Public Safety and Security Committee

JOINT FAVORABLE REPORT

Bill No.:

HB-5802

Title:

AN ACT ADOPTING CERTAIN SAFETY RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE THOMAS COMMISSION.

Vote Date:

3/8/2011

Vote Action:

Joint Favorable Substitute

PH Date:

2/15/2011

File No.:

SPONSORS OF BILL:

Rep Orange, 48th District

Rep Hamm, 34th District

Rep Dargan, 115th District

Rep Ryan, 139th District

Rep Lesser, 100th District

Rep Carpino, 32nd District

Rep Serra, 33rd District

Sen Daily, 33rd District

Sen Doyle, 9th District

Sen Prague, 19th District

REASONS FOR BILL:

To construct specific and professional regulations and ensure the safety of workers at energy plants by using recommendations of the Thomas Commission.

SUBSTITUTE LANGUAGE:

Substitute language removed and replaced subdivisions, stated that someone who is a special inspector cannot be employed by who is applying to build or operate the facility, and changed the definition of special inspector.

RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:

James M. Thomas, Commissioner, Department of Public Safety testified in favor of this bill.  He stated that the bill would adopt in statute certain safety measures recommended by the Thomas Commission.  Most importantly, the bill would ban by statute the use of flammable gases to conduct “gas blows,” since other gases such as nitrogen or compressed air are safer and can serve the same function.  In addition, the bill would require that each person applying for a certificate to build an electric generating facility pay for at least one special inspector to assist the municipal fire marshal in providing plan review and conducting inspections during construction, as well as paying for the training of local fire marshals on the issues involved in construction.  He further notes that such applicants will be required to pay into the existing statutory code training fund, so that all fire marshals can get training on the issues involved in the construction of an electric generating facility. Finally, the bill would require the Connecticut Siting Council to consult with and solicit written comments from various State departments and agencies, and would require the Council to create a coordinating council to serve during construction, in order to provide necessary communication among various public safety oversight entities. 

Dr Rafael Moure-Eraso, Chairman, CEO; United States Chemical Safety Board testified that the explosion at the Kleen Energy Plant was preventable after the CSB investigated the plant. He appreciates what the state is trying to do by making regulations permanent, thus saving lives in the future. Also, instating these regulations would set the bar for other states on how they handle their own power plants, keeping them safer and more efficient.

NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:

Representative Christie Carpino, 32nd District testified in support of this bill because at the very least, the new codes and standards can prevent an explosion like what happened in Middletown from happening again.

Representative Matthew Lesser, 100th District supports this bill. He testified that former Governor Rell had organized a commission, headed by Commissioner Thomas, which was the first step. This legislation offers a ban on flammable gas blows to clean pipes, requires the plant builders to hire independent safety inspectors, train local fire marshals, and finally requires the Siting Council to work with other agencies so that these plants are constructed safely and well.

Linda Roberts, Connecticut Siting Council testified in favor of this bill.  She noted that the council has already incorporated the recommendations of both the Nevas and the Thomas Commissions as conditions to all gas fired power plant certificates.  She noted further that while the Council has the authority to modify certificates at any time after finding “changed conditions,” due process requires that a hearing be held to re-open records and modify final decisions regarding plant construction. Tthe Council agrees with the Governor's directive to ban the use of flammable gases to conduct gas blows, the requirement that at least one special inspector be assigned to assist the municipal fire marshal during construction, that local fire marshals receive training regarding the construction of gas fired power generating plants, and that the cost of these initiatives should be born by the applicant. She asserted that as a matter of course, the Council currently consults with and solicits written comments from several State departments and agencies prior to commencing any hearing. The Council supports the creation of a coordinating council during construction, and recommends that the coordinating council be required to report to the Council in writing on the satisfactory implementation of the approved development and management plan.  In the event of non-compliance with such plan, she urges that language be included allowing the Council to exercise its enforcement authority as it relates to the certificate of that facility. 

Kevin Kowalski, Fire Marshal; Connecticut Fire Marshals Association supports this bill. He testified that the Association appreciates the Thomas Commission's requirements for installing an energy plant.

Donn Dobson, Fire Marshal; Town of Old Saybrook supports this bill. He testified that the Fire Marshal community looks forward to the regulations designed by the Thomas Commission, especially on safety codes pertaining to propane, gas plumbing, and natural gas because they need to be streamlined and updated.

Jodi Thomas testified in great support of this bill. Since the death of her husband at the Kleen Energy Plant explosion in 2010, she hopes that the state will adopt the safety recommendations of the Thomas Commission and also hopes that anyone who becomes a special inspector is chosen under procedures created by the involved agencies so they are independent from one specific group.

Frank DaCato, Training Coordinator, Plumbers and Pipefitters Local Union 777 supports this bill. With the new standards adopted from the Commission, it is his hope that explosions, like the North Carolina ConAgra plant and Middletown's Kleen Energy Plant, can be avoided.

Susan Bransfield, First Selectwoman; Town of Portland supports this bill. She wishes for all of the regulations of the Thomas Commission to be adopted and offers comments on each recommendation.

Joyce Wojtas; Mechanical Contractors Association of Connecticut; Plumbers and Pipefitters Local Union 777 supported this bill. She testified that the Nevas Commission and the Thomas Commission have been working together to develop regulatory changes to ban the use of flammable gases to conduct gas blows, require special inspectors to help the local fire marshal to plan and conduct inspections during construction and compose a Coordinating Council made up of various state agencies.

Cameron Champlin, Lobbyist; Plumber and Pipefitters Local Union 777 testified in support of this bill. He stated that with the adoption of the Thomas commission's regulations, a committee can be established that sees to specific safety standards being carried out and ban certain procedures until there is a safer alternative.

Christina Morgan, Recommendations Specialist, U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board submitted a safety video entitled “Deadly Practices: The Dangers of Conducting Gas Blows and Purging with Fuel Gas.”  

Lori Pelletier, Secretary-Treasurer; Connecticut AFL-CIO supports this bill. She stated that adopting the Thomas Commission standards is a common-sense approach to dealing with a dangerous situation. This bill ensures safety, governance, and responsibility to the surrounding communities.

NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:

None stated.

Reported by: Amy Fleming

Date: 3/21/11