Attorney General: Honorable Robert Genuario, Office of Policy & Management, Formal Opinion 2006-021, Attorney General State of Connecticut

Attorney General's Opinion

Attorney General, Richard Blumenthal

August 18, 2006

Honorable Robert Genuario
Office of Plicy & Management
450 Capitol Avenue
Hartford, CT 06106

Dear Secretary Genuario:

You have asked whether transfers of surplus State property to municipalities, pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. § 3-14b1, or pursuant to special or public acts of the Connecticut General Assembly directing the disposition of particular parcels of property, implicate the provisions of the Connecticut Environmental Policy Act (“CEPA”).  This opinion addresses only those transfers of property pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. § 3-14b or pursuant to public and special acts.

CEPA places an affirmative obligation upon State agencies when they are recommending or initiating an action that may significantly affect the environment.  Conn. Gen. Stat. § 22a-1b(c) reads, in relevant part:

Each state department, institution or agency responsible for the primary recommendation or initiation of actions which may significantly affect the environment shall in the case of each such proposed action make a detailed written evaluation of its environmental impact before deciding whether to undertake or approve such action.  (Emphasis supplied.)

 

Conn. Gen. Stat. § 22a-1c defines “actions which may significantly affect the environment” as:

[I]ndividual activities or a sequence of planned activities proposed to be undertaken by state departments, institutions or agencies, or funded in whole or in part by the state, which could have a major impact on the state’s land, water, air, historic structures and landmarks as defined in section 10-410, existing housing, or other environmental resources, or could serve short term to the disadvantage of long term environmental goals.  Such actions shall include but not be limited to new projects and programs of state agencies and new projects supported by state contracts and grants, but shall not include (1) emergency measures undertaken in response to an immediate threat to public health or safety; or (2) activities in which state agency participation is ministerial in nature, involving no exercise of discretion on the part of the state department, institution or agency.

 

Where a state agency transfers land to a municipality with a requirement that the property will be utilized for a specific purpose different than its existing use, such as, for example, construction of a highway or a building, then CEPA applies. In that circumstance, the agency making the transfer must determine whether the intended use of the property may significantly affect the environment.  When the State changes the use, a determination must be made under CEPA whether that use “could have a major impact” upon the State’s environmental resources.

On the other hand, when an agency transfers land for continued use in its present purpose, CEPA is not implicated.  In those circumstances, the transfer of title to the land is not an action which may significantly affect the environment, as the mere transfer of title alone has no environmental impact.

Finally, when an agency transfers land pursuant to a public or special act directing the transfer, that action does not implicate CEPA, regardless of whether the legislation mandating the transfer requires that the property be utilized for a particular purpose.  In that situation, where the legislature explicitly directs the specific transfer, the state agency’s actions transferring the land are entirely ministerial, and therefore not subject to CEPA review.  Of course, to the extent that a public or special act might, by its express terms, make a transfer subject to CEPA, then CEPA would apply.

In sum, the transfer of real property to a municipality for a use required or planned by the agency which is different than the property's present use requires an evaluation to determine whether CEPA requirements apply.  A transfer which will not change the use of the property does not require CEPA evaluation.  Finally, a transfer pursuant to legislation directing the transfer is exempt from CEPA, unless the act authorizing the transfer specifies that CEPA is applicable.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions regarding this matter.

Very truly yours,


RICHARD BLUMENTHAL



1 Conn. Gen. Stat. § 3-14b provides in pertinent part as follows:

Prior to the sale of any parcel of land, or a portion thereof … the state agency, department or institution responsible for the sale of such land shall first notify in writing the chief executive officer or officers of the municipality in which such land is situated of the state’s intention to sell such land …

 

(a)  Within forty-five days after such notice has been so given, such chief executive officer or officers may give written notice to the state of the municipality’s desire to purchase such land and shall have the right to purchase the interest in the land which the state has declared its intent to sell subject to conditions acceptable to the state.


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