OLR Bill Analysis

sSB 231

AN ACT CONCERNING POLLINATOR HEALTH.

SUMMARY:

This bill establishes numerous requirements related to pollinator health and habitat. Pollinators are organisms that spread pollen between flowers, such as bees and butterflies.

Among other things, the bill:

1. prohibits applying neonicotinoid (a) insecticide to linden or basswood trees or (b) labeled for treating plants to plants with blossoms;

2. requires the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) commissioner to classify certain neonicotinoids as “restricted use” pesticides;

3. requires the Department of Agriculture (DoAg) commissioner to develop best practices for minimizing the release of neonicotinoid insecticide dust from treated seeds;

4. requires the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station (CAES) to develop a citizen's guide to model pollinator habitat;

5. establishes a Pollinator Advisory Committee to inform legislators on pollinator issues;

6. specifies that Connecticut Siting Council orders to restore or revegetate in certain rights-of-way must include provisions for model pollinator habitat;

7. includes model pollinator habitat in any conservation plan DoAg requires as part of its farm preservation programs;

8. requires the Office of Policy and Management (OPM) to amend the state's Plan of Conservation and Development to prioritize development with model pollinator habitat;

9. requires reports on (a) legislation needed to restrict or license planting neonicotinoid-treated seeds, (b) conditions leading to an increase in varroa mites, and (c) areas where the Department of Transportation (DOT) can replace turf grass with native plants and model pollinator habitat; and

10. requires the DOT commissioner to plant vegetation with pollinator habitat, including flowering vegetation, in deforested areas along state highway rights-of-way.

Under the bill, a neonicotinoid is a pesticide that (1) selectively acts on an organism's nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (i.e., impacts the nervous system) and (2) the federal Environmental Protection Agency labels, with its “bee advisory box”, as potentially hazardous to bees and other insect pollinators.

EFFECTIVE DATE: Upon passage, except the provision requiring classifying certain neonicotinoids as “restricted use” is effective October 1, 2016.

2 & 4 — NEONICOTINOID APPLICATION BANS

The bill prohibits applying neonicotinoid (1) insecticides to linden or basswood trees in the state or (2) labeled for treating plants to plants when they have blossoms.

The bill allows the (1) DEEP commissioner to enforce the tree application ban and the DoAg commissioner, in conjunction with the DEEP commissioner, to enforce the plant application ban and (2) commissioners to set a fee or fine, respectively, for violating the bans.

3 — RESTRICTED USE CLASSIFICATION

The bill requires the DEEP commissioner to classify all neonicotinoids that are labeled for treating plants as “restricted use” pesticides, meaning that they may cause unreasonable adverse environmental effects. By law, this classification requires these pesticides to be applied only by a certified applicator or under his or her direct supervision or subject to other restrictions the commissioner imposes through regulations.

1 — BEST PRACTICES ON NEONICOTINOID DUST

By January 1, 2017, the bill requires the DoAg commissioner, in collaboration with CAES and DEEP, to develop best practices for (1) minimizing airborne liberation of neonicotinoid insecticide dust from treated seeds and (2) mitigating the dust's effects on pollinators. The best practices must include:

1. methods for minimizing dust when dispensing treated seeds from a seed bag into seed planter equipment,

2. guidance on how to position vacuum system discharge from seed planter equipment so that the discharge is directed at the soil,

3. timeframes for mowing flowering vegetation adjacent to crop fields,

4. identification of weather conditions that minimize dust drift, and

5. suggestions for using seed lubricants to effectively minimize dust drift.

DoAg, CAES, and DEEP must post the best practices on their websites by February 15, 2017 so that they are available to the general public, including farmers and people who own, operate, or manage a farm or agricultural facility.

11 — CITIZEN'S GUIDE ON MODEL POLLINATOR HABITAT

The bill requires CAES to (1) develop a citizen's guide to model pollinator habitat by January 1, 2017 and (2) make the guide available on its website.

The guide must provide information on and the steps for establishing a succession of flowers, wildflowers, vegetables, weeds, herbs, ornamental plants, cover crops, and legumes to attract honeybees and other pollinators. It must suggest groupings or clumpings of the plantings to create a long season of continuous bloom. The guide must also provide information on how to protect important nesting sites for honeybees and other pollinators.

5 — POLLINATOR ADVISORY COMMITTEE

The bill requires the CAES director to establish a Pollinator Advisory Committee, consisting of at least three CAES staff. Committee members must have (1) expertise in the health and viability of Connecticut's pollinator populations and (2) knowledge of efforts at the federal level and in other states on pollinator health.

The bill charges the committee with serving as an information resource for the Environment Committee, requiring it to work collaboratively with legislators on pollinator matters.

13 — VEGETATION IN RIGHT-OF-WAYS

By law, the Connecticut Siting Council may order restoration or revegetation of overhead transmission line rights-of-way (ROW). It may do so to promote the long-term restoration of vegetation in the parts of the ROW in residential areas where there has been a significant and material loss of screening (e.g., fewer trees blocking the view of the line) due to clearing activities.

The bill requires the council's restoration or revegetation orders to include establishing vegetation with model pollinator habitat.

9 & 10 — DOAG FARMLAND PRESERVATION PROGRAMS

By law, DoAg administers two programs to preserve farmland by purchasing development rights: the Farmland Preservation Program and the Community Farms Program. As part of these programs, the DoAg commissioner may require that the preserved land be managed according to a conservation plan. Under the bill, if the commissioner requires a conservation plan, the plan must require establishment of model pollinator habitat.

8 — PLAN OF CONSERVATION AND DEVELOPMENT

Under the bill, OPM must amend the state's Plan of Conservation and Development to prioritize (1) development with model pollinator habitat and (2) expending state funds for conservation purposes when it involves protecting or enhancing pollinator habitat. But it does not specify a deadline for doing so.

By law, the plan is revised every five years. Presumably the bill's provisions would be incorporated into the plan when it is next amended. The current plan covers 2013 to 2018.

6, 7 & 12 — REPORTING REQUIREMENTS

Legislation for Planting Treated Seeds

The bill requires the DEEP and DoAg commissioners to jointly report to the Environment Committee on the statutory and regulatory changes needed to apply current restrictions and licensing requirements for pesticide spraying to planting seeds treated with neonicotinoids.

The report must analyze the consistency of the recommended changes with federal law and any potential effects of the changes on the state's agriculture, including improved pollinator health, expenses, and delays. It is due by January 1, 2017.

Varroa Mites

The bill requires the state entomologist to report, by January 1, 2017, to the Environment Committee on the conditions that cause an increase in varroa mites (parasitic mites) that affect honeybee and other pollinator populations. The report must include legislative recommendations to help limit or offset the conditions' effects.

DOT-Identified Areas for Native Plant Communities

The bill requires DOT to (1) identify areas where nonnative, cool-season turf grass installed along state highways could be replaced with native plant communities that have model pollinator habitat and (2) report to the Environment and Transportation committees on these areas by January 1, 2017. DOT may consider partnering with private entities to help fund the replacement costs.

The bill requires DOT's report to provide:

1. information on (a) the location and dimension of any identified areas for replacement or proposed replacement and (b) any proposed timeframe for replacement,

2. a description of anticipated replacement costs,

3. a comparison of anticipated replacement costs to the operational expenses made to otherwise maintain the areas, and

4. information on any private partnership to reduce replacement costs.

COMMITTEE ACTION

Environment Committee

Joint Favorable Substitute

Yea

29

Nay

0

(03/11/2016)