Attorney General Jepsen: Impact Statement Recommending
Plum Island Sale is Inadequate
Attorney General George Jepsen said today that the draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) recommending the federal government’s sale of Plum Island lacks significant critical evaluation and analysis.
Its deficiencies, he said, call into question the entire document.
The Attorney General filed his official comments today with the General Services Administration and the Department of Homeland Security in the proceedings on the island’s sale. Plum Island – located 12 miles off the Connecticut shoreline in Long Island Sound – is an important Connecticut interest, he said.
“It would be a tragedy to squander this opportunity to preserve Plum Island in its relatively natural state for generations to come,” wrote Attorney General Jepsen. “Absent a complete and candid evaluation of what the applicable statute actually requires and exploration of all possible scenarios and their related impacts, it is impossible to use the DEIS as a guidance document in making important decisions about the future of the island and of Long Island Sound.”
The DEIS, released in July, evaluated four hypothetical reuses for the island upon a sale. In recommending a sale, however, the DEIS did not recognize other potential and more detrimental development scenarios and their impacts on the environment, the Attorney General said. It recommends a sale assuming that some conservation will occur, without any assurance that such an assumption is accurate.
Further, it fails to explore the intent of federal law enacted in 2009 in which Congress indicated that any liquidation of the island would be limited to a sale of “real and personal property...which supports Plum Island operations” and that any such sale be “subject to such terms and conditions as necessary to protect government interests.” The DEIS does not explain how it reached the conclusion that the entirety of the island should be sold.
“The failure to conduct a complete examination of the nature of the legal directive from Congress and of the likely consequences of development, even as a result of moderate development activities on Plum Island, denies the government and the public the ability to properly determine whether the public benefits of the proposed sale would outweigh its true environmental costs,” Attorney General Jepsen wrote.
Of its approximately 840 acres, roughly 664 acres on Plum Island remain undeveloped, including 96 acres of freshwater wetlands, 101 acres of beach and dune systems and 196 acres of relatively undisturbed upland forests. The island is home to breeding grounds for several protected species of birds, is host to one known rare plant species and is associated with a number of endangered species, including marine sea turtles.
The island currently houses the Plum Island Animal Disease Center; the Department of Homeland Security is recommending closure of the facility and construction of a new research and laboratory site in Manhattan, Kansas.
Assistant Attorneys General Sharon Seligman and Kimberly Massicotte, head of the Office of the Attorney General’s Environment Department, as well as Associate Attorney General Joseph Rubin are assisting the Attorney General with this matter.
Jaclyn M. Falkowski