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January 28, 2019

2019 Connecticut Environmental Legislative Update No. 4

by Christopher P. McCormack

Welcome to our Environmental Legislative Updates.

Throughout Connecticut’s legislative session, these updates highlight developments concerning environmental law and policy. The author prepares updates as Legislative Liaison of the Connecticut Bar Association’s Environmental Law Section. Pullman & Comley is pleased to offer them in this format to a wider audience.

As the session proceeds, early updates will alert readers to proposals on a broad range of issues concerning the environment, narrowing focus over time on bills that continue to progress, and concluding with a post-session wrap-up of bills that pass as well as noteworthy also-rans. Along the way they’ll summarize and challenge arguments pro and con, examine the policy and science behind proposals, and occasionally cast a side glance at the vicissitudes and vagaries of the process. The views expressed will be the author’s own, not necessarily those of Pullman & Comley LLC.

Questions, comments, requests and suggestions are always welcome. Please email me at cmccormack@pullcom.com.

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The early session cataract of bills continues unabated. Reading over the proposals, it’s hard to understand how Connecticut has managed all these years without laws on these subjects, details of subjects, and details of details. Thank goodness they’re finally getting the attention their proponents imply they deserve.

It’s a relatively short list on the environmental side, but even if it were longer, anything involving the Transfer Act has to lead. So we begin with HB 5482, which proposes to amend the Act to exempt more properties. Which ones, and why? Doesn’t say, but we can dream.

SB 74 proposes a system of carbon pricing “on a regional basis” to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and foster transition to sustainable energy sources. We already have the regional greenhouse gas initiative cap/trade framework in the Northeast. A fee on carbon emissions – dare we say, a carbon tax – is a distinct concept that has been floated in past sessions. And as luck would have it, a bipartisan group of economists has just endorsed an interesting variation on the idea.

Even as Brexit bids fair to go the way of the Stratford Shakespeare Theatre , SB 75 proposes to build a link to the European Union – in the form of a requirement that cosmetics sold and manufactured in Connecticut comply with EU standards governing chemical ingredients. We’re not even going to try to link to online resources on this issue, which seem to cluster at opposite poles of a predictable advocacy axis. Of course the EU’s “precautionary principle” approaches chemical toxicity in a structurally different way than does US environmental policy (or any US environmental policy that remains; we haven’t checked this afternoon), so the idea that EU standards are more protective has a certain appeal.

Should individual towns be able to ban, restrict or regulate pesticide application in designated areas or on certain types of property, even if the state permits it? Unfazed by the potential for confusion among the 169 separate principalities that comprise the Nutmeg State, SB 76 and HB 5483 say yes.

Fans of emerging contaminants (and who doesn’t love a good emerging contaminant) will be interested in SB 78, which would prohibit polyfluoroalkyl substances in food packaging and firefighting foam. These materials are on regulators’ minds these days; DEEP has noticed and so has DPH. You’ll be pleased to know they’re in everything, and probably in you too.

A perennial topic returns as HB 5533, proposing to impose liability on a tree owner for the costs of removal if the tree or tree limb falls on adjacent property. “Private” property on both sides.

The Bonus Legislative Update comes today in two parts.

First is the Supplemental Bonus Legislative Update. Having already noted one bill on left lane bandits, we feel obliged to note that HB 5558 makes two. We’ll keep our eye out for others. Three and they may think it’s an organization.

Second is the Actual Bonus Legislative Update: HB 5562 would authorize highway signs directing motorists to “Easton, The Christmas Tree Capital Of Connecticut.” We are completely unsurprised to see that Easton already embraces the title. We don’t know if Shelton was consulted, or for that matter whether any of the other 167 principalities expressed interest. Is it wrong to hope for a debate over which Connecticut town is the true Christmas Tree Capital – or better yet, a Task Force to resolve the question once and for all?

As always, we welcome your comments, questions, expressions of concern and yawps of dismay. Be careful out there.

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