A Legislative Session Update

The first two months of Connecticut’s legislative session have been busy and productive. Here’s a summary of where our top priorities stand going into the final month.

Climate & Energy

Methane is a dangerous greenhouse gas and is unnecessarily leaking from our natural gas pipelines. Natural gas companies are allowed to recover the cost of all lost gas from ratepayers, eliminating any incentive to fix leaks in the system. We need to cut down on leaks and make sure gas companies aren’t being paid for the gas we’re not using to minimize climate impacts and reduce the cost of energy.

  • We strongly supported the original language of HB 5410, which would limit the amount of money gas companies could recover for lost and unaccounted for gas and required PURA to investigate the issue and recommend solutions.
  • Unfortunately, the Energy & Tech committee approved a weaker version (File No. 347) that would merely allow, but not require, a PURA investigation. We’re pursuing conversations with legislators to strengthen the bill.

Connecticut should look to the future by investing in and expanding clean energy.

  • The clean energy sharing bill, which originally appeared as HB 5412, would allow residents to subscribe to a local solar array or other clean energy project. This would dramatically increase demand for clean energy and open access for people whose property is not well-suited for solar panels or who are renters.
  • The concept of shared clean energy now appears as a pilot program in SB 353 / File No. 325. We’re hopeful that a stronger version featuring a statewide program can be implemented.

Connecticut needs to continue toward our Global Warming Solutions Act goals by setting interim targets and creating policies that will begin reducing greenhouse gas pollution.

  • Although there is no specific legislation this year, we have been calling on DEEP to work on the GWSA reporting requirements and we are expecting a status report soon.

Long Island Sound

To ensure a healthy and productive future for Long Island Sound, we need to fully understand its traditional uses, and plan for new ones. We’ve been working with legislators, DEEP, and allies to bring Marine Spatial Planning to the Sound.

  • We supported the “Blue Plan” legislation (SB 312) in the Environment Committee, which would inventory the Sound’s uses and resources and develop a plan to protect and use them effectively. Last week, they approved a version of the bill that confirmed the need for a plan, but limits its effectiveness by making it non-binding and applicable only to DEEP. Our coalition will be continuing talks with DEEP and legislators to make sure the strongest possible Blue Plan bill passes.

Fracking waste is full of some nasty toxic stuff, and fracking companies in other states are trying anything to get rid of it. We need to protect our waters from toxic fracking waste by keeping it out of Connecticut.

  • There are two main fracking bills this spring. We support a ban on fracking waste (SB 237, File No. 125). Another bill, HB 5308, would allow DEEP to regulate waste, but we are concerned DEEP does not have the resources to do this adequately.
  • The Environment Committee has approved SB 237, but also an edited version of 5308 which would put a moratorium on fracking waste until DEEP can study and adopt regulations.
  • We are asking that if the regulations bill moves forward, under no circumstance should fracking waste be processed by sewage treatment plants discharging into Long Island Sound or its tributaries. Other states have tried this approach, and failed. The waterways and treatment plants were severely impacted. A full ban is the most reliable way to protect our waters.

The Clean Water Fund supports important projects that reduce nitrogen, raw sewage, and phosphorus in our rivers, lakes, and Long Island Sound. As co-chairs of the Clean Water Investment Coalition we are making sure funding for 2014 and 2015 is maintained and allocated.

  • We are having conversations with key agencies and legislators about where Clean Water Fund money has been spent since 2008 and where it will go through 2015. Public support has been great, and a hearing for draft FY 2014-15 priority projects is set for April 18.

Transit & TOD

Our goals for Transit and Transit-Oriented Development are to maintain the existing bus and rail services, and encourage investment in improving and expanding them. Public transportation is essential for getting Connecticut’s workers and families where they need to go.

  • We support the transit funding sections of the State Bonding Bill (SB 29) which holds steady the bus operation budget, increases funding for improvements on the New Haven and New Haven-Hartford-Springfield rail lines including to stations, and increases funding for improvements in our ports and marinas.
  • We’re supporting the Vulnerable Users Bill (SB 336, File No. 232), which strengthens protections for pedestrians and bicyclists on public roadways by increasing penalties for motorists who hit them.
  • We urge lawmakers to reinstate the $1 million in the Department of Social Services budget for the Jobs Access and Transportation Employment Independence programs.
  • We applaud the Transportation Committee for supporting a constitutional amendment to require the Special Transportation Fund be used only for transportation projects.

Defense of Law & Policy

We love Connecticut and Long Island Sound. And we stand up for what we love by defending against bills that would weaken or roll back protections for our land, air, and water.

  • We strongly oppose a Subdivisions Bill (SB 405, File No. 289), which would eliminate all local public hearings for subdivision proposals. We’re disappointed the Planning & Development Committee approved such a blatantly anti-environment and anti-democratic bill, and will be working with other legislators to defeat it.
  • Utilities have begun implementing plans that would drastically increase tree trimming far beyond what is necessary to maintain power. We have been calling on the Public Utility Regulatory Authority, DEEP, and the Governor’s office to put an end to this practice. A pending bill, HB 5408, would restore some protections and we are working to make it even more protective.
  • We have opposed a Glass Eel Harvesting Bill (HB 5417, File No. 300), which would create fishing season for glass eels. Glass eels are exported to Asia for food, but U.S. Fish & Wildlife is currently considering adding them to the Endangered Species List. The bill is still moving forward.
  • We opposed HB 5307, which would reduce the required booming around ships loading or unloading oil products in our ports. Thankfully, the Environment Committee eliminated the booming portions of the bill.
  • We opposed HB 5543, which would weaken protections on water company lands. The Public Health Committee defeated the bill last week.

Posted by Tyler Archer, Outreach & Development Associate for CFE & Save the Sound.

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