Emergency regulations sought to contain beetle

Emerald ash borers were displayed during a press conference July 20 in Prospect. -RA ARCHIVE


HARTFORD — State officials are working on emergency regulations to contain the spread of the emerald ash borer, including restrictions on importing firewood from out of state.

The small, highly mobile beetle represents a threat to the state’s more than 20 million ash trees. The infestation also poses possible dangers to public safety, property and commerce and power lines.

The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station and the Department of Environmental Protection are collaborating on the emergency regulations.

The emerald ash borer has been discovered in Prospect, Naugatuck and Bethany in New Haven County. The insect had not been found in Connecticut previously.

“We are not quite sure the scope of this infestation, said Louis Magnarelli, director of the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station.

If the infestation spreads to cities, he said, tree falls could endanger people, damage property and vehicles and bring down power lines. He said he has been told more than 40,000 ash trees line city streets across the state.

His agency has the responsibility for establishing restrictions on movement of wood, wood products and living plant material that are necessary to help contain the beetle.

Magnarelli reported that a public hearing has been scheduled for Aug. 8 in Prospect as a prelude to imposing a state quarantine on the movement of wood from New Haven County.

He said the U.S. Department of Agriculture has already taken this step. If the state government does not do likewise, he warned, the federal agency could quarantine the entire state.

“That would really have an adverse impact on our businesses and our people,” Magnarelli said.

He made a brief presentation Tuesday to the legislature’s Regulation Review Committee at the request of state Sen. Andrew Roraback (R-30), the panel’s co-chair.

Roraback said the committee was unable to act on the emergency regulations Tuesday because Magnarelli’s agency and DEEP did not submit all of the required paperwork.

The measures will be resubmitted. At that time, the emergency regulations will become effective in 10 days unless the commission votes within that window to approve or reject them.

State Rep. Arthur O’Neill (R-69) recommended the 14-member committee move quickly to approve the emergency regulations once they are properly submitted.

“This is something where 10 days could make a difference in terms of our ability to restrain this insect,” he said.

Magnarelli said regulations that were adopted two years ago give him authority to impose a quarantine on New Haven County.

The regulations adopted in 2010 target the emerald ash borer and the more dangerous Asian long-horned beetle. The state government may restrict or prohibit the movement of infested nursery stock, cut logs, firewood or other listed items from infested regions.

He said the emergency regulations will clarify his agency’s authority and build on the existing regulations.

One of the areas that need additional attention is the importation of firewood from out of state, said Kenneth Colllette, a top DEEP official.

If not properly treated, he said, firewood from infested parts of other states could spread the emerald ash borer in Connecticut.

Previously, state officials said a ban can be imposed on firewood traveling through New York and Massachusetts because infestations of the emerald ash borer and the Asian long-horned beetle have been found in those states.

Firewood with certification showing it has not come from an infected region or has been properly treated to kill insects will be exempt from the ban.