April 19, 2017

Contact:   Karl Wagener, Executive Director

Link to report:

      HARTFORD – The Council on Environmental Quality released its comprehensive report on the state’s environment through 2016 and concluded that Connecticut will need to do considerably more to meet its goals.

      “Despite everything we’re doing to improve the air and water, we’re not on track,” said Council Chair Susan Merrow of East Haddam.

      The report identifies three definite “headwinds” – and a possible fourth – that impede Connecticut’s progress:

  • The changing climate: 2016 illustrated the problem perfectly. Connecticut achieved a modest reduction in most types of air pollution in 2016. However, despite the lowest average pollution levels in recent history, the number of days with unhealthful air (31) barely budged from the 10-year average (32). This has occurred in many of the past 10 years, and the Council attributes this “pollution paradox” to heat. To meet its air quality goals, Connecticut will need to reduce emissions even more and get states to our west, probably through legal action, to do their share to reduce pollution in our air.

  • Permanent pavement. “Heavy rain on Connecticut streets and lawns clearly is one of the biggest reasons that water quality is not improving,” the report says, and “roads and parking lots don’t change much. Connecticut's development patterns have been fixed for decades.” Furthermore, rainfall patterns are delivering the rain in more intense episodes, washing more pollution into streams and the Sound. “Regardless of who works the hardest to improve conditions -- cities and towns, state government, residents working outside of government or (most likely) a combination of these -- new approaches to intractable pollution problems need to be designed and applied, or residents will not see much change,” the report says.

  • Not enough conservation investment. Conservation efforts for land and wildlife are not on track.

The data for 2016 also reveal the following:

  • The percent of Long Island Sound that had adequate oxygen levels all year round declined to 81 percent, the second-worst in ten years, even as cities and towns discharged less nitrogen pollution to the Sound. This outcome is similar to the air pollution paradox, and again the heat of 2016 is the probable reason.

  • Turtles, Ruffed Grouse and bats are all declining. They are grouped together in a new section called “Mosaic Habitats,” as they all depend on unbroken networks of forests, fields and (in many cases) watercourses.

  • About 800 violations of air, water and other pollution laws were detected by the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) in 2016. By far, facilities that store or distribute gasoline and other petroleum products accounted for the largest number of violations. (More enforcement and compliance data are discussed below.)

  • Connecticut just is not preserving enough land to meet the targets it set for itself, with DEEP having acquired just under 600 acres in 2016. The Department of Agriculture had its best land-conserving year since 2011, preserving more than 1,500 acres of farmland, which still is below the targeted rate.

  • Connecticut drivers, who had been on a trend toward greater fuel efficiency for several years, have reversed that trend. In 2016, transportation overtook power plants to become the largest source of climate-altering greenhouse gases in the country. (It already was the largest source in Connecticut) It will be extremely challenging for Connecticut to meet climate change goals unless vehicle efficiency is improved.

       Merrow elaborated on the enforcement data: “DEEP set a new record for fewest inspections conducted during the year. We anticipated this, given the reductions in staff,” Merrow said.

      “I was particularly surprised, however, to read the numbers on pesticide inspections. In 2016, Connecticut adopted a new law to protect pollinator health, which gives DEEP new enforcement responsibilities pertaining to the sale and use of certain pesticides. However, in 2016, DEEP’s pesticide office was able to conduct fewer than half of the normal number of inspections, missing the target agreed to with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency by a wide margin.”

      “And that brings me to the ‘fourth headwind’: Washington, D.C. As we say in our report, normally the Council focuses on the steps that we must take as a state to continue making progress. We always assume that Connecticut residents will not choose to go backward. However, the potential changes in federal environmental policies are so severe that Connecticut residents actually could see things get worse.”


      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.