Exciting Updates for the CT Environmental Rights Amendment

by Kimberly Stoner, CT Climate Crisis Mobilization

Under the Connecticut and U.S. constitutions, you do not have a legal right to a safe and healthy environment. Our legal system protects some rights, but not the right to clean air, water, and soil; a stable climate; and healthy environments. Because environmental rights are not recognized, government decision-makers can disregard them in favor of other political or economic priorities.

All communities suffer when there is pollution, environmental degradation, and an unstable climate. Communities of color, indigenous communities, and low-income communities carry a disproportionate burden.

Representative Mary Mushinsky introduced the CT Environmental Rights Amendment in the state legislature this year. The CT Environmental Rights Amendment will require government officials to put environmental protection FIRST at the start of planning, decision-making, legislating, regulating industry, and the transition to renewable energy. The CT Environmental Rights Amendment will require them to avoid/prevent environmental harm, not simply manage it after the fact.

Green Amendments in Pennsylvania and Montana similar to the CT Environmental Rights Amendment have been used to overturn state laws expanding fracking and to stop a destructive gold mine at the headwaters of a major river. A new Environmental Rights Amendment in New York passed in a referendum with 70% of the vote!

The bill is now on the CT General Assembly website. The bill number is PHJ 13. Now it is easier to contact state legislators and ask them to co-sponsor and actively support PHJ 13. You can view the bill at www.cga.ct.gov/2023/TOB/H/PDF/2023HJ-00013-R00-HB.PDF.

The Connecticut Climate Crisis Mobilization (C3M), the Green Party of CT, and CT NOFA (The Northeast Organic Farming Association of CT) lead the effort to pass the CT Environmental Rights Amendment. We are contacting other organizations to sign on — it will take a deep and broad coalition to get this passed. Our CT Environmental Rights Amendment Organizing Group meets every Friday from 5-6 p.m. during the legislative session by Zoom.

For more information and join us, contact Kim Stoner at 203-584-5936 or [email protected].

Fair Haven’s PhotoVoice Project

Xóchitl García, Save the Sound Community Leader

This past summer, Xóchitl García led a photovoice project in Fair Haven. She recruited 13 neighborhood residents to document environmental assets and hazards through photography.

Residents took over 100 photos throughout the season, but only 50 were showcased in the final exhibit. Xóchitl identified five socio-environmental themes: Green and Blue Spaces, Abandoned Buildings, Trash Travels, A Safe Place, and The Homeless. To gather more perspectives and ideas on solutions to address these issues, Xóchitl, Melissa Pappas from Save the Sound, and New Haven Neighborhood Housing Services hosted two community charrettes at the Fair Haven Public Library. They then presented community-derived solutions from these charrettes in conjunction with the results of the PhotoVoice project to leaders, policy-makers, and city representatives at the final presentation hosted at Junta for Progressive Action at the end of September 2022.

Xóchitl and project participants plan to hold organizations and local authorities accountable for implementing these solutions through creative campaigning and a mini-series of workshops to further develop the ideas into proposal-ready projects. Ideally, an organization or a partner will commit to addressing these solutions in their capacity. At the same time, Fair Haven residents continue to be the source of inspiration and can hold organizations and decision-makers accountable for those commitments. Realistically, there will be one concrete solution as a first communal step toward environmental justice in Fair Haven.

Now, Xóchitl is establishing a strategic plan for community outreach and creating a winter workshop series next year. She wants to improve resident attendance in the spaces where people will make decisions. She believes representation is more important than ever in environmental justice. BIPOC [Black, Indigenous and People of Color] cultures and non-English languages need the voice, the space, and the flexibility to communicate their matters that have been systemically disregarded.

To see the virtual exhibit of the Fair Haven PhotoVoice project, please visit: https://www.savethesound.org/urban-waters-initiative.

[On Thursday, Jan. 19, 5:30-6:30 p.m., see the PhotoVoice presentation in the Program Room of the Fair Haven Library, 182 Grand Ave.]

Do You Have a Right to Clean Air, Clean Water, a Stable Climate, and a Healthy Environment?

by Kimberly Stoner, CT Climate Crisis Mobilization

Of course you have a moral right, but, NO, you do not have a legal right to a safe and healthy environment under the Connecticut or US constitutions.

Our legal system protects some rights, but not the right to clean water and air, a stable climate, and healthy environments. Because environmental rights are not recognized, government decision-makers can disregard them in favor of other political or economic priorities.

Our current system of environmental laws accepts pollution and degradation as something to be managed rather than prevented. All communities suffer when there is pollution, environmental degradation, and an unstable climate; and communities of color, indigenous communities, and low-income communities carry a disproportionate burden.

We need a Green Amendment to the Connecticut state constitution — and ultimately to the US Constitution.

Green Amendments require government officials to put environmental protection first at the start of planning, decision-making, and legislating, and regulate industry, development, and the transition to renewable energy. Green Amendments require government officials to avoid/prevent environmental harm, not simply to manage it after the fact.

Green Amendments in Pennsylvania and Montana have been used to overturn state laws expanding fracking and to stop a destructive gold mine at the headwaters of a major river. A new Green Amendment in New York passed in a referendum with 70% of the vote! For more information on Green Amendments, see www.forthegenerations.org.

The Connecticut Climate Crisis Mobilization (C3M) has made this work a major priority. Join us in putting a Green Amendment into the Bill of Rights of the Connecticut Constitution! For more information, visit the website ctclimatecrisismobilization.org.

Native Plants from Seed: On-Site Workshops

Hamden Public Library

Growing native plants from seed makes it easy to provide important habitat for pollinators while adding color and variety to your garden and landscape.

In January, Hamden Public Library will be offering on-site workshops at all three library locations where we will demonstrate an easy and effective way to propagate many types of native plants, most of which come from seeds that need a period of cold “stratification” in order to germinate. During the workshop you will learn about the importance of native plants to our region, and can start a pollinator haven of your own by sowing seeds in a do-it-yourself mini-greenhouse.

Please register below for one of the workshops. Because attendance is limited, please sign up for only one session. Most materials are provided, including seeds, but please bring a clear gallon milk jug if you have one.

Hamden Public Library’s seed library offers a variety of native and other seeds on request during the winter months. Seeds suitable for winter sowing will be available for pick-up at the library branches in January and February. A list of available seeds (including several CT Ecotypes) and how to request them will be available in early January.

From February through June, we will put out a selection of garden seeds for you to browse and use. Do plan early, as we may well run out of seeds before June’s end. This year the bins were empty before mid-June. We ask that you limit your selections to five types of seed, and only take what you need (plus a little bit more).

We want to thank Diane Dynia, an intern through UConn’s Master Gardener program, who produced an informative brochure of pleasing design to give the seed library more reach in the community. Look at the Seed Library page here: hamdenlibrary.org/seed-library/

Info: [email protected], 203-287-2680.

NHCM Celebrates Hiring of City Climate Director, Steve Winter

by Chris Schweitzer, New Haven Climate Movement

In 2019, New Haven Climate Movement youth led the effort to pass the New Haven Climate Emergency Resolution. Soon after its passage, then Mayor-elect Elicker committed to create a climate office to work on cutting climate pollution and fossil fuel use. On Dec. 9, 2022, Alder Steve Winter was hired to become Climate and Sustainability Director.

Steve has supported climate organizing efforts, including helping pass NHCM’s Electrification Resolution in 2020, and supported the Board of Education Climate Emergency Resolution in 2022. The City has set aside $2 million in Federal funding for projects that cut greenhouse gas emissions and pollution in neighborhoods (for example, energy efficiency programs).

NHCM is now working hard to implement projects identified in the BoE Resolution in 2023, and will be advocating for much greater investment in cutting fossil fuel climate pollution.

For more information about NHCM’s work or to get involved go to newhavenclimatemovement.org.

Connecticut Green Energy News

Number 288, Sept. 16, 2022

News and events for advocates of clean energy, energy efficiency, and climate action at the state and local levels, focusing on Connecticut. Brought to you by People’s Action for Clean Energy (PACE) and Eastern CT Green Action (ECGA). To subscribe, email [email protected].

Connecticut wins $52 million in federal backing for electric vehicle build-out along state’s highways
Hartford Courant: ​Connecticut has won federal approval, and $52 million over five years, to build out electric vehicle chargers across the state.​ ​Funding is part of $900 million authorized by the sprawling federal Infrastructure Law signed last year by President Joe Biden to install 500,000 chargers at regular intervals across 53,000 miles of U.S. highways. In Connecticut, 10 locations are planned for at least four public fast chargers with a minimum power level of 150 kilowatts per port along the interstate system.​ The state Department of Transportation expects…to partner with the private sector that owns or operates electric vehicle charging network sites.

Why electricity prices are rising unevenly across New England
Connecticut Public: You may have noticed that your most recent electric bill is higher than usual — and if that change hasn’t happened yet, it’s probably coming this fall. These price spikes are occurring across New England, but bills are rising more in some places than others. Some ratepayers in New Hampshire saw the price of electricity double this summer, resulting in bills up to $70 higher, while many in Massachusetts are only paying an extra $11 per month. If it seems unfair, blame the energy markets. And if it’s confusing because everyone in New England shares an electricity grid, well, read on…The primary reason for the spike is our reliance on fossil fuels. Specifically, natural gas…This year’s price fluctuations have exposed the volatility of fossil fuels, but many experts say things could be different in the future as we “electrify everything” and source more of our power from renewables.

Boston moves to ban fossil fuels in new construction
GBH: The Boston City Council Wednesday voted to sign up for the state’s new pilot program banning fossil fuels from most new construction except labs and hospitals.​ ​The move is the first step in a process that could ultimately make New England’s largest city part of an innovative experiment — that is controversial in some quarters — designed to help mitigate climate change.

Petition to Lamont to Stop Using Gas-Powered Equipment on State Land

Stanley Heller, Promoting Enduring Peace

Gas-powered equipment gives off exhausts dangerous to the workers who use the tools daily and anyone in the immediate area. The two-cycled engines are the worst. A large part of their fuel is not even burned. Instead, it gets aerosolized. The stink is unpleasant but more important are the toxic chemicals that are released along with microscopic particles. Tiny particles can go deep into the lung and can cause lung cancer, heart disease, strokes, asthma, and other respiratory ailments.

The noise from gas-powered machines ranges from irritating to hazardous. Some lawn mowers and leaf-blowers give off sound comparable to that of a nearby jackhammer or motorcycle. Even when it’s not causing direct harm the noise can bother babies and others who sleep during daylight hours, those who study and the increasing number of people who work from their homes. Quiet and fresh air shouldn’t be considered luxuries!

There’s also the amount of global warming gases given off by the equipment. In CT 40 million gallons of gas are burned just for lawn care! We at PEP started a petition asking the governor to take the lead by stopping the use of gas-powered equipment on land the state owns directly. Use electric power or rewild. See the petition at: tinyurl.com/petition-CT-owned-land.

Too Much Pavement at Tweed = Flooding, Pollution, Wildlife Disruption

by Kathy Czepiel, Communications Specialist, Save the Sound

The proposed Tweed-New Haven Airport expansion must undergo a thorough environmental review process, Save the Sound’s legal team asserted in an April 18 letter to the New England Region office of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

While the airport authority has stated its intention to do an Environmental Assessment (EA), we urged the FAA to demand a more rigorous Environmental Impact Statement, as required by the National Environmental Policy Act.

Floodplain and resilience problems related to stormwater flooding and sea-level rise at this vulnerable location are a major concern, especially because the airport’s EA fails to include the impacts of a taxiway expansion that will inevitably be built. Increasing the airport’s footprint could also significantly affect inland and tidal wetlands, local and migratory wildlife habitat and water quality.

An annual community meeting with local officials and the airport authority is scheduled for June 9 at 6 p.m. at the Nathan Hale School cafeteria, 480 Townsend Ave., New Haven.

Come and ask your questions about the proposed expansion and its impact on the environment and human health.

Save the Sound, 900 Chapel St., Suite 2202
New Haven, CT 06510.
phone: 203-787-0646

For more information on Tweed efforts, visit www.10000Hawks.org.

West River Watershed News

Explore the West River and its tributaries. Sign up with WRWC to do “Streamwalks” (beginning in June) to gather data on our watershed. (We initially did this in 2015 and it’s time to update.) This is a really FUN and EYE OPENING experience! Training provided. Invite your friends! Contact Linda Green [email protected].

Look for alewives in the West River. If/when you see them, please send Shauntasia the details: [email protected]. (No one has recorded any so far this year after last year’s bumper crop.)

3-month free UNH program to train citizen scientists. 17 of 20 slots still available. Program begins June 22. $$ available for laptops and internet access.. Transferable college credit. Targeting young (and not so young) residents of West Haven and New Haven. An amazing opportunity. Spread the word. https://newhaven.edu/arts-sciences/undergraduate-programs/marine-biology/coasts-program.php.

Volunteer for bacteria testing of New Haven’s three rivers. One-half day (Saturday) per month during the summer. Training provided. For more information and/or to volunteer, contact Mary. [email protected].

CT Green Energy News, No. 269, May 6, 2022

[News and events for advocates of clean energy, energy efficiency, and climate action at the state and local levels, focusing on Connecticut. Brought to you by People’s Action for Clean Energy (PACE) and Eastern CT Green Action (ECGA).]

On climate change, a political shift in Connecticut
CT Mirror. “With the final passage Friday of a “Connecticut Clean Air Act,” the House put a bow on a productive session for addressing climate change and clean energy, a comeback for environmentalists after…last year’s defeat of the Transportation and Climate Initiative…The defeat pushed activists to be better organized and more aggressive, fueled a desire among lawmakers to deliver an overdue victory on climate change and imparted hard lessons about messaging, not the least of which was the necessity of making greenhouse gas emissions relevant to a broader audience…This year, Democrats were not spooked by the near-unanimous Republican opposition to Senate Bill 4, the clean air act…Three other environment bills passed with bipartisan support this week…’This has been a banner week for climate policy in Connecticut’, Brown said.”

Lawmakers Approve 2040 Target for Zero-Carbon Emissions
CT Examiner. “Connecticut lawmakers approved legislation codifying as law Gov. Ned Lamont’s goals for a zero-carbon emissions from Connecticut’s electric supply by 2040, in addition to expanding two programs aimed at incentivizing large solar projects…Asked what the point of the goal is if a “zero-emission” electric grid doesn’t mean there are zero emissions generated by power plants in Connecticut, Arconti said it sends a signal to the regional market that the state is serious about its commitment to renewable energy, and that the grid operator needs to change its market rules that renewable advocates say block them out…Lawmakers also agreed to double the caps on two solar incentive programs – the Non-residential Energy Solutions program that allows businesses to seek incentives for solar projects; and the Shared Clean Energy Facilities program that allows customers to subscribe to a “shared” clean energy project larger than what they could build alone.”

CT Green Energy News, April 15, 2022

Connecticut should seek zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, says a study from Yale and Save the Sound in the New Haven Register. “Despite once being hailed as an early leader in combating climate change, Connecticut must aggressively boost its current pace of carbon reductions in order to keep up with the intensifying rate of warming in the region​..​.[The report] called on lawmakers to set a goal of reaching zero-carbon emissions in Connecticut by 2050 — hastening the state’s current mid-century target of reducing emissions by 80 percent. Even those more modest goals, however, remain out of reach at the state’s current rate of transitioning away from fossil fuels, officials have acknowledged.. ​’Connecticut is not doing its fair share​.'”

Connecticut jumps into the electric bus lane per NEWS 8 WTNH. “A pilot program of 10 EV buses is rolling right now in New Haven…Over the next 15 years, 500 buses will be phased in costing tens of millions of dollars. One electric bus costs $900,000. One diesel/hybrid costs $600,000. The federal government kicks in 80%. The state pays the other 20%. ‘Over the life cycle of having that bus, we save around $400,000 total in fuel savings…and maintenance costs are 50% lower…So it’s a net positive for taxpayers when we switch to electric buses.’ A diesel engine has lots of parts. The view of the electric battery system shows a simple row of tubes and a square battery.”

Join the Gather New Haven Farm Based Wellness Program

The Gather New Haven Farm-Based Wellness Program is an intensive lifestyle intervention 16-week summer program that supports participants in achieving their nutrition and physical activity-related goals by meeting on a local urban farm within New Haven once a week for two hours from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. We engage in urban farming activities, we engage in group physical activities, we do a 10-minute mindful meditation and then move on to a nutrition discussion and a cooking demonstration which includes vegetables that participants are given to take home with them each week. On-site childcare is provided for participants with children. We also offer an additional Saturday session focused on physical activities from 9:30 to 11 a.m. The program is free, no cost to join.

The program aims to recruit participants within the New Haven area who have any diet-related disease (prediabetes, diabetes type 2, excess weight, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, etc) and are looking to make healthy lifestyle changes.

May 10-Sept. 3
Spanish on Tuesdays, 5:30-7:30 p.m. at 15 James St.
English on Thursdays, 5:30-7:30 p.m. at 170 Ward St.
Bilingual on Saturdays, 9:30-11 a.m. at 613 Ferry St.

For info and to register: 203-516-7270

Construction Underway at Haven and Exchange Street

by savethesound.org

The construction of our current ecological restoration project at Haven and Exchange Street in Fair Haven is well underway and on schedule to be completed by the beginning of May.

Students from the John S. Martinez School explored the Haven and Exchange Street site.

One of the goals of this new green space is to filter and absorb polluted stormwater runoff from nearby streets before it reaches the Mill River. To restore the natural filtration process, we have removed the impervious asphalt and concrete surfaces in this dead-end roadway and have replaced them with porous sediment that has already seen a few rainfalls. Once construction is completed, we will open the site for volunteer planting events.

Students from the John S. Martinez School explored the Haven and Exchange Street site last month.
Students, families and the entire Fair Haven community will have the opportunity to help us plant native trees and shrubs in this space to absorb stormwater, restore and rehabilitate wildlife, and reconnect the community with the Mill River.

Fish are Running…But Not at Kinneytown

by savethesound.org

It’s officially spring, and migratory fish are making their way upstream to spawn. Some have been successful, like those in Whitford Brook, while others are encountering insurmountable barriers.

The spring fish run is an important time of year for diadromous fish that migrate from Long Island Sound into rivers throughout Connecticut and New York to their ancestral spawning grounds. Reproduction of fish such as alewife, blueback herring, and sea lamprey is important not only to sustain these species, but also to support populations of larger fish, birds, and mammals that rely on these “forage fish” for food.

Left photo -- The first alewife caught in traps between Whitford Pond and Long Pond. Middle photo -- Fish biologist, Jon Vander Werff holds an alewife. Right -- A school of alewife

The first alewife caught in traps between Whitford Pond and Long Pond (left). Fish biologist, Jon Vander Werff holds an alewife (middle). A school of alewife (right)

Dams and other barriers in our rivers hinder this important migration, and one of the largest culprits in the Long Island Sound region is Kinneytown Dam on the Naugatuck River. While a fishway was installed at this location, it has never been effective and has not even been opened yet this year by Hydroland, the dam owner. Their inability to pass the dam leaves fish stranded, forcing them to turn around or die from predation or exposure. Save the Sound’s Ecological Restoration team will be examining environmental DNA in the water at the base of the dam to understand which fish species are trying, and failing, to pass this barrier this year.

But it’s not all bad news. Whitford Brook has seen alewife make their way up through a natural breach in the Whitford Pond Dam to stretches of the river below Long Pond Dam (where Save the Sound is currently designing a nature-like fishway) for the first time in centuries.

“I’m so excited about this little fish—it is the first alewife documented that high in the watershed since before the construction of the Hyde Pond Dam,” says fish biologist Jon Vander Werff. “These fish are now able to reach habitat that hasn’t been accessible in hundreds of years, giving new life and new possibilities to the Whitford Brook diadromous fish run.” Save the Sound led the removal of Hyde Pond Dam in 2015.

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