Connecticut Seal

General Assembly

 

Raised Bill No. 943

January Session, 2017

 

LCO No. 4537

 

*04537_______ENV*

Referred to Committee on ENVIRONMENT

 

Introduced by:

 

(ENV)

 

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 Subsection (e) of section 16a-3j of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective July 1, 2017):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 Subsection (a) of section 16-50k of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective July 1, 2017):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

Statement of Purpose:

To discourage the use of prime farmlands and forest lands as locations for the siting of utility-scale solar photovoltaic facilities.

[Proposed deletions are enclosed in brackets. Proposed additions are indicated by underline, except that when the entire text of a bill or resolution or a section of a bill or resolution is new, it is not underlined.]