OLR Bill Analysis

sSB 231 (File 373, as amended by Senate "A")*

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. generally prohibits applying neonicotinoid (a) insecticide to linden or basswood trees or (b) labeled for treating plants to plants with blossoms ( 2 & 4);

2. requires the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) commissioner to classify certain neonicotinoids as “restricted use” pesticides ( 3);

3. requires the Department of Agriculture (DoAg) commissioner to develop best practices for minimizing the release of neonicotinoid insecticide dust from treated seeds ( 1);

4. requires the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station (CAES) to compile a citizen's guide to model pollinator habitat ( 11);

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

6. sets minimum employment credentials for apiary inspectors appointed by the state entomologist ( 15);

7. specifies that Connecticut Siting Council orders to restore or revegetate in certain rights-of-way must include provisions for model pollinator habitat ( 13);

8. includes model pollinator habitat in any conservation plan DoAg requires as part of its farm preservation programs ( 9 & 10);

9. requires reports on the (a) effect of applying current pesticide spraying requirements to the planting of 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 ( 6, 7 & 12);

10. allows the DOT commissioner to plant vegetation with pollinator habitat, including flowering vegetation, in deforested areas along state highway rights-of-way if there are federal funds available for the planting ( 14); and

11. authorizes the Office of Policy and Management (OPM) to identify ways to foster development that increases pollinator habitat ( 8).

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), including clothianidin, dinotefuran, imidacloprid, thiamethoxam, and any other pesticide that the DEEP commissioner, after consulting with CAES, determines will kill at least 50% of a bee population when up to two micrograms of the pesticide is applied to each bee.

*Senate Amendment “A” makes various changes, including (1) establishing qualifications for apiary inspectors; (2) eliminating the requirement that OPM amend the state Plan of Conservation and Development, instead allowing it to identify ways to increase pollinator habitat as part of development; (3) exempting certain greenhouse plants and academic research from the ban on applying neonicotinoid to flowering plants; (4) adding the inclusion of the authority needed to develop a varroa mite management strategy to the entomologist's report; (5) allowing, instead of requiring, DOT to plant vegetation with pollinator habitat, and only if federal funds are available; and (6) specifying that neonicotinoids include certain named pesticides and others that the DEEP commissioner identifies.

EFFECTIVE DATE: Upon passage

2 & 4 — NEONICOTINOID APPLICATION BANS

The bill prohibits applying neonicotinoid insecticides to linden or basswood trees in the state. It also prohibits applying neonicotinoid labeled for treating plants to any plant with blossoms unless the (1) plant is grown in a greenhouse inaccessible to pollinators and (2) application is consistent with best management strategies for growing annuals, perennials, trees, and shrubs that will be safe for pollinators after the plants are purchased and planted. The bill also exempts academic research from its plant application ban.

The bill allows the DEEP commissioner to enforce and establish a fine for violations of the tree application ban and the DoAg commissioner, in conjunction with the DEEP commissioner, to enforce and establish a fine for violations of the plant application ban.

By law, the commissioners have the power to initiate and receive complaints for alleged violations of any law, regulation, permit, or order they administer or issue. They may hold hearings, administer oaths, subpoena witnesses and evidence, enter orders, and institute legal proceedings (CGS 22-4c & 22a-6).

3 — RESTRICTED USE CLASSIFICATION

The bill requires the DEEP commissioner, by January 1, 2018, to classify all neonicotinoids 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, or under the direct supervision of, a certified applicator 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.

CAES, DEEP, and DoAg 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 compile a citizen's guide to model pollinator habitat by January 1, 2017 and 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.

15 — APIARY INSPECTOR CREDENTIALS

By law, the state entomologist may appoint inspectors to examine apiaries for disease. These inspectors have access at reasonable times to any apiary or place where bees are kept or where honeycomb and appliances are stored.

The bill establishes minimum credentials for these inspectors. It requires them to have at least (1) five years of beekeeping experience or (2) three years of bee inspector experience at the state or federal level. They must also meet the qualifications for a CAES Agricultural Research Technician II.

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.

6, 7 & 12 — REPORTING REQUIREMENTS

Restrictions on Planting Treated Seeds

The bill requires the DEEP and DoAg commissioners and CAES to jointly report to the Environment Committee on the potential effects of applying current statutory and regulatory restrictions and licensing requirements for pesticide spraying to planting seeds treated with neonicotinoids.

The report must, at a minimum, analyze (1) the consistency of applying the restrictions with federal law; (2) any potential effects of the changes on the state's agriculture, including improved pollinator health and expenses and delays; and (3) the administrative resources needed to oversee the restrictions. It is due by March 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 in Connecticut.

The report must include legislative recommendations to help limit or offset the conditions' effects, including any authority needed to develop a varroa mite management strategy that (1) creates a line of local bees from survival stock with mite resistance and acclimation to Connecticut's environment and (2) develops queen bees with a high tolerance to varroa mites to limit the need for importing bees.

DOT-Identified Areas for Native Plant Communities

The bill requires DOT to (1) identify areas where non-native, 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 include:

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 and the availability of federal funds.

8 — DEVELOPMENT OPPORTUNITIES WITH POLLINATOR HABITAT

The bill authorizes OPM to (1) identify opportunities to foster development at the local and state levels that increase pollinator habitats and (2) recommend ways to prioritize using state funds for conservation purposes when it involves protecting or enhancing pollinator habitat.

COMMITTEE ACTION

Environment Committee

Joint Favorable Substitute

Yea

29

Nay

0

(03/11/2016)

Planning and Development Committee

Joint Favorable

Yea

19

Nay

2

(04/11/2016)