Solar Panels and Historic Preservation Meet in Connecticut

Historic preservation and solar panel would seem like oil and water, but increasingly in Connecticut, the advantages are seen to outweigh the disadvantages. The acceptance of solar comes as technology helps to make systems less obtrusive, and also as more historic preservationists recognize the urgency to address climate change, according to a report in Energy Network News.

About one-tenth of Connecticut’s 3,000 historic preservation cases last year involved solar installations. That’s a significant increase from five years ago, Todd Levine, an architectural historical for the state’s preservation office, told Energy Network News. Of those 300 solar cases, however, only 10 were concluded to have adverse effects, but even in those cases the state office was able to work with stakeholders and ultimately approve them all.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Department of the Interior recommend installing solar panels on the area least visible to the public or on any new addition on the property, like a garage. Typically, historic commissions don’t want panels on the principle facade of the building facing the public right-of-ways. Lower public visibility is preferred, but increasingly, that is not ruling out solar panel installation at historic properties.

At the state level, the historic preservation office has partnered with the quasi-public clean energy agency, the Connecticut Green Bank, to mitigate any adverse effects installs could have on historic properties. Energy Network News reports that they are currently collaborating on a publication they plan to distribute in the coming months outlining best practices on the intersection of energy efficiency, renewable energy, and historic preservation.

Also last year, Connecticut upped the ante on renewables across the board.

A new law approved in 2018 requires that by 2030, 40 percent of the power provided by electricity suppliers in the state flow from renewable sources, double the target for 2020.  Another law approved by the 2018 legislature established a stringent interim greenhouse-gas-reduction goal of 45 percent below 2001 levels by 2030. The state’s 2008 Connecticut Global Warming Solutions Act mandates an 80 percent reduction by 2050.

The state Department of Energy & Environmental Protection explains that the term renewable energy generally refers to electricity supplied from renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power, geothermal, hydropower, and various forms of biomass. These energy sources are considered renewable sources because they are continuously replenished on Earth.

Currently, Hawaii has the most aggressive clean-energy mandate in the nation: 100 percent by 2045; followed by Vermont: 75 percent by 2032; and California, New York, and New Jersey, which each have a goal of 50 percent by 2030, according to the Council of State Governments.

California set a 100-percent-by-2045 zero-carbon electricity goal in September last year. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed the state set a 100-percent-by-2040 zero-carbon electricity goal in January. Newly elected governors in Colorado and Connecticut are pushing for 100-percent renewable energy mandates, as well, as are their counterparts in Illinois, Minnesota and Nevada, according to Solar Magazine. Connecticut’s legislature is also considering additional steps to encourage renewable energy in the state, the New London Day recently reported.

Ratepayers, Businesses, and Environmental Advocates Seek to Reverse Decision on Ratepayer Fund Raids

Attorneys for ratepayers, efficiency businesses and environmental organizations have filed an appeal in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York , asking the appellate court to reverse an October 25 U.S. District Court decision that denied plaintiffs a remedy in their lawsuit to force the State of Connecticut to restore $145 million in ratepayer dollars intended to save families money on energy bills and reduce climate pollution. The original lawsuit, filed in May, was filed to stop the state legislature’s 2017 sweep of Connecticut’s energy efficiency and clean energy funds, and to prevent future diversions of ratepayer funds. The original complaint argued that diverting ratepayer funding to plug a budget deficit instead of using the dedicated funds for its intended purpose violates the Contract Clause and Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution and functions as an illegal tax on tax-exempt organizations like churches and nonprofits.

“We are pursuing the case to fix the damage the raids have done to Connecticut families and businesses,” said Roger Reynolds, chief legal director at Connecticut Fund for the Environment. “Residents trusted that their ratepayer dollars would go where their electric bills said they would—towards energy efficiency and clean energy programs that save money and cut climate pollution. Instead those hard-earned dollars were used to plug a hole in the state budget. We believe the appellate court will see that the state’s action violated federal contract and tax law, and ask them to correct that mistake to put Connecticut back on the path to a healthier energy future and a stronger economy.”

Judge Janet C. Hall at the U.S. District Court in New Haven ruled in October that the state’s 2017 budget that swept ratepayer funds did not impair contracts between ratepayers and their electric distribution companies because neither utility tariffs nor state law ever promised ratepayers that their dollars would not be transferred to the General Fund for unrelated purposes.

The organizations filing the suit pointed out that when the General Assembly found itself facing a deficit in fall 2017, they passed a budget instructing the state to “sweep” and divert the energy efficiency and clean energy funds to the general fund. However, these funds are not government property, they stressed,  and were not raised through state taxes but were paid by ratepayers to utilities for specific services. Therefore, "seizing these funds amounts to taking ratepayer funds that were paid for another purpose."

As a result of the "raids", the filers of the lawsuit pointed out that "12,900 homes will not receive energy assessments, weatherization upgrades, reduced pricing on insulation, or associated energy bill savings. Furthermore, 5,600 of these are low income households that often require additional financial assistance to close the energy affordability gap.  The award-winning Connecticut Green Bank leverages $6 in private investment for every $1 of renewable energy funding. Yet these sweeps resulted in a 53% reduction in this program’s budget, requiring layoffs and project cancellations."

This case raises an important legal issue relevant beyond Connecticut, according to environment groups,  because it is the first time ratepayers argued in court that when they pay their utility bills with surcharges dedicated for specific programs or services—such as energy efficiency and renewable energy—enforceable contracts arise that cannot be invaded by any state.

"Connecticut’s leaders broke the trust of their constituents when they turned electric ratepayer dollars into an illegal tax,” said lead plaintiff Leticia Colon de Mejias, chair of Efficiency For All (EFA) and founder. “Even in these difficult times, it is obvious that stealing ratepayer funds intended to help Connecticut residents and businesses reduce energy waste, save money on energy bills, and access clean resources is a bad choice."

“Sierra Club Connecticut supports this legal appeal by Connecticut Fund for the Environment and allies, and the advocacy of groups including Efficiency for All, to restore the misappropriated energy efficiency monies that our General Assembly voted to take away and use as a stop gap for our budget woes" said Martha Klein, chair, Sierra Club Connecticut. "It was a myopic mistake, as these funds have been proven to create jobs, make revenue for the state, and reduce climate-destroying greenhouse gas emissions. This type of fund raiding hurts all of us in the long run. That money was taken from ratepayers specifically to improve the efficiency of our whole state, which would save all of us money on energy costs, and improve our health and climate.”

When the initial suit was filed against the state back in May, Governor Malloy  issued a statement that, rather than defending the state action, seemed to take the opposite view:

"This should come as a surprise to no one. I have long maintained that these shortsighted sweeps would increase energy costs for consumers and businesses and cause untold harm to our green energy economy. [W]e should be cementing our role as a national leader in our efforts to combat climate change and protect our communities. The energy sweeps . . . represented a massive step backwards, and I continue to strongly oppose them," Malloy said.

CT Utility Costs Are 4th Highest in the Nation, Analysis Shows

Connecticut residents pay an average of $496.07 for utilities per month, the fourth most expensive average utility bill in the nation, according to a new analysis.  Hawaii tops the list with the highest average utility cost, $730.86 per month, followed by Alaska, at $527.96.  On the other end of the spectrum is Idaho, which has the lowest average cost at $343.71. Electricity costs are significantly higher on the East Coast, according to the study by move.org, released this week. Seven of the top ten states with the most expensive utilities are on the Atlantic Seaboard.  In addition to Connecticut, those states are Rhode Island, ranking third at $521.98; New York ($477.31); New Hampshire ($477.02); Massachusetts ($469.13); Vermont ($468.30) and Maine ($464.45).  The only other non-Atlantic coast state to land in the top 10 is South Carolina ($473.78).

The analysis noted that “electricity costs are mostly to blame for Connecticut’s high overall utility bill, but its natural gas costs are much higher than most as well at an average of $114.11 per month.”  In two key categories, Connecticut had the third highest electricity rates and the 14th highest natural gas rates.

The survey broke down each state’s utility costs into a handful of distinct categories: Electricity, Natural gas, Internet, Cable and Water. [State-by-state information was unavailable for cable and water, so the analysis used the national averages to supply those figures for each state.]

The average cost of cable is $100, but that may change as more people cut their cable cords and switch to streaming services, the analysis noted.

In addition to Idaho, the least expensive utility costs can be found in Utah, Montana, Washington (State), Nevada, Louisiana and Oregon, according to the move.org analysis.

Connecticut's State Gas Tax is Sixth Highest in the US; Two States Seek to Defeat Increases

Connecticut’s state gas tax – criticized both because some consider it to be too high and because others point out that it is insufficient to keep the state’s roads and bridges maintained appropriately – is not among the highest in the nation, but comes close. Leading the way with the highest state gas tax levels are Pennsylvania (59 cents a gallon), California (54 cents), Washington (49 cents), Hawaii (48 cents), and New York (46 cents).  Connecticut is the nation’s sixth highest, at 44 cents a gallon, followed by Indiana (42 cents), Florida, Michigan and New Jersey (41 cents).

In California, voters will see a referendum question on the November ballot that if passed would repeal a gas tax increase (12 cents a gallon) that was passed by the state legislature a year ago as part of a comprehensive transportation funding package to pay for highway, road and bridge repairs, as well as public transit projects in the state.  Recent polls predict a close vote on Proposition 6.

In Missouri, voters will consider Proposition D, which would increase the fuel tax in that state by 2.5 cents a year for four years, totaling 10 cents a gallon. The proposal is intended to provide a stable funding stream to the Missouri State Highway Patrol, as well as millions of dollars to the Missouri Department of Transportation to repair and maintain the state's highways and bridges, according to published reports.

New Jersey’s gas tax, which had been one of the lowest in the nation, was increased in 2016 by 23 cents per gallon under a bipartisan deal engineered by then-Chris Christie and the Legislature.  That pushed New Jersey into the top 10 highest rates in the nation, and was the state’s first gas tax increase since 1988, according to news stories at the time.

In total, 27 states have raised or reformed their gas taxes since 2013.  Indiana instituted a 10-cent increase in 2017; Oregon approved a 10-cent phase-in that began this year. The South Carolina legislature overrode a Governor’s veto to enact a 12-cent-per- gallon increase in the tax rate to be phased in over 6 years, according to data compiled by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.  Oklahoma’s legislature approved a 3 cent increase this year - that state’s first since 1987.

The federal government last raised the gasoline tax 25 years ago in 1993, since then the states – in the vast majority of instances – have nudged tax rates upward in their individual jurisdictions.  The lowest state rates are in Alaska (15 cents a gallon), Missouri and Oklahoma (17 cents), Mississippi, Arizona and New Mexico (19 cents).

Nuclear Attack on NYC Could Impact CT, Report Suggests

The illustration in a recent edition of New York magazine has drawn some attention in Connecticut.  Accompanying an article describing the anticipated aftermath in the tri-state region of a nuclear attack on New York City, the potential path of nuclear fall-out was shown to extend through Connecticut towns including Greenwich, Stamford, Wilton and others, reaching as far north as the town of Monroe. Within two hours of an attack on Times Square, the article described, a plume of radioactive fallout would “unfurl 60 miles beyond the city, lingering for weeks, contaminating food and water supplies.”

The article explains that “In the hours and days after a nuclear blast, a massive plume of fallout would unfurl past the city’s borders and up the Eastern Seaboard, scattering radioactive dust on everything in its path: people, homes, farms, animals, forests, rivers. The most radioactive region of the plume would reach its full length of 20 miles an hour after the explosion, exposing every unsheltered person in the area to toxic levels of radiation; if it were to spread north from Times Square, it would reach as far as New Rochelle. Within a day, this danger zone would shrink to about a mile in length. Within a week, it would have dissipated completely.

A much bigger but less radioactive region of the plume, called the hot zone, would reach its maximum length of 60 miles — extending, say, as far north as Monroe, Connecticut — two hours after the explosion. A week later, the hot zone would still extend 20 miles from the city, and it would take many more weeks for it to disappear altogether. Although radioactivity in the hot zone would likely be too weak to cause any acute symptoms of radiation sickness, it could still subtly damage the human body and increase the chance of cancer.

How far and in what direction a plume of fallout travels depends on the altitude of the mushroom cloud, as well as temperature, wind, and other meteorological variables. Within an hour of an explosion, FEMA’s Interagency Modeling and Atmospheric Assessment Center would begin to track the plume’s movement, providing updates and projections to federal, state, and local authorities. They would use the information to evacuate people in the opposite direction of the plume and warn people in the plume’s path to seek shelter and avoid consuming any exposed water or food.”

Nearly a decade ago, a New York Times story on the subject included this:  Suppose the unthinkable happened…Do not flee. Get inside any stable building and don’t come out till officials say it’s safe.”  That advice, the Times indicated, was “based on recent scientific analyses showing that a nuclear attack is much more survivable if you immediately shield yourself from the lethal radiation that follows a blast, a simple tactic seen as saving hundreds of thousands of lives. Even staying in a car, the studies show, would reduce casualties by more than 50 percent; hunkering down in a basement would be better by far.”

“We have to get past the mental block that says it’s too terrible to think about,” W. Craig Fugate, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency at the time, told the Times. “We have to be ready to deal with it” and help people learn how to “best protect themselves.”

Connecticut's state website focuses on nuclear preparedness related to an emergency at a nuclear power plant in the state.  The Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security site indicates "While the Dominion Energy- Millstone Station in Waterford is the main focus of emergency planning in Connecticut, the fuel storage site at the former Connecticut Yankee site in Haddam, CT and the Indian Point nuclear power plant in Buchanan, New York, are also included in Connecticut's radiological emergency preparedness and response program."

Communities near those sites are linked, and a calendar of upcoming training is provided.  The United Way also provides information related to evacuation and taking shelter on the agency's website. New Haven conducted an exercise of their host community reception center to prepare for the unlikely event of a nuclear release at the Millstone power plant in 2015; video here:  https://www.fema.gov/media-library/assets/videos/109671

(New York magazine illustration)

 

 

Statewide Sustainability Initiative to Launch Nov. 28 As Municipalities Take the Lead

With momentum to accelerate sustainability practices in Connecticut,  local and regional representatives from Connecticut’s 169 towns and cities, along with key agencies and businesses, have spent the past year developing Sustainable CT.  The new statewide initiative will be formally launched at the end of this month with expectations of influencing sustainability practices across the state. Meeting for much of the past year, an Advisory Committee, consisting of state and municipal leaders , developed the initiative and adopted the overarching concept, “Sustainable CT communities strive to be thriving, resilient, collaborative and forward-looking.  They build community and local economy.  They equitably promote the health and well-being of current and future residents.  And they respect the finite capacity of the natural environment.”

Created by towns and for towns, Sustainable CT aims to be a voluntary certification program to recognize Connecticut municipalities for making their communities more vibrant, resilient and livable. It includes approximately 55 best practices along with opportunities for grant funding. Towns may choose which actions they will implement to achieve differing certification levels. The program is designed to support all Connecticut municipalities, regardless of size, geography or resources.

Organizers say that sustainability actions, policies, and investments deliver multiple benefits and help towns make efficient use of scarce resources and engage a wide cross section of residents and businesses. The official launch of Sustainable CT will occur at the Annual Convention of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities on November 28.

“Sustainable CT will foster creative thinking and problem solving within and between municipalities.  It will be the tool communities can use to bring together seemingly divergent stakeholders for the common goal of sustainability,” said Laura Francis, First Selectwoman, Durham, and Vice-Chair of the Advisory Group.

Officials indicate that all of Connecticut’s 169 towns and cities have been represented in Sustainable CT’s development in some way, either by directly by a municipal official or staff person, by a highly engaged local volunteer, or by a regional entity charged with representing member municipalities.

The Sustainable CT framework includes:

  • Sustainable CT is a roadmap of voluntary actions that will help municipalities be more sustainable.
  • Resources and support, including funding, help local communities apply the actions that fit them best.
  • The Sustainable CT Certification publicly recognizes municipalities for their sustainability achievements.
  • Sustainable CT is flexible. Any Connecticut municipality can find ways to become more sustainable – urban or rural, big or small, coastal or inland.

Municipal leaders and residents from across the state, the Connecticut Economic Resource Center (CERC), Connecticut Conference of Municipalities (CCM) and others from key agencies, non-profits and businesses all partnered to help create the program. Burlington First Selectman Ted Shafer chaired the effort.  A CCM Task Force on Sustainability, which included 15 mayors, first selectmen, and municipal officials, assisted the Advisory Committee.

CERC’s Courtney Hendricson, Vice President of Municipal Services, served on the Local Economies Working Group, chaired by Patrick Carleton, Deputy Director of the Metropolitan Council of Governments, and Thomas Madden, Director of Economic Development in Stamford. The working group helped to define actions municipalities can take to create or enhance economic development that fosters energy-efficient and clean-powered commercial and industrial buildings, supports local products and businesses, increases local jobs and revenues and promotes environmental and community well-being.

The Institute for Sustainable Energy at Eastern Connecticut State University coordinated the initiative. Support was provided by a funding collaborative composed of the Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation (EHTF), Hampshire Foundation and Common Sense Fund.  Advisory Board members included, in addition to Shafer and Francis, Carl Amento, David Fink, Bryan Garcia, Emily Gordon, Donna Hamzy, Scott Jackson, John Kibbee, Rob Klee, Kurt Miller, Kristina Newman-Scott, Christine Schilke and Christina Smith.

 

State Energy Policy Needs Further Revisions, Environmental Advocates Say

Connecticut Fund for the Environment has formally submitted its comments on the state’s draft 2017 Comprehensive Energy Strategy to the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. The plan is intended to shape the state’s energy policies and investments for the next three years. “The draft energy strategy includes some important recommendations that will reduce dependence on outdated fossil fuels, landfill gas, and biomass, but it still doesn’t map out how the proposed policies will put Connecticut on a path to achieve the greenhouse gas reduction targets of the Global Warming Solutions Act,” said Claire Coleman, climate and energy attorney at CFE.

The final CES should do the following to sustain Connecticut efforts to combat climate change, CFE urged:

  • Incorporate a quantitative analysis of how its policies will achieve the emissions reductions necessary to meet Connecticut’s 2020 commitment under the Global Warming Solutions Act;
  • Go forward, not backward, on renewable energy by proposing a more ambitious annual increase to the renewable portfolio standard, with the minimum goal of powering 45 percent of Connecticut’s needs from renewable sources by 2030;
  • Recommend a full-scale shared solar program to allow access to renewable energy for the 80 percent of Connecticut residents who can’t install solar panels on their own roofs, and remove the proposed cap on behind the meter solar;
  • Bring Connecticut’s energy efficiency investment in line with neighboring states;
  • Create incentive and marketing programs to encourage consumers to switch to efficient heat pumps; and
  • Rapidly get more electric vehicles on the road by strengthening the CHEAPR rebate program, expanding charging infrastructure, and establishing a regional cap-and-trade program for fuels to reduce emissions.

    “Meeting these goals isn’t optional—it’s required under state law that’s been on the books now for almost a decade,” Coleman stressed. “State agencies and lawmakers need to get serious about rapidly ramping up renewables and energy efficiency, cutting emissions from cars and trucks, and clearly identifying how state policies will work together to meet the 2020 and 2050 targets. That’s what we’ll be looking for in the final plan.”

The Connecticut Electric Vehicle Coalition, of which CFE is a founding member, submitted its own comments last week. The coalition emphasized the urgency of more specific plans to get EVs on the road and meet the state’s commitments under the Zero Emissions Vehicle Memo of Understanding to get have 150,000 EVs on Connecticut roads by 2025.

CFE, Consumers for Sensible Energy, RENEW Northeast, and Sierra Club also released an analysis by Synapse Energy Economics  which concluded that a 2.5 annual increase in Connecticut’s renewable energy growth would yield significant public health, economic, and climate benefits. Increasing the Connecticut RPS to 2.5% per year, the report indicated, would add an estimated 7,100 additional jobs to New England between 2021 and 2030, or about 710 jobs per year.

The Sierra Club noted that “even the administration's own analysis shows the draft energy strategy is not sufficient to protect the climate, and that more clean energy would create jobs, grow the economy, and improve public health.”

National Leader, Connecticut Green Bank Reaches Milestone in Project Financing

The Connecticut Green Bank’s C-PACE program recently surpassed $100 million in closed project financing. Out of the 19 states with C-PACE (Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy) programs, this project financing level is second only to California, according to officials. The Connecticut Green Bank’s C-PACE program reached the milestone of $100 million in total closed project financing. The solar photovoltaic (PV) and energy efficiency projects, which vary in size and scope, are saving more than $9.29 million annually in energy costs for nearly 170 building owners across multiple sectors. 

The Green Bank, which administers the C-PACE program, seeks to make green energy more accessible and affordable to commercial and industrial property owners by providing no money down long-term financing for meaningful energy upgrades to their buildings.

C-PACE enables building owners to finance qualifying energy efficiency and renewable energy improvements through a voluntary assessment on their property tax bill. As the program grows, more Connecticut businesses can achieve lower energy costs. Reaching $100 million in closed project financing reaffirms Connecticut’s program as a national leader, officials indicated.

Since its inception in 2011, 166 C-PACE projects have been closed in 69 of the 128 municipalities that have opted into the program. C-PACE funds have been used in manufacturing facilities, non-profits, houses of worship, retail establishments, office buildings, and other business entities.  The projects consist of solar installations, new boilers, energy efficiency lighting measures, HVAC systems, and other energy improvements that help building owners to take control of their energy costs.

“Connecticut’s Green Bank has really been the national leader for C-PACE,” said David Gabrielson, the Executive Director of PACENation, the national non-profit that supports development of PACE programs nationwide. “The way they administer their program has really served as a great example for other program administrators throughout the U.S., and we congratulate the entire Green Bank team on this impressive milestone.”

The project that propelled the Green Bank over this milestone will be installed at Farmington Sports Arena (FSA). FSA is a 130,000-square foot modern indoor sports facility that is home to four indoor and three outdoor artificial turf fields as well as four natural grass outdoor fields. The project, which will be installed by 64 Solar, consists of two solar PV systems (170 kW total).

Connecticut’s C-PACE program maintains an open market approach, allowing private capital providers to finance projects for building owners, and, in 2015, the Green Bank reached an agreement that provided it access to up to $100 million in private funding for C-PACE projects. Today, nearly 70% of the funding in the program consists of private capital.

“The Connecticut Green Bank is a leader in the green energy movement, but the rapid growth of C-PACE wouldn’t be possible without the support of our contractors, capital providers, municipal officials, and other stakeholders who have contributed to the C-PACE movement,” said Mackey Dykes, Vice President of Commercial, Industrial and Institutional programs at the Connecticut Green Bank. “There is still significant potential for energy improvements for Connecticut businesses and non-profits, and we look forward to bringing cleaner and cheaper energy to more building owners across the state.”

The website Energy Collective noted recently that “states have and will continue to play a key role in leading the clean energy transition,” highlighting the work in Connecticut as among the national models.

“Connecticut has found a way to make the financing of clean energy deployment more accessible and affordable for consumers and businesses. In 2011 the state legislature created the Connecticut Green Bank, the nation’s first green bank. It uses public funds to attract private capital investment in green energy projects. By leveraging private investment, the Green Bank significantly increases the total amount of financing available for clean energy projects.

The site highlighted that “Among the Green Bank’s most successful initiatives is the Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE) program, which allows commercial property owners to pay for clean energy or efficiency upgrades over time through their property taxes.

The Connecticut Green Bank is the nation’s first green bank. Established by the Connecticut General Assembly on July 1, 2011 as a part of Public Act 11-80, the Connecticut Green Bank evolved from the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund (CCEF) and the Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority (CEFIA), which was given a broader mandate in 2011 to become the Connecticut Green Bank.

https://youtu.be/kPqO4QlTkDU

Opponents to Natural Gas Pipeline Rally to Grow Public Interest

A planned natural gas pipeline in Connecticut and neighboring states brought protesters out in Suffield and East Granby, calling attention to potential adverse environmental impacts. Kinder Morgan’s natural gas project, Connecticut Expansion, is scheduled to begin construction in Suffield and East Granby shortly, according to the Connecticut Sierra Club, which organized the protest and has been conducting a public education initiative opposing the plans. The People Over Pipelines March, held Saturday, mirrors similar efforts held in Massachusetts, aimed at drawing attention the ratepayer subsidized gas pipeline expansion.  Participants followed the Kinder Morgan pipeline route in Suffield and East Granby.  Co-sponosrs of the effort included 350 CT, Toxics Action Center, Bethlehem Ecodefense and Berkshire Environmental Action Team.protest

At  an accompanying rally, Sierra Club’s Martha Klein said, “We’re here today to fight for the future of our planet, but the real reason to oppose this new pipeline is that it’s expensive, unneeded and what’s worse we’re paying for it!” The high pressure, large diameter fracked gas pipeline is being built in three states Sierra Club officials point out, noting that methane (natural gas) causes global heating that is 100 times worse than carbon dioxide in the near term.

Diane Lentakis of 350 CT added, “I’m marching here today to oppose a new taxpayer-funded pipeline because natural gas presents many of the same problems as oil and coal: toxic emissions, huge transport costs, and huge risks of accidents. I want Connecticut to be a leader in our country’s transition to clean energy.  We can take a major step towards this goal by opposing this costly pipeline and instead investing in renewable and clean energy. “

Sierra Club officials explain that Connecticut residents have been paying for the expansion of fracked gas in the state through ratepayer increases on their electric bill since 2013, as a result of state lawmakers approving a “Comprehensive Energy Strategy.”  In 2015, the General Assembly passed a law that mandated future ratepayer subsidies for multi-state gas pipeline projects, which will lead to ratepayers subsidizing the construction of interstate gas pipelines.people-over

The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP)  “is the agency in the state that both procures large natural gas projects, and also issues permits for aspects of the construction. The aim of the State energy plan is to create thousands of new gas customers, through advertising and ratepayer subsidies. Only the two large corporations, Eversource and Iberdrola, will benefit from the expansion.  They have a monopoly on gas distribution in the area,” Sierra Club pointed out in a news release highlighting the issue.  Eversource owns Yankee Gas; Iberdrola owns Connecticut Natural Gas and Southern CT Gas.

Sierra Club officials indicate that it is “not likely” that Connecticut citizens will benefit from the pipeline, stating that “Natural gas is not cheaper, cleaner or safer than other fuels. Gas, which is methane, is currently more expensive than heating oil in Connecticut and according to the International Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), worse for the environment than oil or coal. Methane extraction (fracking), use, and transport produce significantly more greenhouse gas emissions causing worse climate change than other fossil fuels.”

highres_449878739Studies show that there is no unmet demand for natural gas in Connecticut, opponents of the planned pipeline said, stressing that gas pipelines are routinely only half full now and electricity demand in New England has remained virtually flat over more than 10 years.  Proponents have stated otherwise.

According to DEEP, there are approximately 590 miles of transmission pipeline in Connecticut, including 16 miles in Long Island Sound.  These pipelines range in size from 2” to 36”. Pressures range from 750 pounds per square inch gauge (psig) to 1,440 psig. There are 5 compressor stations in Connecticut with a total of approximately 110,300 horsepower. The pipelines currently in place:

  • Algonquin Gas Transmission (AGT - Spectra Energy Corporation) originates in New Jersey where it connects to Texas Eastern and runs from Danbury northeasterly to Thompson, with major spurs to North Haven and New London.
  • Iroquois Gas Transmission System (IGT) starts at the Canadian border, enters Connecticut at Sherman and runs southeast through Milford, then offshore to Long Island.
  • Tennessee Gas Transmission (TGP -Kinder Morgan) starts in the Gulf, enters Connecticut in Greenwich, runs northeasterly leaving Connecticut in Suffield, with a spur from Massachusetts to Torrington.

The Sierra Club will be conducting a public education session on the pipeline at Quinebaug Valley Community College on Thursday, Sept. 29 at 1 p.m.

LED Street Lights Being Installed in CT Towns Even As Health Concerns Are Raised

The American Medical Association’s new policy stand “against light pollution and public awareness of the adverse health and environmental effects of pervasive nighttime lighting,” comes as municipalities across Connecticut and the nation are replacing longstanding lighting systems with LED lights in an effort to save money and improve safety.  The AMA however, is warning that the rapid pace of change could bring long-term detrimental health and safety effects. The AMA has noted that “it is estimated that white LED lamps have five times greater impact on circadian sleep rhythms than conventional street lamps. Recent large surveys found that brighter residential nighttime lighting is associated with reduced sleep times, dissatisfaction with sleep quality, excessive sleepiness, impaired daytime functioning and obesity.”

The organization noted earlier this month that “approximately 10 percent of existing U.S. street lighting has been converted to solid state LED technology, with efforts underway to accelerate this conversion.” The AMA’s Report of the Council on Science and Public Health on “Human and Environmental Effects of Light Emitting Diode (LED) Community Lighting” cautioned that “white LED street lighting patterns also could contribute to the risk of chronic disease in the populations of cities in which they have been installed. Measurements at street level from white LED street lamps are needed to more accurately assess the potential circadian impact of evening/nighttime exposure to these lights.

The AMA recommendations were developed to “assist in advising communities on selecting among LED lighting options in order to minimize potentially harmful human health and environmental effects”:

  • an intensity threshold for optimal LED lighting that minimizes blue-rich light
  • all LED lighting should be properly shielded to minimize glare and detrimental human health and environmental effects,
  • consideration should be given to utilize the ability of LED lighting to be dimmed for off-peak time periods.

The concerns are not new, but they are receiving greater attention in the wake of the AMA’s formal community guidance and policy position, adopted at the organization’s annual conference in Chicago in mid-June.LED lighting

Communities in Connecticut that have taken steps to switch to LED lighting include New London, Berlin, Plainville, East Hartford, Rocky Hill, Stamford, Southington, and Cheshire, according to published reports.  An article authored by UConn professor of Community Medicine and Health Care Richard G. Stevens, highlights red flags being raised by the AMA regarding the safety of LED lighting being installed in cities around the country.  The article first appeared on an international website, theconversation.com, and has since appeared on sites including CNN.  Stevens, an expert on the health impact of electric lighting, has raised concerns for more than a decade.

The Illuminating Engineering Society, founded in 1906 and based in New York, noted in a position statement that “exposure to optical radiation affects human physiology and behavior, both directly (acute effects including melatonin suppression, elevated cortisol production, increased core temperature) and indirectly (resetting the internal circadian body clock). There is no confirmation that typical exposures to exterior lighting after sunset lead to cancer or other life‐threatening conditions.” The Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IES) is described as “the recognized technical authority on illumination.” The IES website indicates that the organization was “not represented in the deliberations leading to [the AMA document]. We intend to contact the AMA and work with them to ensure that any lighting related recommendations include some discussion with the IES.”lighting

ANSES, the French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety, has published a report entitled (in English): " Lighting systems using light-emitting diodes: health issues to be considered," which focuses squarely on potential problems caused by LED lighting.  The LEDs Magazine website indicates that the full report is available in French only, but the report summary (in English) says that risks have been identified concerning the use of certain LED lamps, raising potential health concerns for the general population and professionals.

"The issues of most concern identified by the Agency concern the eye due to the toxic effect of blue light and the risk of glare," says the report, adding that the blue light necessary to obtain white LEDs causes "toxic stress" to the retina.

Back in 2011, a comprehensive report by Carnegie Mellon University’s Remaking Cities Institute (RCI) on the city of Pittsburgh’s transition to LED street lighting indicated that “Glare is an issue with LED street lighting. The RCI research team’s literature review and interviews with manufacturers and municipal agencies in cities with LED replacement projects indicate that the emphasis is being placed almost entirely on energy savings, to the exclusion of visual quality issues. The substantial glare caused by LEDs is not typically included as a measurable criteria in evaluation processes, and when it is, the tools of measurement are inadequate. As a result, glare persists as an issue.”

That report also noted that “the public is informed that LEDs save energy told that they are better in quality (often false) and that more accurate in color (often false).” In addition, the 113-page report indicated that “While the use of bright lights is believed to reduce accidents, it actually creates dangerous conditions for drivers, especially when night vision is affected by sharp differences in illumination. Bright lights are particularly hazardous for older persons because the human eye’s accommodation reflex slows with age.”

Regarding health concerns that have been raised, the report indicates that “Bright white light suppresses melatonin, the hormone that regulates tumors. Blue light wavelengths are to blame, because they ‘reset’ the circadian clocks of humans, animals, and plants even at very low levels of blue light. This might account for the significantly higher rates (30-60%) of breast and colorectal cancer in night shift workers.”

Some have compared the growing controversy regarding LED lighting to the ongoing debate in towns around the country regarding the use of crumb rubber from recycled tires as fill for sports turf fields.  Federal, state, and municipal governments have weighed in on the discussion, but even as health concerns continue to be raised, fields using the materials continue to be installed and used by youth in Connecticut and across the country.  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently launched a research project aimed at providing better answers on that safety question.