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Source: New Haven Register

Rell may change funding sources


Posted: April 22, 2009
Originally Published: April 21, 2009

A regional environmental group, which has its Connecticut headquarters in New Haven, said the results of a letter-writing and petition drive show state residents don’t want cuts to the Department of Environmental Protection’s budget.

Representatives of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment said the campaign the group began several weeks ago resulted in more than 2,300 letters being sent to Gov. M. Jodi Rell and state lawmakers requesting the DEP budget be kept at current levels.

Emmett Pepper, CCE’s Connecticut program director, also said 5,000 people signed petitions, urging Rell and lawmakers not to cut funding to the DEP.

“The people of Connecticut have spoken loudly and clearly: environmental protection is not a luxury,” Pepper said. “Connecticut’s budget for the environment pales in comparison to surrounding states; the state needs to have the necessary resources to keep our air and water clean."

But according Dennis Schain, a DEP spokesman, Rell’s budget proposal calls for the agency’s budget to remain largely unchanged from the $149 million the agency has this year.

What is expected to change, Schain said, is the way the DEP’s budget is funded.

“The big things the governor has done with her budget proposal is to move DEP from a reliance on a series of special funds to being supported by general fund money,” he said. “We looked at (revenue) projections for those special fund sources and found that they had either remained flat or were declining and that the outlook for the longer term did not look good. Getting our funding from the general fund offers us consistency and reliability the agency needs for its environmental protection efforts.”

But Pepper said some of Rell’s budget proposals for the DEP are confusing and unclear. As an example, he cited expenditures proposed for the Connecticut Conservation Corps. Rell’s proposes spending $2.5 million to create the program in fiscal 2009-10 and $5 million in each of the next two years.

“I still haven’t got any clarity on what that program would do,” Pepper said. “Would it replace some of the work that’s now being done by the DEP?"

Rell has said the Connecticut Conservation Corps would hire people in need of work and pay them a decent wage to help with projects such as cleaning beaches and clearing trails at state parks.

Another criticism Pepper leveled at Rell’s budget proposal is that it doesn’t include funding for a program designed to boost the state’s lobster industry. Pepper said the General Assembly’s budget proposal includes money to preserve the “V-notch” program, while Rell’s does not.

The program was launched in 2007 with $1 million in state money, which Pepper said has now been spent.
It pays lobstermen market rates for returning female lobsters that they have caught back into Long Island Sound so that the animals can grow larger and replenish their numbers by laying more eggs.

It is known as the “V-notch” program because the V-shaped notch that lobstermen use to mark the tails of the female lobsters they catch. The lobsters are not allowed to be caught again until the notch has disappeared, which state environmental officials have said takes about two years.

The Citizens Campaign for the Environment has offices in Connecticut and New York state.