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Solid Waste Facility Bill Rushed To The Floor

by Hugh McQuaid | Feb 23, 2012 1:24pm
(7) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Environment, State Capitol, Milford

Hugh McQuaid File Photo

Sen. Gayle Slossberg, D- Milford

Though the city of Milford may have been unable to stop the expansion of a local solid waste facility in court, a bill being fast-tracked through the legislature could give the town the tools to block it.

Last year, the New Haven Register reported Milford’s attempt to stop the expansion of a facility owned by Recycling Inc. Those efforts included hiring lawyer David Slossberg, husband of Milford Sen. Gayle Slossberg. But a judge ultimately sided with the facility’s owners.

Gayle Slossberg said the reason the town was unable to stop the expansion through litigation was because of a mistake the General Assembly made back in 2006. A bill that was emergency certified straight to the floor of the House for a vote Thursday aims to correct that mistake, she said.

Slossberg said lawmakers inadvertently dropped language from state statute in 2006, which had previously required solid waste facility owners to get the approval of local officials before building or expanding in their town.

She said the mistake went unnoticed for some time. The Department of Environmental Protection continued to issue building permits which said projects were subject to local regulation, she said.

But when the Milford case landed in court, a judge found that because of the statutory change, the city actually had no legal grounds to stop the expansion.

Slossberg said the legislature never intended to eliminate a town’s ability to zone or regulate itself. Currently any developer for a solid waste facility can put a facility anywhere they want in a town without the input of the town, she said.

“Your fire department doesn’t get to say that this is not safe, your police department doesn’t get to say you can’t run trucks next the local daycare center, they can hook up to septic and they don’t have to get your sewer commission’s approval,” she said. “There is a black hole and we didn’t notice it.”

Because the bill has been emergency certified, or “e-certed,” it will bypass the traditional committee process and will not receive a public hearing. Slossberg said it’s necessary to rush the bill through the process because right now no town can enforce local regulations.

She said Milford and other towns have facilities with permits pending and it’s not clear who the applicants have to answer to. The permits issued say local fire marshals must sign off on projects but statute only requires DEEP approval, she said.

“I realize some people are focusing on Milford but they’re having a fight in Danbury as well,” she said, adding that there are hundreds of similar facilities across the state.

“This needs to be cleared up right away because applicants need to know what their responsibilities are,” she said.

House Majority Leader Brendan Sharkey said the rare step of fast-tracking the bill through the legislature must be taken because there is a conditional permit pending and the 30-day comment period is about to come to an end.

“Milford is concerned that once the permit is issued it won’t be able to apply local zoning regulations,” he said.

The speed at which this issue came up though has left lawmakers scrambling to figure out their position on it.

At the moment none have expressed opposition, but they are still studying the legislation. If the bill passes the House, the Senate is expected to take it up Wednesday Feb. 29. 

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(7) Comments

posted by: Matt W. | February 23, 2012  2:36pm

Matt W.

There’s a reason local officials shouldn’t have a say on the permitting of solid waste facilities.  If and when they do, you’ll never see another solid waste facility in CT.  You think NIMBYs are only in Milford?  As it is this state exports nearly all of its solid waste (excepting what is incinerated).  We take no responsibility for the waste we generate and this will serve to exacerbate the problem.

posted by: ... | February 23, 2012  4:52pm

...

Well, the issue being highlighted in Milford is an ‘expansion’ of something that already exists Matt, not building something brand new.

It seems extremely reasonable for there to be steps taken by the town to understand what is being placed in their towns/cities, but at the same time DEEP could probably handle this as well. But in the long run, the local population should have the ability to express input, concerns, and reports from the local governments to explain the risks/benefits of a waste facility to be established in their municipality.

posted by: Matt W. | February 23, 2012  5:40pm

Matt W.

Joness: Local populations do have the ability to provide input on any open permit application before the DEEP just like any other citizen of the state.  In fact it only takes 25 like minded people to force a public hearing on any such facility or expansion where they can voice their concerns till the cows come home.  The system currently works and this is a method for breaking it.

posted by: ... | February 23, 2012  9:31pm

...

I guess I should clarify my statement by saying citizens, including municipality leadership (mayors, managers, selectmen/women, etc.), needed to be provided the ability. And from that point, their efforts should give them the authority to make the appropriate guidelines for their towns. The bill passed the House based upon that notion with a fair amount of support from both parties (despite a dozen or so absentees), understanding the intent of the bill is to provide greater powers available to the local level, rather than attempt the state systems. Sometimes those systems work, but for select groups of people (which is why the bill was raised, because certain groups had power, while others did not).

posted by: Matt W. | February 24, 2012  11:09am

Matt W.

The citizens, including mayors, selectmen, etc. did not NEED the ability to obstruct these facilities. They wanted it.  Now they have it and it was a poor decision by both parties in the legislature to grant it to them.  Connecticut is already irresponsible in its waste management and it will now become more so.

posted by: Reasonable | February 24, 2012  3:03pm

Hopefully, this mistake made by the 2006 General Assembly—is corrected.

posted by: ... | February 24, 2012  5:30pm

...

You’re right Matt W. The DEP (now DEEP), has not done its absolute best in managing waste service companies, their activities, and their affects on local environments because they do not have the physical manpower to travel to every single municipality when there is a conflict.

However, I do not share your pessimism that the solution provided to give local control to local conflicts will make them irresponsible. In fact, giving them power actually gives them the responsibility protect the environmental quality (as well as general quality) of life in their respective municipalities, giving citizens a direct figure to raise complaints to (instead of a general body, such as state department).