Environmental Justice Update
Lets Support Better Air Quality for Connecticut
For far too long Environmental Justice (EJ) communities here in Connecticut have disproportionately borne the burden of our fossil fuel economy by way of pollution and poor air quality. This has led to increased asthma and respiratory disease, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and impaired mother and child health in these communities. A Harvard report released in February shows that an annual 8 million premature deaths worldwide and over 350,000 in the United States were a direct consequence of burning fossil fuel.1 The report identifies the Northeastern U.S. as one of the hardest hit in the world.
Everyone in our state should have the right to live in a healthy environment. Unfortunately, low-income, Black, Hispanic, and Communities of Color are subjected to environmental stressors that threaten their health, well-being, and economic success. Connecticut has some of the worst ozone pollution in the nation and our environmental justice communities have some of the highest rates of asthma. A report by Asthma Capitals 2019 ranks New Haven number 11th and Hartford number 13th in the 100 largest U.S. cities where it is most challenging to live with asthma.2
This is due to many factors, but one in particular is striking. Twenty three of the state’s large fossil fuel generating units are located in EJ communities, emitting more than 372 tons of NOx annually. EJ communities also host the state’s largest trash incinerators, which contribute to air pollution.3 This is unfair, unjust, and unacceptable.
We must do everything we can to start to correct this historical wrong. House Bill 6551, An Act Concerning Air Quality, would begin to address this issue.
TAKE ACTION: Tell you legislators to support House Bill 6551.
House Bill 6551 would give the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) and the Siting Council the authority to deny permits to polluting facilities in Environmental Justice communities if the proposed facility could cause or contribute to adverse cumulative environmental or public health stressors. It would also create an environmental equity working group that will work in consultation with DEEP, the Department of Public Health, and the Labor Department to establish criteria to identify disadvantaged communities for the purpose of copollutant reductions and greenhouse gas emission reductions, create impact statements, and allocate investments. The bill requires DEEP to ensure attainment of the state-wide greenhouse gas emission levels put forth in the Global Warming Solutions Act. Finally, it puts high environmental and building standards on potential polluting facilities being built in Connecticut.
This bill is a good start on addressing these inequities and the reduction of our greenhouse gas emissions. We need your help to ensure it passes through the legislature this year.
Ann Gadwah is Advocacy and Outreach Organizer of Sierra Club Connecticut.