Connecticut Seal

General Assembly

File No. 291

    February Session, 2018

Substitute Senate Bill No. 350

Senate, April 5, 2018

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 substitute bill ought to pass.

AN ACT REQUIRING THE POSTING OF A DECOMMISSIONING BOND FOR CERTAIN SOLAR PROJECTS.

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

Section 1. Subsection (a) of section 16-50k of the 2018 supplement to the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective October 1, 2018):

(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: (i) Such project meets air and water quality standards of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, (ii) the council does not find a substantial adverse environmental effect, and (iii) for a solar photovoltaic facility with a capacity of two or more megawatts, to be located on prime farmland or forestland, excluding any such facility that was selected by the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection in any solicitation issued prior to July 1, 2017, pursuant to section 16a-3f, 16a-3g or 16a-3j, the Department of Agriculture represents, in writing, to the council that such project will not materially affect the status of such land as prime farmland or the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection represents, in writing, to the council that such project will not materially affect the status of such land as core forest. In conducting an evaluation of a project for purposes of subparagraph (B)(iii) of this subsection, the Departments of Agriculture and Energy and Environmental Protection may consult with the United States Department of Agriculture and soil and water conservation districts. If the council approves a facility described in subparagraph (B)(iii) of this subsection, the council shall require the posting of a decommissioning bond by the person seeking such certificate in an amount sufficient to restore such prime farmland to a productive agricultural condition or to restore such land as core forest, as applicable.

Sec. 2. (Effective from passage) The Commissioner of Agriculture shall convene a working group to develop a recommendation for the standard to be applied by the Departments of Energy and Environmental Protection and Agriculture in evaluating the effect of solar photovoltaic facilities pursuant to subparagraph (B)(iii) of subsection (a) of section 16-50k of the general statutes. Such deliberation shall include, but not be limited to, a consideration of whether such standard shall be that such project will not materially affect the status of such land as prime farmland or core forest or whether such standard shall be that such project will not permanently affect the status of such land as prime farmland or core forest. Such working group shall consist of the Commissioner of Agriculture, or the commissioner's designee, a representative of the solar industry, a representative of the Connecticut Farm Bureau, the Commissioner of Energy and Environmental Protection, or the commissioner's designee, and a representative of the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station who shall have expertise in soil restoration. The Commissioner of Agriculture shall submit such recommendation to the joint standing committee of the General Assembly having cognizance of matters relating to the environment not later than January 1, 2019.

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

Section 1

October 1, 2018

16-50k(a)

Sec. 2

from passage

New section

ENV

Joint Favorable Subst.

 

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:

Agency Affected

Fund-Effect

FY 19 $

FY 20 $

Various State Agencies

Various - Potential Cost

Potential Significant

Potential Significant

Note: Various=Various

Municipal Impact:

Municipalities

Effect

FY 19 $

FY 20 $

Various Municipalities

Potential Cost

Potential Significant

Potential Significant

Explanation

The bill requires anyone who receives Connecticut Siting Council approval for a solar photovoltaic facility of at least two megawatt capacity on prime farmland or core forest land, to post a decommissioning bond in an amount sufficient to restore farmland to a productive agricultural condition, or to restore the land as core forest.1

To the extent state agencies or municipalities develop solar facilities on these sites, the bill could result in significant costs associated with posting decommissioning bonds for these projects.

For example, the costs for the Tobacco Valley Solar Decommissioning Plan are $2,250,000.2

The Out Years

The annualized ongoing fiscal impact identified above would continue into the future subject to inflation and the cost of solar decommissioning bonds.

OLR Bill Analysis

sSB 350

AN ACT REQUIRING THE POSTING OF A DECOMMISSIONING BOND FOR CERTAIN SOLAR PROJECTS.

SUMMARY

This bill requires anyone who receives Connecticut Siting Council approval for a solar photovoltaic facility with at least a two megawatt capacity on prime farmland or core forest to post a decommissioning bond (see BACKGROUND). A decommissioning bond is a way to secure payment for removing an abandoned solar panel system and remediating the land.

The bill requires the bond to be in an amount sufficient to restore the farmland to a productive agricultural condition or to restore the land as core forest, whichever applies.

Existing law, unchanged by the bill, requires the Department of Agriculture (DoAg) or the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) to, as part of the siting council's review process, inform the council in writing if a solar project will not materially affect the subject land's status as prime farmland or core forest.

The bill requires the DoAg commissioner to (1) convene a five-member working group to recommend a standard for DoAg and DEEP to use when evaluating the effects of these solar facilities on prime farmland or core forest and (2) report on it to the Environment Committee by January 1, 2019.

EFFECTIVE DATE: October 1, 2018, except the working group provision is effective upon passage.

WORKING GROUP

Under the bill, the working group must consider whether the standard for evaluating a project's impact must be that it will not (1) materially affect the land's status as prime farmland or core forest or (2) permanently affect its status.

The bill requires the following five individuals to serve on the working group:

BACKGROUND

Connecticut Siting Council

The Connecticut Siting Council is an independent body that regulates the siting of power facilities, transmission lines, and telecommunication facilities. Its decisions must follow guidelines set in law.

Prime Farmland & Core Forest Land

By law, “prime farmland” means soils defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as best suited to produce food, feed, forage, fiber, and oilseed crops. In general, these lands 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 (CGS 16a-3k, citing to 7 C.F.R. 657.5).

The law provides that “core forest” is unfragmented forest land that is at least 300 feet from the boundary between forest land and non-forest land, as determined by the DEEP commissioner (CGS 16a-3k).

COMMITTEE ACTION

Environment Committee

Joint Favorable Substitute

Yea

29

Nay

1

(03/22/2018)

TOP

1 A decommissioning bond is a way to secure paying for removing an abandoned solar panel system and remediating the land.

2 Source: Tobacco Valley Solar Decommissioning Plan, June 2017, DWW Solar II, LLC