HARTFORD, CT — When the General Assembly reconvenes later this month, it’s expected to tackle an issue that has hindered economic development in the state for decades: The Transfer Act.
The Connecticut Property Transfer Act, which was adopted in 1985 to encourage the clean-up of environmentally challenged properties, needs to be fixed according to both environmentalists and economic development officials.
The act requires that the owner of a property or a business operation certify that they will take responsibility for any environmental contamination before the entity or property is sold.
Unlike brownfields, where generations of industrial waste have been dumped, Transfer Act properties have histories of lower-level pollution. Sales of Transfer Act sites can be held up over as little as a few dozen gallons of pesticide, one-time disposal of waste paint or ink, or contamination from chemicals used for dry cleaning or furniture stripping during any one-month period over the last 30 years.
Graham Stevens, a bureau chief with the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, said Tuesday that of the 4,200 industrial sites which fall under the Transfer Act only about a quarter of the properties have completed site cleanups.
Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Katie Dykes testified in March that the law is “fundamentally flawed” and should be replaced. She advocated for a “release-based” system, which Stevens said would require every property owner to clean up an environmental spill as soon as it happens.
Every contaminated property does not fall under the Transfer Act.
There have been legal disputes over whether a property falls under the Transfer Act. Some disputes have dragged on long enough to convince buyers to walk away from purchases, leaving the properties fallow for years.
The economic impact of those dormant properties is huge.
According to the Connecticut Economic Resource Center, the businesses represented in the filings — had their transfer requests been completed and verified — would have generated $178 million in tax revenues for the state and local governments in 2019.
Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner David Lehman said in March that sunsetting the Transfer Act and creating a release-based system “is one of the most significant things we can do to improve the business and investment climate in the state.”
Connecticut is one of only two states in the entire country with a Transfer Act—the other is New Jersey.
“What we’re making ourselves—with the Transfer Act, we’re making ourselves a tougher place to invest, and folks that can are more easily going elsewhere, and that’s been the lost jobs over the past decade-plus,” Lehman said in March.
Under a release-based system, if you spill something on your property or a trucking company tanker rolls over and spills chemicals or oil, the owners are responsible for cleaning up that release. The state would then evaluate the clean-up.
Stevens said he hopes the legislature will address the legislation during a special session later this month.
The goal earlier this year was to begin to implement the release-based system and sunset the Transfer Act by July 2022. The two proposals received a public hearing in March, but the session was cut short when the COVID-19 pandemic hit that month. It’s unclear if that timeframe is still possible.
The Environment and Commerce Committees will hold a joint listening session regarding the Transfer Act and the release-based system at 10:30 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 17 via Zoom. The session will also be aired on CT-N.
If you’re a member of the public who would like to testify you can sign up here or you can submit written testimony to
The deadline to register to testify is noon today.