Legislative Pulse: Connecticut Rep. Piscopo Discusses Federal Environmental Overreach

Published September 11, 2015

Editor’s Note: Connecticut State Rep. John Piscopo (R-Thomaston) is serving his 14th term in the General Assembly. Piscopo is the chief House Republican whip and serves on the committees for Finance, Revenue and Bonding; Energy and Technology; Environment; Screening; and Legislative Management.

Burnett: At the 2015 American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) annual meeting, you introduced model legislation to fund state attorneys general in their fight against the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act overreach. Why?

Piscopo: Thank you for your interest in me, my role as a Connecticut legislator, and as a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council. A consistent theme in many conferences I have attended with ALEC or others like The Heartland Institute is the impact of the federal government’s regulatory overreach on our states, our towns, businesses, and even our personal lives. Specifically, the Environmental Protection Agency has expanded its power without congressional guidance or oversight through dictates supposedly under the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act.

EPA rules impose burdens on our economy as companies try to deal with these costly regulations. Money spent on consultants and lawyers [as a part of] companies’ attempts to understand the regulations could be better used on improving their facilities or expanding their companies. To this end, it makes sense to empower our attorneys general with the funds to challenge the process, the science, and the [alleged] benefits of EPA oppression.

Burnett: What current energy problems are facing the people of Connecticut?

Piscopo: I am concerned about the direction Connecticut is taking with its energy policy. Connecticut’s [mandatory Renewable Portfolio Standard] sets a goal that is unattainable, resulting in ratepayer’s electric bills being the highest in the continental United States, which has an especially harmful impact [on] the state’s poorest citizens. It also forces us to go outside the state for renewables, requiring new transmission lines throughout New England.

The energy plan also adds [energy] taxes … and creates a fund to subsidize renewables, which the governor diverted to the general fund just hours after the bill’s passage.

Burnett: You opposed a bill Connecticut considered to ban plastic grocery bags. The bill failed. Why did you oppose it? 

Piscopo: We must always be careful when a ban is proposed. Questions must be asked concerning what alternatives exist: How much of a problem is it, really? What are the costs to people and the environment?

We see this from time to time, with efforts to ban certain chemicals, practices, or, in this case, plastic bags. I opposed the bill mainly because people like plastic bags and reuse them at a rate of 90 percent. Many grocery stores had recycling bins for people wanting to dispose of them. The alternative is paper, which costs more and creates a larger environmental impact or personal reusable bags that can contain bacteria and harmful elements and need to be washed regularly. 

H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. ([email protected]) is a research fellow with The Heartland Institute.