Transforming Connecticut’s Cleanup Program: The Legislative Intent

Under the leadership of Commissioner Daniel Esty, the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) is continuing its drive to satisfy the legislature’s directive to transform the state’s waste site cleanup laws.   The first phase of this effort is scheduled to culminate with a December 15, 2011 report to the General Assembly.  DEEP has developed a detailed plan for putting the disparate pieces of the report together and has been working quickly to involve the range of public stakeholders.

As part of this effort, the Department held a public meeting on August 9, 2011 at DEEP Headquarters in Hartford to solicit topics for different work groups to focus on.  Graham Stevens  (Commissioner Esty’s point man for the program transformation) used a PowerPoint presentation that included twenty-nine possible topics for work group consideration.  Four of the twenty-nine were identified as the “DEEP Topics” and those correlated well with some of the ones specifically required by the legislature in Public Act No. 11-141.

Actually, the legislature included eight specific topics it wanted addressed in the report; the first seven of these could be interpreted as requests for specific information and analysis, but the eighth item was: “recommendations that will address issues identified in the report or improvements that may be necessary for a more streamlined or efficient remediation process”.  Clearly the legislature’s goal is to reshape the cleanup program to at a minimum make it more streamlined and efficient; a tacit acknowledgement that the existing program lacks those qualities.

The specific issues where the legislature seems to believe their attention is warranted include:

  1. The length of time it takes for a contaminated site to work its way through the program;
  2. Whether the number of properties going through the system is appropriate;
  3. The role of Licensed Environmental Professionals (LEPs) in the program;
  4. Information about the auditing of LEP decisions by DEEP;
  5. Whether the liability relief extended to property owners is working to get the legislative goals accomplished;
  6. An analysis of how DEEP’s complicated 16 program cleanup system is compares to state’s (such as Massachusetts) that have a single program cleanup system; and
  7. To what extent DEEP is making use of scientific and engineering precedent by the federal government and the CT Academy of Science and Engineering and developing and implementing its cleanup program.

The legislature presumably wants the report because they believe there is an opportunity to improve the DEEP’s cleanup program by a close examination and by a rigorous comparison Connecticut’s system to other state programs.  It’s never easy or comfortable for a person or an agency to closely examine itself and to compare itself critically to others.  DEEP deserves credit for its commitment to undertake this difficult process and we are proud to have the opportunity to work with them to make it happen.