Thursday, January 22, 2009

Connecticut statute defines CBAs, sort of

Connecticut Public Act No. 08-94, An Act Concerning Environmental Justice Communities and the Storage of Asbestos-Containing Material, takes a stab at defining CBAs. According to the act, a "community environmental benefit agreement" is:
a written agreement entered into by a municipality and an owner or developer of real property whereby the owner or developer agrees to develop real property that is to be used for any new or expanded affecting facility and to provide financial resources for the purpose of the mitigation, in whole or in part, of impacts reasonably related to the facility, including, but not limited to, impacts on the environment, traffic, parking and noise.
Unlike Staples-Center-type CBAs, these CEBAs are not negotiated by community coalitions, and they are only required in relation to the construction of "affecting facilities"--power plants, waste incinerators, sewage treatment plants, processing centers, landfills, medical waste incinerators, and major sources of air pollution. Finally, most of the law's requirements only apply when affecting facilities are being located in an "environmental justice community," i.e. a census tract designated as distressed under state law or with at least 30% of residents at or below 200% of the poverty line. In other words, CEBAs do not seem to be the type of multi-faceted, community driven, flexible agreements that are usually considered to be CBAs. With their emphasis on environmental impacts, they are more similar to Good Neighbor Agreements.

The law functions like this: whenever a developer seeks a permit for an affecting facility in an area that qualifies as an "environmental justice community," the developer has to "file a meaningful participation plan" and meet with the local chief executive "to evaluate the need for a community environmental benefit agreement." ("Meaningful participation plans" are also defined by the law.)

CEBAs can be entered into by any municipality, owner or developer, whether or not deemed to be necessary for a particular affecting facility. According to the law, the municipality has to provide an opportunity for public participation, and the agreement can contain both on and off site mitigation activities and programs, including "[f]unding for activities such as environmental education, diesel pollution reduction, construction of biking and walking trails, staffing for parks, urban forestry, support for community gardens or any other negotiated benefit to the environment in the environmental justice community."

The Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection has a fact sheet about the law here. Public participation guidelines are located here.

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