“This is my budget, and within it our values, each and every one aimed squarely at economic growth and inclusive opportunity,” Governor Ned Lamont told a joint convention of the CT General Assembly when he presented his 2024-25 proposed state budget on February 8 at the Hartford Capitol. It includes $198.6 million in FY 2024 and $265 million in FY 2025 for energy and environmental issues, with an additional $25 million in FY 2024 and $22.5 million in FY 2025 to go toward dam repair, flood control and erosion repair, and state parks. Many of the governor’s budgetary values align with Save the Sound’s own priorities, which include investments in clean water, increased Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (CT DEEP) staffing, environmental justice, energy efficiency, land conservation, and resilience.
Building and maintaining high-functioning clean water infrastructure is one of the most important steps we can take to improve the health of Connecticut’s rivers and Long Island Sound—and to protect public health and industries that rely on clean water. The biggest problem impacting the health of the Sound is high levels of nitrogen and other nutrients, which enter our waterways via outdated, inadequate stormwater and sewage systems, contributing to low-oxygen dead zones, harmful algae blooms, and marsh damage. While Gov. Lamont’s budget includes a relatively modest $130 million investment over two years in the state’s Clean Water Fund for grants and loans to municipalities, this is on top of $294.6 million authorized in previous years and not yet allocated to projects. The governor’s proposed 2024-45 budget also includes $5 million for publicly-owned stormwater management projects through gray or green infrastructure.
“Budgeting for clean water infrastructure is just the first step toward improved water quality for everyone,” Soundkeeper Bill Lucey said. “This increased funding is helpful for offsetting the rising costs of projects. But in order to meet years of pent-up environmental need, fulfill towns’ Clean Water Act obligations, and fully realize the jobs benefits of infrastructure investment, not only should these funds be approved, but the Bond Commission should fully allocate them. CT DEEP needs more engineers to help address bottlenecks and get critical clean water and resiliency projects moving.”
In order to attain our goal of cleaner water, per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) pollution must also be addressed. PFAS, also known as “forever chemicals” because of their persistence in the environment, can contribute to health problems including kidney and testicular cancers, liver damage, reproductive disorders and thyroid disruption, and impaired immune function. Gov. Lamont’s budget proposes $2 million each year for the Potable Water/PFAS Program to help deal with this public health and ecological crisis.
The governor’s budget addresses equity and environmental justice in meaningful ways. It would allow for the creation of a Connecticut Waste Authority to lead statewide waste reduction programs that prioritize increased recycling, food waste diversion, and extended producer responsibility. Alex Rodriguez, environmental justice specialist, said: “Connecticut’s waste crisis has severely impacted the health of Black and Latine residents in particular. The norm for disposing of waste has historically leaned towards landfilling or incinerating trash, but proximity to those hazardous sites puts residents at higher risk for respiratory illness. We encourage the governor and CT DEEP to continue working with frontline communities and municipal leaders towards the zero-waste solutions referenced in the proposal.”
(Update 2/24/23: After careful review by our team, we are cautiously supportive of the Governor’s effort to increase recycling, food waste diversion, and extended producer responsibility. These provisions broadly ensure a clean and healthy Long Island Sound; however, we are concerned about language in the proposal that would open a door for chemical recycling and new solid waste disposal facilities. Combustion, gasification, incineration, pyrolysis, solvolysis, or any chemical conversion of hazardous substances would worsen climate change and have a negative impact on the Sound. We urge the Governor and General Assembly to finalize a budget that combats Connecticut’s waste crisis in an equitable and meaningful way.)
The proposed budget also includes funding from the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) for planting trees in state-identified environmental justice communities and tracts, and for new CT DEEP personnel to specifically focus on environmental justice and to facilitate the development of inclusive, fair, and equitable policies.
Other CT DEEP staff additions include positions in energy transmission, efficient buildings, shellfish management, wildlife management, and parks.
In the area of public transportation, Gov. Lamont stated a goal of supporting transportation in CT that’s “financially and environmentally sustainable, accessible for everyone who needs it, and safe.” Save the Sound commends the governor’s focus on public transit, which benefits both people and the environment. To improve rail transit statewide, his budget calls for increased funding for the Hartford and New Haven lines, infusing an additional $44.5 million and $56.2 million in fiscal years 2024 and 2025 respectively into rail transit. While ridership on the Shore Line East line has apparently been lagging, the proposed budget calls for funding at a level that would support slightly increased ridership from current levels, allowing for some additional rebound from the effects of the pandemic.
The governor also called for bus route expansions in many of the state’s most heavily populated areas, while taking advantage of more federal transportation formula funding, increasing funding for bus service by $8.7 million in FY 2024 and $8.9 million in FY 2025. Electric buses earned a boost, with a $10 million allocation each year that includes funding the necessary charging infrastructure.
“While this funding only allows for the replacement of a small part of the current state fleet, we’re pleased to see a continued commitment to achieving the state’s goal of replacing at least 30 percent of the state fleet with zero-emission buses by 2030,” said Charles Rothenberger, climate and energy attorney. The biennium budget also commits a combined $35 million to transition 50 percent of the state light duty vehicle fleet to zero emission vehicles and the installation of approximately 1,400 charging ports to service state electric vehicles.
The governor’s budget also encourages the state to lead by example on energy use by proposing to modernize the Capitol-area buildings’ heating and cooling system, although what form such updates to the facility will take still appears uncertain. Ideally, existing infrastructure could be repurposed to support a clean renewable energy system to service the state buildings targeted.
In land conservation and public access, the governor proposed $3 million annually for the Recreation and Natural Heritage Trust; $10 million each year in grants for open space acquisition; and $5 million annually for the Connecticut Recreational Trails Program. DEEP staffing for a new central CT state parks region was also included.
As this legislative session gains momentum, Save the Sound will continue to advocate for appropriations- and finance-related policy actions to:
- Clean our Sound and rivers, create jobs, and help municipalities and local stormwater authorities through robust biennial funding for environmental programs and the CT Clean Water Fund
- Increase resources for DEEP to keep enforcement strong and our parks healthy and accessible
- Leverage federal funding to improve community resilience, increase energy efficiency investment, preserve and restore wildlife habitat, and improve water quality
Read our entire 2023 Legislative Agenda for CT here.