Important Environmental Legislation 2014
The legislature is currently considering bills, holding hearings, and engaging in negotiations on several critical environmental issues. On all these issues, we will do follow-up emails and post news and alerts on our website www.riversalliance.org. Our telephone is 860-361-9349. The CT Chapter of the Northeast Organic Farming Association (CTNOFA) also has a good run down at https://xa.yimg.com/kq/groups/4889121/1997569357/name/Take+Action%2C+March+2014.pdf
Hydrofracturing (“fracking” for short) is the process of extracting natural gas and oil by using water and a cocktail of chemicals to fracture open tight seams in underground rock formations where natural gas is held. The returned waste water (billions of gallons annually in theU.S.) is contaminated with the original toxic chemicals (including carcinogens), radioactive materials, metals, and intense concentrations of salts. Treatment of this water may yield a harmful brine and a sludge. Disposing of this waste safely is a complex problem not yet solved (or possibly not solvable).
Pennsylvania and New York have large deposits of Marcellus shale, which holds natural gas. Given the shale’s proximity to Connecticut, we can expect efforts to dispose of waste here, for example, in deep wells, landfills, on sites needing fill, or on roads to melt ice. Three bills have been introduced to regulate or ban fracking waste inConnecticut. The one most protective of health and the environment is an outright ban proposed in SB 237 AAC Prohibiting the Storage or Disposal of Fracking Waste in Connecticut.
A public hearing for this bill was scheduled for Friday, Feb 28th. You can call the Environment Committee Chairs: Sen. Ed Meyer (860-240-0455) and Linda Gentile (860-240-8585) or your own legislators.
Another bill that was to be heard Feb 28 is HB 5308, AAC the Regulation of Fracking Waste. This is a step in the right direction, but given the state’s limited regulatory resources and the danger to health and the environment, an outright ban is preferable. There is also a bill in the Energy and Technology Committee, HB 5409, which also calls for heightened regulation of fracking waste. The public hearing is March 4.
You can sign an online petition at Housatonic Valley 350.org on Facebook, and the group is also holding a meeting at Kent Town Hall at 6 pm Fri Feb 28.
This will be an especially important year for pesticide legislation. DEEP has commissioned a study that will be available soon. Here are two good bills that will probably be scheduled for a public hearing in the first week of March.
HB-5330 AN ACT CONCERNING THE APPLICATION OF PESTICIDES AT PARKS, PLAYGROUNDS, ATHLETIC FIELDS AND MUNICIPAL GREENS is in the Public Health Committee.
SB-46 AN ACT CONCERNING PESTICIDES ON SCHOOL GROUNDS is in the Children’s Committee.
We’ll keep you posted.
PROTECTING STATE-OWNED CONSERVATION LANDS
Many of you have already submitted testimony for SB 70 in Environment -- or have signed on to ours. Thank you. We are creating an email group for those who have expressed interest. Meanwhile, everything is up in the air, and negotiations are expected to get underway next week. We’ll be in touch, but feel free to call or email questions.
STATE WATER PLANNING
We have a bill! HB 5424 AAC The Responsibilities of the Water Planning Council.
It’s promising. No public hearing yet. Will keep you posted. Again, feel free to call or email.
Last Year's Legislation Reporting from Rivers Alliance
Rivers Alliance Crystal Ball for the 2014 Legislative Session
We predict that
2013 Legislative Session
This legislative session hit a new high in confusion, with good and bad measures tangled together.
Bill 1138, AAC (An Act Concerning) Connecticut's Clean Energy Goals ping-ponged between the House and the Senate, as environmental advocates sounded alarms because it rolled back the stateï¿½s commitment to the development of clean sources of electricity. Although the bill was improved prior to passage, it still threatens Connecticut rivers because it allows even the most destructive hydropower to be sold in the upscale market for Class I energy sources. The ONLY hydropower deserving Class I status is verifiably low-impact hydropower. Good aspects of the bill are that it strengthened the definition of of Class I hydropower; it provides for long-term procurement contracts for clean energy while federal incentives are still in place; and it removes from Class I some dirty biomass plants.
Pesticide bills were in a three-way race, with pro-pesticide forces trying to roll back the state's partial ban on lawn-care pesticides at schools, anti-pesticides enviros seeking to extend this kind of ban to protect more children, and others (including DEEP) trying to set up a task force to study health effects of pesticides. In the final days, the stand-off continued, and once again no action was taken to broaden the protection for children exposed to these toxins. Up to now, the most effective advocacy has been to limit use of lawn-care pesticides in schools. This is fairly feeble considering the scientific and medical findings on the dangers of these substances. (Note, pesticides include herbicides.)
Fracking bills also started in a three-way race, but the one most protective of water resources fell behind early. That good bill followed the Vermont model and put a moratorium on fracking and acceptance of fracking waste until safe practices are developed. Back in Connecticut, a bill banning fracking waste look poised to win, but fell short due mainly to opposition from DEEP, where enthusiasm for natural gas runs high.
GMO labeling passed the Senate in a bipartisan insurgency against hiding the chemicalization and bio-manipulation of people's food. The bill required eventual labeling of genetically modified organisms in food. When the bill arrived in the House, legislators, reportedly spurred on by the governor, added an array of hurdles and hoops. Eventually a compromise was reached, and Connecticut has become the first state to pass a GMO-labeling measure. Rivers Alliance cares about GMOs because GMO crops are created to be immune to certain pesticides, which are then applied lavishly to kill everything else in the neighborhood. The US Geological Survey has concluded that pesticides are in all the nationï¿½s streams. The same mega-corporate interests that support lawn-care pesticides on nursery school grounds, and aquatic pesticides in swim ponds, want to be sure that agricultural fields can be adequately sterilized by pesticides so that only their genetically modified crops can grow there.
Good Bills That Passed
Mattress Recycling: No more pulling mattresses our of rivers.
Water Conservation Rates: The bill puts a floor (and a ceiling) on water-company revenues to encourage conservation and infrastructure investment. This is basically the decoupling of revenues from a tight link to quantities sold. It was supposed to happen with energy a while back, but policy makers are trying for that again this year.
The Haddam Land Swap was repealed in the Conveyance Act (hurrah!), but a couple of unfortunate conveyances went forward. Rivers Alliance as a member of the State Lands Working Group is looking forward to moving land-conservation reforms forward next year.
Land and Water programs benefitted from a continued commitment by the administration and the legislation to adequate dollars for the Clean Water Fund and land conservation programs.
Next year is going to be even more challenging. The stateï¿½s economy is not where it should be. Election pressures that were highly influential this session may be more so next session. However, recognition that we cannot afford to continue to waste our environmental capital seems to be widening. The better angels of our nature may prevail.
For material published by Rivers Alliance during the Legislative session, please see our Archive page at http://www.riversalliance.org/legislation/legislationarchive2013.htm