Environment Committee

JOINT FAVORABLE REPORT

Bill No.:

SB-229

Title:

AN ACT CONCERNING THE ACCURACY AND APPLICABILITY OF CERTAIN ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT EVALUATIONS.

Vote Date:

3/16/2016

Vote Action:

Joint Favorable Substitute

PH Date:

3/4/2016

File No.:

SPONSORS OF BILL:

Environment Committee

REASONS FOR BILL:

This bill requires environmental impact evaluations created by state agencies to be timely in reflecting environmental consequences and effects of the proposed action. If the period of time has been extensive the evaluation shall be remade. This issue has arisen following local requests in Milford to remake the Environmental Impact Evaluation for a project at Silver Sands Beach.

SUBSTITUTE LANGUAGE

-Changes the period that has elapsed between completion of the Environmental Impact Evaluation and the commencement of the proposed action from five years to ten years.

-No longer mandates that an Evaluation be automatically remade if a petition is received; instead, said Evaluation would first be reviewed by the Council on Environmental Quality to determine whether any substantial changes would be necessary

-Requires an Evaluation to be remade only if the CEQ identifies a substantial change relating to any item in the Evaluation. Said Evaluation would then be remade as it relates to said substantial change

-Adds language stating that any construction contract entered into by any state department, institution or agency prior to the subsection's effective date would not be impacted in any way

RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:

Karl Wagener, Executive Director – State Council on Environmental Quality: Mr. Wagener stated that the 1993 Environmental Impact Evaluation bill is antiquated, and complies with updating the regulations of the Environmental Impact Evaluation. The council supports this notion by saying that it is important to reevaluate biological resources that are at risk and that the current EIE regulations are 22 years old and therefore outdated.

Benjamin Barnes, Secretary – Office of Policy and Management: In his testimony, Secretary Barnes states that he and the Office of Policy and Management oppose the bill. He supports his statement by arguing that creating this new bill would force any supporting agency to prepare a new EIE every 5 year elapse, if petition requirements are met. This creates an unwanted dilemma, as it is not unusual for a five year gap to exist between the completion of the EIE and the beginning of their project. Barnes also makes the point that this new bill could create financial harm to state agencies that have to remake EIEs, which would delay their projects.

NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:

Patrick Comons, Audubon, CT: In his testimony, Mr. Comons states that Audubon Connecticut supports this bill due to the open ended period that will allow projects to move forward without relevant approvals. He adds that our environment is constantly changing, and it is imperative that we evaluate environmental impacts as they change if we want to reduce human impact as much as possible.

NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:

Elizabeth Gara, Connecticut Water Works Association: Ms. Gara testifies that the bill would stall critical local projects (referring specifically to drinking water), and that the EIE process can cost thousands of dollars, which our state may not be able afford multiple times.

Eric Brown – Connecticut Business & Industry Association: Mr. Brown states that the balance between state interests and economic development/protection could be impaired by allowing any one individual to disrupt any economic development with a petition of only one hundred names. He suggests that changing the word “shall” in line seven to “may” will provide the commissioner with the option to remake the EIE or not.

Kathryn Dube, Connecticut Council of Small Towns: Ms. Dube states that EIEs take months or even years to prepare, and potentially requiring a new EIE may delay projects in moving forward. She utilizes the example of wastewater treatment plants that are costly, and involve lengthy permit negotiations and regulatory reviews that would require a new EIE- costing additional money and setting the project back even further.

Reported by: Alexandra Rice and Kayla Thibault

Date: 3/22/16