Newsletter05.08.2018

2018 Environmental Legislative Update No. 6

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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This stage of the legislative session inevitably brings to mind that iconic Jeff Goldblum line from “Jurassic Park,” uttered from the back of a jeep pursued by a T-Rex: “Must go faster!” Once again, however, it seems best not to extend a metaphor that would almost certainly end up giving offense to our elected representatives. That’s not our intent, and goodness knows they have enough problems already.

The Senate on May 7 passed a number of bills within the environmental portfolio. We’ll note a few in detail that lie closer to the center of that category, mentioning more briefly several that will be of interest to a narrower audience but merit mention because they continue to progress at this late stage.

SB 265 on expedited permitting procedures for business initiation, expansion or new production passed in an amended version. The concept of this bill all along (as originally proposed and as reported out of the Commerce Committee) has been to prioritize review of permit applications related to certain business development categories. Early versions contemplated a mechanism to flag such applications and require an early meeting with DEEP staff to identify application issues and project a processing date. That was to be followed up with statistical reporting on the number of such applications and processing times. The version passed by the Senate replaces the mandatory meeting with a mechanism for applicants in the designated categories to request an expedited preapplication meeting, which DEEP would make best efforts to schedule, and which would result in feedback on information required to process the application and an estimated processing time. Applicants would be surveyed about their experience and the survey results would be reported annually.

We have not previously commented on SB 341 (File Copy 285) concerning synthetic microfiber pollution from clothing, passed with a couple of minor amendments. Fans of task forces may rejoice, but quietly: the bill provides for creation of a “working group” of clothing industry and environmental stakeholders to develop a consumer awareness and education program. Clothing manufacturers appear to be all over this. Creepily, so do synthetic clothing microfibers.

Climate change (which does not exist in Florida) is the subject of two bills. SB 343 (File Copy 287) calls for chemical facilities within areas considered to be at high risk of flooding, severe weather or sea level rise to update hazard mitigation plans (and evacuation plans, if any) to address such risk. SB 345 (File Copy 288) addresses public school instruction on climate change. As originally proposed, schools would have been required to add this topic to the mandatory science curriculum “consistent with the Next Generation Science Standards.” The amended version the Senate passed dials this back to provide that science instruction “may include” that topic. Both versions provide that DEEP will be available to assist each local or regional school board in curriculum development on the subject – no doubt within available appropriations and in their ample free time.

Also passed the Senate: SB 104 on residential automatic pesticide misting systems, in amended version imposing an outright ban on installation or use; SB 357  (File Copy 120) re allocation of funding previously approved for lead abatement and environmental health and safety (mold etc.) remediation programs under the Department of Housing and Connecticut Children's Medical Center's Healthy Homes Program.

Finally, an item more on the energy end of the spectrum but one we’ll mention now because it implicates environmental issues and because it’s a significant bill implementing the Comprehensive Energy Strategy. SB 9 survived grueling preliminaries to pass in a heavily amended form. We will not even attempt a summary because we could not improve on the one provided by the Office of Legislative Research.

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