Press Release: Elected Officials and Environmental Justice Advocates Call on Gov. Lamont and CGA to Strengthen Environmental Justice Statute

Hartford, CT – Today environmentalists were joined by elected officials and organizations representing labor, racial justice, faith, and health professionals in submitting a letter to Governor Ned Lamont and the Connecticut General Assembly requesting legislative action on a stronger environmental justice (EJ) law for the State of Connecticut.

Section 22a-20a of Connecticut’s General Statutes requires operators seeking a permit to build or expand affecting facility located in a state-designated environmental justice community to file an Environmental Justice Public Participation Plan with, and receive approval from, the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection prior to filing the permit application. 

Though public participation requirements are in place, they are insufficient to protect public health because they do not consider the cumulative impact of existing and proposed new facilities. As a result, additional polluting facilities are routinely permitted in economically and environmentally distressed communities.

“For too long, low-income communities and communities of color have disproportionately suffered from the environmental and health hazards created by trash incinerators, power plants, and other polluting facilities. We’re calling on Governor Lamont and the Connecticut General Assembly to act legislatively change the permitting process that allows additional polluting sources in these communities,” said Alex Rodriguez, environmental justice specialist at Save the Sound.

“In the year of 2023, we face the harsh consequences of decisions made decades ago—some of us more than others. To live in an Environmental Justice community is to be relegated into a sacrifice zone overburdened by pollution absent elsewhere yet devoid of the clean, natural resources others can access from their backyards. To this reality, we say no more. The time has come for state agencies and institutions to stop making excuses to justify their actions to perpetuate environmental racism, urban degradation, and rural neglect. I ask that the legislature shift the trajectory of our state’s future,” said Katharine Morris, scholar-activist, MPP, Seaside Sounds Club leader.

The signatories of the letter are advocating for an update to Connecticut’s environmental justice law, Public Act 20-6. They want the update to this rule to require the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and the Siting Council to say no to added polluting hazards in already distressed communities.

Kimmy Reindl and Matthew Plourd, co-directors of Sunrise Movement Connecticut, said: “State legislators must recognize there is much more needed to be done to protect our communities from environmental hazards. We need an upgraded environmental justice law that shifts decision making power from the top and places it firmly in the hands of us, the people – everyday residents whose water, air, schools, and community spaces stand to shoulder the burdens of pollution. These proposed common-sense revisions further empower our neighbors with the tools and resources to speak out against polluters and care for the families and communities they call home.”

“As members of the American College of Physicians, which recently released a policy paper on health effects associated with pollution and climate change, the ACP CT Chapter believes comprehensive action must be taken to achieve environmental justice. All communities, including people of color, people with low income, and marginalized populations, deserve to live, work, learn, and play in a safe, healthy environment,” said Ruth Weissberger, MD, FACP, Governor, Connecticut Chapter of the American College of Physicians.

The letter’s endorsing organizations include: 10,000 Hawks, Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments, American Lung Association in Connecticut, Black and Brown United in Action, BLM860, BYOCT, Citizens Climate Lobby Connecticut, Citizens Climate Lobby Connecticut District 4, Clean Water Action, Connecticut Citizen Action Group, Connecticut Chapter of the American College of Physicians, Connecticut Climate Crisis Mobilization, Connecticut Coalition for Environmental and Economic Justice, Connecticut College of Emergency Physicians, Connecticut League of Conservation Voters, Conservation Law Foundation, Connecticut River Conservancy, Connecticut Roundtable on Climate and Jobs, CSEA SEIU Local 2001, Green Eco Warriors, Hamden Alliance for Trees, IRIS – Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services, League of Women Voters of Connecticut, Nonprofit Accountability Group, Operation Fuel, Inc., PT Partners, Radical Advocates for Cross-Cultural Education (RACCE), Seaside Sounds Club, Sierra Club Connecticut, Save Our Shoreline, Save the Sound, Sunrise Movement Connecticut, Sunrise New Haven, Surfrider Foundation, Temple Bnai Israel, Transport Hartford Academy, UConn EcoHusky, UConn Public Interest Law Group, and Waste Free Greenwich.

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