Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Brownfields Bill and Legislative Drama

The movement of the brownfields bill currently before the Senate HB6097 is a fascinating legislative case study.

The 48-page bill seeks to limit liability, hold polluters accountable and expedite clean ups -- all without providing new resources for remediation or reuse.

The bill is the result of three years of stakeholder task force research and reports. It sailed through the House with relative ease just before 11 PM on Friday but is bogged down in the Senate.

Yesterday, the following interests swarmed the Senate to advocate for their preferred langauge: the Department of Economic and Community Development, the Department of Environmental Protection, the cities of Stamford, Waterbury and New Haven, the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, brownfield developers, and brownfield attorneys.

With thousands of brownfield sites across the state, the stakes are high. Will all the advocacy result in a bill that cleans up polluted sites, protects our environment, and puts underutilized, vacant and abandoned properties back to life, generating economic activity and tax revenue?

No question, it's a difficult balance, but one we can't wait any longer to reach.

1 comment:

  1. Brownfields development legislation passes



    HARTFORD — After some stops and starts, the state legis­lature approved legislation to expand opportunities for rede­veloping brownfields on its last day on the job.

    Rep. Jeffrey J. Berger, D­73rd District, House chairman of the Commerice Committee, sweated out the final votes on Wednesday.

    Berger said the legislation builds on the work of the last five years to bolster the rede­velopment of hundreds of pol­luted commercial and industri­al properties across the state, including ones in Waterbury, Naugatuck and Torrington. The bill:

    ■ Expands liability protec­tions for municipalities.

    ■ Makes it easier for parties acquiring properties to recover investigation and clean-up costs from polluters responsible for the contamination.

    ■ Establishes the Abandoned Brownfield Cleanup Program to protect developers from lia­bility for investigating and cleaning up pollution that em­anated from a property before they acquired it.

    ■ Imposes an eight-year deadline for investigating and cleaning up a brownfield prop­erty.

    ■ Extends certain powers and protections given to munic­ipalities to non-profit economic development corporations.

    ■ Eases regulatory require­ments for redeveloping contam­inated mill sites in flood plains.

    Berger expressed confidence that Gov. M. Jodi Rell will ap­prove the bill. However, the governor’s Of­fice of Policy and Management testified against the original bill. It raised objections to a number of its provisions.

    The original legislation was substantially revised since the Commerce Committee had a public hearing on the bill on Feb. 26.

    The House and Senate made last-minute changes Wednes­day night.

    Berger said the next step leg­islatively is to secure a perma­nent funding source for brownfield development.