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CT lawmakers and advocates seek stronger statewide environmental justice law

The state environmental justice (EJ) law was last updated in 2020. But now, the coalition of elected officials and environmental advocates are demanding the state take further legislative action to protect communities negatively impacted by environmental hazards from facilities like power plants, incinerators and sewage treatment plants.
Cloe Poisson
/
Connecticut Mirror
The state environmental justice law was last updated in 2020. But now, a coalition of elected officials and environmental advocates is demanding that the state take further legislative action to protect communities negatively impacted by environmental hazards from facilities like power plants, incinerators and sewage treatment plants.

Over 40 groups are asking Gov. Ned Lamont and the General Assembly to create a stronger environmental justice law in the state.

The state environmental justice (EJ) law was last updated in 2020. But now, the coalition of elected officials and environmental advocates is demanding that the state take further legislative action to protect communities negatively impacted by environmental hazards from facilities like power plants, incinerators and sewage treatment plants.

“The law fails to substantively stop additional pollution in EJ communities, who consequently continue to experience disproportionate poor health,” the groups’ January letter reads.

Advocates said new public hearing requirements for these facilities don’t adequately protect community health, because the total impact of proposed and current facilities isn’t being considered.

Alex Rodriguez, with the advocacy group Save the Sound, said the coalition is standing up against what it says is discriminatory permitting for facilities that have a negative environmental impact on the nearby community.

“If it’s not going to be permitted in an affluent white community, then it shouldn’t be permitted in a Black or Latino community,” Rodriguez said.

Building or expanding a facility in a neighborhood with a high burden of environmental hazards requires a review by the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP). But Kimmy Reindl, co-director of Sunrise Movement Connecticut, said residents who would live near these proposed facilities should have a greater say in whether it gets built.

“I think it’s really important that we shift the power to the community members to have the ultimate say about whether they want to have a polluting facility put into their neighborhood or not,” Reindl said.

Advocates outlined this concept in their letter as part of suggestions for a new law.

Lamont’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment on proposed changes to the law. Rep. Joe Gresko (D-Stratford), co-chair of the Environment Committee, said in an email that the group is “waiting to receive legislative proposals from DEEP concerning environmental justice.”

DEEP did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

As Connecticut Public's state government reporter, Michayla Savitt focuses on how policy decisions directly impact the state’s communities and livelihoods. Michayla has been with Connecticut Public since February 2022, and before that she was a producer and host for audio news outlets around New York state. When not on deadline, Michayla is probably outside with her rescue dog, Elphie. Thoughts? Jokes? Tips? Email msavitt@ctpublic.org.