Connecticut Seal

General Assembly

File No. 275

    January Session, 2017

Senate Bill No. 943

Senate, March 28, 2017

The Committee on Environment reported through SEN. KENNEDY of the 12th Dist. and SEN. MINER of the 30th Dist., Chairpersons of the Committee on the part of the Senate, that the bill ought to pass.

AN ACT CONCERNING THE INSTALLATION OF CERTAIN SOLAR FACILITIES ON PRODUCTIVE FARMLANDS.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Assembly convened:

Section 1. Subsection (e) of section 16a-3j of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective July 1, 2017):

(e) The Commissioner of Energy and Environmental Protection, in consultation with the procurement manager identified in subsection (l) of section 16-2, the Office of Consumer Counsel and the Attorney General, shall evaluate project proposals received under any solicitation issued pursuant to subsection (b), (c) or (d) of this section, based on factors including, but not limited to, (1) improvements to the reliability of the electric system, including during winter peak demand; (2) whether the benefits of the proposal outweigh the costs to ratepayers; (3) fuel diversity; (4) the extent to which the proposal contributes to meeting the requirements to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve air quality in accordance with sections 16-245a, 22a-174, and 22a-200a; (5) whether the proposal is in the best interest of ratepayers; and (6) whether the proposal is aligned with the policy goals outlined in the Integrated Resources Plan, pursuant to section 16a-3a, and the Comprehensive Energy Strategy, pursuant to section 16a-3d, including, but not limited to, environmental impacts. For purposes of such evaluation, "environmental impacts" shall include, but not be limited to, impacts to forest land and prime farmland, as defined by the United States Department of Agriculture. In conducting such evaluation, the commissioner may also consider the extent to which project proposals provide economic benefits for the state. In evaluating project proposals received under any solicitation issued pursuant to subsection (b), (c) or (d) of this section, the commissioner shall compare the costs and benefits of such proposals relative to the expected or actual costs and benefits of other resources eligible to respond to the other procurements authorized pursuant to this section.

Sec. 2. Subsection (a) of section 16-50k of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective July 1, 2017):

(a) Except as provided in subsection (b) of section 16-50z, no person shall exercise any right of eminent domain in contemplation of, commence the preparation of the site for, commence the construction or supplying of a facility, or commence any modification of a facility, that may, as determined by the council, have a substantial adverse environmental effect in the state without having first obtained a certificate of environmental compatibility and public need, hereinafter referred to as a "certificate", issued with respect to such facility or modification by the council. Certificates shall not be required for (1) fuel cells built within the state with a generating capacity of two hundred fifty kilowatts or less, or (2) fuel cells built out of state with a generating capacity of ten kilowatts or less. Any facility with respect to which a certificate is required shall thereafter be built, maintained and operated in conformity with such certificate and any terms, limitations or conditions contained therein. Notwithstanding the provisions of this chapter or title 16a, the council shall, in the exercise of its jurisdiction over the siting of generating facilities, approve by declaratory ruling (A) the construction of a facility solely for the purpose of generating electricity, other than an electric generating facility that uses nuclear materials or coal as fuel, at a site where an electric generating facility operated prior to July 1, 2004, and (B) the construction or location of any fuel cell, unless the council finds a substantial adverse environmental effect, or of any customer-side distributed resources project or facility or grid-side distributed resources project or facility with a capacity of not more than sixty-five megawatts, as long as such project meets air and water quality standards of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and as long as such project is not a solar photovoltaic facility with a capacity of two or more megawatts to be located on prime farmland, as defined by the United States Department of Agriculture or on forest land. There shall be a rebuttable presumption that the construction or location of a solar photovoltaic facility with a capacity of two or more megawatts to be located on prime farmland, as defined by the United States Department of Agriculture, or on forest land is not environmentally compatible. Such presumption may be rebutted by evidence that such facility will not materially affect the status of such land as prime farmland or forest land, as applicable, and if such applicant, upon the council's granting of such certificate, posts a bond for the decommissioning of such facility at the end of its useful life. Nothing in this subsection shall be construed to affect any agricultural virtual net metering facility as authorized pursuant to section 16-244u.

Sec. 3. (NEW) (Effective July 1, 2017) (a) Not later than February 1, 2018, the Commissioner of Energy and Environmental Protection, in consultation with the Commissioners of Administrative Services, Correction and Transportation, shall submit a report to the joint standing committee of the General Assembly having cognizance of matters relating to the environment, in accordance with the provisions of section 11-4a of the general statutes, that identifies state properties, including, but not limited to, highway corridors and correctional institutions, that are suitable for lease to private entities for the construction or location of solar photovoltaic facilities with capacities of two or more megawatts.

(b) Not later than sixty days following submission of the report described in subsection (a) of this section, the Commissioners of Energy and Environmental Protection, Administrative Services, Correction and Transportation shall cause such report to be posted to the Internet web site of said departments, respectively. Following such posting, the Commissioner of Energy and Environmental Protection shall forward a copy of such report to the chairperson of the Connecticut Siting Council who shall cause a copy of such report to be posted to the Internet web site of the Connecticut Siting Council not later than thirty days following receipt of such report.

Sec. 4. (NEW) (Effective July 1, 2017) The Commissioner of Energy and Environmental Protection shall work in conjunction with the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities to identify closed landfills that are suitable for the lease to private entities for the construction or location of solar photovoltaic facilities with capacities of two or more megawatts. The commissioner may receive from any municipality notice indicating such municipality's interest in the construction or location of solar photovoltaic facilities with capacities of two or more megawatts upon any closed landfill located in such municipality. Upon receipt of such notice and following a reasonable evaluation of the suitability of such closed landfill for such construction or location, the commissioner may post such notice in the same location on the Internet web site of such department as the report posted pursuant to section 3 of this act.

Sec. 5. (NEW) (Effective July 1, 2017) Not later than July 1, 2019, the Commissioner of Energy and Environmental Protection, in consultation with the Commissioner of Economic and Community Development and the working group to examine the remediation and development of brownfields in this state, established pursuant to section 32-770 of the general statutes, shall establish a pilot program for the construction or location of solar photovoltaic facilities with capacities of two or more megawatts upon brownfields in this state. Such pilot program shall consist of not fewer than three projects to be located on brownfields that do not: (1) Contain contaminated groundwater or volatile organic compounds that pose a potential threat to human health or safety, and (2) have commercial or industrial activities conducted upon such brownfields. Any such project may consist of brownfields that are not contiguous. The Commissioner of Energy and Environmental Protection shall determine the suitability for participation of any brownfield in such pilot program and, notwithstanding any provision of the general statutes, may undertake any action required to establish such pilot program, including, but not limited to, identifying applicants for the construction or location of solar photovoltaic facilities with capacities of two or more megawatts upon brownfields in this state that may wish to participate in such pilot program. The Commissioner of Economic and Community Development and the working group to examine the remediation and development of brownfields in this state, established pursuant to section 32-770 of the general statutes, shall provide the Commissioner of Energy and Environmental Protection with any information or assistance that said commissioner requests in furtherance of the establishment of such pilot program. Not later than one year following the establishment of such pilot program, the Commissioner of Energy and Environmental Protection shall submit a report to the joint standing committee of the General Assembly having cognizance of matters relating to the environment, in accordance with the provisions of section 11-4a of the general statutes, detailing the status of such pilot program and identifying any recommendations for legislation to further facilitate or expand such pilot program.

Sec. 6. (Effective July 1, 2017) Not later than February 1, 2018, the Commissioner of Energy and Environmental Protection shall submit a report to the joint standing committee of the General Assembly having cognizance of matters relating to the environment, in accordance with the provisions of section 11-4a of the general statutes, that identifies types of properties in the state, other than prime farmlands and forest lands, that are suitable for the construction or location of solar photovoltaic facilities with capacities of two or more megawatts. Such report shall include, but not be limited to, an analysis of whether: (1) Right-of-ways occupied by overhead transmission facilities, as described in section 16-50hh of the general statutes, may serve as such a suitable situs in areas of such right-of-ways that are not subject to restoration or revegetation orders described in section 16-50hh of the general statutes, and (2) abandoned or underutilized parking facilities in the state may serve as such a suitable situs.

This act shall take effect as follows and shall amend the following sections:

Section 1

July 1, 2017

16a-3j(e)

Sec. 2

July 1, 2017

16-50k(a)

Sec. 3

July 1, 2017

New section

Sec. 4

July 1, 2017

New section

Sec. 5

July 1, 2017

New section

Sec. 6

July 1, 2017

New section

ENV

Joint Favorable

 

The following Fiscal Impact Statement and Bill Analysis are prepared for the benefit of the members of the General Assembly, solely for purposes of information, summarization and explanation and do not represent the intent of the General Assembly or either chamber thereof for any purpose. In general, fiscal impacts are based upon a variety of informational sources, including the analyst's professional knowledge. Whenever applicable, agency data is consulted as part of the analysis, however final products do not necessarily reflect an assessment from any specific department.


OFA Fiscal Note

State Impact: None

Municipal Impact: None

Explanation

The bill restricts the construction of solar facilities on certain lands by removing a requirement that the Siting Council approve certain facilities and creating a rebuttable presumption that that are not environmentally compatible. Modifying the criteria for construction of certain solar facilities does not result in a fiscal impact to DEEP.

The bill also requires DEEP to create a pilot program to build or locate solar facilities on brownfields. There is no fiscal impact to DEEP to establish a pilot program.

Lastly, the bill requires DEEP to submit certain reports to the Environment Committee. It also requires DEEP to post information regarding landfills on its website. These requirements have no fiscal impact as DEEP has the expertise and capacity to perform these tasks.

The Out Years

State Impact: None

Municipal Impact: None

OLR Bill Analysis

SB 943

AN ACT CONCERNING THE INSTALLATION OF CERTAIN SOLAR FACILITIES ON PRODUCTIVE FARMLANDS.

SUMMARY

This bill generally restricts the construction of solar photovoltaic facilities (solar facilities) of two or more megawatts on forest land or prime farmland by removing a requirement that the Connecticut Siting Council approve such facilities and creating a rebuttable presumption that they are not environmentally compatible.

Existing law allows the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), subject to various requirements and limitations, to solicit proposals for (1) demand response measures and smaller renewable energy sources, (2) larger renewable energy sources and hydropower, and (3) natural gas resources. Existing law requires the DEEP commissioner to consider various factors when evaluating these proposals, including whether its benefits outweigh its costs and its environmental impacts. The bill specifies that a proposal's environmental impacts include its impacts to forest land and prime farmland. (In practice DEEP has already solicited and selected proposals for parts of this procurement.)

It requires the commissioner to create a pilot program to build solar energy facilities of two or more megawatts on brownfields, and requires him and others to identify property, including such state property as highway corridors and prisons, suitable for constructing or siting such facilities. It requires him to accept expressions of interest from municipalities interested in building or locating such a solar facility on their closed landfills.

EFFECTIVE DATE: July 1, 2017

SITING OF CERTAIN SOLAR ENERGY FACILITIES

Although the law generally requires people building power generating facilities to obtain a certificate of environmental compatibility and public need (certificate) from the Connecticut Siting Council, it requires the council to approve, by declaratory ruling, the construction or location of certain generation facilities with a capacity of 65 megawatts or less that meet DEEP's air and water quality standards.

The bill exempts from the declaratory ruling process the siting, on forest land or prime farmland, of a solar facility with a capacity of two or more megawatts, thus requiring that it go through the certification process. It creates a rebuttable presumption that locating such a facility on such land is not environmentally compatible. The prohibition does not apply to agricultural virtual net metering facilities (see BACKGROUND).

Under the bill, the presumption may be rebutted (1) by evidence that the facility will not materially affect the land's status as forest land or prime farmland and (2) if the applicant, on receiving a certificate, posts bond for decommissioning the facility at the end of its useful life.

POTENTIAL SITES FOR SOLAR FACILITIES WITH CAPACITIES OF TWO OR MORE MEGAWATTS

The bill requires specified state officials to identify property, including state property, suitable for constructing solar facilities of two or more megawatts. These properties include highway and power line corridors, state prisons, and closed landfills.

State Property

The bill requires, by February 1, 2018, the DEEP commissioner, in consultation with the commissioners of administrative services, correction, and transportation, to report to the Environment Committee on state properties, including highway corridors and prisons, suitable for lease to private entities for constructing or siting solar facilities with a capacity of two megawatts or more. The commissioners must post the report on their respective department websites no later than 60 days after submitting it, and the DEEP commissioner must send a copy to the Siting Council to post on its website no later than 30 days after the council receives it.

Also by February 1, 2018, the DEEP commissioner must report to the Environment Committee on other types of property in the state (except for forest land or prime farmland) suitable to build or site such solar facilities. This report must include an analysis of the suitability for such use of power line rights of way not subject to restoration or revegetation orders, and abandoned or underused parking facilities.

Closed Landfills

The bill requires the DEEP commissioner, in conjunction with the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, to identify closed landfills suitable for lease to private entities for constructing or locating solar facilities of two or more megawatts. It authorizes the commissioner to receive notice from municipalities interested in siting such a facility on their closed landfills. On receiving such notice, and following a reasonable evaluation of the landfill's suitability, the commissioner may post the municipality's notice on DEEP's website.

BROWNFIELDS

The bill requires the DEEP commissioner, in consultation with the economic and community development commissioner and the brownfields working group (see BACKGROUND), to create a pilot program to build or locate solar facilities of at least two megawatts on brownfields in the state. He must do this by July 1, 2019.

The program must include at least three such projects to be located on brownfields (1) that do not contain contaminated groundwater or volatile organic compounds that endanger human health or safety and (2) on which there is neither commercial nor industrial activity. A project may consist of brownfields that are not adjoining.

The DEEP commissioner must determine the suitability of brownfields for inclusion in the program and, regardless of any law to the contrary, may take any action necessary to create the program, including identifying applicants who wish to participate. The DECD commissioner and working group must provide the DEEP commissioner with any information or help he requests. No later than one year after establishing the program, the DEEP commissioner must report to the Environment Committee on the status of the program and identify any recommended legislation to further facilitate or expand it.

BACKGROUND

Prime Farmland

 Prime farmland means soils defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as best suited to producing food, feed, forage, fiber and oilseed crops. In general, prime farmlands have an adequate and dependable water supply, a favorable temperature and growing season, acceptable acidity or alkalinity, acceptable salt and sodium content, and few or no rocks (Soil Survey Manual, U.S. Department of Agriculture Handbook No. 18, October 1993).

Brownfields Working Group

By law, the working group examines the remediation and development of state brownfields, including permitting and liability issues, and annually reviews the progress of the Special Contaminated Property Remediation and Insurance Fund (CGS 32-770).

Agricultural Virtual Net Metering

The law allows virtual net metering for municipal, state agency, and agricultural electric customers with net metering facilities (renewable or clean energy systems that meet certain requirements). In general, virtual net metering allows these customers to (1) receive a billing credit for excess power they generate (i.e., “run their meters backward”) and (2) share their excess credits with certain other designated electric accounts (i.e., also run other meters backward).

COMMITTEE ACTION

Environment Committee

Joint Favorable

Yea

27

Nay

1

(03/10/2017)

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