Environmental Justice Law to Help Connecticut Residents
Gov. M. Jodi Rell recently signed an environmental justice bill that will provide a mechanism for meaningful public participation when a facility generating a significant new source of pollution is proposed in a neighborhood.
House Bill 5145, An Act Concerning Environmental Justice Communities & the Storage of Asbestos Containing Material, affects 25 "distressed" municipalities and 34 other affected municipalities.
"Today, several distressed communities in Connecticut have multiple facilities operating in close proximity that may negatively affect their quality of life," Rell said. "In essence, because of where these facilities are located, the distressed communities are carrying the environmental load for other towns. We want to make sure that residents have the tools and the power to offset the impacts of these facilities on their neighborhoods."
The law applies to the most significant proposed projects, including:
• New or expanded landfills,
• Solid waste facilities,
• Medical waste incinerators,
• Other major sources of air pollution.
Applicants to the state for these types of new or expanded facilities will be required to develop a public participation plan. That plan must be submitted in advance to the state Department of Environmental Protection and Siting Council, which must then review and approve the plan prior to consideration of the application. The plan also will outline the ways in which the applicant will make the community aware of their proposal.
The plan will require that there be at least one public informational meeting in the community where the applicant will provide clear, accurate, and complete information about the proposed facility and its potential environmental and health impacts. The law encourages notification of local officials, community groups, and environmental conservation groups. Public and local officials will also have an opportunity to ask questions about the proposed facility.
"This law will help people in our communities better understand the environmental impacts of new or expanded facilities," Rell said. "People who live in these communities will now be made aware when there is a significant new source of pollution proposed in their neighborhood. This law will provide an opportunity for people to learn more about the proposal and to be actively engaged in the discussion."
Rell also recently said she will require Connecticut's Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative to be amended to provide relief for ratepayers when the sale of emission allowances to power generating companies exceeds certain levels.
"I am insisting that we take this extra step to soften, in any way we possibly can, the unexpected costs that may results from this very important regional initiative," Rell said. "This provision is intended to provide real relief at a time when families are struggling just to cover the basics – gasoline, groceries, electricity, and heat.
The governor has directed Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Gina McCarthy to add a provision for consumer rebates to regulations the agency has drafted under the initiative.
Connecticut is one of 10 northeastern states participating in a 2005 landmark "cap-and-trade" program aimed at controlling carbon dioxide emissions in the United States.
Under RGGI, the states cap the amount of carbon dioxide plants can release. Companies buy "allowances" to cover their excess emissions, and the money generated will be invested in energy efficiency and clean technology.
The first auction of those allowances is Sept. 10. Experts believe allowances will sell for $3 to $5 a ton. The governor's plan calls for a portion of funds raised through the sales of allocations to be set aside for consumer rebates if the allocation price exceeds $5 a ton.