2019 Legislative Wrap Up

Samantha Dynowski

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The regular legislative session wrapped up at midnight on June 5 with some solid victories for our cause, but the big story of the legislative session is you.

 

People like you, who care about the environment and a livable planet, made a huge difference. When we asked for your help you answered - you testified on the issues in impressive numbers, you sent nearly 2,000 emails to legislators through our Sierra Club action alerts.  On a beautiful Saturday in June, dozens of you showed up at the Capitol to make one final push for pro-environment bills. When we asked for calls to fix the budget language on plastic bags, the switchboard at the legislature lit up, and the language was fixed. Thank you! 

The results of all of our efforts together include:

Offshore Wind - House Bill 7156 expands Connecticut’s clean energy portfolio by requiring DEEP to issue bids for up to 2000 megawatts of offshore wind, enough to power over 800,000 homes.

 

Solar Energy - The cornerstone of House Bill 5002 is a measure to address last year’s change to net metering, which allows solar consumers to offset the power they draw from the grid with the power they contribute to the grid.  The bill also expands the virtual net metering program and starts the state on a path to install solar next to our state’s highways when suitable, among other provisions.

 

Fracking Waste - Senate Bill 753 establishes a statewide ban on fracking waste. 

 

Plastics - House Amendment B of the budget bill bans single-use plastic bags statewide on July 1, 2021; in the meantime, a 10 cent tax is imposed.  It also allows towns to enact even stronger ordinances. We fought hard against exemptions for so-called compostable bags. 

Clean Transportation - The new state budget funds the CHEAPR electric vehicle rebate program at $3 million per year through a registration fee and requires that the state purchase 50% zero-emission electric vehicles for its light-duty fleet and 30% for its bus fleet beginning in 2030. It is a start on transitioning the state fleet that we hope to make stronger next year.

Cricket Valley Energy Center Air Quality Monitoring - SB 585 requires DEEP to assist Connecticut municipalities in establishing an air quality baseline to determine the impact of the Cricket Valley Energy Center in the state of New York, a fracked gas power plant currently under construction. Municipalities on the border are beginning air quality monitoring before the controversial plant is completed and will continue when it comes on line.

 

State Water Plan - House Joint Resolution 171 approved the State Water Plan submitted in January 2018. 

 

Some hard-fought bills that did not result in legislative action included:

Gas Pipeline Tax & Gas Leaks - Sierra Club Connecticut tried to pass a repeal of the pipeline tax and stricter repair of gas pipeline leaks.  We had some movement but neither of these bills passed the legislature. Issues related to gas leaks - climate impact, environmental significance of individual leaks, leak detection, and ratepayer charges - will, however, all be addressed in a case before the Public Utility Regulatory Authority.

 

Energy Efficiency Funds - The new state budget will maintain ratepayer-funded energy efficiency funds, however, in the current fiscal year, another raid of these funds will take place before June 30.  Despite a number of bills introduced to stop the impending diversion of funds, the legislature took no action on this issue.

 

Environmental Justice - House Bill 5395 would have strengthened Connecticut’s environmental justice statute.  It passed the House, but did not get a vote in the Senate.  

 

There is a lot to celebrate in this list, but there is a lot more we need to do. As we proved this year, together we have extraordinary power, so I am hopeful that great things will come in 2020. Until then, say thank you to your legislators, continue to talk about the issues, stay involved, and organize to multiply your impact.

Samantha Dynowski is State Director of Sierra Club Connecticut.