It was a good year for Clean Water and Transit as the legislative session ended last week. We helped to pass legislation to clean phosphorous from our waterways and protect against sea level rise from climate change. We also successfully fought against transportation funding cuts in the budget and got modest funding for transportation improvement projects.
We also defeated several bad bills, including ones that would undermine citizens’ ability to protect our lands; weaken the state’s regulatory and permitting process; and transfer responsibility for conservation functions out of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. There were proposed amendments to kill the New Britain – Hartford Busway project, scheduled to break ground next week, all of which we fought and defeated.
Unfortunately, some good bills didn’t pass before session ended. Most disappointingly, the clock ran out before an omnibus energy bill could be agreed upon. So we will have to wait for next year for legislation such as building efficiency disclosure that would keep Connecticut moving forward as a national leader on clean energy. A well-supported Clean Marinas incentive bill also failed to make it over the finish line in the final days.
A compilation of our victories from the 2012 legislative session and some unfinished business for next year is after the cut.
S.B. 440: An Act Concerning Phosphorus Reduction in State Waters
- This bill allows towns to get state Clean Water Funding for phosphorus removal upgrades to wastewater treatment plants; institutes limits on the use of phosphorus in fertilizing lawns; and requires that DEEP, in consultation with municipalities and others, further develop a statewide phosphorus reduction plan.
S.B. 376: An Act Concerning the Coastal Management Act and Shoreline Flood and Erosion Control Structures
- This bill is a good first step on protecting homes and infrastructures from the effects of climate change. We worked closely with legislators and other organizations as several bills were being rolled into SB 376, which kept positive portions of each and corrected problematic language. It adds sea level rise to the list of factors that should be considered when making development decisions and encourages using the wave-buffering action of natural features like dunes and coastal marshes; allows for protection of important infrastructure and older homes; protects the permit process for habitat restoration projects; and protects the rights of those seeking to appeal an approved project.
S.B. 347: An Act Concerning the State’s Open Space Plan
- This bill revises the state’s open space plan by increasing the frequency of revisions, identifying lands for preservation as open space; identifying lands of highest priority for conservation; and making recommendations to establish a system to track lands preserved as open space.
S.B. 5557: The State Budget
- The state budget includes expanded rail service in Southeastern Connecticut, evening bus service in Waterbury, and bus service between New Haven and some colleges. It also struck down fare hikes for buses and ADA paratransit services for 2013 and increased funding for bus and rail operations over the originally proposed budget. Additionally, the budget includes the creation of a Transit Improvement Program, funded at $1.9 million, to be used for transit-oriented development planning, improvements to transit service and stations, and projects to make our communities more hospitable to bicyclists and pedestrians.
Some Unfinished Business
S.B. 220: An Act Concerning Navigation, Coastal Access, and Clean Marinas
- This bill, which passed unanimously in the Senate, was never called for vote in the House. The bill would have established a cost-sharing program to help certified Clean Marinas pay for the dredging they need to keep channels open.
S.B. 5130: An Act Concerning the Dam Safety Program
- This bill passed in the House but was never called for vote in the Senate as the clock ran out. The bill sought to make more frequent inspections of dams possible while freeing up DEEP to enforce current safety regulations.
S.B. 111: An Act Concerning the Penalty for Causing Harm to a Vulnerable User of a Public Way
- This bill passed in the Senate but was not called for a vote in the House. The bill would have increased penalties for motorists who harm pedestrians, bicyclists, wheelchair users, the blind, and highway workers.
S.B. 5385: An Act Concerning Energy Retrofits for Certain Buildings and the Disclosure of the Energy Efficiency of Certain Buildings
- This bill would have required energy benchmarking and disclosure of energy use for buildings owned or leased by the state or municipalities, and for buildings that receive funding from the state’s energy efficiency and clean energy funds.
S.B. 415: An Act Concerning the Operations of the DEEP, the Establishment of a Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy Program, Water Conservation, and the Operations of the Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority
- This bill would have established low-interest loans to install clean energy or efficiency upgrades to buildings, specifically with the authorization of a commercial PACE program.
S.B. 450: An Act Concerning Energy Conservation and Renewable Energy, Energy Infrastructure Improvements, Energy Equipment Efficiency, Tree Trimming and Electric Vehicle Infrastructure
- This bill would have provided access to state efficiency programs for oil-heated homes and removed the $500,000 spending cap on efficiency audits for oil-heated homes, among other things.
Bad Bills that We Stopped
S.B. 5410: An Act Transferring the Conservation Functions of DEEP to the Department of Agriculture
S.B. 343: An Act Concerning Intervention in Permit Proceedings Pursuant to the Environmental Protection Act of 1971
- This bill unfairly targeted environmental intervenors in development permit applications. It would have exposed intervenors to unreasonable and unprecedented costs and risks, and had a chilling effect on the ability and willingness of citizens and nonprofits to take action against projects they believe will damage our environment.
S.B. 5465: An Act Concerning Stream Channel Encroachment Lines and Permits
- This bill passed in the House but was never voted on in the Senate. The bill would have automatically approved any development permit that DEEP does not rule on within 90 days; required the Department of Economic and Community Development to subject all regulations to a cost-benefit analysis that focuses solely on economic impact; and removed DEEP’s authority on stream channel encroachment.
S.B. 289: An Act Concerning the Establishment of Tolls for the Extension of Route 11
- This bill was passed by the Senate but was never called for a vote in the House. It would have established tolls for the extension of Route 11. Also attached to S.B. 289 was one of the many anti-Busway amendments, which would have killed the New Britain – Hartford Busway.
You can read more about the 2012 session here.
Posted by Rebecca Kaplan, director of communications, and Laura McMillan, outreach associate, for CFE/Save the Sound