April 15, 2016

Contact:   Karl Wagener, Executive Director


Link to report:


      HARTFORD – The Council on Environmental Quality released its comprehensive report on the state’s environment for 2015 and concluded that regulation, often coupled with private and public investment, continues to yield many long-term improvements. Efforts that rely more on public investment alone, such as conservation of land and woodland wildlife, show discouraging trends.

      Another factor also plays a growing role in Connecticut’s environmental challenge: global trends that include climate change, sea level rise and more invasive species from afar.

     “We redesigned our one-page summary,” said Council Chair Susan Merrow of East Haddam, “and certain patterns became clear. First, natural resources that have depended greatly on environmental regulation, such as Bald Eagles and native shorebirds, have responded very well.”

      Merrow continued, “Second, our enforceable environmental laws have stimulated major private and municipal investments – think Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act – and we continue to reap the benefits of those. But there is a third pattern: where Connecticut has set goals for itself with no consequences for not meeting them, the results are discouraging.”

      The report includes about 30 indicators, many of which have been updated annually for several decades, which makes Connecticut’s report unusually comprehensive. “In Connecticut,” Merrow said, “we are fortunate to have actual long-term and trusted data on which to base environmental policy decisions.”

      The data for 2015 reveal the following:

  • The state’s air quality was a little worse because of last year’s hot summer; more heat leads to more ground-level ozone, which is Connecticut’s biggest air pollution problem. If it weren’t for the spike in ground-level ozone, overall air quality would have improved, as other pollutants did improve a bit.
  • The total area of forest in Connecticut did not shrink in the years since 2010, the first time that has happened in at least three decades. Unfortunately, a new indicator that tracks populations of forest birds, which are indicators of ecological health, showed steep declines since 2004, most likely a result of land development in forested areas prior to 2004.
  • The new state list of species that are endangered, threatened or of special concern, adopted in 2015, unfortunately includes most resident species of turtles and bats.
  • More than 90 percent of Long Island Sound had adequate oxygen levels all year round for the third year in a row.
  • About 900 violations of air, water and other pollution laws were detected by DEEP in 2015. As usual, facilities that store or distribute gasoline and other petroleum products accounted for the largest number of violations by far.
  • Connecticut will not meet its own open space conservation goal.

     Merrow noted that throughout this year’s report there are special notes that explain the influences of climate change and sea-level rise. Also on the topic of global trends, the report notes, “invasive species are on the verge of altering Connecticut’s forests and waterways forever. Comprehensive data are not available and are not found in this report; nonetheless, the changes underway are titanic. Connecticut does little to address these changes.”

      Merrow said that the story told by these environmental indicators can really help to focus attention on the best solutions to the remaining problems. “When the CEQ started these reports in 1973, every problem looked like a mountain that would have to be climbed. Now that we have conquered a few of the hills and are part way up some others, we can look around and observe what works,” Merrow said.


      Established in 1971, the Council on Environmental Quality submits Connecticut’s annual report on the status of the environment to the Governor pursuant to section 22a-12 of the Connecticut General Statutes. Additional responsibilities of the Council include review of construction projects of other state agencies, publication of the twice-monthly Environmental Monitor, and investigation of citizens’ complaints and allegations of violations of environmental laws. The Council is a nine-member board that is independent of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (except for administrative functions). The chairman and four other members are appointed by the Governor, two members by the President Pro Tempore of the Senate and two by the Speaker of the House. All serve without compensation.