April 19, 2017
The Honorable Dannel P. Malloy
Governor of Connecticut
Hartford, CT 06106
Dear Governor Malloy:
I am pleased to submit Connecticut's annual report on environmental conditions through 2016.
This report reminds us that environmental progress in the 21st century comes slowly. Even highly successful efforts to reduce air emissions and water-pollution discharges can appear by some measures to go unrewarded:
- The average level of pollution in Connecticut's air was the best in decades, but the number of summertime bad air days (31) held stubbornly near the ten-year average (32).
- Cities and towns again reduced their discharges of nitrogen pollution that flow to Long Island Sound, but the area of the Sound with too little oxygen grew larger.
There are reasons for the environment's stubborn resistance to improvement. One of them is heat. Connecticut, as you know, often is heralded as a leader in planning for climate change and attacking its causes. Unfortunately, the reality of a warming continent will continue to oppose efforts to improve the air and water.
The warming, changing climate is one of three factors identified in this report to be impeding environmental progress, and it interacts with the second factor which the report calls "permanent pavement": the reality that the roads, driveways, parking lots and most lawns of Connecticut are not going anywhere soon. The rain that now falls more intensely (compared to the 1960s) washes pollutants into brooks, rivers, bays and the Sound. Gradual improvement is possible with considerable effort and expenditures.
The third factor influencing progress is a powerful one: the amount of investment in the land and wildlife of Connecticut. There has been improvement in the acreage of farmland preserved in the last two years, but Connecticut is not on track to attain most of its land-conservation goals.
As we submit this report, the news from Washington, D.C., suggests that Connecticut should not count on action from the federal government to help achieve environmental goals. The Council generally does not attempt to predict the outcomes of federal political battles. Nonetheless, this report concludes its "Progress and Problems" section with a cautionary footnote:
"The statement, "Connecticut's environment is likely to remain much as it is for the foreseeable future," is somewhat conditional. Generally, the Council's reports assume that Connecticut will not be turning back in its push to improve the air, water and health of its residents. While it remains highly unlikely that Connecticut residents would wish to retreat, recent proposals at the federal level could have that effect. Less energy efficiency and more fuel combustion in states to the south and west would lead to the types of air pollution that generally blow toward Connecticut. Modest federal grants have been used very effectively by this state to improve Long Island Sound, protect forests and farmland, put economic life back into contaminated properties and restore wildlife habitats along coves and rivers; any or all of those state-federal partnerships could be extinguished. The Council will monitor and report any such negative developments...The potential for retreat is an unusual and regrettable reality. The Council always focuses attention on the steps that are necessary for conditions to improve; this year, it must conclude that gains already made are now in peril."
As always, the Council looks forward to providing you with any additional information you might request.
Susan D. Merrow
Council on Environmental Quality