Smart Growth Recommendations
Brownfields remediation and development is vital to the long-term interests of the State, our region and our city. Reclaiming these polluted sites improves our environment; creates jobs; and serves as a catalyst for economic development. Brownfields remediation and development are key to the revitalization of our urban centers and they are a major component of the Governor’s smart growth initiative. There are very few items before the General Assembly as important as the proposed Brownfields legislation.
Over the last year several legislative sessions the committee has worked to draft a bill to improve upon the manner in which Connecticut Brownfields are remediated and redeveloped. We succeeded in getting a bill passed in the 2006 Legislative session.
It is estimated that there are as many as one million Brownfields in the United States and tens of thousands in Connecticut. Brownfields may pose environmental and health risks to a community and may lead to further blight of the surrounding areas.
The federal and state governments mandate that Brownfields be “cleaned” before they can be reused. The recommendations in our Task Force Report to the Legislature make recommendations in three areas: 1.) organizational structure, 2.) funding and program consolidation and regulatory reform and 3.) liability limitations.
With regard to organization currently there are many “points of entry” into the state bureaucracy to deal with Brownfields. We have proposed a single point of entry, the Office of Brownfields Remediation and Development to be housed within the Department of Economic and Community Development.
With regard to funding, if the State of Connecticut is going to get serious about clean up the hundreds, if not, thousands of Brownfields around the state of Connecticut then we need to commit adequate amounts of funding to do so. Currently there are no Brownfields programs in the State of Connecticut. There are a myriad of Brownfields programs housed, even hidden with departments of state as well as state agencies like the Connecticut Development Authority. We are recommending a consolidation of the myriad of programs into a few and are calling upon the Legislature and the Governor to provide $75 million to the program in its initial year with $25 million added to the program each year for the next five years.
Finally, and this is the most problematic aspect of my recommendations, we are calling upon the Legislature and the Governor to get serious both about regulatory reform so that there is more certainty and predictability in the Brownfields remediation process and we are calling upon the legislature to look more closely at how we can limit liability concerns for both current property owners who have acted in good faith to remediate the problems on their properties and for those who are developers that are interested in redeveloping the Brownfields sites.
Governor Rell and the General Assembly have embraced the single “point of entry” and have created and made operational the Office of Brownfields Remediation and Development; however, as current Brownfields bills, Substitute House Bill 7368 and Substitute House Bill 7369, have run into an obstacle. The General Assembly’s Appropriations Committee has stripped the recommended funding for a comprehensive Brownfields program from both bills leaving them, in effect, ineffective.
Again to recap:
One of the most important pieces of legislation passed this legislative session was the unanimously supported Brownfields Redevelopment bill
We must make this landmark legislation “real” by funding it with a real commitment to get the program, the pilots and the staffing off the ground.
I am asking you to support:
seventy-five million dollars for the purpose of funding the Brownfield grant and loan programs;
five million dollars of additional funding for the fiscal years ending June 30, 2009; June 30, 2010; June 30, 2011; June 30, 2012; and June 30, 2013;
one million five hundred thousand dollars each for DECD and DEP for staffing and implementing the Brownfield programs;
Fund an effective and efficient transportation system that coordinates transportation and affordable housing initiatives.
With this program we are truly addressing smart growth and incentivizing commercial developers to look at urban centers and their infrastructure instead of green fields for development
With all the brownfields available across the state of Connecticut we provide tools to energize our urban centers, create jobs and grow local grand lists
A substantial financial commitment is all the stands between leaving barren brownfields waste lands in place and demonstrating that “in the state of Connecticut Brownfields Redevelopment is for real”
Please assure that this program and our economic future are a priority in the budget you are responsible for negotiating.
Thank you for your consideration of these important issues as we create effective meaningful legislation.