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2017 Legislative Session - Rivers Alliance of CT

River Alliance of CT > CT Water Legislation > 2017 Legislative Session

2017 Legislative Session
To join our mailing list and get timely legislative alerts by email click here.

2016 Legislative Session
 Past Session Archives
2017

River Alliance of CT > CT Water Legislation and Regulation > 2017 Legislative Session >

Feb 21, 2017

Environment Committee Wed. Feb. 22 and Testimony from Rivers Alliance

Bill Number
Click to see the current status of that bill
Bill Title
Click the title to see all public testimony submitted so far for this bill
Rivers Alliance Position
Click To See Our Submitted Testimony
HB 6332 Concerning Funding for Alternative Treatment Septic Systems Oppose as written
S.B. No. 285 An Act Providing For The Offset Of Certain Environmental Costs And Fines Through Investment In Environmental Remediation  



River Alliance of CT > CT Water Legislation and Regulation > 2017 Legislative Session >

Feb 17, 2017

STATE SET TO ELIMINATE THE COUNCIL ON ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY
Governor's Bill Repeals the Statute Enabling CEQ Staff and Volunteer Members to Be Dismissed

There has never been a more important time for independent reporting on science and the environment.  The federal government is pulling down its science pages and silencing staff at the Environmental Protection Agency. 
 
In Connecticut, the entity that can be counted on to report to the public, without bias, on the overall condition of our environment and natural resources is the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ).   It is also the one place a citizen can go with a complaint about environmental management and be sure of getting a fair hearing and helpful response.  CEQ also provides policy makers with carefully researched recommendations for changes in law and regulation. 
 
All this is done for $174,000 per year.  We estimate that CEQ saves the state many times more that amount in staff time, legislators' time, consultants' fees, and litigation.  The elimination of CEQ does not make financial sense.
 
Connecticut has always valued facts, science, and the protection of natural resources.  CEQ represents and implements those values.  Let's stand strong.

The tri-chairmen of the Appropriations are:  Sen. Paul Formica, Sen. Catherine Osten, and Rep. Toni Walker. Click here for the Appropriations Committee webpage.

 Rivers Alliance testified in opposition to the proposed 50 percent cut in funds that benefit towns across the state through the Community Investment Act, as well as cuts in funding to DEEP, which is already drastically understaffed.

Click here for Rivers Alliance's testimony. Click here see all testimony.

 


River Alliance of CT > CT Water Legislation and Regulation > 2017 Legislative Session >

Feb 15, 2017

Administration and Elections Committee Wed. Feb. 15 and Testimony from Rivers Alliance

Bill Number
Click to see the current status of that bill
Bill Title
Click the title to see all public testimony submitted so far for this bill
Rivers Alliance Position
Click To See Our Submitted Testimony
S.B. No. 194 State Agency Response to Requests for a Permit
Not Necessary
H.B. No. 5087 Permitting the Suspension of Administrative Penalties Imposed on Certain Business Entities. Oppose
H.B. No. 6151 Permitting Businesses to Seek a Declaratory Ruling Regarding Regulations.   Oppose

Click here for this Committee's current Bill Record Book





River Alliance of CT> CT Water Legislation and Regulation > 2017 Legislative Session >

Feb 15, 20177

Planning and Development Committee Public Hearing Wed. Feb. 15 and Testimony from Rivers Alliance

Bill Number
Click to see the current status of that bill
Bill Title
Click the title to see all public testimony submitted so far for this bill
Rivers Alliance of CT Position
Click To See Our Submitted Testimony
H.B. No. 6463 Establishing A Municipal Option To Provide Property Tax Relief To Homeowners Displaced By A Natural Disaster  
H.B. No. 6926 Permitting Municipalities To Impose A Buyer's Fee On The Conveyance Of Real Property Support
H.B. No. 6481 Concerning The Appraisal Of Certain Properties  
     

Click here for this Committee's current Bill Record Book




River Alliance of CT > CT Water Legislation and Regulation > 2017 Legislative Session >

Feb 8, 2017

Environment Committee Public Hearing Friday February 8 and Testimony from Rivers Alliance

Bill Number
Click to see the current status of that bill
Bill Title
Click the title to see all public testimony submitted so far for this bill
Rivers Alliance of CT Position
Click To See Our Submitted Testimony
S.B. No. 519  Authorizing The South Central Connecticut Regional Water Authority To Conduct And Invest In Certain Noncore Business Activities. Oppose As Written
S.B. No. 505 Concerning The Paint Stewardship Program.  
 H.B. No. 6352 Establishing A Tire Stewardship Program
S.B. No. 287 Authorizing The Testing Of Shellfish At Alternative Lab Facilities.
H.B. No. 6345 Requiring The Posting Of Notice When Land Abuts Other Property Subject To An Environmental Land Use Restriction.  
H.B. No. 6353 Designating The Shoreline Of The Town Of Stratford As A "No Kill Or Harvest Zone" For Horseshoe Crabs  
H.B. No. 6123 Concerning Tree Removal Along Limited Access Highways
H.B. No. 6356 Concerning Public Notice Of Tree Removal On Municipal Property

 


River Alliance of CTT > CT Water Legislation and Regulation > 2017 Legislative Session >

Feb 3, 20177

Environment Committee Public Hearing Friday February 3 and Testimony from Rivers Alliancee

Bill Number
Click to see the current status of that bill
Bill Title
Click the title to see all public testimony submitted so far for this bill
Rivers Alliance of CT Position
Click To See Our Submitted Testimony
RSB-753 The Viability Of Expanding The Bottled Water Industry In Connecticut
Opposed
 RSB-754 Prohibiting The Use Of Herbicides On State Highways By The Department Of Transportation Support
  HB-5502 Requiring The Department Of Energy And Environmental Protection To Decide Commercial Project Applications Within Ninety Days Opposed
  HB-5503  Lake Authorities And Combating Invasive Plant And Animal Species Opposed As Written
  HB-5884 Prohibiting The Use Of Coal Tar Sealants On State And Local Highways Support
  HB-5873  Requiring Notice Prior To Pesticide Applications By Railroad Companies And Requiring Vegetation Management Plans By Such Companies. Support
  RHB-6975 Prohibiting The Practice Of "Rolling Coal"
  HB-5422 Requiring The Use Of Natural Alternatives To Magnesium Chloride For Melting Ice On State Highways

 Click here for the Environment Committee's current Bill Record Book

 



River Alliance of CT > CT Water Legislation and Regulation > 2017 Legislative Session >

Feb 1, 20177

Constitutional Amendment to Protect State-Owned Land

The 2017 legislative session is, of course, dominated by state budget concerns. Almost equally worrying is a general sense, voiced in various ways, that this is the year to push aside environmental standards and regulations. Supporters of clean air and water are getting the message that they better be prepared to give way. We feel, however, that this is a time to be vigilant and stand straight. 

The single most important environmental vote will be on the Constitutional Amendment to protect state-owned land from being conveyed by the legislature to towns or individuals.  If you would like to receive information, as it becomes available, on this and other environmental legislation this session, join our email list by clicking here.

 


 

  River Alliance of CT > CT Water Legislation and Regulation > 2017 Legislative Session >

Jan 13, 2017

Please, please ask Governor Malloy to hold the line on funding for the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection

He is preparing the state budget now, with a prospective cut of 8% to 10% in the General Fund.  Already the DEEP budget has been cut back to fraction of 1% of General Fund expenditures.  This is one of the lowest levels of support in the nation.  Already DEEP is unable to handle needed monitoring and enforcement of many basic protective programs for water quality, hazardous waste and sewage treatment, spraying of pesticides, etc.  Its traditional oversight and assistance to town wetlands commissions is almost non-existent.  Maintenance of our beautiful state parks is threadbare.  Additional cuts will mean that parks and campgrounds will be closed.    Enforcement of permit standards for wastewater will be even less frequent.  Towns will be on their own in protecting wetlands.  Acquisition and conservation of open space will be underfunded.

Resources will by pulled back from the development of a comprehensive state water plan, which is now underway, as mandated by statute, and on which DEEP has been doing excellent work.

Your message can simply be a request to hold the line.  It would be good to mention an aspect of environmental protection that you particularly value:  trout management programs; hiking trails in state parks; training of wildlife specialists; water quality programs.  Who wants a future with no trout, no trails, no blue birds, and dirty water?   

How to contact Governor Malloy:











River Alliance of CT > CT Water Legislation > 2016 Legislative Session

2016 Legislative Session

2015 Legislative Session
 Past Session Archives
To join our mailing list and get timely legislative alerts by email click here.
2016
Land and Water Command Attention in the 2016 Session
Please Ask Your Legislator to Save Our Conservation Districts
House blocks bill prompted by Niagara, MDC bottling issue
Please Ask Your Legislator to Protect Our State Lands.
Environment Committee Phone Numbers, Email Addresses, Websites
Weaker Toxic Spill Reporting?
Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, Green Bank, Energy Efficiency At Risk
Study of Impact of Tilcon Mining of Water Company Land
Consent Orders
The 2016 Conveyance Act
Pesticide Applications Made To Any Railroad Rights-of-Way
Two Important Bills Went To Public Hearing Monday, March 7
Class I And II Drinking Water Lands
An Act To Repeal The Bottle Bill! Really? Really
An Act To End Covert Land-Use Permit Applications
Expansion And Construction Of Water Systems
An Act To Protect Water Utility Customers
Rivers Alliance Testifies on Change in Use Permits for Certain Water Systems
Revision of Inland Wetlands Act
Snapping Turtles 2016
Rivers Alliance Testifies on Use of Recycled Tire Rubber at Playgrounds
Rivers Alliance Testimony on Disclosure of Water Plan Information
Rivers Alliance Testimony on Wild and Scenic Housatonic River
Rivers Alliance Testimony on Constitutional Amendment Concerning CT's Environment and Natural Resources
Maintain Funding For CT Conservation Districts

 


 River Alliance of CT > CT Water Legislation > 2016 Legislative Session >

June 7, 2016

Land and Water Command Attention in the 2016 Session

Policy leaders debate whether Connecticut is in a “state of permanent fiscal crisis,” as described by Ben Barnes, the governor’s budget chief, in 2014, or whether, sooner or later, we’ll recover from the recession of 2008-2009. The view of Secretary Barnes has evolved to seeing “challenges” rather than “crisis.” Let’s compromise on “long-term, critical challenges.” In the 2016 session, lawmakers passed a $19.7 billion austerity budget that, with many painful cuts and layoffs, closed a deficit of almost $1 billion. More deficits are projected ahead.

 Surprisingly to many lawmakers, bills focusing on land and water commanded much of their attention despite the budget debates. Here follow descriptions of the most prominent bills. 

 Constitutional Amendment to Save State Conserved Open Space (Senate Joint Resolution 36). Dozens of advocates worked on this resolution from the beginning of the session to the last hour. It passed! The resolution for a state constitutional amendment grew out of the discovery in 2009 that apparently none of the deeds for state parks, wildlife management areas, or other state open space contained any legally binding language that would protect these properties from being conveyed to towns, private developers, or other entities. Every year, the legislature brings forward a conveyance act in which legislators, acting for their municipalities or others, can and do take portions of high-quality state green space without environmental analysis and often without advance notification to the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) or other agency holding the property. Every year, advocates for land and water try to decipher the cryptic conveyances and to oppose the worst of them. Success has depended strictly on persuasion. The legislature has, under current law, a broad constitutional right to take state land.

 Reform of this overused right cannot be done by statute because each section of a conveyance act begins: “Notwithstanding” any other statute, this piece of land is going to be given to X. Thus, any reform statute can be immediately voided by a “Notwithstanding” clause. Therefore, a constitutional amendment emerged as the only effective solution.

 New York and other states have passed land-protection amendments, and Connecticut advocates, with Connecticut Forest & Park Association (CFPA) in the lead, followed their models. The amendment proposed in Connecticut would not totally prohibit conveyances, but they would have to be brought forward as separate bills (not buried in omnibus bills or budget implementers). Each conveyance would have to have a well-publicized hearing. Each conveyance would have to pass both houses of the General Assembly by a two-thirds vote.

To get the proposed amendment on the state ballot for 2016, the resolution would have had to be approved by a three-quarters majority in both houses of the legislature; or if it passed but did not meet super-majority threshold, it would have to pass both chambers in the following year by simple majorities. In May, the resolution to get the amendment on the 2016 ballot passed with the requisite three-quarters vote in the Senate (after days of acute suspense); it went to the House with only hours remaining for action. The House voted to approve, with 20 minutes to spare, with a healthy majority but not a three-quarters majority.

 This means that, next year, the resolution will be brought forward again; if it passes both chambers by simple majorities, it gets on the ballot for 2018. The delay is probably a good thing because it gives advocates a chance to explain to the public what’s at stake.

 The MDC Water Bottling Battle. The most prominent water issue on the CT General Assembly (CGA) radar was a bill (S.B. 422) responding to the outrage among numerous residents of Bloomfield and neighboring towns upon discovering that their water utility, the Metropolitan District Commission (MDC), had quietly negotiated a deal to help the Niagara Bottling company build a manufacturing and distribution plant in Bloomfield. Most residents did not hear this news until the town council held a vote in December to approve a $4.1 million tax rebate for Niagara. 

 Additional details quickly emerged: Niagara, when at full operations, will be taking 1.8 million gallons of water per day; it will manufacture more than 2 million bottles per day; it will uniquely benefit from a new MDC rate structure giving a dis-count to super-large-volume users (over 500,000 gpd), and as a result, the per-gallon price to be paid by Niagara will be lower than the price paid by residents; Niagara will also get a discount on wastewater treatment, for which residents have made a huge investment in new infrastructure. 

 The Niagara arrangement provoked opposition on numerous issues: water belongs to the public, but the public had almost no opportunity to learn of or influence this huge diversion; plastic bottles and bottled water in general are widely seen as destructive of the environment when high-quality water is available from the tap; MDC disregarded the statewide water planning that is underway.

 In the end, the complexity of the goals and all-out MDC opposition sank the relevant bill. It was unclear whether the bill was aimed solely at restricting sales to large-volume water bottlers (which Rivers Alliance supported) or if it would also affect all new large-volume users or even certain existing large-volume users. 

 The secrecy surrounding the negotiations was also disturbing. Niagara, through third parties, received wetlands and zoning permits without ever having to reveal the nature of the project. Rivers Alliance supported a reform bill (S.B. 328) that would have required applicants for land-use permits to reveal the intended owner and intended use of a property. This bill fell short of passage.

 Next year, Bloomfield issues will be on the state’s legislative and water planning agenda, and Bloomfield’s ardent and articulate advocates will be in the arena.

 Good News: Lower Housatonic River Wild and Scenic.

A bill to provide federal Wild and Scenic designation to the lower Housatonic River passed with a day or two to spare. Rep. Roberta Willis was the lead proponent. Alas, Rep. Willis, a champion for the environment, is retiring this year.

 Water Secrecy Negotiations. As many of you know, following the attacks of September 2001, water utilities pushed through a set of unusual exemptions from the requirements of the Freedom of Information (FOI) law. These exemptions allow water companies to keep almost all vital data and information secret, and also to have a uniquely influential role in any decision by a state agency or other entity as to whether requested information should be released.

 The exemption bills, which passed in 2002 and 2003, removed from public view information that previously had been widely available and had been used by river advocates in lawsuits (1999-2001) to protect the Shepaug River in Roxbury and Washington, and the Mill River in Hamden and New Haven from unusually large diversions. The redacted water data relates to source locations of reservoirs, margins of safety, recharge lands, and the like. Rivers Alliance opposed the exemptions from the start. At first, it was a losing battle. But in 2014, when the state committed to comprehensive water planning and to regional water supply planning, it became obvious to many stakeholders that prudent water planning needs good water data. State agencies (especially DEEP) and the governor’s office concluded that more transparency is essential.

 Governor Malloy’s office led negotiations involving state officials from DEEP, the departments of Public Health and Administrative Services, representatives of Rivers Alliance and The Nature Conservancy, representatives of the Connecticut Water Works Association (CWWA), and individual water companies. The negotiations went fairly well at first. Environmentalists have no need for and don’t ask for truly sensitive security information, such as computer codes for operations management. But as the session wound down, the CWWA rejected further compromise. Talks actually seemed to go into reverse. The governor’s office pulled the plug. It is unclear what will happen next. There will probably be at least a slight rollback of the time-consuming process of redaction. But many, many complications remain.

Water Plan Approval Process. Quite often, enviros and water utilities are on the same side, working together. This year, Rivers Alliance and other environmental advocates teamed up with CWWA to fix problems with the approval process for the statewide water plan. This process, as set out in 2014 (Public Act 14-163), had several flaws. Two were that 1) after the Water Planning Council and advisers finish the plan, it was to be delivered to the General Assembly, where legislators could have changed the plan in any manner they chose, and then approve it. Thus, it would be the General Assembly’s water plan, not necessarily the plan developed by the Water Planning Council. And, 2) there was a chance the plan could be buried forever in the General Assembly. A reform bill (H.B. 5540) fixed these problems, and passed with broad support.

 Rock Mining in Class I and II Drinking Water Lands. There were three bills seeking changes in protections for the legally highly protected Class I and II lands that recharge drinking water sources. By far the most audacious was a bid by the Tilcon company to do rock mining on about 100 acres of Class I and II lands that are in Plainville but are owned by the New Britain water department. This proposal was almost identical to the project brought forward in 2007-2008. The supposed benefits would be that eventually (after about 40 years) Tilcon will create a new reservoir in part of the excavated area and will donate money and land to the affected towns. 

 The project stirred stormy public debate back then and was eventually defeated. Key players were local residents, Rivers Alliance, Connecticut Fund for the Environment/Save the Sound, and the Connecticut League of Conservation Voters. The team was in action again this year. 

 The compromise was a bill (S.B. 300) allowing New Britain to commission a science study by an independent consultant (with review by the Water Planning Council and the Council on Environmental Quality) to assess effects of the mining project on the environment and water supply. A good study will almost certainly find significant damage to the environment and natural resources in the public trust, with limited if any benefit to water supply. But this process will need watching. Numerous local citizens are on guard. 

We worked on many other bills addressing pesticides and other toxins, energy, attacks on DEEP, and, of course, the budget. Under the budget, environmental causes and programs took some serious hits, but it could have been worse. For more information on the 2016 environmental session, check in with our colleagues at the Connecticut League of Conservation Voters, www.ctlcv.org.

  River Alliance of CT > CT Water Legislation > 2016 Legislative Session >

May 3, 2016

Please Ask Your Legislator to Save Our Conservation Districts

As many of you know, tough decisions are being made that will impact environmental services to municipalities, farmers and local landowners. One of these services is the Conservation Districts.

The proposed state budget seeks to eliminate funding for Conservation Districts and the CT Council on Soil and Water Conservation. These are agencies created by state statute and rely on base funding to leverage millions of dollars in federal funding. As many of you know, Conservation Districts provide direct services to municipal land use agencies including conservation and inland wetlands commissions for things such as site plan reviews, wetland delineation assistance, E&S site inspections, and GIS services. Without state funding, such services will be in jeopardy or the burden of cost will be transferred to municipalities. The Conservation Districts also do conservation planning for farmers working to reduce nitrogen loading. Work of the Districts has resulted in the de-listing of impaired waterways.

The CT Council on Soil and Water Conservation is THE state agency that brings together USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), CT Cooperative Extension, CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), CT Department of Agriculture (DOA), CT Agricultural Experiment Station, the CT Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D) Council with the Conservation Districts to work on key soil and water conservation issues. It is the Council that worked to pass the Erosion and Sediment Control Act in 1985, and it is the Council that wrote the $10 million grant to protect Long Island Sound.

WE NEED YOUR HELP ASAP.

Key talking points:

  • Ask your legislator to keep a separate line item for the CT Council on Soil and Water Conservation and the Conservation Districts at $270,000. Conservation Districts and the CT Council on SW provide much needed technical assistance to municipalities and landowners.
  • Conservation Districts are at the forefront of watershed planning in the state.
  • DEEP staff is no longer capable of providing assistance to town land use agencies. Conservation Districts are the safety net for municipal land use agencies in need of technical assistance.
  • Conservation Districts help leverage additional funding, such as EPA 319 grants to benefit municipalities. However, 319 grants do not provide the base funding and require a 60/40 match. Without state funding, Conservation Districts would not be in a favorable position to leverage such funds. In 2015, Conservation Districts leveraged over $1 million in non-state funding. Base state funding is critical to ensure that this work continues. The CT Council just received at $10 million grant from USDA that supports water quality and land protection efforts in the Long Island Sound Watershed. This money can only be used for direct assistance and cannot be used for administration. State funds are needed to ensure that the $10 million is administered to improve water quality in LIS.
  • The CT Council and the Conservation Districts are part of a nationwide network - eliminating funding for Conservation Districts jeopardizes federal funding coming through this network of federal, state, and local conservation agencies.

Appropriations Committee Senate chair - Beth Bye - http://www.senatedems.ct.gov/Bye-mailform.php, House chair - Toni Walker - toni.walker@cga.ct.gov
Speaker of the House - Brendan Sharkey - Brendan.Sharkey@cga.ct.gov
House Majority - Joe.Aresimowicz - Joe.Aresimowicz@cga.ct.gov
Senate Pro Temp - Martin Looney - http://www.senatedems.ct.gov/Looney-mailform.php
Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff - Bob.Duff@cga.ct.gov

Approps Committee list: https://www.cga.ct.gov/app/
Environment Committee list - https://www.cga.ct.gov/env/

Also here is the link to the CT General Assembly for all email addresses.
House membership: https://www.cga.ct.gov/asp/menu/hlist.asp
Senate membership - https://www.cga.ct.gov/asp/menu/slist.asp

Thank you in advance for your support. Don't hesitate to contact me for any additional information.

Sincerely,
Denise Savageau Conservation Director Town of Greenwich and
President, CT Association of Conservation Districts

Denise Savageau Conservation Director Town of Greenwich
101 Field Point Road
Greenwich, CT 06830
Phone: 203-622-6461 Fax: 203-622-3795
Mailto:denise.savageau@greenwichct.org


  River Alliance of CT > CT Water Legislation > 2016 Legislative Session >

Apr 27, 2016

Please Ask Your Legislator to Protect Our State Lands.

On April 26, Senate Joint Resolution 36, which would establish a Constitutional Amendment to better protect your public lands from being sold, swapped, or given away without adequate public process -- was referred to the Environment Committee. This is, in a sense, part of a transparent process, but it could be the death of this very important bill if the Environment Committee doesn't meet quickly to bring the bill back out in time for votes in both chambers.

Your voice is needed NOW to protect state conservation lands.

Members of the Environment Committee have been very supportive, but time is of the essence and they need to hear from you. This Legislative session ends at midnight on May 4th.

Please contact your Legislators (State Senate and House) and ask them to convene the Environment Committee and vote Senate Joint Resolution 36 out of the Environment Committee quickly so that it can be voted upon in both chambers before this session ends. Connecticut's public lands are worth protecting, and now is the time to protect them.

Below are the members of the Environment Committee. If your State Representative or Senator is on this list, your contact is absolutely critical. If you need more contact information, call or email Rivers Alliance of CT at rivers@riversalliance.org  860-361-9349 or  203-788-5161 (cell when we are away from the office).

Environment Committee Membership (full list with emails, phone numbers, websites below)
Co-Chairs: Senator Ted Kennedy (Legislative Aide Aurora D’Angona) 860-240-0455, Representative James Albis 860-240-8585 or 800-842-8267
Vice-Chairs: Sen. Marilyn Moore and Rep. David Arconti
Ranking Members: Sen. Clark Chapin and Rep. John Shaban
Members: Rep. Gary Byron, Rep. David Carney, Rep. Jay Case, Rep. Mike Demicco, Rep. Patricia Dillon, Rep. Doug Dubitsky, Rep. Joe Gresko, Rep. Jack Hennessy, Rep. Ben McGorty, Rep. Robert Megna, Rep. Phil Miller, Rep. Craig Miner, Rep. Gayle Mulligan, Rep. Mary Mushinsky, Rep. John Piscopo, Rep. Kevin Ryan, Rep. Sean Scanlon, Rep. Steven Stafstrom, Rep. William Tong, Rep. Mark Tweedie, Rep. Diana Urban, Rep. Roberta Willis, Rep. Melissa Ziobron

Here is contact information for other legislative leaders.

Senator Martin Looney, Senate President Pro Tempore (Executive Secretary Carla Smith): 860-240-8614
Senator Bob Duff, Senate Majority Leader (Executive Assistant Dean O’Brien): 860-240-0414
Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano (Legislative Aide Tara Frilling): 860-240-8871

Representative Brendan Sharkey, Speaker of the House: 203-281-4647 or 860-240-8500
Representative Joe Aresimowicz, House Majority Leader: 860-240-8489
Representative Themis Klarides, House Minority Leader 860-240-8700 or 800-842-1423

An easy way to call a legislator is by the following general numbers. Just ask for your legislator by name:

All Senate Democrats 860-240-8600 or 800-842-1420
All Senate Republicans 860-240-8800 or 800-842-1421
All House Democrats leadership: 860-240-8500 or 800-842-1902, rank and file: 860-240-8585 or 800-842-8267
All House Republicans leadership: 860-240-8700 or 800-842-1423, rank and file: 860-240-8787 or 800-842-8270

Remember - protecting land protects the watersheds of our state's rivers.

CT General Assembly Environment Committee 2016

District Position Name 
(click name to email)
Website
(click to open)
Phone
Numbers
Party
S12 Co-Chair Kennedy, Ted
Legislative Aide Aurora D’Angona
http://www.senatedems.ct.gov/Kennedy.php 860-240-0455, 800-842-1420 D
099 Co-Chair Albis, James http://www.housedems.ct.gov/Albis 860-240-8585, 800-842-8267 D
S22 Vice Chair Moore, Marilyn
Legislative Aide Dorothy Lewis
http://www.senatedems.ct.gov/Moore.php  860-240-0425, 800-842-1420 D
109 Vice Chair Arconti, David http://www.housedems.ct.gov/Arconti 860-240-8585, 800-842-8267 D
S30 Ranking Member Chapin, Clark J.
Legislative Aide AJ Bellagamba
http://www.ctsenaterepublicans.com/home-chapin 800-842-1421, 860-240-8800 R
135 Ranking Member Shaban, John T. http://repshaban.com 860-249-8700, 800-842-1423 R
027 Member Byron, Gary http://repgarybyron.com 860-240-8700, 800-842-1423 R
023 Member Carney, Devin R. http://repcarney.com 860-240-8700, 800-842-1423 R
063 Member Case, Jay M. http://repjaycase.com 860-240-8787, 800-842-1423 R
021 Member Demicco, Mike http://www.housedems.ct.gov/Demicco 860-240-8585, 800-842-8267 D
092 Member Dillon, Patricia A. http://www.housedems.ct.gov/Dillon 860-240-8585, 800-842-8267 D
047 Member Dubitsky, Doug http://repdubitsky.com 860-240-8700, 800-842-1423 R
121 Member Gresko, Joseph P. http://www.housedems.ct.gov/Gresko 860-240-8585, 800-842-8267 D
127 Member Hennessy, John "Jack" F. http://www.housedems.ct.gov/Hennessy 860-240-8585, 800-842-8267 D
122 Member McGorty, Ben http://repmcgorty.com 860-240-8700, 800-842-1423 R
097 Member Megna, Robert W. http://www.housedems.ct.gov/Megna 860-240-8585, 800-842-8267 D
036 Member Miller, Philip J. http://www.housedems.ct.gov/MillerPJ 860-240-8590, 800-842-8267 D
066 Member Miner, Craig A. http://repminer.com 860-240-8700, 800-842-1423 R
055 Member Mulligan, Gayle J. http://repmulligan.com 860-240-8700, 800-842-1423 R
085 Member Mushinsky, Mary M. http://www.housedems.ct.gov/Mushinsky 860-240-8585, 800-842-8267 D
076 Member Piscopo, John E. http://reppiscopo.com 860-240-8700, 800-842-1423 R
139 Member Ryan, Kevin http://www.housedems.ct.gov/Ryan 860-240-8504, 800-842-8267 D
098 Member Scanlon, Sean http://www.housedems.ct.gov/Scanlon 860-240-8585, 800-842-8267 D
129 Member Stafstrom, Steven http://www.housedems.ct.gov/Stafstrom 860-240-8585, 800-842-8267 D
147 Member Tong, William http://www.housedems.ct.gov/Tong 860-240-0413, 800-842-8267 D
013 Member Tweedie, Mark http://reptweedie.com 860-240-8700, 800-842-1423 R
043 Member Urban, Diana S. http://www.housedems.ct.gov/Urban 860-240-8585, 800-842-8267 D
064 Member Willis, Roberta B. http://www.housedems.ct.gov/Willis 860-240-8585, 800-842-8267 D
034 Member Ziobron, Melissa H. http://repziobron.com 860-240-8700, 800-842-1423 R



   River Alliance of CT > CT Water Legislation > 2016 Legislative Session >

Apr 22, 2016

Weaker Toxic Spill Reporting?

SB 301 AN ACT MODIFYING THE STANDARD FOR MANDATORY REPORTING OF ENVIRONMENTAL SPILLS.

The original bill, which was raised in the Commerce Committee (and which passed unanimously), said spills of harmful chemicals don't have to be reported if DEEP has no standards for the chemical in question. The last time DEEP attempted to update its water toxics standards (for 89 chemicals, starting in 2007), the regulated community successfully blocked the effort. These interests also successfully urged that any new standards be set through the full regulatory process (which might be fine if CT did not have such an unusually cumbersome process for adopting regulations).

The Environment Committee revised the bill, leaving in place current law, which says all spills must be reported until DEEP has standards for the chemical in question. But this substitute bill also requires DEEP to set those standards and write regulations establishing numerical thresholds for specified chemicals. A spill or other release would have to be reported only if it exceeds the applicable threshold and poses a potential threat to human health and the environment.

DEEP filed testimony in opposition to the original bill objecting to the weakening of reporting requirements and also to the order that they proceed with regulations. (DEEP is objecting to all legislative language requiring them to do specific tasks because of their limited resources.)

The revised bill passed in the Environment Committee on Apr 22, 2016 by a vote of 15-12.

Click here to see the current status of the original bill, click here to read DEEP's testimony


  River Alliance of CTT > CT Water Legislation > 2016 Legislative Session >

Apr 12, 2016

Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, Green Bank, Energy Efficiency At Risk

The General Assembly’s Finance Committee has approved a bill for the FY17 state budget that would sweep $22 million in dedicated funding from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) away from the Green Bank and energy efficiency programs and into the General Fund.

Rivers Alliance joins its many colleagues who advocate for clean energy in Connecticut in asking you to contact your legislators and urge them to save the state’s clean energy programs.

It is extremely important at this time that the state continue its commitment to reduce greenhouse gases and to expand clean energy. Energy efficiency and public-private investment in clean energy projects are cost-effective ways to reduce spending on energy and to replace polluting fossil fuels with low emission or zero-emission energy sources. Connecticut must honor and follow through with commitments it has made on the regional and local levels to support clean energy. Backing off commitments will undermine the presently healthy job growth in this sector. It will also signal to all concerned, from regional regulators to small solar businesses, that they can’t count on Connecticut. It provides a wonderful opportunity for the fossil fuel interests to say to the world, “Stick with us. Clean energy people will let you down.”

Contact your legislator by email or telephone. If you are a constituent, start with that information. Say, in your own words, please oppose the sweep of RGGI Funds away from clean energy work; please support our clean energy programs and commitments. Be willing to speak to an aide.

Here is contact information for legislative leaders:
Senator Martin Looney, Senate President Pro Tempore: 860-240-8614
Senator Bob Duff, Senate Majority Leader: 860-240-0414
Representative Brendan Sharkey, Speaker of the House: 860-240-8500
Representative Joe Aresimowicz, House Majority Leader: 860-240-8489

An easy way to call a legislator is by the following general numbers. Just ask for your legislator by name:
House Democrats 860-240-8585
House Republicans 860-240-8700
Senate Democrats 860-240-8600
Senate Republicans 860-240-8800

Click here for more information about the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).

Rivers Alliance would be pleased to help if you have questions.

Our email Alert on this issue was sent out Sat Apr 9. To sign up to receive our email communications, click here.


  River Alliance of CT > CT Water Legislation > 2016 Legislative Session >

Apr 1, 2016

Study of Impact of Tilcon Mining of Water Company Land

Bill 300, LCO No. 3463, AAC NEW BRITAIN WATER COMPANY LAND. The Public Health Committee wrote substitute language for this bill and it  referred it to the Office of Legislative Research and the Office of Fiscal Analysis. The substitute bill says:

 "...the city of New Britain shall commission and supervise an environmental study, to be conducted by an independent third party approved by the Department of Public Health and the Council on Environmental Quality, ... to examine the potential impact of the city of New Britain's changing the use of such city's water company owned class I and class II land to allow for the lease of approximately 131.4 acres owned by the city and located in the town of Plainville, more specifically described as 10 Biddle Pass, for the purpose of allowing the extraction of stone and other minerals on such property."

For more information, see our email Alert.

Click here to see the current status of the original bill, click here to read the Proposed Substitute Bill No. 300 LCO No. 3463.


  River Alliance of CT > CT Water Legislation > 2016 Legislative Session >

Mar 18, 2016

Consent Orders

SB 431 AAC CONSENT ORDERS ENTERED INTO BY DEEP

Rivers alliance wrote in opposition to Bill 431 and in support of the testimony from Connecticut Fund for the Environment and Commissioner Rob Klee. We do not bring legal expertise to the issue, but our experience has been that consent orders can linger for years and even decades. In such circumstances, a variety of changes in pertinent conditions are likely to occur. We do have direct experience of that kind of change. This bill evidently is related to a Superior Court decision that profoundly disappointed BIC Corp. The Court ruled that DEEP has the authority to revoke a consent order unilaterally. Before immediately attempting to cancel that authority, considerable time and thought ought to be given to the implications. In particular, it appears imprudent to apply 431 retroactively. Attorney Keith Ainsworth, in supporting the bill, did propose amendments to the language. Our position is not that consent orders are working perfectly, but rather that this bill, as written, does not appear to be a step forward.

Click here to see the current status of thsi billClick here to see Rivers Alliance of CT full testimony.

 


  River Alliance of CT > CT Water Legislation > 2016 Legislative Session >

Mar 13, 2016

The 2016 Conveyance Act

Raised H.B. No. 5619 Session Year 2016 AN ACT CONVEYING CERTAIN PARCELS OF STATE LAND AND REQUIRING A STUDY OF CERTAIN STATE REAL PROPERTY. To convey certain parcels of land owned by the state and to require a study of certain property owned by the state. Introduced by: Government Administration and Elections Committee

Click here to see the current status of this bill. Click here to see Rivers Alliance of CT's full testimony.

Two very bad sections that Rivers Alliance will oppose in testimony.

Sec. 8. In Groton. 60+ acres (in 6 parcels) of CT DEEP waterfront property to the town of Groton for no cost. Groton shall use the land for “economic, development, recreational and open space purposes,” in other words, for anything that comes to mind. This land and accompanying buildings (formerly the Mystic Education Center/Oral School) have significant conservation values and are valuable coastal property as well. Comment: This is the kind of pirating of state land that has prompted to the call by multiple environmental groups to reform the process of authorizing conveyances of state land.

Sec. 5. A study to be done by OPM and DAS (not by or in consultation with DEEP or the Department of Public Health or any other agency) to evaluate “any real property owned by the state that is zoned for residential use by local zoning authorities but is located in a zone authorized to contain commercial structures, as authorized by the municipality.” The study shall conclude with a report that shall “recommend transferring such properties and any legislation necessary to expedite the approval process under state and local authority.” Comment: Beware the Ides of March! How many state-owned properties are in a residential zone, according to local zoning authorities, but are authorized by the municipality to contain commercial structures? This sounds like some sort of local conflict (or conflicts?) that someone wants to resolve by legislative fiat. This calls for a “study,” but mandates that the study conclude with recommendations for transferring the properties. (There’s no option for just leaving them alone. No limitation on to whom they shall be transferred. No kidding.)

 


  River Alliance of CT > CT Water Legislation > 2016 Legislative Session >

Mar 11, 2016

Pesticide Applications Made To Any Railroad Rights-of-way

Raised S.B. No. 385 AN ACT CONCERNING NOTICE OF PESTICIDE APPLICATIONS MADE TO ANY RAILROAD RIGHTS-OF-WAY. To require advance notice of pesticide applications made by railroad companies to any rights-of-way.

Click here to see the current status of this bill.

RA strongly supports RB 385. We are increasingly alarmed by the poorly noticed, largely unmonitored use of the 12,000 pesticides registered for use in CT (see testimony of DEEP Commissioner Rob Klee on nicotinoids). The quality of the state's waters is being degraded by the reckless use of toxic pesticides.

In oral testimony, I mentioned three ways the bill could, and (in our opinion), should be strengthened.

Any town in which the application is to take place should have the right to monitor the application by town staff or commissioners having responsibility for environmental protection, or by the local Conservation District. We believe that towns should have this ability for pesticides applied under state permits. DEEP does not and cannot monitor compliance in the field, except in rare cases. Therefore, monitoring authority should be given to local experts.

The bill should be extended to rights of way for natural-gas pipelines. Oversight is needed, especially in drinking-water watershed. The pesticide applicator should notify the town and the state of quantities used in the application. Data on the pesticide product, the quantity, and the location of application should be given in some readily usable digital form.

Thank you for your attention. Margaret Miner, Exec. Dir., Rivers Alliance of Connecticut

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River Alliance of CT > CT Water Legislation > 2016 Legislative Session >

Mar 9, 2016

Two Important Bills Went to Public Hearing Monday, March 7.

PLEASE CONSIDER SUBMITTING TESTIMONY TO THE PUBLIC HEALTH COMMITTEE. IT’S EASY. SEND IT BY EMAIL TO phtestimony@cga.ct.gov Each bill should have its own testimony. If you can also testify in person, that would be great. The hearing is in the Legislative Office Building, Room 1 D. Please contact rivers@riversalliance.org if you need more information.

Raised Bill 300, AAC NEW BRITAIN WATER COMPANY LAND. Oppose. Most of you have considerable information on the subject matter. This bill would allow 40 years of rock mining by the Tilcon company on approximately 100 acres of Class I and II public water-supply land in Plainville, owned by the City of New Britain. This is a dramatic retreat from Connecticut’s longstanding, strict protection of drinking-water lands. The applicants pledge to create a new reservoir in the excavated space, and they maintain that this could be useful to the region in the future. Our belief is that such a complex project, with such serious implications as a precedent, should be considered in the statewide, comprehensive water plan that is presently being developed by the Water Planning Council and multiple stakeholders. The state plan will address regional water management. For more information, see our email Alert.

Click here to see the current status of this bill


Raised Bill 5540, AAC THE STATE WATER PLAN. Support. This bill addresses problems in the approval process for the comprehensive statewide water plan. The major concern is that, under the existing law (Public Act 14-163), the water plan, which is being carefully developed by the Water Planning Council, with wide public participation, could be amended (in any number of ways) by legislative committees and then go straight to a final General Assembly vote. Bill 5540 would give the Water Planning Council an opportunity to meet legislators’ concerns by revising the plan (on a very tight schedule). Bill 5540 is supported, and has been vetted, by a wide range of stakeholders, including water companies, environmental groups, and others. It is not supported by the Water Planning Council itself, whose state-agency members would rather wait until more work is done on the plan before looking at the approval process. The position of Rivers Alliance, the Connecticut Water Works Association, and other supporters is that it is best to fix the approval process as soon as possible, while we are all standing on a level playing field. As the plan is developed, different groups will develop particular interests in what is approved or disapproved. At this time, none of us know what will be in the plan, so we have been able to agree on how the approval process could be improved to increase the likelihood that the hard planning work will not be wasted.

Click here to see the current status of this bill

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  River Alliance of CT > CT Water Legislation > 2016 Legislative Session >

An Act To Repeal The Bottle Bill! Really? Really.

Bill 312 in the General Law Committee aims to repeal the bottle bill.  The title is: AA REQUIRING [DEEP] TO STUDY BOTTLE BILL BEVERAGE CONTAINER REFUND VALUES AND REDEMPTION FEES

The bill asks DEEP to study replacing the present bottle deposit-and-refund law with a non-refundable four-cent fee to promote recycling and anti-littering --  and very soon, one may speculate, to replenish the state General Fund.  If you do not want to return to the days of bottle litter, if you think it’s good to have an incentive to collect discards for cash, then please IMMEDIATELY oppose this bill (the hearing was Tuesday.) 

Email gltestimony@cga.ct.gov Word or pdf format 

The General Law Committee Chairmen are Sen. Carlo Leone of Stamford and Darien and Rep. David Baram of Bloomfield and Windsor.  Here’s a link to the bill https://www.cga.ct.gov/2016/TOB/s/2016SB-00312-R00-SB.htm

Click here to see the current status of this bill

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River Alliance of CT > CT Water Legislation > 2016 Legislative Session >

An Act To End Covert Land-use Permit Applications

Bill 328 in the Planning and Development Committee seeks to end the practice of hiding the intended owner and intended use of a property in applications for land-use permits. The title is: AAC MUNICIPAL APPLICATIONS FOR LAND USE PERMITS AND TAX ABATEMENTS 

The language may need a little fixing, but the aim is to require clear identification of the intended owner and developer of a property, and its intended use.  This is extremely important for the protection of water resources across the state.  The hearing was Friday, March 11, at 11 a.m., at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford.  Here’s a link to the bill. https://www.cga.ct.gov/2016/TOB/s/2016SB-00328-R00-SB.htm

Click here to see the current status of this bill

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River Alliance of CT > CT Water Legislation > 2016 Legislative Session >

Expansion And Construction Of Water Systems

March 2, 2016

SB 288 AAC THE DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH'S RECOMMENDATIONS ON THE EXPANSION AND CONSTRUCTION OF WATER SYSTEMS.

In this bill and others, there are repeated references to exclusive service areas (ESAs) “as determined pursuant to section 25-33g.” This section of the statutes is on Water Utility Coordinating Committees (WUCCs). In the WUCC statute, an ESA is created only when a WUCC regional plan approved by DPH. In 30 years, only one such plan has been approved. Three other WUUCs convened and created plans that have not been approved. Three other WUCCs never met. DPH evidently considers as true ESAs, service areas created in WUCC plans not yet approved.

SB 288 has so many references to exclusive service areas that would be helpful to clarify where these ESAs are and how they were awarded.  Reportedly, when DPH “identifies” an ESA, that ESA legally exists (or is treated as if it exists). Identification is apparently based on decisions made in WUCC meetings. But the process can be very informal. On the DPH website, there is a map for ESAs. There are approximately 60 ESAs, and about 20 more potential ESAs. More specific information, such as the names of suppliers, can be found by digging down.  This bill should be clarified so that one can understand what references to “exclusive service areas” denote.

Rivers Alliance requests that the Committee ask OLR or other expert to review the legal status of ESAs approved in the WUCC process; ESAs drafted but not yet approved; and ESAs that have some sort of legal standing outside the WUCC process This is important because, DPH radically reconfigured WUCC regions two years ago (there are now three instead of seven) and has fast-tracked the development of new WUCC regional plans, such that plans for all three regions will be done simultaneously by one consulting firm by summer 2017 so that they can be considered in the state water planning work. So whether and when and where ESAs are legally established will be essential information in state planning.

Click here for the current status of this bill.  Click here for Rivers Alliance's full testimony.


River Alliance of CT > CT Water Legislation > 2016 Legislative Session >

An Act To Protect Water Utility Customers

Bill 422, LCO 2975 (substitute language) is linked to the above bill in that both were inspired by a controversy in Bloomfield and neighboring towns over arrangements by their water utility, the Metropolitan District Commission, to sell a large volume of water at discount rates to a new bottling and water distribution plant to be sited in Bloomfield; the plant owner, Niagara company, would also get discount rates for wastewater treatment.  The bill title is:  AAC RESIDENTIAL WATER RATES, PUBLIC DRINKING WATER SUPPLY EMERGENCIES AND SELLERS OF BOTTLED WATER

 The bill calls for residential customers to have priority over water bottlers and exporters during a water-supply emergency; and it sets a ban on discount water and wastewater utility prices for a water bottling business.  Rivers Alliance will testify in favor of the bill, with some questions as to how best to address fair water pricing. 

To support and otherwise comment on these two major water bills.   Email: gltestimony@cga.ct.gov Word or pdf format

The Chairmen of the Planning and Development Committee are Sen. Cathy Osten of Norwich, Sprague, and 8 other towns in the NE Corner; and Rep. Phil Miller of Essex, Haddam, Chester, and Deep River. If you are constituents, identify your town prominently.

In considering RB 422 anew, I believe it would be possible and reasonable for your Committee to take direct action on the issue of high-volume pricing discounts.

 

Language could be:  Any water company that is selling water at a discount price to high-volume customers should convert to a flat rate or conservation-incentive rate as soon as legally feasible.  No water company should offer potential customers a discount rate for high-volume purchases.

 

Private companies in Connecticut can decouple revenue from volume of water sold.  Public utilities should also move in this direction. 

Click here to see the current status of this bill

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River Alliance of CT > CT Water Legislation > 2016 Legislative Session >

Mar 2, 2016

Rivers Alliance Testifies on Change in Use Permits for Certain Water Systems

TO: Sen. Terry B. Gerratana and Rep. Matthew Ritter, Chairmen, And Honorary Members of the Public Health Committee Testimony from Rivers Alliance of Connecticut Public Hearing, March 2, 2016, on RB 297 AAC

CHANGE IN USE PERMITS FOR CERTAIN WATER SYSTEMS - Support with language change.

Rivers Alliance of Connecticut is a statewide non-profit organization, founded in 1992, as a coalition of river organizations, other conservation non-profits, individuals, and businesses working to protect and enhance Connecticut’s rivers, streams, aquifers, lakes, and estuaries. We promote sound water policies and water stewardship through education and assistance at the local, regional, and state levels.

This bill appears to replace Sec. 7 of PA 14-163 (the state water plan law). RB 297 seems to have the same or a similar goal as PA 14-163: to relieve water utilities and DPH of the requirement to have a change-of-use approval for minor, routine activities. But 297 deletes the requirement to do a study aimed at producing a regulation for a general permit. We agree that this study requirement may be burdensome, but we urge that Bill 297 use the same description of minor activities as in the existing law. This language was carefully negotiated. Relevant language is in bold face below.

Sec. 7. (Effective July 1, 2014) The Department of Public Health, in consultation with the Water Planning Council, shall study the feasibility of establishing a general permit for activities that are determined to be minor and that will: (1) Cause minimal environmental and public health effects when conducted separately, (2) cause only minimal cumulative environmental and public health effects, and (3) have no adverse effect on existing or potential uses of water or water bodies. Such study shall provide a listing of activities that may be conducted subject to such general permit and the circumstances for conducting such activities. Not later than July 1, 2015, the department shall submit a report, in accordance with section 11-4a of the general statutes, to the joint standing committees of the General Assembly having cognizance of matters relating to public health and the environment concerning such study.

 We also request that bill 297 include a means to create some sort of public record of the activities determined to be minor. This could be done in a number of simple ways. Our recommendations for revision of Bill 297 are show here below:

Section 1. Section 25-32 of the general statutes is amended by adding subsection (r) as follows (Effective October 1, 2016):

(NEW) (r) Notwithstanding any provision of this section, a permit shall not be required for [any routine maintenance, repair, upgrade or replacement of public water supply system components, or de minimis activities related to maintenance of existing public water supply system infrastructure, ] activities that are determined to be minor and that will: (1) Cause minimal environmental and public health effects when conducted separately, (2) cause only minimal cumulative environmental and public health effects, and (3) have no adverse effect on existing or potential uses of water or water bodies. performed or authorized by a water company serving one thousand or more persons that has filed a water supply plan pursuant to section 25-32d and complies with applicable best management practices for stormwater management, erosion and sedimentation control, and fuel and chemical handling and storage. The department shall establish approval of such minor activities by a written publicly available determination that no permit is needed. If the department determines that approval for a change in use is required for a water supply construction project that would otherwise require department approval of the project plans, then the change in use shall be included as part of the project approval on the condition that the change in use is described in a document available to the public.

Thank you for your consideration.

Margaret Miner, Executive Director West Street, Litchfield CT rivers@riveralliance.org 860-361-9349

Click here to see the current status of this bill

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  River Alliance of CT > CT Water Legislation > 2016 Legislative Session >

Feb 24, 2016

Revision of Inland Wetlands Act

 RB 141 AAC Revision of Definitional, Timing, and Procedural Provisions of The Inland Wetlands Watercourses Act

We oppose this bills most far-reaching provisions. We do, however, support the addition of the term hydric to the definition of wetlands. And we support the changes in timing to achieve scheduling consistency across land-use commissions. We do not strongly object to the deletions of references to boundaries with respect to public-hearing requirements.

We understand that many towns feel that the current, somewhat ambiguous language means they must hold a public hearing each time they correct and change any part of their wetlands map. This often requires holding two public hearings on a single application, which most often is wasteful. But actually what the law seems to require is that a town hold a public hearing when it changes its manner of determining wetland boundaries.

The provisions in the bill that shift the underlying state responsibility for wetlands stewardship over to the towns are very troubling. The preamble in the wetlands act eloquently describes the important function of the state in protecting water resources. The amendment delegating key authorities to the towns and cities a decade later was not meant to undermine the authority of the state but rather to extend its effectiveness. The state was not only to guide and educate local commissions but also to be the authority available if commissions could not or would not conduct their business as stipulated by law. Recourse to the state is supposed to be available to applicants frustrated by non-action of a commission, to citizens frustrated by a commission chronically failing to fulfill its stewardship responsibilities, and to commissioners themselves when faced with an applicant so litigious that they have reason to believe any action at all will lead to litigation against them as individuals. We all know that DEEP’s resources have been cut to the bone. There is one staffer in the wetlands department. We know and understand that DEEP rarely these days actually gets involved in local wetlands issues. Their intervention is not often requested and less often granted. But the structure of responsible stewardship should not be demolished because funding is pinched.

Click here to see the current status of this bill. Click here to see full testimony from Rivers Alliance.


  River Alliance of CT > CT Water Legislation > 2016 Legislative Session >

Feb 24, 2016

Snapping Turtles 2016

Raised H.B. No. 5315 AN ACT CONCERNING THE PREVENTION OF THE HABITUATION OF POTENTIALLY DANGEROUS ANIMALS, THE POSTING OF INFORMATIONAL NOTICES CONCERNING ENCOUNTERS WITH WILDLIFE AND THE STATUS OF SNAPPING TURTLES UNDER STATE LAW.

To prevent the habituation of potentially dangerous animals, including, but not limited to, bears and to require the posting of notices in state parks and forests concerning actions people should take when they encounter a bear or other wildlife and to extend prohibitions concerning the sale or exchange of certain wild animals to snapping turtles.

Rivers Alliance asks that the prohibitions concerning the sale and exchange of certain wild animals be extended to include snapping turtles. This would provide snapping turtles with the same protections concerning their purchase, sale, or exchange as other reptiles currently have.

Click here to see the current status of this bill. Click here to see full testimony from Rivers Alliance.

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River Alliance of CT > CT Water Legislation > 2016 Legislative Session >

Feb 16, 2016

Rivers Alliance Testifies on Use of Recycled Tire Rubber at Playgrounds

TESTIMONY FROM RIVERS ALLIANCE OF CONNECTICUT FOR THE COMMITTEE ON CHILDREN

February 16, 2016 KIDtestimony@cga.ct.gov

RE: H.B. No. 5139 (RAISED) AAC THE USE OF RECYCLED TIRE RUBBER AT MUNICIPAL AND PUBLIC SCHOOL PLAYGROUNDS

Rivers Alliance of Connecticut is the statewide, non-profit coalition of river organizations, individuals, and businesses formed to protect and enhance Connecticut's waters by promoting sound water policies, uniting and strengthening the state's many river groups, and educating the public about the importance of water stewardship.

Dear Sen. Danté Bartolomeo and Rep. Diana Urban, Chairmen; and Honorable Committee Members:

First, thank you for your dedicated work to protect children’s health, with a special thanks for your attention to playing fields. As a water stewardship organization, we are concerned with any relocation of toxic materials. Disturbance and dispersal of synthetic turf materials using crumb rubber from recycled tires during construction, hard use, and eventual disposal poses a risk to the quality of aquatic resources and wildlife. Also, the synthetic fields do not recharge groundwater (which would be a benefit) but rather create excess stormwater runoff, a leading cause of surface water contamination in the state. Finally, these fields do not effectively conserve water, since they require watering because they overheat readily. This is especially a problem for fields used for warm-weather play. There are numerous good sources of reliable information on this subject. One readable report is in the March 2008 edition of Environmental Health Perspectives titled “Synthetic Turf: A Health Debate Takes Root.” Here’s a link http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2265067/.

I realize that the safe disposal or reuse of billions of tires is a very serious problem, but the crumb-rubber fields available today are not the answer. I am not a health expert, but I will add a personal comment. My son played high school football in Connecticut and semi-pro football (American football) in Germany. He loved the sport; it was good for him; and we did not protest. But he played on natural turf. Synthetic fields are miserable for athletes, witness the anger of the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team a year ago, when they were required to play championship games on artificial turf. Problems include burns, blisters, abrasions, skin infections, and evidently more risk of serious injuries (including head injuries) related to hard falls. Parents should be concerned..

 Sincerely, Margaret Miner, Executive Director, Rivers Alliance of Connecticut, Litchfield, rivers@riversalliance.org; 860-361-9349

Click here to see the current status of this bill

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River Alliance of CT > CT Water Legislation > 2016 Legislative Session >

Feb 24, 2016

Rivers Alliance Testimony on Disclosure of Water Plan Information

TO: Sen. Terry B. Gerratana and Sen. Matthew Ritter, Chairmen, And Honorary Members of the Public Health Committee

Testimony from Rivers Alliance of Connecticut

Public Hearing, February 24, 2016, on RB 5263 AAC The Department Of Public Health's Recommendations On Disclosure of Water Plan Information

Click here to see the current status of this bill

Rivers Alliance of Connecticut is a statewide non-profit organization, founded in 1992, as a coalition of river organizations, other conservation non-profits, individuals, and businesses working to protect and enhance Connecticut’s rivers, streams, aquifers, lakes, and estuaries. We promote sound water policies and water stewardship through education and assistance at the local, regional, and state levels.

Thank you for the opportunity to remark on this bill. It addresses a problem concerning availability of water-data information, a problem that has been recognized in Water Planning Council discussions for approximately ten years, and that now is a serious barrier to crafting a comprehensive state water plan as mandated in PA 14-163. RB 5263 is a serious and welcome effort to lower that barrier but falls short of making available most of the critical the information needed for water planning at the local, regional, and state levels.

Background

Following the Al Qaeda terrorist attacks in the U.S. in 2001, all branches of government, corporations, and individuals became highly security conscious. Thousands of new precautions and procedures were rapidly adopted. It was difficult for years to sort out which precautions were prudent and which futile or actually counterproductive. The nation is still struggling with those issues.

In Connecticut, water companies acted more rapidly and forcefully than other public and private entities to seek exemptions from the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) that would allow them to withhold a large volume of information about their capacities and operations. They advocated successfully for the passage of three security laws in 2002 and 2003. The first was a fairly straightforward anti-sabotage law, the second went further, and the third, passed in a budget implementer, allowed public utilities to withhold from residents and public officials information regarding location and size of reservoirs, interconnections with other water companies,, location and capacities of well fields, plans for future sources, boundaries of water company lands, and so forth. These exemptions far exceed what is available to power utilities, and water companies are unique in that state security officials and state agencies cannot make a decision without consulting with the subject utility.

(See appendix at end of testimony for more details on the 2002-2003 laws.)

It quickly it became clear that most of this information could not really be kept secret. It is in fact widely available but so scattered as not to be useful to researchers or planners or watershed-protection advocates. By contrast, it is not difficult to find out a great deal about any given utility that might be a target. Meanwhile, the normal business of seeking permits, and funding, and new customers, and negotiating with municipalities cannot be done without using data that is not supposed to be available to the public.

So these security provisions are widely ignored, but they are still officially in effect, especially in the context of statewide water planning. For example, last year, the consultants seeking to work on state water utility regional planning were told they could have they information they would need but would have to sign confidentiality agreements and secure the various revelatory data from public view. I am attaching sample pages from a redacted water supply plan (for New Britain) to show the kind of material left in and the kind that is redacted, including material in the statement of Purpose and in the Executive Summary, plus reams of data. That was done in 2007, but the situation today is similar. Here below is material from a Water Utility Coordinating Committee (WUCC) plan posted on the DPH website. This is information that must be considered in creating the state water plan -- but we need to see it to consider it.  

Click here to see the current status of this bill

 The Solution to Data Dilemma Proposed in 5263

The bill identifies the data that is presently redacted, much of which is important to planning. It then proposes that some of this information can be presented in summary form municipality by municipality. Here the language:

 … documents or portions of documents that identify or describe procedures for sabotage prevention and response, and any plans, reports, technical specifications and other materials, including materials that contain the location of transmission mains and tunnels, source water intakes and treatment that include information that, if disclosed may result in a security risk to a water company, provided nothing in subparagraph (A)(ix) of this subdivision shall prohibit the disclosure of water quality reports, information concerning a water company's margin of safety and information concerning the amount of available water and safe daily yield that disclose only the municipality in which the source or sources of supply are located;

This appears to say that planners, non-profit waters stewards, and the general public still may not see the location of water mains, tunnels, etc. The closest they can come to seeing where reservoirs or wellfields are located is designation of the town. They can see some information concerning safe yield, available water (depends on condition of the infrastructure, which would not be public), and margin of safety (also dependent on the condition of the infrastructure), but cannot be told more about the location of this water other than the town it is in.

This is a step forward from total redaction. But it will not solve the state’s water planning data needs as presently prominent in the news and in proposed legislation. When the CGA created the Water Planning Council in 2001, the motive was in part frustration with the water conflicts that were being brought to the Assembly to solve. Bills were introduced regarding the Shepaug River and Waterbury; the Mill River, the Regional Water Authority, and New Haven; a nonfunctioning water company in Brookfield, and so forth. When the CGA, in 2014, directed the Water Planning Council to develop a statewide plan, it was partly out of frustration with the controversy over the Metropolitan District Commission in Hartford should be the supplier to meet the new water needs of UConn in Storrs. The solution to these almost all other serious water supply and protection problems depends on a precise knowledge and understand of what water is where, what conservation and protection programs are needed, and what infrastructure exists or could be created to be sure that we are allocate and move water to protect the environment, the economy, and health. The public (including customers) should be able to see the data on which important water decisions are based.

Click here to see the current status of this bill

Immediate Planning Dilemmas That Cannot Be Solved by 5263

Here are a few present controversies in the news and underlying at least three proposed bills.

In Bloomfield and neighboring towns, residents are loudly protesting the MDC project selling discount water to a new water-bottling plant in Bloomfield. (The bottles will be manufactured there, as well as filled and distributed.) Resident are asking whether MDC has enough water for this venture without running short in times drought. They want priority over the bottling plant if water is low. But is there actually any chance of MDC running low? The answers depend on the details of their systems, the quantities available, the infrastructures in place, the commitments they have made to other utilities and customers, their streamflow obligations, and so forth. MDC also says it is planning to truck in water from wells. What wells? Where? If it has enough water in its reservoirs, why use well fields? And why not release some water downstream to the parched small rivers below? MDC is open with details of its system, but DPH would still be bound to keep much of this information secret if it is requested. Two bills have been introduced on this controversy.

An oddity of the FOI system for water security is that each utility can set its own standard. For example, in Groton there is no apparent security risk in the full online descriptions of its water utility, but in Wallingford the same kind of information is treated as top secret.

In connection with the Kinder-Morgan/Tennessee Gas Pipeline project in MDC Class I and II reservoir lands in West Hartford, Rivers Alliance is researching whether the TGP facility for pig launching and receiving (an exciting concept) is dangerously close to the MDC treatment plant for these reservoirs. Normally, one cannot advocate for the safety of a treatment plant without knowing where it is.

Oxford just rejected part of deal with Towantic energy for a new plant on the Naugatuck. For Rivers Alliance and our Pomperaug River colleagues (and two members of the Siting Council), the most pressing question is whether there is enough cooling water available for the facility as planned. The water is to be supplied by the Heritage Water Company in Southbury. Heritage said it couldn’t discuss its resources in detail in public (Board of Selectmen’s meeting), but that, if more water was needed, it has a contract to buy water out-of-basin from Connecticut Water Ciompany. However, that contract is due to expire. Meanwhile two rivers in the watershed were at flows so low all summer that aquatic life was harmed. So if one wanted to make a plan for water allocation in this region, there would be many details one would need on the streams, the aquifers, Heritage’s pumping, Towantic’s needs, and so forth, And there would be high public interest in the discussion.

New Britain is interested in pursuing a proposal by Tilcon to excavate a reservoir using mostly Class I and II lands. This issue was brought to the Assembly in 2008 and is before you again in 2016. Any determination as to whether New Britain needs another reservoir, whether the pumping and redirection of water could be done so as to protect water quality, whether blasting would seriously disrupt hydrology in the region, and so forth, obviously depends on working with myriad details of resource availability (from sources in several towns) and infrastructure capability.

Also in involving New Britain -- and Bristol -- Coppermine Creek ran bone dry this summer, just above a trout spawning area, which is also a DEEP Trout Management Area. There are six water diversion registrations in the recharge area of the Creek, divided between Bristol and New Britain. Who is drawing the stream dry? There are different theories, but one of the Bristol wells was restarted fairly recently, and is very close the river. The larger problem is that the total registered diversion rights (above 30 million gallons per day) far exceed the actual amount of water available. How can the stream be kept alive? This important little creek needs a survival plan. I do not see how that can be devised if the location of the wellfields can only be given as “in Bristol,” and the condition of the infrastructure is a secret.

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The Solution We Propose

Working with David Sutherland of The Nature Conservancy, we realized that the important thing is to be sure that planners and the public have the information necessary to solve planning problems fairly and wisely. At the least, the public should be able to understand and validate the data used by planners. Here is the language Mr. Sutherland crafted and that we fully support (along with the rest of his testimony).

… documents or portions of documents that identify or describe procedures for sabotage prevention and response, and any plans, reports, technical specifications and other materials[, including materials that contain the location of transmission mains and tunnels, source water intakes and treatment] that include information that, if disclosed [may] WOULD LIKELY result in a security risk to a water company, provided nothing in subparagraph (A)(ix) of this subdivision shall prohibit the disclosure of water quality reports, information concerning a water company's margin of safety and information concerning the amount of available water and safe daily yield [that disclose only the municipality in which the source or sources of supply are located] THAT WOULD BE ESSENTIAL FOR PLANNING AND MANAGING WATER RESOURCES FOR THE ECONOMIC AND ENVIRONMENTAL BENEFIT OF AFFECTED COMMUNITIES;

We believe that strong security is compatible with informed public understanding of water resources and a real opportunity to solve water problems prudently. With water, there is a risk that sweeping security laws will blind us to the risks and damage we ourselves are imposing on the state’s extraordinarily valuable water resources.

Thank you for your consideration. We most certainly stand ready to answer questions or assist in framing a good result.

 Margaret Miner, Executive Director, Rivers Alliance of Connecticut Litchfield, CT  

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 Appendix re FOIA water-security laws

The New Laws

PA 02-102

The first of the post-2001 security laws was Public Act 02-102 An Act Concerning Water Supply Plans and Water Diversions. This law amended Section 25-32d of the general statutes, which relates to the creation of water supply. It reads in relevant part.

… (b) Any water supply plan submitted pursuant to this section shall evaluate the water supply needs in the service area of the water company submitting the plan and propose a strategy to meet such needs. The plan shall include: (1) A description of existing water supply systems; (2) an analysis of future water supply demands; (3) an assessment of alternative water supply sources which may include sources receiving sewage and sources located on state land; (4) contingency procedures for public drinking water supply emergencies, including emergencies concerning the contamination of water, the failure of a water supply system or the shortage of water; (5) a recommendation for new water system development; (6) a forecast of any future land sales, an identification which includes the acreage and location of any land proposed to be sold, sources of public water supply to be abandoned and any land owned by the company which it has designated, or plans to designate, as class III land; (7) provisions for strategic groundwater monitoring; [and] (8) an analysis of the impact of water conservation practices and a strategy for implementing supply and demand management measures; and (9) on and after January 1, 2004, an evaluation of source water protection measures for all sources of the water supply, based on the identification of critical lands to be protected and incompatible land use activities with the potential to contaminate a public drinking water source.

(c) For security and safety reasons, procedures for sabotage prevention and response shall be provided separately from the water supply plan as a confidential document to the Department of Public Health. Such procedures shall not be subject to disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act, as defined in section 1-200, as amended. Additionally, procedures for sabotage prevention and response that are established by municipally-owned water companies shall not be subject to disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act, as defined in section 1-200, as amended.

[(c)] (d) The Commissioner of Public Health, in consultation with the Commissioner of Environmental Protection and the Public Utilities Control Authority, shall adopt regulations in accordance with the provisions of chapter 54. Such regulations shall include a method for calculating safe yield, the contents of emergency contingency plans and water conservation plans, the contents of an evaluation of source water protection measures, a process for approval, modification or rejection of plans submitted pursuant to this section, a schedule for submission of the plans and a mechanism for determining the completeness of the plan. ….

Rivers Alliance of Connecticut (RA), which has protested the subsequent security laws, supports this first law. It provides for security, but clearly does not contemplate withholding basic information; in fact, it calls for gathering new information. RA has maintained that this law, PA 02-102, should be the standard for security measures.

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PA 02-133

 Next was Public Act 02-133 An Act Concerning the Disclosure of Security Information under the Freedom of Information Act. This extended to municipalities and to water utilities FOIA exemptions already accorded to the state. At the public hearing, the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities and the CWWA spoke in favor; no one spoke in opposition. Here is some of the language. Deletions are in brackets and new language is underlined.

“(19) Records [, the disclosure of which the Commissioner of Public Works or, in the case of records concerning Judicial Department facilities, the Chief Court Administrator, has] when there are reasonable grounds to believe disclosure may result in a safety risk, including the risk of harm to any person, any [state-owned] government-owned or leased institution or facility or any fixture or appurtenance and equipment attached to, or contained in, such institution or facility, except that such records shall be disclosed to a law enforcement agency upon the request of the law enforcement agency. Such reasonable grounds shall be determined (A) with respect to records concerning any executive branch agency of the state or any municipal, district or regional agency, by the Commissioner of Public Works, after consultation with the chief executive officer of the agency; (B) with respect to records concerning Judicial Department facilities, by the Chief Court Administrator; and (C) with respect to records concerning the Legislative Department, by the executive director of the Joint Committee on Legislative Management. As used in this section, "government-owned or leased institution or facility" includes, but is not limited to, an institution or facility owned or leased by a public service company, as defined in section 16-1, as amended, a certified telecommunications provider, as defined in section 16-1, as amended, or a municipal utility that furnishes electric, gas or water service, but does not include an institution or facility owned or leased by the federal government, and "chief executive officer" includes, but is not limited to, an agency head, department head, executive director or chief executive officer. Such records [shall] include, but are not limited to:

[(A)] (i) Security manuals or reports; [, including emergency plans contained or referred to in such security manuals; ]

[(B)] (ii) Engineering and architectural drawings of [state-owned] government-owned or leased institutions or facilities;

[(C)] (iii) Operational specifications of security systems utilized at any [state-owned] government-owned or leased institution or facility, except that a general description of any such security system and the cost and quality of such system, may be disclosed;

[(D)] (iv) Training manuals prepared for [state-owned] government-owned or leased institutions or facilities that describe, in any manner, security procedures, emergency plans or security equipment;

 [(E)] (v) Internal security audits of [state-owned] government-owned or leased institutions or facilities;

[(F)] (vi) Minutes or [recordings] records of meetings, [of the Department of Public Works or the Judicial Department,] or portions of such minutes or [recordings] records, that contain or reveal information relating to security or other records otherwise exempt from disclosure under this subdivision; [and]

[(G)] (vii) Logs or other documents that contain information on the movement or assignment of security personnel at [state-owned] government-owned or leased institutions or facilities; and

(viii) Emergency plans and emergency recovery or response plans;

This law extends exemptions to matters beyond sabotage or enemy attacks. Any “safety risk” of any sort, including a risk of damage to any equipment or appurtenance, is grounds for withholding information. There need not be any risk to humans. In fact, the AG’s office argued before the FOI Commission (FOIC) that, even if exercising the exemption would increase the risk to humans, the utility would still be able to use the exemption. These interpretations of the law were affirmed in FOIC decisions.

Under this law, the person responsible to decide what utility information should be disclosed is not required to have any security experience, but is required to consult with the head of whatever agency has received the FOI request. Most requests are to be forwarded to the Department of Public Works (DPW) because the statute was originally designed to thwart domestic prisoners who might be researching ways to escape from prison.

Some of the apparently small changes in this law mean major changes in the range of exemptions from FOI requirements. For example, the original statute provided for secrecy for portions of minutes from meetings of DPW or the Judiciary Department. The new law stretches this provision to all minutes of any public entity in the state. For example, if a water utility were to make a presentation to a local board of finance on the need for funding a new water main, that section of the minutes could be redacted because the locations and sizes of water mains are now subject to homeland-security secrecy rules.

In the original statute, emergency plans in security manuals could be kept secret. In the new law, all emergency plans and emergency-recovery-and response plans can be kept secret. This is stricter than federal law (FOIA, USC Section 552 Title 5), which says one cannot withhold emergency response plans from the public. Why? Because the federal government recognized that it is in the public interest to know whether or not utilities and other key industries have adequate response plans. We now know from experience that many such plans are completely inadequate. (BP’s plans for dealing with an ocean spill off Louisiana called for rescuing walruses.)

Federal facilities are not covered in this statute.

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PA 03-6

The most severe limitation on the public’s right to know was effected in the 2003 budget implementor bill. (PA 03-6 passed in the summer special session.) Rivers Alliance attempted to negotiate more sunlight but without success, other than a letter of agreement with the CWWA that we would mutually try to resolve difficulties. So far there has been discussion but no results pursuant to this agreement.

The 2003 budget implementor law gave water companies a unique status under Connecticut FOI law.

First, it specifically allows them to claim secrecy rights for virtually all their records.

Second, the government is required to consult with a water company that wants to withhold information requested under FOIA. In all other cases, the government may, if it wishes, consult with the non-responding party; but such consultation is not required before a decision as to whether to release information. The reasoning behind the mandatory consultation was that people in DPW or the Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security (DEMHS) might not know enough about the security appropriate to water utilities to make a sound decision on what should be released or kept secret.

Third, the law widened secrecy rights to include the records of private water companies submitted to public agencies, in addition to the exemptions previously given municipal utilities.

Here is the language specifically referencing the broad range of documents water companies can withhold from the public. Note that here and below references to water utilities have been changed to water companies. (Under prior law, if a private water company delivered a document to a state agency, it became a public document. This change ensured that documents from private companies would be accorded the same secrecy right as those from public utilities.)

(ix) With respect to a water company, as defined in section 25-32a, that provides water service: Vulnerability assessments and risk management plans, operational plans, portions of water supply plans submitted pursuant to section 25-32d that contain or reveal information the disclosure of which may result in a security risk to a water company, inspection reports, technical specifications and other materials that depict or specifically describe critical water company operating facilities, collection and distribution systems or sources of supply;

Here’s the language giving water companies special status with regard to consultation.

       (d) Whenever a [state] public agency, except the Judicial Department or Legislative Department, receives a request from any person for disclosure of any records described in subdivision (19) of subsection (b) of this section under the Freedom of Information Act, the public agency shall promptly notify the Commissioner of Public Works of such request, in the manner prescribed by the commissioner, before complying with the request as required by the Freedom of Information Act and for information related to a water company. . . ,the public agency shall promptly notify the water company before complying with the request as required by the Freedom of Information Act. If the commissioner, after consultation with the chief executive officer of the applicable agency or after consultation with the chief executive officer of the applicable water company for information related to a water company believes the requested record is exempt from disclosure pursuant to subdivision (19) of subsection (b) of this section, the commissioner may direct the agency to withhold such record from such person.

The interesting innovation here is that the public agency that receives an FOI request re water supply must notify both DPW and the water company. DPW then apparently may consult with either the agency or the company (the language is ambiguous). In any case, DPW can follow the advice of one or the other (or neither) in deciding on the response to the request. Consensus is not required.

The most sweeping change was the inclusion of water supply plan as exempt documents.

Click here to see the current status of this bill

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 River Alliance of CT > CT Water Legislation > 2016 Legislative Session >

Feb 18, 2016

Rivers Alliance Testimony on Wild and Scenic Housatonic River

FOR THE ENVIRONMENT COMMITTEE PUBLIC HEARING TESTIMONY OF RIVERS ALLIANCE OF CONNECTICUT

February 18, 2016

RE: RB 81

AN ACT CONCERNING THE DESIGNATION OF CERTAIN AREAS OF THE HOUSATONIC RIVER AS A WILD AND SCENIC RIVER

Rivers Alliance of Connecticut is a statewide, non-profit coalition of river organizations, individuals, and businesses formed to protect Connecticut's waters by promoting sound water policies, uniting and strengthening the state's many river groups, and educating the public about the importance of water stewardship.

To: Sen. Ted Kennedy Jr. and Rep. James Albis, Chairmen; and Honorable Members of the Environment Committee:

Rivers Alliance enthusiastically supports RB 81. The stretch of the Housatonic River proposed for Wild and Scenic River designation is extremely beautiful, in an area loved by local residents and visited by people from around the country and the world. Preservation of its environment, ecology, scenic values, and recreational opportunities would all be furthered by this designation.

The importance of the Housatonic River and its tributary, the Shepaug River, were recognized in the 1970s when the original studies were done for Wild and Scenic designation. Back then, progress slowed due to fear of federal government interference with local land-use decisions. Today, the law is clear that the designation does not interfere with local authorities, and experience with Wild and Scenic designations on Connecticut’s Farmington River and Eightmile River confirms that elevating the importance of high-quality waterways benefits the surrounding communities. These rivers are tourist destinations and important to the local and regional economies.

One benefit that might not be immediately obvious is that the process of designation and oversight brings together communities to discuss and work toward mutual goals. It can be a form of entirely voluntary regional land-use planning, a very good thing.

Thank you for raising this bill. We look forward to attending a signing.

Margaret Miner, Executive Direction Rivers Alliance of Connecticut, Litchfield, 06759

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 River Alliance of CT > CT Water Legislation > 2016 Legislative Session >

Feb 18, 2016

Rivers Alliance Testimony on Constitutional Amendment Concerning CT's Environment and Natural Resources

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FOR THE ENVIRONMENT COMMITTEE PUBLIC HEARING TESTIMONY OF RIVERS ALLIANCE OF CONNECTICUT

February 18, 2016

Rivers Alliance of Connecticut is the statewide, non-profit coalition of river organizations, individuals, and businesses formed to protect and enhance Connecticut's waters by promoting sound water policies, uniting and strengthening the state's many river groups, and educating the public about the importance of water stewardship.

SJ-5

RESOLUTION PROPOSING AN AMENDMENT TO THE STATE CONSTITUTION CONCERNING THE ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL RESOURCES OF THE STATE

To: Sen. Ted Kennedy Jr. and Rep. James Albis, Chairmen; and Honorable Members of the Environment Committee

We urge the Committee to support the goal of SJ-5 to provide assurance that state lands held for conservation, agriculture, and recreation cannot be conveyed out of state stewardship to any party -- municipality, private business, or individual -- careful scrutiny and strong approval, both at the state and local levels.

For several years, we have tracked the annual Conveyance Act, both for Rivers Alliance and for the League of Conservation Voters. We are one of the founding members of the State Lands Working Group. Our experience has been that important sections of these annual conveyance bills are often extremely difficult to understand, much less evaluate. The location of a proposed conveyance, the present uses, the desired future uses, the intended new owner, etc., often are not explained at all or not described in plain language. The more complex conveyances can require several hours of research to clarify. Frequently, DEEP has not heard about proposed conveyances until the bill or an amendment to the bill appears, and so they cannot provide much early enlightenment. All too often, calls to residents are futile because the residents haven’t heard of the conveyance either.

About five years ago, working with the Connecticut Land Conservation Council, we first discovered that nearly all (and maybe simply “all”) state conservation lands are liable to be conveyed away. Their deeds include no barriers to conveyance. Land that people widely assumed had been preserved in perpetuity, land in which the public had a major investment, was not protected at all.

Originally we thought it possible to solve the problems with the Act by means other than a Constitutional Amendment. But every option we considered, in consultation with colleagues, state agency people, the AG’s office, and legislators, failed to achieve the desired result, which is: No conveyance of state conserved land without full deliberation in the CGA and in the affected local region, with a higher level of approval needed than for, say, conveyance of a DOT turn-around area. The reason for the failure of other options was the legislature’s right to propose legislation (including land conveyances) at any time (up to and through budget implementer season) and not withstanding any law that would otherwise prohibit or limit the legislation. Our goal is not to prohibit all conveyances of state conserved lands, but rather to be sure such conveyances are understood by all concerned and deemed to have a valuable public benefit. (We regard a clean, healthy environment as a public benefit, a view not universally shared.)

The proposed Constitutional Amendment will enable legislators to understand what they are voting for, when supporting a conveyance, and to be sure that they are no lightly removing the land from the public trust.

To achieve true transparency and due process for the public, we ask that the Resolution include a provision for a public hearing in the community in which a conveyance is proposed. We are also concerned by the sweeping statements of purpose in and following the preamble. It provokes questions and confusion unnecessarily. A simple statement of the steps needed for transparency and adequate review would be much easier to explain and promote.

Many thanks for raising this important Resolution.

Margaret Miner, Executive Director Rivers Alliance of Connecticut, West Street, Litchfield rivers@riversalliance.org 860-361-9349

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  River Alliance of CT > CT Water Legislation > 2016 Legislative Session >

Feb 10, 2016

Maintain Funding For CT Conservation Districts

Governor's H.B. No. 5044  AN ACT MAKING ADJUSTMENTS TO STATE EXPENDITURES FOR THE FISCAL YEAR ENDING JUNE 30, 2017. To implement the Governor's budget recommendations.

 There is no doubt that the Governor’s proposed 5.75% cut will be a painful cut to all budgets that directly support Connecticut’s land and water protection programs. The challenge will be to utilize available resources efficiently and cost-effectively. Connecticut’s Five (5) Conservation Districts and the CT Council on Soil and Water Conservation are presently able to assist in meeting that challenge but need, and depend on continued state funding.

Click here to see the current status of this bill. Click here to see the testimony from Connecticut River Coastal Conservation District, Inc.

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 ------------- Archived Material -------------

  River Alliance of CT > CT Water Legislation > 2015 Legislative Session >

2015 Legislative Session

December: Conservation Districts and Hatcheries in New Budget
August: 2015 Legislative Session a Long, Rough Trip, But Had a Happy Ending
July: Now It's Over - With a Happy Ending!
June: 2015 Legislative Session -- It ain’t over ’til it’s over. And it’s not.
This year's legislative session began January 7 and ended June 3.


Rivers Alliance of CT > Legislative Session >

Conservation Districts and Hatcheries in New Budget

Thanks to their many advocates, the Conservation Districts' budgets were cut only 1% this time, compared to an average cut among all agencies of about 4%. The state fish hatcheries, too, appear to have been spared.

 


Rivers Alliance of CT > Legislative Session >

August Wrap-Up
2015 LEGISLATIVE SESSION A LONG, ROUGH TRIP BUT A HAPPY ENDING

The Regular Session of the 2015 Connecticut General Assembly (CGA) technically ended on June 3, with nothing settled for sure. Fiscal woes and disputes, between Democrats and Republicans, and Democrats and their governor, dominated the session. At the center was the question of need for new revenue and and loathing for new taxes. Just under the deadline, a negotiated budget squeaked through, but the clock ran out on remaining, essential budget business. Therefore, the CGA called a Special Session to deal with the bills needed to implement the budget. Special sessions are famously unpredictable, with all sorts of items turning up in the budget implementers and other bills. The agenda for the 2015 Special Session included budget implementer bills, bond authorizations, school construction, and two non-budget matters: a bill on the use of excessive force and the annual land conveyance act.

Pending the Special Session, set for the last two days in June, no one could be sure whether bills that had passed might be changed and bills that had not passed might reappear.

At the end of the Regular Session, Environmental advocates could point to a few victories but also painful losses. However, in an unexpected and unusual reversal of fortune, two of those losses were transformed to victories in the Special Session. Fears that gains might be wiped out proved unfounded. Lawmakers and the governor’s office showed concern for the state’s bruised environment.

Major Environmental Issues

Council on Environmental Quality. Thanks to many of you reading this, CEQ dodged yet another bullet and emerged unscathed as an independent entity with a small budget of its own (approximately $180,000).

The Blue Plan. This bill was ready to go last year, and passed relatively early this session. The Plan (bill 6839) creates a bi-state, multi-stakeholder mechanism for assessing the Sound’s natural resources and planning for their protection.

The Community Investment Act. This popular law sets a fee on land-document recordings to benefit open-space conservation, farmland conservation, affordable housing, and protection and restoration of historic sites. The governor’s initial budget swept 100 percent of the funds (about $15 million) over a two year period into the state general fund. An expert and dedicated coalition of advocates managed to get about half the money restored. (At the last minute, about $90,000 was whisked away for the governor’s horse guard.)

The Conveyance Act of 2015. This is the annual bill that directs the conveyance of state-owned lands to municipalities and sometimes corporations or even individuals. A coalition of land-conservation advocates (with Rivers Alliance as a co-leader) has been working for three years to reform the process. This year, there was a bit of a breakthrough. One proposed bad conveyance (would have given a town 100 acres of state park) was withdrawn almost immediately, before the committee vote. And three other bad proposals were actually knocked out through the efforts of several legislators, including Rep. Mary Fritz, the traditional field marshal of conveyances. The three deleted provisions were a conveyance to the town of Milford of several parcels controlling access to Silver Sands State Park, and conveyance of easements across state conservation land in the Quinebaug River watershed to two private gravel-mine businesses to benefit their truck traffic. But with this bill specifically on the agenda for the Special Session, no one dared celebrate. In the end, though, it came through untouched. Possibly this may mark the beginning of serious reform of the process by which municipalities and others take over tracts of state conservations land every year.

Open-Space Grants. DEEP's Open Space and Watershed Land Acquisition program stayed reasonably strong, with $8 million in bond authorizations in both F16 and FY17.

Public Act 15-23 (bill 347) was the happy result of a major battle by advocates to persuade DEEP and the governor’s office that it is appropriate for the state to allow federal open-space grant funds to be used in the required match under state open-space grants. Recently DEEP had ruled that a land trust or other applicant would have to raise 90 percent of the required match separately. This would have put many good projects out of reach. Under the new law, a 10 percent match is sufficient and DEEP has the option to reduce that to zero under certain strict conditions.

Water. Proposed bonding to develop a statewide, comprehensive water plan came through at $500,000 per year for the next two years. Funds ($350,000) remained in place, unswept, at the Office of Policy and Management for work on the water plan. Of this, $250,000 is being directed to water supply planning, specifically the creation of exclusive service areas. The remaining $100,000 was for everything else, including $58,000 for a high-level, facilitated workshop held at UConn earlier this year. (Rivers Alliance has questioned the wisdom of allocating water and customers among the state’s utilities separately from an analysis of the quantity and quality of all the state’s waters.)

Funding stayed strong for the grants and loans in the Clean Water Fund, with $378 million, primarily for sewage treatment; in addition $20 million was added for green infrastructure plus $20 million for shoreline resiliency.

The Kensington Fish Hatchery, scheduled to close, will be kept open. Good news for fishing groups.

Energy. Legislation providing major additional support for residential solar power was successful, but a bill to support shared solar power was cut back to a pilot program. But in general, despite utility opposition to shared or community solar arrays, the solar industry seems to be flourishing at last.

Bad Bills Mostly Blocked. Playing defense, environmental advocates blocked several bad bills including one (941) that would have delayed new standards for brownfield remediation and another (961) that would have erected hurdles against new environmental regulation.

Pesticides. At the beginning of June, it looked as if once again bills to provide meaningful protection for Connecticut residents and wildlife from dangerous pesticide exposures had failed. Several good ideas out of the Environment and Children’s Committees were merged into one bill (366) that passed the Senate (only two nays) but was not called in the House. The bill provided for better public notice when schools apply pesticides; approved a new non-toxic control for grubs; required state agencies to prepare pesticide management plans; and banned the use of lawn-care pesticides on playground lawns on municipal property. The last provision, on playgrounds, represented an extension of the existing ban on use of lawn-care pesticides at schools K through 8. There had been no movement on pesticide issues since 2009, and the failure of this bill was a major blow to Rivers Alliance and many other environmental groups. But, at the end of June, misery turned to joy as this bill turned up in a budget implementer, reportedly thanks the Sen. Beth Bye and Sen. Ted Kennedy Jr.

Microbeads and Other Plastics. It appeared for a while that the state might get meaningful restrictions on plastic shopping bags. But, despite an all-out effort by the Environment Committee chairmen (Rep. James Albis and Sen. Ted Kennedy Jr.), the legislation sank. A bill banning plastic micro-beads in cosmetics (such as skin defoliants) similarly started with great promise. These microbeads persist in the world’s waters, gathering toxins and harming wildlife, and they are truly unnecessary. The ban didn’t make it over the goal line in the Regular Session. But, lo and behold, the ban on microbeads made it into an implementer.

Fishes and Turtles. They are feeling the love, and clapping their little fins and flippers.


July, 2015 Follow-up

2015 LEGISLATIVE SESSION
NOW IT'S OVER - WITH A HAPPY ENDING!

Allow images to see our logo, click here to go to Rivers Alliance's websiteDear Colleagues:

The Special Session of the Connecticut General Assembly, on the last two days of June, ended with a welcome uptick for environmental causes.  One reason for this favorable turn of events was that numerous residents and conservation groups contacted legislators urgently asking for improved environmental protections.  So let us all applaud ourselves!

A particularly welcome achievement was the rescue of a good bill (number 366) setting better controls on pesticide use.  Shaped by Environment Committee Chairs Rep. James Albis, Sen. Ted Kennedy Jr., and others, the bill had stalled in the House, where leadership is generally somewhat cool to environmental concerns.  But Sen. Kennedy and Sen. Beth Bye successfully worked for the incorporation of the bill into the budget implementer; and, thus, it passed.   The bill includes a ban on the use of lawn-care pesticides on municipal playgrounds, the first extension of the existing ban at schools K through 8 since 2009.  The intervening years saw stalemate after stalemate, with pro-pesticide interests seeking to roll back the ban and anti-pesticide groups seeking to extend or at least maintain the ban. 

Similarly a bill restricting the use of microbeads in personal care products (such as exfoliation lotion), which appeared to have been permanently pushed aside in the regular session, was reborn in the implementer.  Microbeads in wastewater are fouling the ocean and poisoning fish and other animals that feed there. 

Conversely, the budget implementer, so often a vehicle for anti-environment legislation, did not include the restoration of three state-land conveyances that had been severely criticized by the environmental community and dropped from the Conveyance Act.   The three objectionable conveyances involved 1) handovers of road easements on state conservation open space to two businesses doing gravel mining in the Quinebaug River watershed; and 2) a gift to Milford of parcels governing access to Silver Sands State Park.  It helped a lot that this year Rep. Mary Fritz, the longstanding manager of the annual conveyance act, unexpectedly joined the opposition to these troubling conveyances. 

On budget matters, which were the focus of the Special Session, environmental funding held its own.  The state environmental agency remained woefully starved of support.  But funding stayed strong for the grants and loans in the Clean Water Fund, with $378 million, primarily for sewage treatment; in addition $20 million was added for green infrastructure plus $20 million for shoreline resiliency. 

Funds remained in place at the Office of Policy and Management for work on a comprehensive state water plan

Funding for the Community Investment Act (used for open space, farmland, affordable housing, and historic sites) was reduced but not totally swept.  DEEP's Open Space and Watershed Land Acquisition program stayed strong, with $8 million in bond authorizations in both F16 and FY17.

The Kensington Fish Hatchery, scheduled to close, will be kept open.   Good news for fishing groups. 

The Council on Environmental Quality made it all the way through the Special Session as an independent agency with enough money to survive.  Congratulations to the hundreds of friends of CEQ.


2015

2015 Legislative Session -- It ain’t over ’til it’s over. And it’s not.

Click this CT General Assembly Seal to go to their websiteThe long 2015 session (January 7 to June 3) led to mixed results on environmental issues. However, the precise successes and failures won’t be known until the upcoming special session (date to be determined). The extra session is necessary because, once again, legislative leadership ran out of time to complete its business. Thanks to an all-nighter just before the end of session, a two-year budget did just squeak through before the midnight bell. Left hanging were a number of important ready-to-go bills and the budget implementers. The implementers and an amended state lands conveyance act are on the agenda for the special session. The implementers famously attract good and (more often) bad bills that failed to be called for a vote or were never even heard of until implementer time. The implementers are supposed to be limited to budget matters, but they can be used for just about anything.

Therefore, anything we report now about the content of legislation in 2015 may be invalidated in the special session. Nevertheless, here goes.

Council on Environmental Quality. Thanks to many of you reading this, CEQ again emerged unscathed as an independent entity with a small budget of its own (approximately $180,000).

The Blue Plan. This bill was ready to go last year and passed relatively early this session. The plan (bill 6839) creates a bistate, multi-stakeholder mechanism for assessing Long Island Sound’s natural resources and planning for their protection.

Pesticides. Not great news here. Several good ideas out of the Environment and Children’s Committees merged into one bill (366) that passed the Senate (only two nays) but was not called in the House. The bill provided for better public notice when schools apply pesticides; approved a new nontoxic control for grubs; required state agencies to prepare pesticide management plans; and banned the use of lawn-care pesticides on playground lawns on municipal property. The last provision, on playgrounds, represented an extension of the existing ban on use of lawn-care pesticides at schools K through 8, which was quite an achievement considering that the pro-pesticide powers want the existing ban removed. By the way, not every bill that dies ostensibly for lack of time is truly a victim of the clock. House leadership is usually cool to restrictions on pesticides, and advocates were not entirely surprised to see this good bill stall.

The Conveyance Act of 2015. This is the annual bill that directs the conveyance of state-owned lands to municipalities and sometimes corporations or even individuals. A coalition of land-conservation advocates (including Rivers Alliance) has been working for three years to reform the process. This year, there was a bit of a breakthrough. The bill still contained a few horrible provisions and still passed in committee unanimously. But one proposed bad conveyance (100 acres of state park) was withdrawn almost immediately, before the committee vote. And three other bad proposals were actually knocked out through the efforts of several legislators, including Rep. Mary Fritz, the traditional field marshal of conveyances. The three deleted provisions were a conveyance to the town of Milford of several parcels controlling access to Silver Sands State Park and conveyance of easements across state conservation land in the Quinebaug River watershed to two private gravel-mine businesses to benefit their truck traffic. But don’t get too excited about these three successful battles. Remember, the Conveyance Act is specifically on the call for the special session.

The Community Investment Act. This popular law sets a fee on land-document recordings to benefit open-space conservation, farmland conservation, affordable housing, and protection and restoration of historic sites. The governor’s initial budget swept 100 percent of the funds (about $15 million) over a two-year period into the state general fund. An expert and dedicated coalition of advocates managed to get about half the money restored. (At the last minute, about $90,000 was whisked away for the governor’s horse guard.)

Open-Space Grants. Public Act 15-23 (bill 347) is the happy result of a major battle by advocates to persuade DEEP and the governor’s office that it is appropriate for the state to allow its open-space grant funds to be used in a match with federal open-space grant funds. Recently DEEP had ruled that a land trust or other applicant would have to raise 90 percent of the match. This would have put many good projects out of reach. Under the new law, a 10 percent match is sufficient and DEEP has the option to reduce that to zero under certain strict conditions.

Plastics. It looked for a while that the state might get meaningful restrictions on plastic shopping bags. But, despite an all-out effort by the Environment Committee chairmen (Rep. James Albis and Sen. Ted Kennedy Jr.), the legislation sank. A bill banning plastic microbeads in cosmetics (such as skin defoliants) similarly started with great promise but failed to get over the finish line. These microbeads persist in the world’s waters, gathering toxins and harming wildlife.

Bad Bills Mostly Blocked. Playing defense, environmental advocates blocked several bad bills including one (941) that would have delayed new standards for brownfield remediation, and another (961) that would have erected barriers against new environmental regulations.

Energy. Legislation providing additional support for solar power was successful, but a major disappointment was the failure of the Energy and Technology Committee’s omnibus bill (928), which capped the fixed charges in bills to electricity rate-payers and provided for various means to modernize the power grid. But remember, there’s always the special session.

Water Utility Legislation. The bills relating to water utility matters were so inter-tangled with the complexities of the state start-up on comprehensive water planning that we will postpone an analysis until the picture is clearer, probably in July. The first meeting of the planning Steering Committee is scheduled for June 30th.


 

News on the Outlook for the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) and Other State Budget Items 

Appropriations Committee Acts on Budget (HB 6824). This budget:

  • Restores full funding to the CEQ.
  • States the following: "CEQ remains an independent agency. Do not transfer CEQ from the Executive Branch to the Legislative Branch."

Here's more news on actions by the Appropriations Committee:

  • DEEP Positions - Gov had recommended 642, down from current 669; Committee is recommending 684.
  • Restored CT Conservation Districts to $270,000 (down from current $285,000 but up from Gov's zero).
  • Nothing for USGS stream gauges. (These have been imperiled since the budget lines were eliminated two years ago. DEEP is supposed to use general admin funds to support them).
  • $100,000 reduction to State Parks instead of $2 million reduction.
  • Transferring Bureau of Aquaculture from Agriculture to DEEP.
  • Includes funding for Invasive Plants Coordinator position.
  • Restores funding for Kensington Fish Hatchery and pheasant stocking.

Next Up: The budget will go to the House and Senate for a vote before adjournment on June 3. In the meantime, negotiations and changes are likely, if history is any guide.

Headline news courtesy of David Sutherland, The Nature Conservancy, and Karl Wagener, CEQ.


Let’s Make It Earth Year! Save CT’s Conservation Districts

Great article in CTMirror features the state's Conservation Districts. If your town values its District, ask your town to speak to its legislators to save the Districts’ modest (on the tiny side) budget. The Appropriations Committee restored the CT Conservation Districts to $270,000 (down from current $285,000 but up from Gov's zero) and sent the budget to the Legislature. Here’s the article:

On conservation’s front lines, districts facing budget cuts
By: Jan Ellen Spiegel, April 23, 2015

An aerial of the Laurel Marsh project in East Hartford and Manchester, which replaced invasive aquatic grasses with native species.
An aerial of the Laurel Marsh project in East Hartford and Manchester, which replaced invasive aquatic grasses with native species.
The five little-known Connecticut Conservation Districts help municipalities and the public with soil and water conservation problems and projects they can’t handle themselves. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's proposed budget would end all $300,000 in state funding for the districts — money they say is necessary to run their offices and leverage larger sums in the form of grants.
For more click here.


FOR THE FINANCE, REVENUE AND BONDING COMMITTEE

PUBLIC HEARING TESTIMONY OF RIVERS ALLIANCE OF CONNECTICUT
Litchfield CT

April 6, 2015

To the Chairmen: Sen. John W. Fonfara and Rep. Jeffrey J. Berger
And to Members of the Committee

RE: SB 947, AN ACT AUTHORIZING AND ADJUSTING BONDS OF THE STATE FOR CAPITAL IMPROVEMENTS, TRANSPORTATION AND OTHER PURPOSES

Rivers Alliance of Connecticut is the statewide, non-profit coalition of river organizations, individuals, and businesses formed to protect and enhance Connecticut's waters by promoting sound water policies, uniting and strengthening the state's many river groups, and educating the public about the importance of water stewardship.

We welcome the opportunity to testify in SUPPORT of provisions in this bill that support proper care of the state’s extraordinarily valuable water resources.

STATEWIDE WATER PLANNING. Section2(d)(4). The legislature recognized the need for comprehensive water planning in 2000 with the creation of the Water Planning Council (WPC). However, the WPC has been basically unfunded, and the work of the WPC Advisory Group has depended on volunteer efforts by its members. Meanwhile, the need for water planning and conflict resolution has become ever more clear. There have been several costly high-profile disputes, such as Washington vs. Waterbury (over the Shepaug River) and the Metropolitan District Commission’s bid to become the major supplier for expansion at the UConn campus in Storrs. Plus, there have been many dozens of smaller problems consuming agency time and stakeholder dollars. In 2014 (PA 14-163), the legislature directed the WPC to take the lead in developing a statewide water plan. The proposed budget of $500,000 for each of two years is essential in finally allowing for a decent start on adequate data compilation, legal and policy analysis, and outreach and education. It is in line with cost comparisons and estimates for similar efforts in other states and in Connecticut. We must not continue to waste our high-quality waters.

OPEN SPACE with natural vegetation is the best protection for the state’s waters, an asset prized by Connecticut residents, a destination for tourists, an essential support for community health and wellbeing. But the state is well short of its goals for open-space acquisition and protection. Therefore, we support Section 13(d)(3, $10 million for the Open Space and Watershed Land Acquisition program (a partnership grant program that is extremely popular across the state); Section 21(h)(5), $10 million for the Recreation and Natural Heritage Trust Program (the chief instrument for state acquisition of open space, including some of our most treasured parks); and Section 66, $12 million for the Recreational Trails Fund, matching federal dollars and providing support for creating, advertising, and maintaining land and water trails for the benefit of all, including local businesses.

WATER QUALITY has declined in many areas in recent years. The $3.375 billion in Section 65(d) for the Clean Water Fund continues funding at the level needed to support modest progress. Sewage treatment rivals road maintenance as an essential government service. And it provides good jobs. We also support CWWA’s testimony with respect to funding for water supply infrastructure upgrades. Our in-ground infrastructure is not in good shape, as witness the number of water main breaks.

LI SOUND returns to the people of Connecticut benefits sevenfold for dollars spent on its protection. We strongly support the testimony of attorney Leah Lopez Schmalz for Save the Sound for 1) green infrastructure projects for stormwater management, section 13(d)(1), an approach that would save millions if utilized statewide; and 2) stewardship and resiliency, 13(d)(2). The state needs to adjust to new weather and a new shoreline.

Thank you for your attention and your hard work on the state’s finances,

Margaret Miner, Executive Director rivers@riversalliance.org  203-788-5161 (mobile) Litchfield CT 06759

 


2015 Conveyance Act: Each year, the General Assembly's Committee on Government Administration and Elections considers a Conveyance Act, the sections of which primarily involve transfers of state lands to municipalities, individuals, or other parties. Often it takes many hours to interpret the sections of the act to determine whether the conveyances are simply practical, benign transfers of property of no value to the state, or whether there are substantial questions of the public interest. For this year's analysis, click here.


Calling All Friends of Connecticut's Air, Soil, Water, and Wildlife (click here for action needed now)

Link to CT CEQThe Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) is responsible for monitoring and reporting on the condition of Connecticut’s environment, and informing the public of progress (or not) toward reaching our environmental goals. It monitors the state’s stewardship of our supremely valuable natural resources: air, soil, water, and wildlife. It attends to citizens’ environmental concerns.

Once again the CEQ is slated for demolition. From 2003 to 2013, friends of the environment have mounted successful campaigns to save it.  We need to do so again. Almost every environmental group in the state is gearing up for the struggle. Alas, objective reporting on the environment and government’s performance is perennially unpopular in certain influential circles. This is a bi-partisan sentiment. Both parties have been willing to kill (and de-fund) the messenger. Here’s the timeline of CEQ’s near-death experiences:

  • 2003 under Gov. Rowland, CEQ eliminated but saved in the last days of the session..
  • 2009 under Gov. Rell, CEQ to be merged into Department of Environmental Protection (the agency it’s supposed to monitor).
  • 2011 under Gov. Malloy, same merger except DEP is now DEEP. 
  • 2013 under Gov. Malloy, new idea, merge CEQ into the new, administrative Office of Governmental Accountability.
  • 2015 under Gov. Malloy, new, odder idea, merge CEQ into the General Assembly’s Office of Legislative Management. (Click here to track this bill)

These are the responsibilities of CEQ:

1. Assess the condition of Connecticut's environment; report findings annually to the Governor; and recommend actions to improve state environmental programs.

2. Advise other state agencies on the environmental impacts of proposed construction projects.

3. Investigate citizens' complaints and allegations of violations of environmental laws.

4. Review Environmental Impact Evaluations that state agencies develop for major projects; and publish the Environmental Monitor, the official website for state project information under CEPA and for notices of proposed sale or transfer of state-owned lands.

CEQ fulfills these responsibilities with a budget of about $180,000 and hundreds of hours of volunteer time.

It is hard to believe that the primary motivation for killing CEQ (again) is to save money. This quote from the budget bill points to a more credible motivation: “Any necessary staff shall be employed by the Joint Committee on Legislative Management. The council shall have no authority over staffing or personnel matters.”  (Governor's Bill #6842

CEQ and environmental advocates have considered the option of being absorbed into the legislative branch. There are obvious financial negatives (there is a considerable cost associated with this kind of move, and the legislature has not indicated that he wants to support CEQ). But, far more serious, the move would terminate CEQ’s independence. Suppose that legislative leadership were supporting a bill that was harmful to the environment, could CEQ recommend a different approach or speak out against the bad bill? That would be disloyal to the legislative entity of which they would be a part. Their already minimal funding would likely be cut. It is a clear conflict of interest.

At the moment, the action is in the Conservation Sub-Committee of the Appropriations Committee. 
 
We urge you to communicate with the Chairs and Members of the Conservation Sub-Committee (see below). Ask them PLEASE to save CEQ with its present funding and independence. If you are a constituent, please say so.  If your legislators are not on the committee, they still may influential in deciding the fate of CEQ.  If you don’t know how to reach them, we can help.

Rivers Alliance is also still taking sign-ons, let us know if you want your name added by emailing us at rivers@riversalliance.org.

Appropriations Committee
Subcommittee on Conservation and Development

 

Position Name Towns Represented Phone Email
Co-chair Sen. Beth Bye Bloomfield, Burlington, Farmington, West Hartford 860-240-0428  Bye@senatedems.ct.gov
Co-chair Rep. Ezequiel Santiago Bridgeport 860-240-8585 or
1-800-842-8267
 Ezequiel.Santiago@cga.ct.gov
Ranking Member Rep. Peter Tercyak New Britain 860-240-8585 or
1-800-842-8267
 Peter.Tercyak@cga.ct.gov
Ranking Member Sen. Mae Flexer Brooklyn, Canterbury, Killingly, Mansfield, Putnam, Scotland, Thompson, Windham 860-240-8634 or
1-800-842-1420
 Flexer@senatedems.ct.gov
Member Sen. Clark Chapin Brookfield, Canaan, Cornwall, Goshen, Kent, Litchfield, Morris, New Milford, North Canaan, Salisbury, Sharon, Torrington, Warren, Winchester 1-800-842-1421  Clark.Chapin@cga.ct.gov
Member Sen. Joan Hartley Waterbury, Middlebury, Naugatuck 860-240-0006  Hartley@senatedems.ct.gov
Member Rep. Gregory Haddad Mansfield 860-240-8585 or
1-800-842-8267
 Gregory.Haddad@cga.ct.gov
Member Rep. Matthew Lesser Middletown 860-240-8585 or
1-800-842-8267
 Matthew.Lesser@cga.ct.gov
Member Rep. Patricia B. Miller Stamford 860-240-8585 or
1-800-842-8267
 Patricia.Miller@cga.ct.gov
Member Rep. Kevin Ryan Bozrah, Montville, Norwich 860-240-8585 or
1-800-842-8267
 Kevin.Ryan@cga.ct.gov
Member Rep. Melissa Ziobron Colchester, East Haddam, East Hampton 860-240-8700 or
1-800-842-1423
 Melissa.Ziobron@housegop.ct.gov
Member Rep. Toni Walker New Haven 860-240-0394 or
1-800-842-8267
 Toni.Walker@cga.ct.gov
Member Rep. Roberta Willis Canaan, Cornwall, Goshen, Kent, Norfolk, North Canaan, Salisbury, Torrington, Sharon (860) 240-8585 or
1-800-842-8267
 Roberta.Willis@cga.ct.gov
Member Rep. Charles Ferraro Milford, Orange, West Haven 860-240-8700 or
1-800-842-1423
 Charles.Ferraro@housegop.ct.gov
Member Rep. Craig Miner Bethlehem, Litchfield, Morris 860-240-8700  Craig.Miner@housegop.ct.gov
Member Mark Tweedie Manchester, Glastonbury (860) 240-8700  Mark.Tweedie@housegop.ct.gov
 

Previous action:

  1. Click here to see testimony submitted for the Mar 2 Government Administration and Elections Committee hearing.
  2. Click here to view all testimony submitted for the Mar 2 Appropriations Committee hearing.

FOR THE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE PUBLIC HEARING

TESTIMONY OF RIVERS ALLIANCE OF CONNECTICUT
Litchfield, CT
rivers@riversalliance.org

MARCH 2, 2015

To the Chairmen: Sen. Beth Bye and Rep. Toni Walker And to Members of the Committee
RE: THE GOVERNOR’S PROPOSED BIENNIAL BUDGET FOR FY 2016-2017

Rivers Alliance of Connecticut is the statewide, non-profit coalition of river organizations, individuals, and businesses formed to protect and enhance Connecticut's waters by promoting sound water policies, uniting and strengthening the state's many river groups, and educating the public about the importance of water stewardship.

We and the signatories below respectfully oppose the statutory change in this bill that would place the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) within the Joint Committee on Legislative Management, which is itself within the CGA Department of Legislative Management. This change would undermine the independence and effectiveness of CEQ without providing any reliable cost benefit to the public.

CEQ has served the state well since its founding in 1971. It is an independent assessor of the state’s progress toward its environmental and health goals. It monitors state stewardship of our supremely valuable natural resources: air, soil, water, and wildlife.It explains state environmental policy and actions to the public and receives and communicates citizen complaints. The many distinguished members of the Council over the years have volunteered thousands of otherwise billable hours because they believe in the mission and voice. It does all this on a budget of less than $200,000, it performs the following functions. But in the proposed budget before you, this important program is slated to be cut in its entirety.

 Since 2003, if not before, various attempts have been made to defund CEQ and/or undermine its independence. Each time, public protest has led to a reversal of that effort. This year 23 groups took part in a meeting to save CEQ. An important reason for the success of the protests is that when one looks at CEQ’s responsibilities, it is apparent that the public is getting a bargain. Here are some of its functions:

Assess the condition of Connecticut’s environment.
Report findings annually to the Governor and all state residents.
Recommend actions to improve state environmental programs.
Advise other state agencies on the environmental impacts of proposed construction projects.
Investigate citizens’ complaints and allegations of violations of environmental laws.
Review Environmental Impact Evaluations that state agencies develop for major projects.
Publish the Environmental Monitor, the official website for state project information under the CT Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) and for notices of proposed sale or transfer of state-owned lands.

To continue to protect this still beautiful state, please keep CEQ whole and well.

Thank you.

Rivers Alliance of CT, Margaret Miner, ED (203-788-5161)
CT Assoc. of Inland-Wetlands and Conservation Commissions, Alan J. Siniscalchi, Pres.
CT Forest and Park Association, Eric Hammerling, ED
CT River Watershed Council, Alicea Charamut, Steward
Farmington River Watershed Association, Eileen Fielding, ED
Housatonic Valley Association, Lynn Werner, ED
Naugatuck River Revival Group, Kevin Zak, Pres.
Southbury Land Trust, Tom Crider, Pres.
Norm Berg, Southington
Cathy and Steve Carlson, Branford
Diane Edwards, Harwinton
Betsy Glassman, Litchfield
Herb Gram, Madison
Elaine and Ralph McKinney, Oxford
Jenna Messier, NOFA
John Millington, former chairman of CEQ, Washington
Tony Mitchell, New Hartford
Mike Pappa, Stamford
Barrett S. Robbins-Planka, Middletown
Hugh Rogers, Washington
Cynthia and George Willauer, Lyme
Carol Williams, Litchfield

----(end of testimony)---

 Here are more groups and individuals who have come forward to advocate for CEQ.

Citizens Campaign for the Environment
Citizens for a Clean Hammonasset
CT Audubon Society
CT Fly Fisherman’s Association
CT Fund for the Environment/Save the Sound
CT Land Conservation Council (CLCC)
CT League of Conservation Voters (CTLCV)
CT River Coastal Conservation District
CT Sierra Club
Eightmile River Wild & Scenic Coordinating Committee
Environment and Human Health Inc.
Friends of Gulley Brook

National Audubon Society CT Chapter
The Nature Conservancy – CT Chapter

Sierra Club – CT Chapter
Trout Unlimited State Council
Weantinoge Heritage Land Trust, Inc.
Bruce Fletcher, New Britain
Kevin Honan, Kent
Lenka Peterson O'Connor, Roxbury
Benjamin Oko, Ridgefield

 

LETTER TO THE CONSERVATION SUBCOMMITTEEEE

OF THE CT CGA APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE

TO:  Chairmen: Sen. Beth Bye and Rep. Ezequiel Santiago;

and SubCommittee Members.

DATE:  March 19, 2015

 

The undersigned organizations and individuals respectfully request that the CT Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) be preserved as an independent agency with its budget intact.

Since its founding in 1971, CEQ has served as an independent agency assessing Connecticut’s progress toward its air, land, water, and wildlife goals. 

With a budget of less than $200,000, two staff, and an all-volunteer Council, CEQ is a bargain for the public when you consider its responsibilities: 

  • An Annual Report on the state of Connecticut’s environmental health,
  • The Environmental Monitor which provides for public input on proposed state projects or land transfers that have potential environmental impacts;
  • Monthly public hearings to report progress and enable public input on various environmental concerns; and
  • Recommendations to improve Connecticut’s environmental programs or laws.

The need for these important responsibilities would not disappear if CEQ’s staff were eliminated; it would be imposed upon other state agencies’ staff and would not be as streamlined or cost-effective as the current CEQ model.

It is critically important to preserve CEQ’s independence which enables CEQ to provide fair, balanced, and unfiltered recommendations to the Administration, the General Assembly, and to the Public. CEQ’s status as a valued watchdog for Connecticut’s environment would quickly come into question if that independence were not honored. 

The Governor’s Budget for FY 2016-17 proposes the elimination of CEQ’s independence and budget.  This would be a tragedy for Connecticut’s environment.  Please save the CEQ!

Sincerely,

 

(see the lists above for signatories)

 


FOR THE ENVIRONMENT COMMITTEE
PUBLIC HEARING TESTIMONY OF RIVERS ALLIANCE OF CONNECTICUT

MARCH 11, 2015

Rivers Alliance of Connecticut is the statewide, non-profit coalition of river organizations, individuals, and businesses formed to protect and enhance Connecticut's waters by promoting sound water policies, uniting and strengthening the state's many river groups, and educating the public about the importance of water stewardship.

SB 366 AAC Extending the Ban on Lawn Care Pesticides to Schools that House Grades Nine to Twelve Inclusive, and to State Facilities. Support in part.

HB 1063 AAC The Application of Pesticides on School Grounds and Certain Public Spaces, Authorizing the Use of Certain Microbials, and Reestablishing the Pesticide Advisory Council.  Oppose in part. 

HB 5286 AA Prohibiting The Import and Sale of Cosmetics Containing Microbeads.  Support. 

Dear Senator Kennedy, Representative Albis, and Members of the Committee: 

As a child, during summer vacation, I wondered why God made wasps.  I strongly supported their slaughter via Flit and Raid spray; I breathed in the fumes contentedly as the wasps died.  My mother did the wasp spraying while my father wielded a large dandelion extracter to improve the lawn.  We children could earn a penny for each dandelion removed.   Almost all the adults smoked.

Today we know that cigarettes are poison, dandelions are fantastically nourishing, and it’s a bad idea to inhale wasp spray or any pesticide.   In fact, starting with Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring in 1962, study after study has implicated pesticides and related pharmaceuticals in harm to the normal, healthy development of plants, animals, and humans.   The science is all trending toward one conclusion.  Pesticide exposure is dangerous for children, pregnant women, kittens, honey bees, fish, birds, butterflies, frogs, and more.  The products are based on or contain carcinogens, neurotoxins, and endocrine disrupters.  Most are particularly harmful to aquatic ecology and are prime suspects or proven perpetrators in reproductive anomalies in fish and amphibians.  I cite some science findings at the end of this document.

The central mission of Rivers Alliance is to protect public trust waters and aquatic life.  This work coincides with the goal of protecting children from needless exposure to pesticides.  The United States applies one billion pounds of pesticides each year.  These toxins are in all our waterways and much of our present or potential drinking water.   We breathe, absorb, and ingest them every day.  When pesticides are applied to lawn, they frequently travel into water and air.  They are not confined to killing creatures in the soil. 

Another very important group in Connecticut that has taken on this same kind of dual mission is Clean Up Sound and Harbors (CUSH), based in Stonington..  As the name implies, CUSH is focused on the environmental, economic, health, and societal benefits of a clean Sound, thriving fisheries, water recreation and tourism.  They have been sponsoring workshops for facilities managers in four towns:  Stonington, Groton, North Stonington, and Westerly RI.  The immediate past president of CUSH, Fran Hoffman, and Stonington Superintendent Van Riley both observed in conversation this week that progress toward a totally pesticide-free environment has been excellent.  Partly this is because groundskeepers are becoming more familiar with organic concepts and methods.  And the administration, led by Mr. Riley, keeps parents informed on the issues and what the schools are doing. Mr. Riley said that in his many years as superintendent in different Connecticut towns he has found that families are very aware of the dangers of toxins, and they want safe school buildings and grounds.

I and our volunteer Hugh Rogers asked lots of questions about grubs, the problem most often said to be require pesticides.  However, the first step to reducing grub numbers and their impact on grass is to build healthy soil.  (organic consultant Chip Osborne says, “Feed the soil, not the grass.”)  There are dozens of other, related considerations.  If a lawn or field is severely depleted by years of toxic treatment, the transition may take some three years.  A healthy lawn can transition in about a year.  You do have to think ahead.  Grub  treatment should start in the summer or fall for the following season.  

Some facilities managers enjoy pesticide-free culture; others find it a pain..  But it is doable.  It will cost somewhat more than traditional methods to start, but payback will begin in about three years.  (CUSH research).

The three towns in my school region (Roxbury, Bridgewater, and Washington) have never used pesticides..  The facilities manager would be happier with more irrigation and more money for grass seed, turf aeration, and so forth. But we are a jock region, extremely proud of our many Class S championships.  A now-retired girls field hockey coach (Joan Gauthier) won 300 games.  Our brilliant left-handed pitcher Steve Reich threw a no-hitter in his first game for Army (it was against Navy!) he was later was killed in a helicopter crash trying to rescue Navy Seals in Afghanistan.  Our girls softball team has usually done well.  Our athletes expect to play on whatever surface is available. After all, it wasn’t so long ago that baseball stars started off in sandlot games.  And as we know, there’s no crying in baseball.

Our volunteer and I checked in with about two dozen towns and a half dozen experienced organic lawn care experts..  Most towns were mixed in their feelings about organic methods, with some of the population proud of the accomplishment and others resentful.  Another pattern that seemed to emerge is widespread agreement that support of the administration and the athletic department is essential to success.   No one can keep any field in good shape if it is constantly used and never rested.

There has been considerable discussion among environmental advocates as to whether grubs are so problematic that pesticide treatment should be allowed under some circumstances..  That’s a little like the person who’s quitting smoking saying, if I could just have one cigarette, I’ll be OK.  Rivers Alliance leans toward emphasizing a start-up regime rather than exemptions.  Moreover, one pesticide being discussed as not harmful, Acelepryn (also called Grubex), is not suitable for use anywhere near water.  Here’s the warning on the website of the manufacturer, DuPont:

ENVIRONMENTAL HAZARDS
This pesticide is toxic to aquatic invertebrates, oysters and, shrimp. Do not apply directly to water. Drift and runoff may be hazardous to aquatic organisms in water adjacent to use sites.

So we do not feel that this is a safe product for use in Connecticut. It’s still relatively new, and maybe it will prove to be safe.  But our fisheries in the Sound and our clean water sources upland need maximum protection.

Finally, we believe that when a school, or town, or the state has applied pesticides anywhere, the description and warnings should be prominently posted to help the public understand the exposure.  Little flags at ankle level aren’t the right medium for the message.

Here follows a list of health sources.  We would be pleased to answer questions.

Margaret Miner, Executive Director

rivers@riversalliance.org203-788-5161 (mobile)

Litchfield CT

SOURCES

1)     Pesticide Exposure in Children: Technical Report, American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), November 26, 2012.  The Abstract is a powerful wake-up call.  This report focuses mainly on effects in utero and among young children, but the range is up to 19 years of age (see for example page 1768).Also exposure of either a mother or father (adolescent or otherwise) is associated with leukemia and brain tumors; and a high metabolism can intensify exposure.  The section on Integrated Pest Management (IPM) on page 1781 is quite negative.  (The AAP was softer on IPM in its Policy Report.) See also their American Academy of Pediatrics Policy Statement: Pesticide Exposure in Children COUNCIL ON ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH,

 

2)     The NY State ban on pesticides in schools, The Child Safe Playing Fields Act, 2010.   Educational handout from the NY Department of Environmental Conservation. 

 

3)     Potential Health Effects Related to Pesticide Use on Athletic Fields, Robyn Gilden, Ph.D., et al, Public Health Nursing, May 2012.  This is primarily a review of pesticide products in use on athletic fields.  The Abstract expresses a warning that exposure of children to pesticides should be reduced.  In an email exchange, Dr. Gilden pointed out pesticides can be most risky when the body is undergoing rapid change; and that commonly used pesticides on athletic fields target the reproductive and nervous systems, both changing rapidly in adolescence.  

 

4)     Pesticides in the Nation’s Streams and Waters, 1992-2001 – What findings may mean to human health, aquatic life, and fish-eating wildlife, US Geological Survey, press release, March 2006.  A major, widely publicized study concluding that all US streams typically contain pesticides.  Note, the conclusion that most concentrations met the US standard for human health is based on averaging concentrations over a year, not on  concentrations to which many are likely to be exposed (that is, concentrations during the warmer months); this is explained on page 60 ff of the report. 

 

5)     Protecting Bees from Pesticides, Dr. Kimberly Stoner, CT Agricultural Experiment Station, 2014.

 

6)     Children at Risk from Pesticides, Lynne Peeples, Huffington Post, March 27, 2012.  Fun reading about the Connecticut “issues.” 

 

7)  CT DEEP WEBSITE UPDATED MARCH 2012,  Organic Lawn Care

Your neighbors will "go green" with envy!

You can have a beautiful healthy low-maintenance lawn without conventional fertilizers and pesticides. Organic lawn care uses a whole systems approach to maintaining your lawn without toxic chemicals. Your lawn may look so good that your neighbors will want to "go green", too. Please share your organic lawn care experiences with us. Encourage your town officials to implement organic land care on playing fields, too.

Why is organic lawn care better?

Conventional lawn chemicals can pollute our water, harm wildlife and have adverse health effects on people and pets. Using pesticides to tackle weeds and pests can actually damage your lawn, too. They kill good organisms that help produce the nutrients plants need to grow, weakening the grass, fostering thatch, and encouraging diseases.  [emphasis added]


This testimony refers to the version of the bill that was passed out of Committee
Click here to check this bill's status

FOR THE CHILDREN’S COMMITTEE PUBLIC HEARING
TESTIMONY OF RIVERS ALLIANCE OF CONNECTICUT

Litchfield, CT rivers@riversalliance.org
MARCH 3, 2015

To the Chairmen: Sen. Dante Bartolomeo and Rep. Diana Urban And to Members of the Committee

HB 6897 AAC THE APPLICATION OF PESTICIDES AT STATE OPERATED PARKS, ATHLETIC FIELDS AND PLAYGROUNDS,
Support with recommendations.

Rivers Alliance of Connecticut is the statewide, non-profit coalition of river organizations, individuals, and businesses formed to protect and enhance Connecticut's waters by promoting sound water policies, uniting and strengthening the state's many river groups, and educating the public about the importance of water stewardship.

We welcome the opportunity to submit testimony on this important bill. First, we want to thank the chairmen and the committee for their leadership on the pesticide issue.

This bill will expand the protection of children, pets, and wildlife from exposure to pesticides. The category of pesticides as defined here includes herbicides, insecticides, fungicides (used on plants), and rodenticides. Pesticides are toxins designed to kill or otherwise adversely affect living things regarded as pests.

As I understand it, under this bill, a modified version of the existing ban on pesticides at schools and daycare facilities through eighth grade will be extended to state parks, athletic, fields, and playgrounds. The modifications, such as certain qualified exemptions for pesticide products, will not apply to municipal or regional schools or to private schools (or other private property). In other words, the existing ban will remain the same.

The bill extends the pesticide ban that exists now at schools and daycare facilities to state-managed lawns and turf at state parks, playgrounds, athletic fields, hospitals (fast disappearing), prisons, state-owned roadside lawns, and so forth. But it does not ban pesticide use on state golf courses; state schools, colleges, and universities; or state-owned land used for professional sports or related activities.

The most obvious modification of the existing ban is in the amendment to Section 1. This includes a difficult-to-follow set of definitions. I believe the primary intent of the language in the exclusions, or exemptions, listed in subparagraphs A, B, and C is to allow the use of certain benign non-toxic substances that may help in controlling animal or plant pests.

It’s not quite clear that exemptions under C would always be benign. This is an exemption for materials under EPA rule 40 CFR 152.25. These exemptions are for “minimum risk” pesticides. So they are in fact pesticides, and it appears from the EPA website that whether such pesticides are “minimal” is to a degree determined by the manufacturer.

A more prominent problem arises with the exemption at D, “a grub control product that is registered with the [EPA] that does not contain a signal label with a caution, warning or danger indication, and except for such pesticides described in subparagraphs (A) and (C) of this subsection, is subject to the restrictions in Sec. 10 231b for an emergency application of a lawn care pesticide.” I think this is saying that grub-control “products,” some of which are pesticides, are not being banned unless the package has an official warning label.

I read this as allowing certain grub pesticides to be used on state operated properties but not on municipal or school lawns or athletic fields (through grade eight). Is this correct?

There may be a typo relating to (A) microbial or biochemical pesticides; (B) horticultural soaps or oils; (C) minimum risk pesticides; and (D) grub-control pesticides. The bill seems to say that all but (A) and (C), must be used only in a verified emergency as prescribed in Sec. 10-231b. In other words, (B) horticultural soaps and oils as well as (D) grub control products are not quite entirely exempt. They can only be used in an emergency.

(For clarity, it would be helpful transfer up the definitions of “microbial pesticide” and “biochemical pesticide” at the end of Sec. 1 to somewhere prior to their first use.)

We believe that this is not the time to back down from support for pesticide-free lawns and turf. The immediate problem reportedly is grubs. Parks and recreation managers are complaining they can’t control them.

One of our volunteers is a trained turf manager, and research by him and many, many others indicates that grubs are not a problem when there is healthy soil and grass. Maintenance of healthy soil and turf does requires some knowledge and forethought. For example, it is important to start grub treatment in the fall; aeration of the soil with coring and spiking is extremely important, and should be done monthly and more often during grub season. Watering should be infrequent but deep, which strengthens this grass roots. Overseed all year. Roll the fields. Adjust the pH of the soil (usually should be slightly acidic). Adjust the mowing to the type of grass and the season, And so forth.

One successful fields manager told us that it is important to have the support of the athletic department and school administration. Not all fields can be played on all the time. There must be some sort of rotation, even if only a part of field is being rested. Failure to maintain and rest fields leads to escalating problems. Compacted soil, weak grass, degradation of top soil, loss of beneficial biota, and so on. The more fertilizer and pesticides one pours on, the more toxic the environment becomes.

There are numerous diseases, disorders, and pests that can affect soil and grass. Today it’s grubs, tomorrow rust disease, next summer slime mold -- always something. More exemptions will always be sought.

The perennial search for a pesticide that magically kills only the target without harming anything else has led to the development of some improved products. But with a billion pounds of pesticides released in the US every year, how much toxicity is really harmless ? And how many pesticides are introduced as perfectly safe and then turn out not to be.

A new relatively less toxic pesticide for grubs is chlorantraniliprole (Acelepryn™). I believe it is a product that could be permitted under this bill. The DuPont website offered an encouraging analysis of it safety and effectiveness, followed by this warning. “This pesticide is toxic to aquatic invertebrates, oysters and shrimp. Do not apply directly to water. Drift and runoff may be hazardous to aquatic organisms in water adjacent to use sites.”

Many athletic fields and lawns are right alongside water. We at Rivers Alliance urge the committee to continue its work for pesticide-free playing areas, and healthy streams and wetlands.

Thanks for your attention.

Margaret Miner, Executive Director

 


TO: Sen. Ted Kennedy and Rep. James Albis, Chairmen,
And the Members of the Committee on the Environment

 Testimony from Rivers Alliance of Connecticut
Public Hearing, February 27, 2015

(Click here for all submitted testimony)

SB 363 AAC REQUIRING DEEP TO CONDUCT A STUDY OF PRIVATE PROPERTY OWNERS’ WATER RIGHTS. Recommend a different approach

HB 5686 AAC THE APPROVAL OF LAND SWAPS. Support with revisions.

HB 5709 AAC DEEP’S AUTHORITY TO DESIGNATE STORMWATER SEWER SYSTEMS OUTSIDE OF URBAN AREAS. Oppose; recommendations offered.

SB 941 AAC DELAYING IMPLEMENTATION OF CERTAIN STANDARDS AND SAMPLING REQUIREMENTS UPON THE DETECTION OF POLLUTANTS CAUSING CONTAMINATION OF SOIL, GROUNDWATER OR PUBLIC OR PRIVATE DRINKING WATER WELLS. Oppose.

HB 6047 AAC PROVIDING PROPER FUNDING FOR STATE HATCHERIES. Support concept.

HB 6035 AAC LONG ISLAND SOUND RESOURCE AND USE INVENTORY AND A LONG ISLAND SOUND BLUE PLAN. Support.

HB 6839 AAC A LONG ISLAND SOUND BLUE PLAN AND RESOURCE AND USE INVENTORY. Support.

We thank you for the opportunity to comment in this hearing.

Bill 363 on private water rights, with particular attention to groundwater rights. (Track this bill) This is a problematic and complex area of water law. Connecticut has focused primarily on surface-water law, especially in the development of streamflow regulations, adopted in 2011. However, groundwater is as important to water supply and water health as surface water (both are part of a continuous system). Unfortunately, at the insistence of water companies and some legislators, DEEP was required to eliminate groundwater protections from the surface water regulations. But, at the time, a number of key legislators involved in the process pledged to take up the issue of groundwater as soon as possible. ASAP is evidently now.

Groundwater protection involves quantity and quality. Connecticut may have ample quantity, but this will not answer our needs if groundwater contamination continues at the pace of recent years. Both aspects (quantity and quality) arise in neighbor to neighbor disputes, as well as state to private owner disputes, and town to town disputes. Groundwater can be subject to draw-down and contamination from neighboring properties. The Water Planning Council just a few days ago noted that the state water plan that’s in development should be fair to private well-owners as well as public suppliers.

The answers to questions on groundwater rights in current law are unsatisfactory to many interests. (I am not a lawyer, but Rivers Alliance did sponsor a conference on water law in 2005, and we serve as co-chair of the Water Planning Council Advisory Group.) We do not recommend a stand-alone assignment to DEEP on water law; the agency has a full agenda for the next couple of years. It would be more logical to be sure that private groundwater is given appropriate attention in the state water plan. The Committee might begin with a request to OLR or to the Water Planning Council; also, perhaps one or more of the state’s law schools could address the issue for you. Once you have a picture of the outlines of the areas of conflict and the relevant law, you will be able to make focused requests for better water management.

Bill 5686 on land swaps. (Track this bill) We thank Rep. Willis and the Committee for raising this issue. As a member of the state Natural Heritage, Open Space, and Watershed Lands Acquisitions Review Board and co-chair of the State Lands Working Group, we at Rivers Alliance have been working with a number of legislators to clarify good practices for state land swaps and other conveyances of state lands. We support the Connecticut Land Conservation Council’s recommendations for friendly amendments to 5686. The purpose of the recommendations is to encompass all conveyances of conservation lands and to be sure that such conveyances are done transparently with notice and time to comment at the state and local levels. Transparency primarily involves a common-sense explanation of where the property is, what its present and projected use is, whether it is restricted in any way, and so forth. We have often discovered that with good information conflicts can be avoided or resolved. Open space protects water quality, and this bill is a high priority for us.

Bill 5709 on stormwater sewer permits. (Track this bill) We are aware that many towns have raised loud objections to DEEP’s new stormwater rules. But, as the testimony of Connecticut Fund for the Environment indicates, it is odd for a legislature to direct an administrative agency not to enforce an apparently valid permit. Moreover, stormwater is the leading polluter of the state’s rivers and the Sound. I hope the Committee will play a constructive role in establishing good stormwater management. We would be pleased to assist, and have several suggestions, including bringing the DEEP Stormwater Manual up to date.

Bill 941 on delaying implementation of monitoring and assessment of pollution of soil and water, including drinking water. (Track this bill) Why?? The two-year delay stipulated in this bill would come after a pollutant is detected. How can one justify continuing to expose families and wildlife to a pollutant that is known to be in their environment and possibly their drinking water. “Ignorance is bliss” is not an acceptable defense for failure to notify persons of impending risk.

Bill 6047 on funding state hatcheries. (Track this bill) This bill seeks a way to support recreational fisheries and, apparently, prudent recreational fishing. The bill appears to cover both salt-water and fresh-water fishing, but I am not sure that is the intention; and it might be too much of a stretch. The funding and the task force proposed could be used to enhance native fisheries and educate the public on aquatic ecology. But it also might be used to oppose needed standards and rules limiting fishing. It sets up a sort of public-private partnership for funding, which can be tricky in relation to fair and equal treatment of all parties involved (including the general public). We would be pleased to assist in this effort if the Committee decides to go forward with it.

Bills 6035 (Track this bill) and 6839 (Track this bill). Blue plans for L. I. Sound. These two bills were fully negotiated last year and are much needed. Restoring and preserving L. I. Sound is essential to a good future for Connecticut. Worldwide, we are losing our oceans and great seas and estuaries to contamination and warming. Let’s save the Sound.

Margaret Miner, Executive Director
Rivers Alliance of CT
PO Box 1797
Litchfield, CT 06759
rivers@riversalliance.org
www.riversalliance.org
www.facebook.com/RiversAllianceOfConnecticut
860-361-9349


FOR THE ENVIRONMENT COMMITTEE
PUBLIC HEARING TESTIMONY OF RIVERS ALLIANCE OF CONNECTICUT
FEBRUARY 13, 2015
To the Chairmen: Sen. Ted Kennedy Jr. and Rep. James Albis And to Members of the Committee
RB 869 AAC Establishing a Tire Stewardship Program, support
PB 5406 AAC Authorizing the Increase in the Maximum Amount of Hazardous Waste Stored at Certain Commercial Facilities, oppose as written
RB 865 AAC The Allowable Costs for the Installation of Oversized Water Mains And the Backup Wells Siting Requirements for Certain Water Company Diversions, oppose as written

RB 869 AAC Establishing a Tire Stewardship Program, support

Thank you for addressing tire stewardship in RB 869. The state’s water bodies and wetlands are littered with discarded tires.

PB 5406 AAC Authorizing the Increase in the Maximum Amount of Hazardous Waste Stored at Certain Commercial Facilities, oppose as written

PB 5406 on storage of hazardous waste raises numerous red flags. Increasing the allowable storage quantity six-fold is a major change, and would appear imprudent even if the increase is permitted under federal law. We are a densely populated state, with considerable groundwater and soil pollution, and limited resources for inspecting hazardous waste sites and enforcing protections. If there is a true emergency and the applicability of the bill were to be limited to that emergency, of course we would reexamine the issue.

RB 865 AAC The Allowable Costs for the Installation of Oversized Water Mains And the Backup Wells Siting Requirements for Certain Water Company Diversions, oppose as written

RB 856 on water mains and water diversion also is suspect on its face. The size of water mains is an important factor in overall water and land planning. There are a number of reasons to question an application for an oversize main. Second, the bill extends an exemption in the Water Diversion Policy Act for backup wells, that is, wells that will be brought online if a primary well fails. The bill extends the limit beyond which separate permitting is required to 700 feet from a primary well rather than the 200 feet now allowed. The 200-foot limit has been accepted because there is some validity to the view that a well at 200 feet or closer to a primary well is essentially a backup replacement drawing on the same resource, and shouldn’t need new permitting. The 200-foot limit is also somewhat consistent with the public health standard for a sanitary cordon around a drinking water source. At 700 feet, the well is essentially not a backup but a new, or alternate, diversion. With statewide water planning getting underway, this is an awkward time to be considering exemptions. But again, if there is a specific emergency, we would be pleased to reconsider our position and to assist in finding a solution.


TO: Sen. Ted Kennedy and Rep. James Albis, Chairmen, And the Members of the Committee on the Environment
Testimony from Rivers Alliance of Connecticut
Public Hearing, February 4, 2015, on

RB 347 AAC THE PERCENTAGE OF STATE AND FEDERAL FUNDS THAT MAY BE USED TO PURCHASE OPEN SPACE UNDER THE OPEN SPACE AND WATERSHED LAND ACQUISITION PROGRAM. Support.

RB 6033 AAC THE INCLUSION OF JUICES, TEAS AND SPORTS DRINKS UNDER CONNECTICUT'S BOTTLE BILL. Support.

RB 349 AAC SINGLE-USE CARRYOUT PLASTIC AND PAPER BAGS AND THE USE OF REUSABLE BAGS. Support.

We thank you for the opportunity to comment in this hearing, and to voice support for these three bills.

RB 347 AAC THE PERCENTAGE OF STATE AND FEDERAL FUNDS THAT MAY BE USED TO PURCHASE OPEN SPACE UNDER THE OPEN SPACE AND WATERSHED LAND ACQUISITION PROGRAM. Support.

RB 347 has been discussed at length in the state Natural Heritage, Open Space, and Watershed Lands Acquisitions Review Board, of which Rivers Alliance is a member. The lead proponents there are Connecticut Forest & Park Association and Connecticut Land Conservation Council. The deletion proposed in the bill addresses language that was introduced some years ago to semi-resolve a particular perceived problem in Highlands conservation. That language caps the maximum government funding that can be used as a match for certain land acquisition grants. Unfortunately, the cap requirement makes some very worthy land-acquisition projects too costly to pursue, especially for apllicants of modest means, such as small land trusts. The proposed deletion will benefit communities seeking to conserve open, natural spaces. This is important to Rivers Alliance, because vegetated open space is the best guarantor of good water quality.

RB 6033 AAC THE INCLUSION OF JUICES, TEAS AND SPORTS DRINKS UNDER CONNECTICUT'S BOTTLE BILL. Support.

RB 6033 is the logical and anticipated extension of the state’s bottle bill. Rivers Alliance urges passage of this act in order to further protect wetlands, rivers, and the shore of the Sound from bottle debris. Glass bottles are less toxic than plastic but more apt to give a nasty cut to anyone walking on the beach, launching a kayak, or fishing in a river. Unwashed bottles attract yellow jackets and worse. Plastic bottles, like so many plastic products, are dangerous to aquatic life and human health. (See more below.)

RB 349 AAC SINGLE-USE CARRYOUT PLASTIC AND PAPER BAGS AND THE USE OF REUSABLE BAGS. Support.

RB 349 is an important step toward reducing the exploitation of resources needed to provide carryout bags made of paper or plastic. To focus just on water, paper and plastic products typically use large quantities, for example, it takes more water to manufacture a water bottle than the bottle can hold. Paper mills have been notorious river polluters. Their operations have dramatically improved in many locations in recent years, but they still need a lot water throughout the process. Using less paper will save water.

It makes no sense to use plant and water resources to create immediately disposable products, the carryout bags. These bags bulk up the waste stream and, worse, add to the debris in our waters, on land, in trees, just about everywhere. I have done a fair amount of supermarket shopping where there is a fee for bags, and people quickly become bag savers under these conditions. It is not a hardship. The European Union has just passed a law to restrict use of plastic grocery bags to reduce litter and the “plastic soup” in oceans (as reported by Reuters, 11/21/14).

A word on plastic. It is a ubiquitous and potent contaminant in oceans, estuaries, and fresh water. All sorts of plastic products eventually disintegrate in water into tiny bits that enter the food chain. To make matters worse, these plastic bits can soak up contaminants. Researchers at the University of Western Australia reported in 2013 that every square kilometer of Australian surface sea water is contaminated by 4,000 pieces of plastic. The great Pacific Garbage Patch, a plastic gyre, is twice the size of Texas with millions of tons of plastics. Similar gyres exist in all oceans. Sea life is being choked, strangled, and poisoned. The shores of Long Island Sound provide sad evidence of the ugly prevalence of plastic debris. The trash is discarded in the sea and in rivers that run to the sea. It is harmful every mile of the way.

Connecticut has taken some important small steps to control the most infamous component of numerous plastics, bisphenol A (BPA), a substance that mimics estrogen and can disrupt development of reproductive systems. Scientists are currently trying to assess the global health effects of BPA, particularly synergistic effects arising from widespread interaction with similar estrogen-like compounds in pesticides and cosmetic products. Sexual anomalies in fish, amphibians, and humans have been linked to variety of estrogen-mimicking substances. The dangers of BPA were addressed in an alarming article in Scientific American (2/16/2008). Studies before and especially since have painted an even scarier picture. And nothing makes the point better than the disturbing photos on YouTube. Just google.

Thanks for pushing us all to use less plastic. It is good for the earth and not hard to do. Rivers Alliance would be happy to help in any way that would assist in passage of these bills.


 

Legislation and Policy in 2015 on Water Issuesess

Rivers Alliance of Connecticut has a relatively compact set of goals for 2015.

  • We want statewide, comprehensive water planning, which was launched last year in Public Act 14-163, to get off to a good start. The project, assigned to the state Water Planning Council, is somewhat troubled at the moment, in part because of limited resources and the skewed allocation of those resources primarily to water supply plans and water utility Exclusive Service Areas. Legislative action may be needed to right the ship. 

  • We support efforts to protect LI Sound, including the Blue Plan brought forward by Save the Sound and the Nature Conservancy. Rivers Alliance strives to assure that the waterways and runoff entering the Sound are as fresh and cold as possible. This is essential to the health of that great water body. 

  • As co-chair of the State Lands Work Group (with the Connecticut Land Conservation Council), we will continue to work toward much better protections for state-owned forests, wildlife areas, parks, and other state lands of high conservation value. Almost all of these lands are important to preserving natural water resources. Unfortunately, such land, acquired by and for the public, can be conveyed quite easily from the state to towns, companies, and individuals for non-conservation purposes  --  shops, parking lots, schools, restaurants, and so forth. The primary instrument for such taking of public open space is the legislature’s annual conveyance act. The legislature and DEEP have taken small steps to make it at least possible to protect state lands. But we will push this year for significant reforms in the conveyance act and support the conclusion of Connecticut Forest & Park Association that Connecticut needs a Constitutional Amendment to block harmful takings of state land, similar to the law in New York State.
  • The Council on Environmental Quality has highlighted pervasive noncompliance with environmental laws. This seems to stem from the weak capability and commitment to enforcement. We have researched and publicized this problem especially with respect to sewage treatment. This year, we are pursuing a research project on the performance of the state’s hazardous-waste treatment facilities. We expect this will lead to changes and improvements in the rules and practices for handling hazardous waste.
  • Finally, and highly important, we will be continuing, with multiple partners, our longstanding campaign to reduce the quantity of pesticides placed in state waters and on its shores, meadows, playing fields, and lawns, endangering the health of wildlife, children, native plants, pets, and indeed all creatures. Rivers Alliance members have expressed particular concern about roadside spraying of pesticides and the lack of proper state and local oversight of pesticide applications in water. 

Pesticides: The Battleground

Pesticides (which include herbicides) are designed to kill. They should be used with extreme care and not as a shortcut to avoid, say, proper care of the soil and turf on a lawn. Connecticut has a ban on the use of toxic pesticides on lawn and turf of daycare facilities and schools through grade eight. For the past four years, pro-pesticide advocates have tried to roll back this ban and have blocked all efforts to further protect children by extending the ban to other places where families gather, such as town greens and playgrounds. This year, we are once again off to a highly contentious start.

In the first three days of the legislative session, environmental protections and especially protections against dangerous use of pesticides are already under attack. 

In the Environment Committee, Representatives Melissa H. Ziobron and Gayle J. Mulligan have introduced a bill (5025) “to authorize the emergency application of pesticides on athletic fields located at schools that house kindergarten through eighth grade in order to provide for grub control.” Last year, Rep. Ziobron was an effective, vocal supporter of allowing more use of pesticides on playing fields and, of course, an opponent of extending the present ban. Her position appears to be substantially based on experience at the middle school in East Haddam, her hometown. This is the Nathan Hale-Ray Middle School, and she described the field as “completely unplayable.” Rep. Mulligan represents Hebron, where reportedly there are other problematic fields. 

Dr. Jerry Silbert and other members of the Safe Healthy Playing Fields Coalition proposed a nontoxic treatment for excessive grubs. But the fundamental cure for this and many other issues is healthy soil, lots of seed, and adequate irrigation. Rep. Ziobron stated in a committee hearing last year that the school could not afford irrigation -- and other districts also cite the cost of irrigation. But the alternative to investing in a toxin-free field is exposing children to more toxins than scientists and doctors say should be allowed. Rivers Alliance does support a proposal from Citizens’ Campaign for the Environment and others to find funding to help towns making the transition from pesticides to organic maintenance. We thank Rep. Jonathan Steinberg for bringing forward a concept bill to extend protections from pesticides. 

Protective regulations are taking incoming fire from other directions as well. Representatives Ziobron and Mulligan have reintroduced a bill popular with the chemical industry establishing a pesticide advisory council, which they apparently think will be better informed than the American Academy of Pediatrics (which decries the unnecessary exposure of kids to pesticides). 

More Bad Bills

Toxins in car emissions come down into water, and we can expect more of that if Rep. John Piscopo succeeds with his bill to repeal the emissions standards in Connecticut (which follow the California standards). 

In the Planning and Development Committee, Rep. Christe Carpino has introduced a bill “To allow towns to use a portion of their open space funds for maintenance or upgrades of existing municipal open space property.” And, in that committee, there are a couple of swipes at “unfunded mandates.” 

Good News

On a much brighter note, leadership and committee chairs are signaling willingness to consider and forward positive, progressive bills to improve the health and safety of our environment and natural resources.

Margaret Miner 1/10/15


Recommendations for Legislation

Every year the CT Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) presents recommendations for legislation to correct gaps and deficiencies in Connecticut's environmental progress. CEQ seeks comments on it's draft recommendations and discusses them at its December meeting. Please read their news release for more information.

Here is the comment from Rivers Alliance of CT:

Thank you for the excellent recommendations.
With respect to permitted facilities, shortening the permit renewal time is a good first step, but the state should pursue penalties for repeatedly noncompliant facilities. These include wastewater-treatment facilities: municipal sewage-treatment plants, on-site treatment facilities, the three hazardous waste treatment facilities, and more.
More training for local wetlands officials should be accompanied by more authority to oversee and enforce pesticide applications into and near water. And the present ban on grass-pesticides on school and day care grounds, should be expanded at the very least to public parks where families play, picnic, and sunbathe. The presence of pesticides in all our streams (USGS) and on large tracts of land is a serious health risk to children, pregnant women, the elderly, pets, insects, small animals, fish, and the predators that feed on them.. Every year the science becomes more alarming.
Finally, the legislature could and should eliminate from CT statutes and regulations the incorporation by reference of an exemption for byproducts of mining from being categorized as hazardous waste. This exemption covers fracking waste. Last year the CGA put a moratorium on the import of fracking waste until regulations are written, and directed DEEP to eliminate the federal exemption in the new regulations. However, fracking waste and perhaps other hazardous mining waste could enter the state illegally and extra-legally before we have regulations. This could be by misdelivery, a transport accident, deliberate dumping, or unwitting violations (as, say, use of a mixture of sand and frac brine not properly labeled). In the case of such mishaps, the state should have the authority to direct those doing cleanup to handle hazardous waste as hazardous.
Thank you so much for your dedication to protecting Connecticut’s environmental and health.

2014

Legislative Session Wrap-Up: a Good Year for the Environment

Rivers Alliance of Connecticut
PO Box 1797, 7 West Street 3rd Floor, Litchfield, CT 06759-1797
860-361-9349
rivers@riversalliance.org, www.riversalliance.org