CEQ: May 28, 2014 News Release on Annual Report

NEWS RELEASE

 

May 28, 2014

 

Contact:   Karl Wagener, Executive Director

               860-424-4000

 

Link to report:   www.ct.gov/ceq/AnnualReport

 


CEQ RELEASES ANNUAL REPORT ON CONNECTICUT’S ENVIRONMENT

 

Finds improvements in air quality but not in land conservation, and comments on the downturn in compliance with environmental laws

 

 

       HARTFORD – The Council on Environmental Quality reviewed the state’s environmental data for 2013 and found clear positive trends and lingering problems. This year’s report also highlights the many ways in which global climate change is working against the state’s efforts to improve air and water quality.

       The Council delivered Environmental Quality in Connecticut, the state’s official annual report on the condition of the environment, to Governor Dannel P. Malloy yesterday.

       The Council draws several clear conclusions from the 2013 data:

  • The air in Connecticut during 2013 was the cleanest it has been in decades.  Residents have been driving less, taking public transportation more often and using electricity more efficiently, all of which reduce air pollution. The number of days with unhealthful air improved also, but only slightly, and the report notes the role of hot weather in bad summer air quality.
  • Those same changes in residents’ daily routines also are helping to keep the state on track toward its goals for reducing emissions that contribute to climate change.
     
  • In contrast to their steady progress in clearing the air, Connecticut residents still are not on track toward their goals for conserving land, especially at the state level.
  • The overall rate of compliance with environmental laws declined to their lowest level as more than a thousand violations were found and cited.
  • Global climate change promises to make Connecticut's environmental challenges more difficult. Warmer summers, higher waters and more intense rainfall all will require Connecticut to work even harder to meet its goals for air quality, water quality and the conservation of fish and wildlife.

       “The apparent downturn in compliance with environmental laws was unexpected,” said Council Chair Susan Merrow of East Haddam. “The compliance rate had been hovering between 80 and 90 percent for years, but declined to 72 percent last year.” A 72 percent compliance rate means that state environmental inspectors found violations during 28 percent (more than one in four) of the inspections they conducted.

       The report says there could be several explanations for the unusually large number of violations – more than a thousand – discovered in 2013. One possibility is that violations might go up when the number of inspections goes down (in the way speeding on a highway increases when there is no police presence), and the report notes that there were fewer inspections conducted in 2013 than in any year for at least the past 23 years. “The relationships among the number of inspections, compliance and environmental quality is a serious topic that needs to be explored and discussed,” said Merrow.

       The report notes that an extraordinary number (237) of notices were issued for violations of regulations pertaining to radioactive materials and x-ray devices. “Evidently,” said Merrow, “many of those violators had been out of compliance for years, and the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection has been trying to catch up on those.”

       This year’s report, which is designed to be read online, includes a number of changes in format. The Council decided to illustrate trends over the past ten years, rather than the 25 or 30 years shown in the past, to better give residents a clear idea of how their environment is improving or not improving.

       In explaining this important change, Merrow said, “Many environmental reports show long-term improvements over the course of 30 years, but they often overlook the fact that most of those improvements occurred in the first twenty years, not the last ten.”

      The report also calls attention to the long-standing problems of archaic information systems and insufficient data. “The state's progress on several fronts simply cannot be measured and reported,” Merrow writes in the cover letter to Governor Malloy.

 

        The Council on Environmental Quality submits Connecticut’s annual report on the status of the environment to the Governor pursuant to state statutes. Additional responsibilities of the Council include review of construction projects of other state agencies, publication of the twice-monthly Environmental Monitor, and investigation of citizens’ complaints and allegations of violations of environmental laws. The Council is a nine-member board that is independent of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (except for administrative functions). The chairman and four other members are appointed by the Governor, two members by the President Pro Tempore of the Senate and two by the Speaker of the House.

        The annual report, Environmental Quality in Connecticut, is available on the Council’s website at www.ct.gov/ceq/AnnualReport.

 

END



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