Attorney General's Opinion

Attorney General, Richard Blumenthal

March 24, 2000

Marc S. Ryan, Secretary
Office of Policy and Management
450 Capitol Ave.
Hartford, CT 06106-1308

Dear Secretary Ryan:

Your letter of March 16, 2000, asks whether the South Central Regional Council of Governments ("SCRCOG") is a "political subdivision of the State" for purposes of applying for and receiving a "Brownfields" grant under a program funded by the federal Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA"). We believe that it is.

Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 9604(d)(1), section 104(d)(1) of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act of 1980, a "State or political subdivision thereof . . . may apply to the President to carry out actions authorized in this section." Apparently under this statute and its accompanying regulations, the EPA will entertain applications for "Brownfields" grants from "political subdivisions of the State."

Federal regulations do not specifically define the term "political subdivision of the State," but rather provide that it has the following meaning: "The unit of government that the State determines to have met the State's legislative definition of a political subdivision." 40 C.F.R. § 35.6015(31). Thus, the federal agency defers to the State and accepts the State's determination of whether an entity is a "political subdivision" under state law.

Although the term "political subdivision" appears several times throughout the general statutes, there is not a universally accepted legislative definition of the term. However, construing this term for purposes of the state's minority representation statute, Conn. Gen. Stat. § 9-167a,1 our state Supreme Court has stated: "The term 'political subdivision' is broad and comprehensive and denotes any division of the State made by the proper authorities thereof, acting within their constitutional powers, for the purpose of carrying out a portion of those functions of the State which by long usage and the inherent necessities of government have always been regarded as public." State ex rel Maisano v. Mitchell, 155 Conn. 256, 263-64 (1967).

Employing this definition, we conclude that the SCRCOG is a political subdivision of the State. The authority to establish such regional councils of government derives from a duly enacted statute, and the councils themselves are in fact established by the actions of the component municipal bodies. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 4-124j. The council has all of the rights, authority, responsibilities and duties provided in the general statutes "pertaining to regional councils of elected officials and regional planning agencies." Conn. Gen. Stat. § 4-124m. Clearly the planning functions such regional councils perform, as exemplified by the SCRCOG's efforts to secure a grant to facilitate environmental cleanup and stimulate economic growth, constitute "functions of the State which by long usage and the inherent necessities of government have always been regarded as public." State ex rel Maisano v. Mitchell, 155 Conn. 256, 263-64 (1967).

We therefore conclude that for purposes of participation in the EPA's Brownfields Assessment Demonstration Pilot program, SCRCOG is a political subdivision of the State under state law.

Very truly yours,



1 Conn. Gen. Stat. § 9-167a(a)(1) provides: "Except as provided in subdivision (2) of this subsection, the maximum number of members of any board, commission, legislative body, committee or similar body of the state or any political subdivision thereof, whether elective or appointive, who may be members of the same political party, shall be as specified in the following table . . . ."

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