Big wins for the environment in 2014 legislative session

May 12th, 2014 | By | Category: Featured Story

UPDATE from the Connecticut Land Conservation Council

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State Policy News – Legislative Session Re-cap
The Legislative Session ended on May 7 and we are pleased to report that we were successful in achieving most of our 2014 Conservation Agenda priorities. The following is a brief summary of the status of the bills and funding initiatives which were priorities for CLCC. Please take a moment to thank Governor Malloy and your legislators for their support of conservation initiatives this session.

And thank you! Connecticut’s conservation community continues to exert a major influence on state land conservation policy and funding – and while we make sure that your voices are heard loud and clear in Hartford, it continues to be your actions that make a difference!

Good News for State Lands Protection
SB70 – An Act Concerning the Grant of Property Interests in Property Held by the Departments of Agriculture and Energy and Environmental Protection and the Establishment of a Public Use and Benefit Land Registry, authorizes state officials to designate, identify (through an on-line registry), and protect (using conservation restrictions) lands that provide public use and benefit, including lands used for conservation, public enjoyment, or recreational purposes. Agricultural lands may also be permanently protected pursuant to the bill.

HB5419 – An Act Concerning the Preservation of the Savin Farm in Lebanon authorizes the Commissioner of Agriculture to permanently protect Savin Farm with a conservation restriction.

Good News for Open Space, State Parks and Farmland Preservation Funding
Bond package includes authorization to fund open space grant and farmland preservation programs at the same level of funding as last year ($10 million in FY14 and FY15, for each program respectively)
Bond package includes $2 million in funding towards the purchase of The Preserve, the 1000 acre coastal forest in Old Saybrook and neighboring towns.
The budget provides State Parks with funding to support 9 new parks positions and the ability to use cabin rental revenues for cabin maintenance.
The Community Investment Act fund emerged unscathed!
Other Good News – Bill Eliminating Public Hearings Died
SB405 – An Act Concerning Public Hearings on Subdivision Applications, which would have eliminated a local planning committee’s ability to hold a public hearing, was placed at the foot of the Senate calendar and was never acted on.

Bills that Passed that Remain of Concern
HB5550 – An Act Concerning the Conveyance of Certain Parcels of State Lands provides authority to convey (swap, sell or give away) state-owned lands, including property owned by DEEP. Although there were one or two specific proposed transfers which gave us pause for concern, CLCC’s testimony focused generally on our issues with Conveyance Act process, which we had hoped to address through SB70. Finding ways to make the Conveyance Bill process more transparent remains a priority for CLCC and our state lands working group partners.

HB5220 – An Act Concerning a Property Owner’s Liability for the Expenses of Removing a Fallen Tree or Limb provides that if a property owner writes a certified letter to their neighbor stating that the neighbor’s tree or limb is “diseased or likely to fall”, then their neighbor is liable for the expenses of removing the tree or limb should it fall at some point in the future. There are several unintended consequences of this poorly crafted bill, including the potential for liability for land trusts, large landowners, and others who may have many trees and/or many neighbors. We will continue to provide you with updates on this bill in the coming days as we join the Connecticut Forest & Park Association and other concerned organizations in evaluating options for redress.

If you have any questions about the foregoing summary, please contact CLCC Executive Director Amy B. Paterson at abpaterson@ctconservation.org.

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A run down on the legislative session as seen from the eyes of the Connecticut League of Conservation Voters

Major Progress on Land, Water, Air Pollution, Parks, Fracking Waste, Energy

“Any way you slice it, the environment was front and center this legislative session,” said Lori Brown, Executive Director of the CT League of Conservation Voters. “Some really big wins happened because of a superb team effort by our legislative champions and a united environmental message at the Capitol. You can’t argue with success.”

Major environmental initiatives were brought to the Connecticut State Legislature this year. The Connecticut League of Conservation Voters (CTLCV) worked with advocates, legislators, and the Governor’s office on these important bills, and the results are astonishing.

Despite many obstacles this session, especially the shortfall in state revenues, the Legislature addressed some long-standing needs, including statewide water planning and protection of state-owned lands.

Legislators also responded to new concepts and situations such as passing the strongest law in the nation to prevent toxic fracking waste from coming into Connecticut.

On the tally of wins, there were also two important air pollution initiatives, one to regulate pollution from outdoor woodburning furnaces, and another to address the problem of leaking methane gas from our energy infrastructure-arguably the worst greenhouse gas emission problem in our state. Progress on sustainable energy in Connecticut also came earlier in the session with the lifting of a ban on developing wind power regulations.

The biggest disappointment was, once again, the impasse on measures to protect children and the environment from toxic chemicals. No progress was made on extending restrictions on pesticides on school grounds. Legislation to ban GMO grass seed, which necessitates heavy pesticide use, failed. These will be top environmental priorities for CTLCV in the next legislative session.

The ongoing lack of sufficient funding for the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection remains a huge obstacle for Connecticut’s environment (DEEP). DEEP is charged with new responsibilities every year to regulate, monitor and enforce existing laws, but their bare bones budget has not kept pace for decades. However, this year the budget took a turn in the right direction by increasing staff for state parks and keeping more of the money generated by our parks for their upkeep.

“Everyone in Connecticut should be proud of what was accomplished this session. Our state has proven once again that we can be a national leader by supporting strong protections for our air, land, and water,” said Brown.

CTLCV will be reporting in more detail on the significance of each of these bills, as well as scoring individual legislators on the sum of their votes for or against important environmental legislation in its upcoming Environmental Scorecard.

Environmental wins:

SB 70 Permanent Protection of State Conservation Lands

SB 237 Moratorium on Toxic Fracking Waste

HB 5408 Tree Trimming

HB 5424 State Water Plan

HB 5410 Reduce Methane Leakage

SB 66 Outdoor Wood-burning Furnaces

Unfinished business:

SB 46 Pesticides

SB 445 GMO Grass seed ban

SB 126 Children’s Exposure to Toxic Chemicals

SB 312 Long Island Sound Inventory and Blue Plan

For background information, bill status and how individual legislators cast their votes, please visit www.ctlcv.org.

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