Environmental Accomplishments of the Past 40 Years
Environmental Justice Program Created
In 1993, DEP created an Environmental Justice (EJ) program that became a national model and is now the oldest continuing program of its type in the nation.
The EJ program was designed to enforce a policy that maintains that “no segment of the population should, because of its racial, ethnic or economic makeup, bear a disproportionate share of the risks and consequences of environmental pollution or be denied equal access to environmental benefits.”
The EJ program developed several strategies to achieve its goals. These include:
- Public outreach and education;
- Conflict resolution around permit applications and site remediation;
- Workshops and seminars on key topics, such as illegal dumping;
- Targeted inspections, approximately 2,000 performed annually;
- Enforcement of regulations governing illegal dumping and the disposal of asbestos wastes, two issues of special concern in urban areas;
- Compliance Assistance to partner with local enforcement agencies in order to respond to the needs of the communities in a timely manner;
- Cleanup of contaminated public and private properties and
- Access to the state’s natural resources, so urban residents can learn about conservation and enjoy the state parks.
A successful collaboration with environmental advocacy groups in 2008 led to passage of landmark legislation that significantly expands public involvement in decisions regarding the siting or expansion of certain facilities in Environmental Justice communities. The type of facilities covered by the law include power plants, solid and hazardous waste treatment, storage and disposal facilities, sewage treatment plants and large facilities that produce air emissions.
When these types of facilities are proposed in an EJ community, the law, Public Act 08-94, An Act Concerning Environmental Justice Communities and the storage of Asbestos Contaminated Soil, requires:
- Meaningful public participation and informal public hearings
- Consultation between the applicant and elected municipal officials to determine the need for a community environmental benefit agreement
The definition of EJ communities in the law includes 59 communities in Connecticut.