Thursday, January 05, 2006

CFE/Save the Sound's Opinion of Connecticut's Decision to Cutback on its Long Island Sound Cleanup Program

Leah Schmalz and Curt Johnson testified yesterday on behalf of Connecticut Fund for the Environment/Save the Sound. Among other things, they made the point that the state’s decision to stop putting money in the Clean Water Fund, is an unacceptable burden on Connecticut’s poorest cities. Hartford, Bridgeport and New Haven, for example, need to take care of their combined sewer systems, which are designed to send raw sewage into local waterways when it rains.

Here’s an excerpt from their testimony:

Radically decreasing the state’s historic share of funding clean water is neither morally or fiscally responsible. If the State were to do away with its 50% grant to the cities of Hartford, New Haven and Bridgeport for already planned CSO projects, it would burden these struggling urban centers and the citizens in our state least able to afford it with a collective bill of approximately $670 million.

We live in the wealthiest state in the Union. These urban communities are amongst the poorest cities in this great land. Urban residents in these cities, along with the businesses we all so desperately wish to see remain and expand in these urban centers, already face disproportional high taxes. This tax burden is due to our state’s extraordinary reliance on local property taxes. From an economic, moral and smart-growth perspective, how can we as a State possibly view saddling these three cities with more than two-thirds of a billion dollars in additional expenses as progress?

They argue that if the funding cutbacks aren’t reversed, the cleanup of the Sound will be delayed almost 25 years, from 2014 (the current target) to 2037:

Save the Sound expressed great concern this past November in response to the Department’s plan to relax the nitrogen general permit for 2006. The proposed permit relaxation would allow 1.5 million pounds more nitrogen pollution into the Sound this year, as compared to the limits under the current permit and restoration timeline. We recognize this proposed relaxation is in circulation because critical nitrogen reduction projects were badly delayed. This delay was due to the previously described recent legislative trend of slashing and raiding clean water funding. Progress at reducing nitrogen reduction has hit a wall.

The Department, facing a paltry 2006 and 2007 authorization of $20 million in GO bonding (less than 1/5 of the Department’s requested allocation), proposes to invest $8 million of these funds annually in nitrogen reduction investments. If this unacceptable rate of investment were to continue over the next few decades, we would not complete our responsibility to restore Long Island Sound’s dead zone until at least 2037. We are on a trajectory to delay restoration of our Estuary of National Significance by over two decades, thereby robbing an entire generation of citizens the promise of a healthy Long Island Sound. Save the Sound and CFE cannot stand by and allow this to occur.

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