Climate Change

2019 Connecticut Post Session Recap: Big Wins and Missed Opportunities for Protecting Connecticut’s Environment

2019 proved to be another rollercoaster ride for Connecticut’s Environment. We achieved some major victories, finished work on several multi-year campaigns, and also watched the CGA come up short on some key bills—and we did it all together! Now that the dust has settled, we look back on the highlights and missed opportunities (until next session!) of the 2019 Connecticut regular legislative session. But first, let’s cover the good news:

 VICTORY: CT State Water Plan is approved!

 After five years of hard work, public education and advocacy, the State Water Plan has been approved by the General Assembly! With unanimous passage of House Resolution 171, Connecticut has a comprehensive water management plan, which will help ensure our State’s current and future water supply needs are met equitably and effectively for years to come.

The final plan was approved unchanged, with language recognizing water as a public trust resource intact! Thanks to the CT Water Planning Council and the Office of Governor Ned Lamont for helping to get this plan across the finish line! #WaterisaPublicTrust

 VICTORY: Connecticut passes 10 cent bag charge/2 year phaseout on plastic checkout bags!

WE DID IT!! Thanks to all your calls and emails, Connecticut will completely eliminate pollution from single-use plastic bags by 2021! The General Assembly passed a 10 cent fee on single-use plastic checkout bags as part of their biennium budget, which goes into effect in July of 2019. After August 1, 2021 no retail or grocery store in the state will be permitted to distribute plastic bags at the checkout counter.

The bill also allows municipalities with existing bag ordinances to keep their bans in place, while enabling towns to establish their own fees on paper checkout bags. This makes Connecticut the third state in the nation to take action by banning or phasing-out plastic checkout bags, after California and New York (Hawaii has a de facto ban, as all 5 counties have banned plastic bags independently).

 Thanks to the Environment Committee leadership, especially Sen. Christine Cohen and Rep. Mike Demicco for getting this done! Special shoutouts to Senators William Haskell, Alex Bergstein and Matthew Lesser, as well as Reps Jonathan Steinberg, David Michel, and Josh Elliott for championing this important policy!

 VICTORY: Connecticut passes PERMANENT ban on hazardous fracking waste!

 The CGA passed SB 753 with overwhelming bi-partisan support, which permanently prohibits the storage, treatment and disposal of hazardous fracking waste and frack-waste byproducts in Connecticut! CCE began fighting to ban fracking waste in Connecticut in 2012 and was instrumental in passage of a statewide moratorium on fracking waste in 2014. Since then, more than 55 CT municipalities have passed their own local bans on fracking waste, helping to put pressure on Hartford lawmakers to close our doors to hazardous, potentially radioactive fracking waste for good!

 VICTORY: Connecticut expands clean energy programs, including offshore wind and solar!

 The general assembly passed two important clean energy bills this year including HB 7156- an act mandating 2,000 MW of offshore wind procurement by 2030, and HB 5002 (aka the “New Green Economy” package), which extends existing renewable energy programs (including traditional net metering, LREC/ZRECs, and the Green Bank’s Residential Solar Investment Program). The bill also increases the amount of credits authorized under the state’s virtual net metering program from $10 million to $20 million for the biennium.

 Missed Opportunities in 2019:

 HB 7294: Modernizing Connecticut’s Bottle Bill- This legislation would have expanded the state’s container deposit law to include juices, teas, sports drinks and other non-carbonated beverages, in addition to raising the deposit value on covered containers from 5 to 10 cents. The bill received favorable reports from the Environment and Finance, Revenue & Bonding Committees, but was held up by House leadership due to aggressive lobbying from the beverage industry.

HB 7346: An Act Prohibiting Chlorpyrifos Pesticides- This bill would have prohibited toxic organophosphate pesticides from use in agricultural and commercial settings. The bill received a favorable report from the Environment and Finance, Revenue & Bonding Committees but was held up by House leadership due to aggressive lobbying from the CT Farm Bureau.

 HB 5910: Prohibiting the Use of PFAS in Certain Firefighting Foams- This bill would have prohibited the use of firefighting foams containing Per and Poly-fluoroalkyl Substances for training purposes. The bill was given a fiscal note showing a cost to the state of about $78K in fiscal year ’20 and about $80K in fy ’21, and no action was taken on the bill by the Appropriations Committee.

 HB 5999: Improving Pesticide Regulation and Enforcement in Connecticut- HB 5999 would have established a pesticide enforcement account, funded through product registrations and applicator certification fees. The bill would have also required electronic filing and record keeping at the DEEP Pesticide Program office. The bill received favorable reports from the Environment and Finance, Revenue & Bonding Committees, but was not taken up for a vote in the House.

HB 5384: An Act Prohibiting Polystyrene Containers- This legislation would have prohibited the distribution of single-use polystyrene cups and takeout containers by restaurants and caterers in Connecticut. The bill passed the House of Reps and died in the Senate at the hands of Republican Senator Heather Somers, who loaded the bill with amendments exempting so-called “compostable” plastic checkout bags from the bag ban.

 HB 5385: An Act Prohibiting Single-Use Plastic Straws- This legislation would have established a “soft ban” on single-use plastic straws and stirrers at restaurants and food-service establishments, where proprietors would be permitted to give out plastic straws upon request only. The bill received a favorable report in the Environment Committee, and was put on hold due to filibuster threats and not acted upon by the House.

 HB 5395: An Act Strengthening Connecticut’s Environmental Justice Law- This bill would have strengthened requirements for meaningful public engagement when permitting sewage treatment plants, power plants, solid waste management and other polluting facilities in designated Environmental Justice communities. The bill passed the House of Reps and died in the Senate at the hands of Republican Senator Heather Somers, who loaded the bill with amendments exempting so-called “compostable” plastic checkout bags from the bag ban.

Earth’s New Mass Extinction: The Unnoticed Cost of Increased Consumption

By SARAH CHARLES | Published: NOVEMBER 29, 2018

Sixty percent of the world’s species have been lost in less than 50 years, and almost nobody noticed. How could this alarming and cataclysmic destruction of over half of the Earth’s species go almost completely unnoticed?

The current news cycle is exhausting.  In November, on the day that the World Wildlife Fund released their bi-annual Living Index report, the news was busy discussing the midterm elections, Trump’s deployment of up to 7,000 US troops to the border of Mexico, the deadliest act of anti-Semitic violence in our nation’s history, and Megyn Kelly’s claims that blackface is no big deal.

The recent report by the United Nations stating that we need to drastically change society and the way it functions by 2040 was able to get some coverage for a day or two, but then the cycle just moved on, but we  those that care, shouldn’t move on so quickly.

On the tails of the harrowing report from UN climate scientists comes more shockingly bad news from the World Wildlife Fund. Since 1970, over 60% of species on earth have been lost due to a massive increase in human consumption as countries across the world continue to develop. The report cites massive deforestation due to agriculture and livestock grazing in the world’s most biodiverse areas as one of the biggest problems on land. In our oceans, increasing temperatures and plastic pollution have caused the majority of die-offs.

One of the most alarming statistics to come out of this year’s Living Index report is that freshwater species declined by 83% since 1970. This significant loss is undoubtedly affecting the health of freshwater systems. We rely on freshwater as a drinking water source globally. How will such a massive change to the ecosystem affect our public health?

The biggest losses came in Central and South America, where a loss of 89% of the vertebrate population was observed. Cattle ranching and deforestation in the Amazon and the rainforests of South America has been exploding since the 1990s as global demand for meat continues to grow. Our rainforests are our biggest resource for biodiversity, and they are being burned and destroyed to make room for pastures and factory farms.

The 2018 report explains that while currently 25% of the world’s surface shows no impacts of human activity, by 2050 that number will drop to 10%. Human consumption has now caused a mass extinction of their own, with no signs of slowing down. Tanya Steele, the WWF’s chief executive in Britain, told CNN: “We are the first generation to know we are destroying our planet and the last one that can do anything about it.” Current science is overwhelmingly telling us that the very way our society functions needs to make changes now if we want to save our ecosystems and the health of our planet. Those changes start at the individual level. We can all start to consider our impacts, our carbon footprint, and identify waste we produce in our daily lives. Our decisions will make or break the vibrancy, health, and existence of even more of the Earth’s species, including our own.

Trump Administration Attacks on the Environment are Hazardous to Americans' Health

The first 170+ days of President Trump's term as President of the United States have been marked with controversy around a plethora of issues affecting the American public -not the least of which being the obvious and unjustifiable attacks on our environment, or the relentless assertion that climate change is a hoax. Since taking office in January, President Trump has wasted little time in waging his assault on our environment.  Early in his term, Trump appointed former Oklahoma AG Scott Pruitt as his Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief; a man who sued the EPA more than a dozen times during the course of his career as Attorney General. It's a classic example of 'the fox watching the hen house."

The president's FY2018 budget proposal included a $2.6 billion (31%) cut to the EPA  budget, reducing the agency to funding levels to it's lowest level in 40 years (adjusted for inflation).  The proposal would eliminate more than 3,200 employees, severely diminishing the agency's ability to implement and enforce important environmental standards, review permit applications, and oversee superfund remediation sites and other environmental cleanup projects.

The president's budget also zeroes-out more than 50 geographic EPA programs, including the Long Island Sound, Great Lakes, and Hudson River Estuary programs.  These critical programs monitor water quality and implement on-the-ground projects to restore habitat and improve water quality in our nation's most vital waters.  Not only do these programs help support local economies by maintaining the health of aquatic ecosystems, but they also play an important role in protecting public health.

In addition to his assault on the EPA, the president has already signed a slew of executive orders (EO's) aimed at limiting environmental protections.  These include EO's to expedite the Dakota Access and Keystone XL Pipelines, abandon the Clean Power Plan that would limit greenhouse gas emissions from fossil-fuel burning power plants, eliminate protections for vital waterways under the Obama-era Clean Water Rule, ease restrictions on off-shore drilling including in the Arctic, allow disposal of coal sludge in rivers and streams, and several others.

By taking such aggressive action to eliminate environmental protections (without congressional approval), Trump is sending a clear message that the interests of business and industry are a priority over  public health and our environment.  Nothing embodies this dynamic better than the Trump administration's war on climate science.

Recently, EPA Director Pruitt has announced the establishment of a new task force to review and challenge climate change data at the EPA.  The task force would review inconsistencies or "vulnerabilities" in existing climate data and determine how the agency should vet and apply climate change research moving forward.  This completely undermines the peer reviewed, science-based standard that is traditionally used to weigh and verify scientific research, and it could limit the agency's ability to ensure sound scientific approaches to important environmental policy matters.

Trump ran on a platform of eliminating the EPA and removing what he deems are "unnecessary" regulatory burdens to business and industry, and so far, it seems he intends to deliver.  Unfortunately, the news media has been so focused on the controversy regarding the president's use of Twitter and swirling allegations of collusion with the Russians, that the president's actual policy agenda is sailing past voters without them even knowing it.  During times like these, it's critical that members of the public remain vigilant, they remain informed, and most importantly, they must remain active.  Now more than ever, our environment is under attack, and it's up to you to defend it.

People's Climate March - Washington D.C. 4/29/17

It’s pre-dawn on the Jersey Turnpike.  A torrential downpour has turned it into a river.  The unrelenting storm is complete with constant, menacing flashes of lightning and crashes of thunder.  In the days prior, it has already wreaked havoc and destruction across the Midwest as the driving force behind a rash of tornadoes. By midday in D.C., the temperature has climbed all the way to 91ºF.  It is still April.

These extreme weather events could not have been more ironically timed, as CCE came together with over 200,000 people from all over the country - lead by indigenous people from all over the world - to march for action on our changing climate.  The unseasonable heat punctuated the urgent message each one of us was there to deliver directly to the White House: “Climate Change is upon us and there is no more time to waste!”

This is fact. Fifteen of the sixteen hottest years on record occurred between 2000 and 2016.  Data collected from the polar regions tells us they are warming even faster than the rest of the world. Scientists have studied fossilized life forms and Antarctic ice cores to determine that the speed at which the Earth is warming is happening much, much faster than ever before.

Sea level rise threatens coastal communities, ocean acidification and warming ocean temperatures imperil marine organisms of all types and have already contributed to the impending death of the Great Barrier Reef.  Desertification is reducing the amount of arable land available to feed our exploding population.  Unpredictable weather patterns are leading to water shortages and crop failures.

All of that can – and must – change.

But, the People’s Climate Movement is in fact more than a movement for the climate. Indeed, one of the slogans for the march proclaimed it was for “Climate, Jobs, and Justice.”  Transitioning to renewable energy offers solutions not just for climate change, but also for a range of economic and social issues facing our country.  Over 900 different organizations came together for the march.  Among them were labor unions, groups concerned with water and air quality protection, and even coal mining communities who were there to advocate for a ‘just transition’ to renewables for the workers in their hometowns. Moving our country forward toward energy independence, toward leadership in innovation and economic prosperity, toward keeping our air safe to breathe and our water safe to drink, can only happen by embracing the renewable energy future.

The good news?  It’s already happening.  Deepwater Wind flipped the switch on the first offshore wind farm in America this week, providing 100% of the power for Block Island, Rhode Island and replacing noisy, polluting, diesel-burning generators with its five turbines a few miles out.

The best part?  It will not be the last.  Advances in solar and wind technology have made them cost-competitive against fossil fuel generation. That means we don’t have to choose between clean energy and cheap energy. We have reached the point whence they have become one in the same!

We pay tremendously with our dollars, our health, and our environment to keep fossil fuels on life support.  It needs to end now. We must demand it – for the Climate, Jobs, and Justice we all deserve.

The march was a great start.  It was an absolute inspiration to see so many doing exactly what needs to be done; standing up, showing up, and speaking up for our energy policies to work in the best interest of everyone.  We must continue to demand it because (as one sign read) “Silence is Compliance”.  We have finally arrived at the precipice of a paradigm shift away from filthy fossil fuels.  We have the technology and the capability to make it happen. Exercise your rights to the fullest!  Protests.  Letters.  Petitions.  Phone Calls. ‘This is what De-mo-cra-cy looks like!’

Some quotes spotted on signs at the march: