Two major battles that had been building for several years played out in full force at the Capitol this session: control of our public water supply and protection of our state’s open space lands. This culminated in two hotly debated bills, Senate Bill 422 and Senate Joint Resolution 36. Throngs of citizens came to the State Capitol—many for the first time—fighting for these most basic environmental needs.
The highly controversial budget negotiations made things especially unpredictable. Important core funding for the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, Community Investment Act, Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, Green Bank, Soil & Water Conservation Districts, and the Council on Environmental Quality were tossed back and forth between legislative leaders and the Governor like hot potatoes in competing budget proposals.
Other critical issues including pesticides, toxic flame retardants, solar energy, net-metering, electric vehicles, plastic bags, packaging waste, notices of tree cutting, Freedom of Information access to water data, and protection of the Housatonic River also met with contentious debate and mixed results.
CTLCV worked with advocates to advance a solid list of pro-environment bills. Individual organizations and coalitions of groups fought for specific priorities, but we all banded together to defeat anti-environment bills and amendments that surfaced unexpectedly. We spotlighted seven initiatives in time to be stopped, most notably the attacks on DEEP’s ability to enforce environmental laws for first-time violators and pursue violators of consent orders.
There were some amazing legislative champions who went to bat for the environment. But there were also many who stood in the way of good bills, influenced by special interests and lobbyists. Still others played politics with the environment or were unwilling to make tough policy decisions for the future of our state. Some of these stories will be told in our Environmental Scorecard.
One thing is clear: battles over our natural resources and protecting our environment are getting more attention at the state legislature. It matters more than ever to have trusted legislative champions fighting for us at the Capitol.
Many hard-fought wins in the Senate were derailed in the House. A bill to prevent our public water supply from being sold off to a private out of state water-bottling corporation was thwarted by a massive lobbying push by water utilities that control our state’s water reserves and want to be able to sell it based on “grandfathered” water diversion permits. The upside is that lawmakers, many for the first time, were made aware of the vulnerability of our state’s water supply and had to focus on the bigger issue of planning for Connecticut’s future water uses and needs. Of particular concern were the lack of public accountability by the Metropolitan District Commission (a quasi-public/private water utility) and the inability of our state agencies to oversee some of their practices. As droughts and impacts of climate change on our water increase, the battles over control of water will continue to intensify.
The need to protect open space lands of our state culminated in a showdown in the very last hours of the legislative session. Every year, lawmakers give away or sell lands held by the state with little or no public review. This can include lands with important conservation or recreational value that are supposed to be protected in perpetuity. Years of fighting over this practice left advocates no choice but to call for a constitutional amendment to protect these important properties. Legislation calling for a statewide referendum passed both House and Senate, but must also be passed in the next legislative session to be included on the ballot and voted on by the public in 2018. This is a huge win for open space.
Restricting the use of pesticides that are particularly devastating to bees and other pollinators was a significant win. This new approach will help reduce the spraying of neonicotinoids and will put in place a program to protect and increase habitat that is especially important to pollinators. Unfortunately, a solidly bi-partisan bill to eliminate toxic flame retardant chemicals in children’s products was blocked by a single legislator who was protecting the interests of one chemical company in his district.
The problem of plastic bags in our environment was not successfully addressed this year, partly for lack of a coordinated advocacy effort. However, a new initiative to tackle the growing problem of waste from consumer packaging passed handily, which will involve industry in designing the program.
Important progress was made on three key energy programs this session: electric vehicles, virtual net-metering, and the Shared Solar pilot project.
Legislation passed that will accelerate Connecticut’s transition to zero-emission vehicles and increase infrastructure for electric vehicles, putting us on the path to a green transportation future. Virtual net metering laws that let excess clean energy generated in one spot be used towards energy use elsewhere will be expanded to increase the available energy credits for towns, state agencies and farms. And adjustments to the Shared Solar program will help get a two-year pilot project started to allow people who can’t install solar panels on their own homes to subscribe to a larger, shared clean energy facility, like a solar farm. All three will help Connecticut meet its climate goals.
More information will be posted shortly on the results of important energy initiatives, the State Budget and the 2016 Environmental Scorecard!
Below is a list of environmental bills CTLCV tracked during the 2016 Legislative Session. These were the results when the session adjourned at midnight on May 4th.
For more information contact Lori Brown at: 860-236-5442 or email email@example.com
Pro-Environment Legislation Passed
SB 231: AAC POLLINATOR HEALTH. PASSED
SJ 36: PROPOSING AN AMENDMENT TO THE CONSTITUTION OF THE STATE TO PROTECT CERTAIN PROPERTY HELD OR CONTROLLED BY THE STATE FOR CONSERVATION, RECREATION, OPEN SPACE OR AGRICULTURAL PURPOSES. PASSED
Wild & Scenic
SB 81: AAC THE DESIGNATION OF CERTAIN AREAS OF THE HOUSATONIC RIVER AS A WILD AND SCENIC RIVER. PASSED
Consumer Packaging Waste
SB 233: AAC THE REDUCTION OF CONSUMER BASED PACKAGING MATERIALS. PASSED
HB 5150: AAC TREE WARDENS' NOTICES ON TREES AND SHRUBS PRIOR TO REMOVAL, TREE REMOVAL ALONG STATE HIGHWAYS AND CLEAN-UP BY PUBLIC UTILITY CORPORATIONS FOLLOWING CERTAIN TREE REMOVAL. PASSED
HB 5540: STATE WATER PLAN. PASSED
Pro-Environment Legislation Failed
SB 422: AAC RESIDENTIAL WATER RATES, PUBLIC DRINKING WATER SUPPLY EMERGENCIES AND SELLERS OF BOTTLED WATER. FAILED
HB 5299: AAC TOXIC FLAME RETARDANT CHEMICALS IN CHILDREN'S PRODUCTS AND UPHOLSTERED RESIDENTIAL FURNITURE. FAILED
SB 226: AAC SINGLE-USE CARRYOUT BAGS. FAILED
HB 5263: AAC THE DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH'S RECOMMENDATIONS ON DISCLOSURE OF WATER PLAN INFORMATION. FAILED
SB 328: AAC MUNICIPAL APPLICATIONS FOR LAND USE PERMITS AND TAX ABATEMENTS. FAILED
HB 5315: AAC THE PREVENTION OF THE HABITUATION OF POTENTIALLY DANGEROUS ANIMALS AND THE STATUS OF SNAPPING TURTLES UNDER STATE LAW. (Supported the snapping turtle provision) FAILED
SB 144: AAC LAND THAT IS SUBJECT TO A CONSERVATION RESTRICTION HELD BY A NONPROFIT LAND-HOLDING ORGANIZATION. FAILED
HB 5139: AAC THE USE OF RECYCLED TIRE RUBBER AT MUNICIPAL AND PUBLIC SCHOOL PLAYGROUNDS. FAILED
Anti-Environment Legislation Defeated or Fixed
1st Time Violators
HB 5500: AA AUTHORIZING THE SUSPENSION OF CIVIL PENALTIES IMPOSED ON CERTAIN BUSINESS ENTITIES PURSUANT TO REGULATIONS.
SB 431: AAC CONSENT ORDERS ENTERED INTO BY THE DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY AND ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION.
SB326: AAC INDEMNIFICATION OF LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICIALS (contained 431)
Regional Water Authority
SB 87: AAC THE SOUTH CENTRAL CONNECTICUT REGIONAL WATER AUTHORITY.
SB 312: AAC REQUIRING THE DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY AND ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION TO STUDY BOTTLE BILL BEVERAGE CONTAINER REFUND VALUES AND REDEMPTION FEES.
HB 5619: AA CONVEYING CERTAIN PARCELS OF STATE LAND REQUIRING A STUDY OF CERTAIN STATE REAL PROPERTY (oppose sections 5&8)