June 29, 2016
Contact: Karl Wagener, Executive Director
Updated Climate Changers page: https://www.ct.gov/ceq/cwp/view.asp?a=4772&q=572794
Updated Long Island Sound page: https://www.ct.gov/ceq/cwp/view.asp?a=4772&q=572774
Updated Compliance page: https://www.ct.gov/ceq/cwp/view.asp?a=4772&Q=572790
Link to Full Report: https://www.ct.gov/ceq/cwp/view.asp?a=986&q=477460
CONNECTICUT RESIDENTS USING MORE GASOLINE;
LONG ISLAND SOUND CONTINUES TO IMPROVE
CEQ Updates Its Annual Report on Connecticut's Environment
Also: CEQ will no longer track compliance with environmental laws
- Connecticut drivers are buying more gasoline, reversing what had been a long trend toward using less. This is a new indicator, included in the CEQ's annual report for the first time as a "Climate Changer." Fuel consumption leads to climate change and unhealthful summertime air quality, both of which worsened in 2015.
- Connecticut cities and towns stayed on track in reducing the amount of nitrogen discharged from sewage treatment plants to rivers and Long Island Sound in 2015. As a result, the Sound improved: less nitrogen, more oxygen.
The CEQ published most of Environmental Quality in Connecticut, the state’s annual report on the condition of the environment, on April 15, 2016 but it did not have complete 2015 data for these two indicators until now.
"We added gasoline and diesel consumption trends to our report this year for several reasons," said Council Chair Susan Merrow of East Haddam. "It appears that Connecticut's contribution to global climate change, in the form of carbon dioxide, might be going up when it should be going down. Transportation is by far the largest source of Connecticut's direct carbon dioxide emissions, so we thought it would be important to track fuel consumption. Unfortunately, the trend is heading in the wrong direction.
"People are driving a little more than they did three years ago," Merrow said, "and it doesn't help that Connecticut's interstate highways are among the most congested in the country. People waste a lot of fuel sitting in traffic."
"By adding fuel consumption as an indicator in our reports, we are monitoring more than carbon dioxide and climate change drivers," Merrow said. "Fuel combustion leads to many forms of air pollution, especially in the summer, and the report shows that Connecticut residents breathed more pollution in 2015, with more bad air days."
For Long Island Sound, the picture was brighter. Years of reducing nitrogen pollution from sewage treatment plants and industrial facilities have reduced the amount of dissolved nitrogen in the whole Sound. Excess nitrogen leads indirectly to reduced oxygen levels. The summer of 2015 was the best year yet for both dissolved nitrogen and oxygen, beating the records set in 2014,
"More than 95 percent of Long Island Sound had sufficient oxygen last summer," said Merrow. "We're hopeful that this winning streak will continue, but it is complicated by a lot of factors, including warming temperatures.
Warming temperatures are known to affect conditions in the Sound. Earlier in 2016, state scientists determined that the long-term decline in lobsters is caused primarily by a warming trend (not pesticides, as some had hypothesized). "As the air and waters of the state warm up," Merrow, said, " Connecticut will be challenged to maintain environmental improvement."
No More Compliance Rates
At its June 22, 2016 meeting, the CEQ decided to eliminate one indicator from its annual report: compliance rates. For years, the CEQ reported the percentage of facilities inspected by the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection that were found to be in compliance with environmental laws and regulations. "We no longer can calculate a compliance rate," said Merrow. "To arrive at a realistic estimate of compliance, we would need data from random auditing of facilities. But that is not going to happen. Instead, DEEP must focus its limited field staff in non-random areas."
"We can only draw broad conclusions about enforcement and compliance," concluded Merrow. We know that inspections are at an all-time low, we know that about 900 violations were detected last year, and, as usual, most of the violations were at gas stations, convenience stores and other facilities that store or distribute the growing volume of petroleum.
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.