Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell signed a bill Wednesday that she says will change how business is done in the state of Connecticut by helping companies cut through the red tape at the Department of Environmental Protection.
The bipartisan bill which emerged out of a working group that included lawmakers, state officials, industry, and labor leaders requires the Department of Environmental Protection to examine all of its permitting processes and reduce the time it takes to do permit reviews.
The agency will be required to review applications for problems within 60 days and make final determinations within 180 days.
Rell said she heard from businesses that the permitting process was “too slow” and cumbersome.” She said the bill she signed at GSS Industries in Waterbury Wednesday “makes Connecticut more business friendly.”
“We’ve come too far and worked too hard to lose any ground right now,” Rell said.
Even though the legislation doesn’t go into effect until Oct. 1, DEP Ombudsman Robert Kaliszewski said his office is already working hard to achieve the goals of the legislation. He said they’re currently review all of the regulations and expects that some changes can be made in the permitting process, while others will likely require more legislation.
Asked about how many complaints his department handles, Kaliszewski said “perception is a big part of it…we’re not perfect.”
The bill also creates an Office of Permit Ombudsman within the Department of Economic and Community Development to work with companies seeking permits from the state departments of Environmental Protection, Public Health and Transportation.
But legislation doesn’t offer any silver bullets for companies like Ansonia Copper and Brass, which is trying to stay afloat and compete with companies in Germany.
John Barto, president of Ansonia Copper and Brass, and Ray McGee, the owner of the company stopped by the bill signing Wednesday to talk to Rell.
The two men said they are looking for temporary funding from the state to help keep the company going. Two years ago they had to lay-off 300 workers due to foreign competition. The company founded in 1847 is the only company in the United States that supplies customers like General Dynamic and Northrop Grumman with copper and nickel tubing for jet engines.
McGee said he wrote Rell six-months ago and has been working with the Department of Economic Development for more than a year. He said he’s also contacted U.S. Senators Chris Dodd and Joseph Lieberman, along with U.S. Reps. Chris Murphy and Rosa DeLauro.
“Their intentions are good but there’s nothing happening,” Barto said. “We want them to help companies like ours survive.”
McGee argued it would cost the state more money if the company went out of business than it would to give it a loan. Already he said it cost them $35 million annually in direct and indirect costs when it scaled back its operations in Ansonia. Most of the company’s 70 employees work at the Waterbury location.
DECD Commissioner Joan McDonald said she’s aware of the issues Ansonia Copper and Brass is dealing with and is “evaluating a couple of options.“ She said the state has reached out to the U.S. Department of Defense to see if they can’t have a conversation with the company.
Asked earlier about what can be done to make things easier for businesses at other state agencies, Rell said, “we can always do more.”