Strengths include funding for climate education, open space, invasive species control, and more
NEW HAVEN—The passage of Connecticut’s 2023 budget adjustment bill late Tuesday night brings powerful momentum to the drive toward more protected open space, cleaner water, and better climate education for the state’s future leaders—our children. Save the Sound thanks lawmakers and Governor Lamont for working together to craft a budget that invests in our people and our ecosystems.
(Want to know what’s happening in other parts of the region? See our response to the NY state budget.)
Climate change education
Educating our future climate thinkers and doers will fuel environmental solutions for decades to come. The long-awaited inclusion of climate change education in the required science curriculum of all Connecticut public schools has arrived with this year’s budget. The bill specifies that climate teaching be “consistent with the Next Generation Science Standards,” developed by a coalition of states. CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection already assists some Connecticut schools in developing optional climate change curricula.
“Considering the threat of climate change to younger populations and future generations, it is of the highest necessity for Connecticut schools to teach the science of climate change so that youth will be equipped with the tools to think critically and will be prepared to participate in the growing green economy,” said Alex Rodriguez, climate advocate at Save the Sound.
Supporting cleaner transportation
The budget provides funding to extend the current bus fare holiday until December and provides for $10 million in vouchers for medium- and heavy-duty zero-emission vehicles and buses and installation of electric vehicle charging infrastructure.
“The transportation sector is Connecticut’s largest single source of greenhouse gas emissions, so addressing transportation is essential to meeting the state’s climate commitments. Encouraging public transit use and making electric vehicles easier to obtain and charge are important complementary policies,” said Charles Rothenberger, climate and energy attorney for Save the Sound. “In addition to the obvious public health and climate benefits, providing alternatives to internal combustion engine vehicles will help insulate Connecticut residents from the volatility of fossil fuel markets.”
Open space funding
Forceful funding for open space is also featured in this year’s budget, with a $5 million increase in grants for the Open Space and Watershed Land Acquisition (OSWA) Grant Program, for a total of $15 million. “This additional funding for the OSWA program is critically needed for the state to move closer to its open space conservation goals under the Connecticut Comprehensive Open Space Acquisition Strategy,” said David Anderson, land campaigns manager at Save the Sound. “Known commonly as The Green Plan, this strategy has a goal of conserving 21 percent of Connecticut’s land base as open space by 2023. We’re currently at approximately 75 percent of the target and need to protect an additional 160,000 acres to meet that target. We’re pleased to see progress being made.”
Aquatic Invasive Species
Also included in the 2023 budget is the establishment of an Office of Aquatic Invasive Species within the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station. Aquatic invasive species, including animals such as zebra mussels and Chinese mitten crabs and plants such as milfoils and curly leaf pond weed, crowd out native species and can be impossible to eliminate.
“It is time for Connecticut to increase its response to the ongoing arrival of invasive species, and we applaud the establishment of this new office,” said Soundkeeper Bill Lucey of Save the Sound. “Controlling invasive species relies on early detection and rapid response. We need not only an Office of Aquatic Invasive Species and the Invasive Plants Council; we also need a full-fledged Connecticut Invasive Species Council to coordinate a holistic response to these invasions.”
The budget calls for the new Office to coordinate statewide research on aquatic invasive species, serve as a repository for research data, perform surveys, educate the public, advise municipalities, and act as a liaison among groups working to control these aquatic plants and animals that threaten our ecosystems.
Road salt application
The 2023 budget also funds training for Green Snow Pro certification in best practices and “green salting” techniques for workers who apply road salt. Improper application and excess road salt can contaminate our drinking water, poison creeks, mobilize toxins, and destroy our cars and bridges.
From dredge to restoration
Sand, soils, and other fill generated by necessary dredging projects can be either an expensive problem or a valuable resource. The budget adjustment permits two methods of dealing with dredge materials: use of CAD cells in major ports and harbors, and beneficial reuse. Beneficial reuse, for which Save the Sound has long advocated, is an approach by which clean fill from dredge projects is repurposed to help rebuild dunes, shore up subsiding marshes, and nourish beaches. It can keep soils and sands local and help to restore the structures that allow a vibrant coastal ecosystem to flourish.