Connecticut Environmental Policy Act (CEPA) Overview

Purpose | History | CEPA Process in Brief | Additional Resources | Contact

Purpose:

The Connecticut Environmental Policy Act (CEPA) provides a declaration of state policy  and establishes a process by which state agencies must identify and review their proposed “actions which may significantly affect the environment. A CEPA assessment is required for each state agency action or sequence of actions undertaken by a state department, institution or agency that could have a major impact on the state's environmental, social, and/or economic resources.

Note: Such actions do not include (1) emergency measures undertaken in response to an immediate threat to public health or safety and (2) activities in which state agency participation is ministerial in nature, involving no exercise of discretion on the part of the state department, institution or agency.

The core purpose of CEPA is to provide a public process for state agencies to identify and assess the extent to which their proposed actions may potentially affect the environment, and to evaluate alternatives to avoid or minimize such impacts. A key component of the assessment process is the public’s opportunity to review the proposed state action and provide feedback.

History:

CEPA was established in 1973 by Public Act 73-562, and later revised in 2002 by Public Act 02-121. Corresponding regulations were adopted in 1978, and later revised in 2019.  CEPA is codified in:

Connecticut General Statutes (CGS), Sections 22a-1 through 22a-1h, and

Regulations of Connecticut State Agencies (RCSA), Sections 22a-la-1 through 22a-la-12.

CEPA Process in Brief:

A state agency responsible for the recommendation or initiation of an action is considered to be the sponsoring agency. Under CEPA, a sponsoring agency must utilize the appropriate Environmental Classification Document (ECD) to determine if a proposed action requires further evaluation under CEPA, and if so, to determine the appropriate level of analysis proportionate to the scale of the proposed action’s potential impacts. 

By default, a sponsoring agency is required to use the Generic ECD which is adopted and maintained by the Office of Policy and Management after undergoing a public review process. Agencies that desire more prescriptive guidance than the Generic ECD have the option of adopting an agency-specific ECD through a similar public process. The following ECDs have been formally approved as per Sec. 22a-1a-4 of the RCSA:

The core function of the ECD review is to determine whether or not a proposed action would necessitate public scoping. Public scoping is the process for soliciting public comments on a proposed state agency action, or its alternatives, in order for the sponsoring agency to determine if significant impacts exist, and if so, would those impacts necessitate the preparation of an environmental impact evaluation.

After consulting with the appropriate ECD, the sponsoring agency must determine whether or not the proposed action requires public scoping. In many instances, the thresholds in the ECD clearly define the agency’s responsibilities under CEPA. However, an agency must also consider other factors, such as any indirect or cumulative impacts that may result from the proposed action, in order to determine the full extent of any potential environmental impact. OPM strongly recommends that in all cases, the agency internally document its decision and its rationale as a matter of public record.

If the sponsoring agency determines that the action has the potential to significantly affect the environment, it must conduct public scoping. If, after public scoping, the agency determines that a more in-depth Environmental Impact Evaluation (EIE) is not warranted, the agency may complete its CEPA responsibilities by publishing a post-scoping notice in the Environmental Monitor. The post-scoping notice shall include a completed Environmental Review Checklist (ERC), and the agency’s discussion and analysis of all factors listed in section 22a-1a-3 of the RCSA.

Note: While an agency is only required to complete an ERC as part of this post-scoping notice, an agency might choose to use the ERC template to internally document its consideration of projects it decides do not rise to a level of environmental significance requiring public scoping.

If, after public scoping, the sponsoring agency determines that an EIE is warranted, it shall conduct an EIE in accordance with the process outlined in the CEPA regulations, including a thorough consideration of any prudent and feasible alternatives that address the project’s purpose and need. Under this scenario, the agency’s CEPA responsibilities are not complete until it selects a preferred alternative through a formal Record of Decision (ROD), and OPM publishes its “determination of adequacy” in the Environmental Monitor indicating that the sponsoring agency has fully satisfied the requirements of CEPA.

Additional Resources:

CEPA Manual for Connecticut State Agencies, updated February 25, 2020

Environmental Review Checklist, updated February 25, 2020

State Agency CEPA Training Presentation, dated November 18, 2019

Using Templates to Develop Notices for the Environmental Monitor Sitecore Edition, by CT CEQ, dated February 6, 2020

Environmental Monitor – This website is maintained by the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) for the purposes of providing public notification of certain CEPA-related information.

CEPA Project Inventory, as required by RCSA Section 22a-1a-11

Office of Legislative Research (OLR) July 30, 2004 Research Report – Overview of the CEPA process.

Office of Legislative Research (OLR) January 30, 2008 Research Report – CEPA Legislative History.

 
For Further Information, Contact:

Matthew Pafford, (860) 418-6412; matthew.pafford@ct.gov