Thursday, June 29, 2006

Connecticut Council on Environmental Quality Misses the Most Important News About the Long Island Sound Cleanup

Probably the most important action taken on Long Island Sound this year has been the Connecticut Legislature’s refusal to fund the ongoing cleanup of the Sound. Amazingly, the Connecticut Council on Environmental Quality, an agency whose job it is to keep track of such things, didn’t notice.

You remember the background: Connecticut’s representatives in Hartford decided that even though the state is mandating towns and cities to upgrade their sewage treatment plants, and even though the state promised years ago to provide grants and low interest loans to the towns and cities, they were not going to put money in the Clean Water Fund for the sewage plant upgrades. Connecticut Fund for the Environment/Save the Sound has estimated that unless the decision is reversed, it will delay the cleanup for 25 years beyond its federally-approved 2014 deadline.

The Connecticut Council on Environmental Quality, which was created in 1971 as an independent board whose job is to review environmental trends in the state and report annually to the governor, released its 2005 report yesterday and, astonishingly, it says nothing about the Legislature’s abandonment of the Sound cleanup.

On the contrary, the report paints a rosy picture of nitrogen removal. Here’s an excerpt that sums up the report’s point of view on the issue:

Connecticut’s investment in nitrogen-removal technology has been successful. The goal for 2004 was met three years ahead of schedule.

True enough, I suppose, as far as it goes. But remember, the controversy over funding the Clean Water Fund was going on as long ago as last November. You’d think the agency whose job it is to track trends would have noticed.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

We noticed. We made a deliberate decision years ago to minimize reporting of "paper trends," including the appropriation of funds and the adoption of new laws. We do not ignore such developments, but we think they have the potential to distract readers from actual trends in air, water, land and health. Budgets and legislative activity tend to fluctuate, and one-year events are not as important as long-term efforts, a point we tried to emphasize in the report.

Regarding the funding of the state Clean Water Fund: We are watching this closely. I would not say the legislature made a decision to refuse funds; it was more a case of no action. The prospects for the Sound are good if funding shortfalls are made up in future years. In our report, we identify adequate funding of the state Clean Water Fund as a very important challenge for the coming year. If progress in cleaning up the Sound slows down, please be assured that we will report it, just as we did for other resources covered in the report.

Finally, thank you for writing about the Council's annual report and providing a link. This is not an attempt to get back on your good side, but a fact: When our previous Chairman (Donal O'Brien of New Canaan) retired in 2004, the Council's gift to him was a copy of your book with inscriptions from all the members.

Karl Wagener
Executive Director
Council on Environmental Quality

11:51 AM  

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