Environmental Accomplishments of the Past 40 Years
Improvements Made to Brownfields Program
In 2009, the General Assembly passed a law to create the Abandoned Brownfields program, which combined a "smart growth" strategy for future growth and development with a focus on protection of the natural resources of our state. The law built on the state's successful Urban Sites Remedial Action Program, which was put in place in 1993. The 2009 act expands liability protection for municipalities and developers, allowing more flexibility in remediation and property use and permitting any party to enter into the Voluntary Remediation Program.
The number of former industrial or factory sites in Connecticut is the direct result of our history as a leading manufacturing center from the early days of the Industrial Revolution. By the 1980’s many of Connecticut’s once bustling manufacturing centers had become cites with vacant and potentially polluted properties, called brownfields. These brownfields were located in our downtowns and village centers, along our rivers, and in our neighborhoods.
In 1993 the Urban Sites Remedial Action Program - the state's first brownfields law legislation was created to address a key constraint to the conveyance and reuse of these contaminated industrial properties - the fear purchasers and investors have of assuming environmental liability for pollution created by others. The landmark Urban Sites Remedial Action Program provided for expedited remediation of polluted property and enabled the private sector to invest in property development despite past environmental contamination. It also promoted the use of existing under-utilized property and economic development by enabling new businesses and jobs to be created and providing new tax revenues.
The Urban Sites Remedial Action Program was established as a cooperative program between the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD). It dedicated DEP staff resources for expedited review of remediation plans and bond funds for clean-up of eligible sites. The program’s environmental benefits include minimizing or eliminating public exposure to pollutants; remediation of sites that otherwise would not be cleaned up for decades; and minimizing environmental impacts associated with industry and suburban sprawl. The program’s social and economic benefits include returning abandoned and under-utilized sites to productive use, creating the potential for new tax revenue to municipalities and the State, utilizing existing infrastructure, helping to reverse urban decay and revitalize our cities, and creating short-term construction and longer term permanent manufacturing jobs.
This program, which was one of the first brownfield programs in the nation, has addressed some of the larger brownfield redevelopment projects in the state. Over the years, additional programs have been created to supplement the state’s initial brownfield efforts, including the Special Contaminated Property Remediation and Insurance Fund and the Dry Cleaning Establishment Fund, as well as loan and financing programs administered by the Connecticut Development Agency (CDA), among others. Further expansion of Connecticut’s brownfield initiatives came in 2006 with the passage of Public Act 06-184, “An Act Concerning Brownfields.” This act established the Office of Brownfield Remediation and Development (OBRD), the state’s one-stop-shop for brownfield assistance within the DECD, and created a legislative Task Force on brownfield strategies. The Task Force was established to study the current state of Connecticut’s brownfield programs and make recommendations to the Commerce and Environment Committees of the Connecticut General Assembly for strategies for improving and coordinating Connecticut’s brownfield initiatives.
Certain of the recommendations from the Task Force are currently being implemented in coordination with various key state agencies, including DECD, DEP and CDA. In addition to the creation of OBRD and a state Brownfields Coordinator at DEP, as well as certain other organizational changes, efforts of the Task Force created new programs and resulted in expansion of liability relief. The state has established a Municipal Pilot Program with funding mechanisms and liability relief for grant recipients. The state also has implemented various other statutory changes to promote brownfield redevelopment, such as new municipal right of access provisions and expansion of the state Covenant Not to Sue program.
Some first successes of the Urban Sites Remedial Action Program include remediation and redevelopment at the Connecticut Center for the Performing Arts in Hartford, Meriden Rolling Mills, Hill Parent/Child Center in New Haven, UBS North American Headquarters (formerly Swiss Bank) in Stamford, Pfizer Global Development in New London, New Opportunities for Waterbury, and Century Brass (now the Brass Mill Center Mall) in Waterbury.
Communities that were once diminished by these abandoned properties have experienced and continue to experience the benefits of environmental clean-up and redevelopment – environmental protection and economic growth working hand-in-hand.
“The cooperation of the DEP’s Urban Sites Remedial Action Program staff ensured that the clean-up of the Meriden Rolling Mills was a great success. The DEP understood the frenetic pace of a redevelopment project.”
Randall Kamerbeek, Economic Development Department, City of Meriden
“Remediation of the former Veeder Root Factory site will have such a positive impact on the surrounding neighborhood. Not only is the neighborhood environmentally safer now that the abandoned factory has been cleaned up, but the prospects of new jobs for people in the community will have a lasting impact.”
Father Thomas J. Barry, President, MJB Corporation