April 22, 2010
Contact: Karl Wagener, Executive Director
CEQ Chair Issues 40-Year Report Card on Earth Day
Three Passing Grades, Seven “Incompletes”
HARTFORD – Barbara C. Wagner, Chair of the state Council on Environmental Quality, spoke Thursday afternoon at the State Capitol about Connecticut’s environment from the perspective of an Earth Day participant in 1970.
“Forty years is plenty of time to make judgments about success and failure,” said Wagner, a resident of Glastonbury. “After all, the first Earth Day was closer in time to the administration of Herbert Hoover than to the present, and many non-environmental events and programs from the intervening years have had their judgment.”
“It has been interesting – funny, really – to read about the activism of 40 years ago. When the Environment Committee held public hearings in early 1971 on a bill to create the Department of Environment Protection (DEP), testimony was overwhelmingly against creating a DEP,” continued Wagner.
Wagner then issued grades on Connecticut’s response to the big environmental issues of 1970, from the perspective of the goals and hopes of 1970. She clarified that this was not a report card on the DEP, but on the collective effort of the residents of Connecticut.
Wagner declared “success” and issued passing grades for improvements to air quality, banning the pesticides that allowed the bald eagle and other endangered birds to return, and Connecticut’s successful coastal wetlands law that virtually halted all destruction of tidal wetlands.
For nearly everything else, including rivers and streams, Long Island Sound, conservation of open space land and farmland, cleanup of contaminated properties, and prevention of new problems, Wagner gave a grade of “incomplete.”
“It would be harsh to give a failing grade to Connecticut’s efforts to improve its rivers and streams,” Wagner said. “Taxpayers and industries have spent billions to reduce sewage and chemical discharges, and the improvements to our rivers have been dramatic. However, in truth we have not yet achieved the results that were hoped for in 1970. We perhaps can give ourselves an “incomplete.”
Wagner also noted that state and local governments have put many measures into place that help citizens reduce their personal impacts on the environment. These include recycling and opportunities to buy green electricity and subsidized energy efficiency products. However, Wagner said, most residents do not have a realistic alternative to driving their personal vehicles because of the sprawling land development patterns that have predominated for decades. For that reason, she awarded another grade of “incomplete” for reducing personal impacts.
Wagner concluded, “I think every resident should take genuine pride in his or her contributions to the three passing grades and seven incompletes.”
The Council on Environmental Quality is a state agency, independent of the Department of Environmental Protection, that is charged with reporting to the governor annually on the condition of Connecticut’s environment. The Council expects to release that annual report next week.