what if, will there be a 1% to 2%, or will it be something greater than that, etc., etc.
So it is something we are in. We always have the ability to opt out if the assumptions that were brought to us at the beginning don't play out. If they do play out, terrific, and that's all that I want to comment on, so thank you very much.
REP. ROY: Thank you. Are there any questions or comments for Eric? Senator Finch.
SEN. FINCH: Eric, in reference to House Bill 5628, the time limit on the signoff by the LEP and the signoff by DEP on the LEP's submission, the Commissioner did oppose it.
Although, I think it is important to note that she did make a big deal about it when she was here. I do think it is a good sign, and I just want to be on record with everybody that these cleanups take too long, they are too uncertain, and in the private marketplace people cannot develop brownfields under the current circumstance.
I think, that this is something that the new Commissioner will need to continue to work on with you, the business community, the developers, and whatnot, because we are sprawling past the brownfields. We are going to have a 27% growth in our commute by the year 2020.
We are going to be spending much more in the way of air pollution than we ever would, in my view, exposing the human race to pollution than we are from the brownfields.
Most of these brownfields can be remediated a lot simpler than we are making it, and I applaud you as the business community for pushing on this issue, and I don't think in this session we are going to come up with a conclusion to this issue.
We have huge portions of our urban area mothballed, because we can't get out of our own way, and I ask the question all of the time with DEP, all of these restrictions which are basically slowing down the cleanup and the development of these lands, that pollution is still in the ground, right? It is still there.
We are going very, very slow on the development of these lands, and it is a problem that is very, very serious from the standpoint of the charge of this Committee, and this is having smart growth, moving development more towards the urban center, and cleaning up the brownfields.
The disincentive that is there under the current system for development is causing people to walk past these brownfields forever, and until we change the system, we are not going to develop brownfields at the rate we should be.
So I applaud you for bringing this issue up. I don't know what is going to happen in this session, but I think that, at least from my one vote on the Committee, that I really want to see us move in the direction of pulling the parties together, getting DEP to come up with innovations like this.
If it doesn't work, then tell us what does, because instead of sitting there as policeman, sit there as helpers. Sit there as people who are willing to help us clean the environment and develop these lands, because you can't clean the environment and mothball the land.
You're only going to clean the land when there is development to take place on that land, because no one is going to pay to just go find a piece of land and clean it up.
It is only going to happen when it is there is economic development. So I think we are doing this absolutely right.
I think, if we all work in this direction, then maybe now and next session we can continue to push reforms in the area of brownfields development, and I look to see, Eric, if you keep pressure on this, and keep the dialogue open, because there has got to be ways that we can work together to clean brownfields, rather than have a sort of a police mentality about it, we could have an activist mentality for finding as many developers as possible to take the risk to trigger the Transfer Act, and to actually claim the land.
So I hope you that you can keep helping us on that. It may not be this session, but if we all work together in a bipartisan way, I think, we can actually clean more brownfields than we are now.
ERIC BROWN: Well said, Senator. Thank you, and we will certainly be glad to keep at it. I think in the past the concept of timeframes under DEP has been a little scary, given the limitations on resources.
I sense that not just in this area, but in many areas, of their activities, they are more open to talk about that, and are anxious to have ways to be accountable, and to show the kind of work they are doing, and to document when they don't have enough staff to do things that need to be.
So I think the concept of timeframes is close at hand, maybe not this session, but I think the bigger question is how do we develop time limits and timeframes that make sense for the Department and that they are comfortable with, so we will certainly keep working on it with you. Thank you.
REP. ROY: Thank you. Are there any other questions or comments? Thank you, Eric. Sandy Breslin.
SANDY BRESLIN: Good morning, Senator Finch, Representative Roy, Members of the Committee. Thank you very much for the opportunity to address you today.
My name is Sandy Breslin. I am the Director of Governmental Affairs for Audubon, Connecticut. We are the state organization of the National Audubon Society, and we work to protect birds, other wildlife, and their habitat.
I am here to speak to you strongly in support of House Bill 5624, AN ACT AUTHORIZING BONDS OF THE STATE FOR THE CLEAN WATER FUND, and I know that you have heard about this already this morning, but let me just add Audubon's very strong endorsement of this legislation.
It is absolutely critical to guarantee clean waters, in streams, lakes, rivers, and in Long Island Sound.
Connecticut has a very proud 20-year history of as a national leader in water pollution control efforts. We have been able to do this because of the very innovative cost-sharing mechanisms set up through the Clean Water Fund. We have made great progress because of the commitment that the state has made.
The DEP and municipalities have been able to engage in a multiyear planning process for this very costly and complicated project, and have been able to make steady progress towards our goal of cleaning our water.
However, we have a long, long way to go. Just to give you a very quick example, because of a combination of weather we have experienced of the most extensive hypoxia in Long Island Sound over the past several years.
That has to do with the nitrogen that is still going into the Sound from sewage and from runoff, and it is causing algal blooms in the Sound, and when the algae decays the decomposition robs the oxygen out of the water and makes the Sound inhospitable to marine life at its western end. So it is very serious problem still, and something that affects the whole state.
The $70 million that is being requested through this legislation would put us back on track. Historically the Clean Water Fund has received approximately $50 million a year, and that has enabled us to move forward.
For the past several years, the General Assembly has been borrowing some money from that fund, shall we say, there was an $18 million revision in 2003, a $60 million dollar revision in 2004, and last year there were no General Obligation Bond funding authorized for the Clean Water Fund.
At the same time that Connecticut has been experiencing its own financing difficulties, the federal government, who has been a partner in this for many years, has been reducing and reducing, and reducing the amount of money that it allocates to the state for this process.
I would just close by saying now, more than ever, this funding commitment by the state is absolutely critical to ensuring a future of clean water for our children and future generations.
REP. ROY: Thank you, Sandy. Are there any other questions or comments for Sandy? Say none, thank you very much.
That completes our list of speakers who have signed up. Is there anyone present who has not signed up who wishes to address the Committee?
Please come forward. Give us your name, please.
CHARLES ROTHENBERGER: Good morning, Senator Finch, Senator Roy, and Members of the Committee.
My name is Charles Rothenberger. I am a Staff Attorney with Connecticut Fund for the Environment. I am here to testify in opposition to House Bill 5623 AN ACT WITHDRAWING FROM THE REGIONAL GREENHOUSE GAS INITIATIVE.
Connecticut has really established itself as a leader in the effort to curb global warming emissions and the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative or RGGI, is really a landmark agreement among the participating states. Really, the first of its kind.
Connecticut's participation in the RGGI process is really essential if Connecticut is going to meet the targets established in our own Climate Change Action Plan, and we think certainly this Cap and Trade Program is one of the top emission-reduction programs that was identified in that Climate-Change Action Plan. So it is crucial to making meaningful progress on this issue.
Under RGGI power plants are free to implement the lowest-cost solutions to meet their pollution-reduction targets.
Those companies that can cut their pollution risk cheaply can sell those excess pollution credits to companies that cannot reduce quite as cheaply, and this provides continuing incentive for innovation, while at the same time reducing costs for everybody.
This is an approach that has worked at both the national and state level before in terms of the National Sulfur Dioxide Program and our own Nitrogen Reduction Program here in the State of Connecticut.
This approach really embodies a cost-effective approach that is good for consumers and good for the economy, and good for the environment.
I really want to boost win-win situations, which you heard about, one of the prior groups mentioned.
We believe that Connecticut's continuing participation is really vital to the success of the RGGI Program, and it is certainly essential to meeting our own obligations under the Climate Change Action Plan, so I would urge the Committee to reject this legislation. Thank you, and I would be happy to answer any question.
REP. ROY: Thank you, Charles. Are there any questions for Charles? Say none. Charles, will you please visit the Clerk's Desk and spell your name for them? I would appreciate that. Thank you.
All right, for Committee Members, we will be meeting here at 10:00 a.m., Wednesday, to J.F. bills. There will be a Democrat Caucus at 9:00 a.m. in this room to review the bills prior to the meeting.
Representative Chapin, do you care to say anything?
REP. CHAPIN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and for Members from the Republican side of the aisle, we will be caucusing starting at 9:00 a.m. in the Environment Committee Conference Room on Wednesday. Thank you.
REP. ROY: What I didn't ask, is there anyone else besides Charles who wanted to come forward and speak? Okay, this hearing is over, closed, adjourned.
[Whereupon, the hearing was adjourned.]