Compromise Boosts Share of Cap-and-Trade Revenues for Environmental Justice

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HARTFORD — The state legislature’s Environmental Committee approved a compromise bill that significantly increases the amount of revenues directed toward communities with the highest levels of motor vehicle pollution. Environmental justice advocates had criticized a previous draft of the bill, part of a cap-and-trade proposal for motor fuels, for not doing enough to address the disparate impacts of air pollution. The legislation, which now must be approved in the senate, would set aside 50 percent of revenues from the Transportation Climate Initiative Program for projects in communities with high levels of pollution from vehicles, or that are underserved by transportation

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Driven Indoors by Pandemic, Finding Relief on the Trails

“I need to get out of the house or I’m going to lose my mind.”

That is how Kristina White bottom-lines the motivation for a pandemic-driven explosion of visitors to the 20 trails and preserves she oversees as executive director of the Lyme Land Trust.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen this many people outside in the winter,” White said after returning home from a morning hike herself. “It’s a huge uptick and they’re coming from all over the state. When I drive through town on the weekends the parking lots are full and now it’s on weekdays, too. That’s never

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Franklin-Based Forester Talks Managed Woodlands

“When you walk through a forest that’s starting to age it just doesn’t look good,” said Joan Nichols, a professional forester based in Franklin Connecticut. “It would be like if the entire population of the state of Connecticut was all 90, it’s not good for the individuals and it’s not good for the state.”  About 65 percent of Connecticut is forested. “Anywhere you drive you see trees, and everyone loves to learn about trees,” she said. “They love to learn about trees, about forest health…everybody thinks it’s great until we got to cut trees down. Some people have a mindset

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Environmentalists Tout Once-in-a-Generation Opportunity with Dam Relicensing on Connecticut River

Almost 60 years after the start of efforts on the Connecticut River to restore native fish, including Atlantic Salmon and alewife, environmentalists are touting a major breakthrough for migratory species.  Currently, three dams – Wilder, Bellows Falls and Vernon — in New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Vermont are up for relicensing by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and all of have critical roles in restricting fish passage up and down the longest river in New England.  “FERC recognized that there is an advantage to these dams being relicensed as a system,” said Andrea Donlon, a river steward for the Connecticut

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Tong Outlines State and Federal Approaches to Connecticut’s Climate Goals

Speaking virtually to an audience of UConn law and environmental science students on Thursday, state Attorney General William Tong extolled the virtues of federalism — despite challenges of federal government — as a means to protect state climate goals. Tong said he was hopeful that the administration of newly-inaugurated President Joe Biden will make more of an effort to address climate change than the administration of former President Donald Trump – citing the U.S. re-joining the Paris Climate Accords as a positive early step. Still, he said, states like Connecticut have been waiting a long time for meaningful action on

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Environmentalists Return to Unfinished Work Cut Short by Pandemic

From updating the bottle bill to modernizing the electric grid, environmental advocates are looking at 2021 as a second chance to tackle legislation that got left behind in 2020. The Connecticut League of Conservation Voters spent Tuesday afternoon discussing the impending “waste crisis” facing the state as the largest trash-to-energy incinerator, the Materials Innovation and Recycling Authority (MIRA), is set to close in 2022. The conversation could almost have taken place one year ago as the majority of environmental legislation never made it to a vote during the shortened 2020 legislative session.  “A lot of environmental legislation stalled last year

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A Victory for Plum Island Advocates in latest COVID Relief Bill

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After 12 years, Plum Island is off the auction block because of a provision in the $2.3 trillion COVID-19 relief bill that passed on Monday.  It’s been 12 years of fighting to prevent the sale of the island, said U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-NY, during a public zoom call that included members of Preserve Plum Island Coalition, an alliance of more than 116 organizations  “We fought for years to prevent the sale to a developer. We tried locating it, at first, with the National Park Service then with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,” Schumer said.  Since 1954, the 840-acre

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Scientists Explain Bunker Found Washed up on the Connecticut Shoreline

Masses of the ubiquitous menhaden, or bunker, have been washing up all along Connecticut’s shore – and from New Jersey to Cape Cod – over the past month, but biologists say the dead fish aren’t a cause for alarm. The number of bunker washing up on the shore is a small percentage of the bunker still swimming in the Long Island Sound, explained Bill Lucey, of Save the Sound. Lucey said that the first week of November, he heard reports of solid schools of bunker from Watch Hill, Rhode Island to Bridgeport. When an earthquake struck southeastern Massachusetts on Nov.

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DEEP Launches Low Cost Innovative Program to Monitor Stream Flow

Trail cameras, like those used by hunters, are the latest tool for state water management staff to monitor disruption of Connecticut’s networks of streams. The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection has installed about 30 trail cameras across Connecticut to identify stream connectivity issues – areas where the flow of water is so low that a section of stream becomes impassable for fish. Stream connectivity is key for migratory fish like the native brook trout, which spawn each fall in shallow riffle pools, and move to deeper waters as they grow, said Chris Bellucci an analyst for the department’s

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Invasive Lantern Fly Makes Appearance in Fairfield County

Dead grape vines, slick mold, and large-winged, swarming insects have become common sights in southeastern Pennsylvania where the spotted lanternfly has taken over forests, backyards and vineyards.  And with groups of the invasive pest spotted recently in two towns in Fairfield County, the pest could make a significant appearance in Connecticut soon, and researchers haven’t had luck finding a way to stop it once they’ve taken root. Native to China, India and Vietnam, the first sighting of a spotted lanternfly was in Berks County, Pennsylvania, in 2014. Since then, it has spread and infested most of southeastern Pennsylvania and parts

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As Legislators Debate Economic Benefits, and Burden for Homeowners, New Environmental Cleanup Rules Receive Unanimous Vote

HARTFORD — During special session, a number of state senators debated legislation that would modify the Transfer Act, a law dating to 1985 that regulates the way that polluted properties are handled in Connecticut.  The legislation shifts state law from a “transfer-based” system — one that requires hazardous waste spills to be cleaned up when a property changes hands — to a “released-based system,” requiring that property owners clean up pollution as soon as they are aware of the problem. The new legislation passed the House on Wednesday by a vote of 143-0 with an amendment which would prevent peripheral

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Legislature Overwhelmingly Passes Environmental Justice Measure

HARTFORD — Lawmakers in the special session passed a bill that would revise the state’s environmental justice regulations, and require facilities that impact the environment to improve communication with the public and provide services or funding that would mitigate any environmental effects on the surrounding community.   The bill passed the House on Wednesday 139-5 and the Senate on Thursday 35-1.  State Rep. Geraldo Reyes, D-Waterbury, who co-authored the bill, told Connecticut Examiner that the changes came out of an experience he had in his home district of Waterbury, when an F&G Transfer Plant decided to expand its activities. Although large

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Deadly ‘Beech Leaf Disease’ Identified Across Connecticut and Rhode Island

A mysterious nematode first identified near Cleveland in 2012 has been spotted in seven Connecticut counties and Rhode Island this summer. The nematode has been tied to the deadly “Beech leaf disease” that has wreaked havoc on beech trees from Lake Erie to the Atlantic Ocean. “We’re really concerned because we’re not left with much else in the forest now – oaks and hickories and birches, and then beeches,” said Robert Marra, a scientist with the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station. Going back 150 years, there would have been abundant chestnuts, elms, ashes and walnuts, said Marra, but the northeastern forests

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Open Burning Prohibited as Fires Persist in Dry Windham County

Open burning was barred across the state Tuesday as fires continued to burn in Windham County. Windham County has been experiencing drought since July, and it’s been the site of several fires in recent weeks. The forest fire danger level for Connecticut was “very high” on Tuesday, the second-highest alert after “extreme.”  The alert meant no open burning was allowed Tuesday, and the restriction continues as long as the fire danger level remains high, very high or extreme. The alert is updated every morning at 7 a.m. “With all the recent tree damage and debris, to many it appears to

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Repeal of ‘Transfer Act’ Would Shift Burden For Environmental Clean-ups in Connecticut

Legislators and policy makers are proposing to change the way that hazardous waste cleanup works in Connecticut — a shift that advocates hope will both boost the economy and better protect the environment.   The changes are outlined in two bills that if approved by the legislature will switch over the state of Connecticut from a system that is transfer-based — in which the owner is responsible for cleaning up hazardous materials only when a property changes hands — to a release-based system, in which the cleanup must be done as soon as the owner becomes aware of the problem.  This

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70-Acre Fire Breaks out in Windham, Drought Deepens Across Connecticut and Rhode Island

Volunteer firefighters and state crews are working to contain a 70-acre brush fire that began Wednesday in the Natchaug State Forest in Windham County as drought conditions persist and begin to stretch into southern Connecticut. Northern Connecticut, including Windham County, has experienced drought since June. A typically swampy area of the forest is now dry brush, and there has been low humidity in the air and high winds for the past several days – a recipe for fire to spread — explained Will Healy, a spokesman for the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. The conditions also contributed to smaller

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As State and Federal Efforts Wane, Phragmites Control is Left to Private Efforts

Much of the Connecticut River is fringed with phragmites. Its light green reeds grow thick and tall, shutting out native plants, mucking up the water for native birds and fish and shielding the waterfront from view. Ten years ago, controlling this invasive plant was a major focus for both the state and federal governments. The Environmental Protection Agency and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service often had grants available to fund shoreline restoration projects. With consistent herbicide application and diligent mowing by a team of seven full-time employees, and many more seasonal workers at the state Department of Energy

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Scientists Take the Long View on Saving Eastern Hemlock Stands from Woolly Adelgid.

The hemlock woolly adelgid, an insect that has decimated the eastern hemlock population over the last 40 years, is not a parasite — it’s an herbivore.  “Herbivores eat plants,” said Dr. Evan Pressier, an associate professor of biological sciences at University of Rhode Island. “It can be a bit of a dicey distinction, but most people would talk of the hemlock woolly adelgid as an herbivore because it does eat plant tissue. It’s not a parasite in a traditional sense.”  Pressier has spent 15 years researching the hemlock woolly adelgid, known as HWA, and experimented with genetically-resistant hemlocks as well

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DEEP Moves to Streamline Permitting Process for Businesses under the Clean Air Act

In a 12 to 0 vote on Tuesday, the Legislative Regulation Review Committee approved a set of permanent regulations that will replace temporary permits used by Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to limit emissions from facilities regulated under the federal Clean Air Act. The state has required facilities with emissions regulated under the Clean Air Act to renew permits every five years. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had told DEEP it would not renew the state general permit. Chief of the DEEP Bureau of Air Management Tracy Babbidge explained that EPA preferred that Connecticut implement a “permit by

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(Updated) Bacteria Counts Spur Swimming Advisories at Sound View and Rocky Neck Beaches

There is a swimming advisory at Sound View beach in Old Lyme, after Ledge Light Health District found elevated bacteria levels, according to the town. Ledge Light re-sampled the beach on Wednesday and will have results in the next two days, according to the Town of Old Lyme Facebook post. The post stated that no other beaches are affected. There is also a swimming advisory at Rocky Neck State Park in Old Lyme, after the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection found elevated levels of enterococcal organisms in a test Monday. Ledge Light also found elevated levels of enterococcal

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Hearing Tonight on Expanding Wetland Review Area in East Lyme from 100 to 500 Feet

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EAST LYME — The East Lyme Inland Wetland Agency will host a public hearing tonight on a proposal to enlarge its the scope of review from 100 to 500 feet around inland wetland areas. The proposed change to East Lyme’s Inland Wetlands and Watercourses regulations would expand the upland review area and mean that the commission would review any construction or changes to land within 500 feet of any inland wetland or watercourse to determine if it has a significant environmental impact. The hearing will be held at 7 p.m. by Zoom. The commission could vote on the proposal Monday

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Environmentalists Seek Local Volunteers to Pull Invasive Water Chestnuts on the Connecticut River

Summer is the season for pulling out water chestnuts along the Connecticut River, and groups concerned with the prolific invasive plant are getting ready and organizing volunteers.  The Connecticut River Conservancy aims to promote and coordinate removal of the invasive European water chestnut from the river’s source in northern New Hampshire, down to the Long Island Sound. The conservancy works with local groups like Friends of Whalebone Cove, which has taken on the task of removing invasive plants from Whalebone Cove, Selden Cove and Selden Creek, near Hadlyme. “What we’re doing is a small part of what they’re trying to

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Apparent Attack on Swans in Hadlyme Raises Questions About Beloved Invasive

To some swans are a serene fixture of the Connecticut landscape, to others the mute swan is an invasive nuisance causing havoc to the native ecosystem. “People think they are amazing, and beautiful and they are, but they are a problem,” said Judy Preston, the Long Island Sound Study Outreach Program Coordinator at the University of Connecticut. “They eat the emergent vegetation. They rip it up by the roots putting incredible pressure on native plants and they displace native waterfowl from our coves.” Today, an estimated 1,000 to 1,400 mute swans nest in the state’s inland and coastal wetlands, up

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