Margaret Miner of Rivers Alliance walks us through the importance of CEQ before a public hearing on Monday, March 2.
The Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) is responsible for monitoring and reporting on the condition of Connecticut’s environment, and informing the public of progress toward reaching our environmental goals. CEQ monitors the state’s stewardship of our supremely valuable natural resources: air, soil, water, and wildlife. It attends to citizens’ environmental concerns. But in Governor Malloy’s proposed budget, this important program is slated to be cut in its entirety.
This removal attempt is nothing new. Here’s the timeline of CEQ’s near-death experiences in recent years:
- 2003 under Governor Rowland, CEQ eliminated but saved in the last days of the session.
- 2009 under Governor Rell, CEQ was to be merged into Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), the agency it is supposed to monitor.
- 2011 under Governor Malloy, the same merger was proposed except DEP is now DEEP, the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
- 2013 under Governor Malloy, CEQ was proposed to merge into the new, administrative Office of Governmental Accountability.
- 2015 under Governor Malloy, a new, even odder idea would merge CEQ into the General Assembly’s Office of Legislative Management.
From 2003 to 2013, friends of the environment have mounted successful campaigns to save CEQ. We need to do so again. Almost every environmental group in the state is gearing up for the struggle, including Connecticut Fund for the Environment/Save the Sound and Rivers Alliance.
CEQ has many important responsibilities:
- Assess the condition of Connecticut’s environment; report findings annually to the Governor; and recommend actions to improve state environmental programs.
- Advise other state agencies on the environmental impacts of proposed construction projects.
- Investigate citizens’ complaints and allegations of violations of environmental laws.
- Review Environmental Impact Evaluations that state agencies develop for major projects; and publish the Environmental Monitor, the official website for state project information under CEPA and for notices of proposed sale or transfer of state-owned lands.
CEQ fulfills these responsibilities with an incredibly low budget of about $180,000 and hundreds of hours of volunteer time. Under this proposal, CEQ would be merged into the Office of Legislative Management in the legislative branch of the government.
CEQ and environmental advocates have considered the implications of being absorbed into the legislative branch. The move would terminate CEQ’s independence. For instance, if legislative leadership were supporting a bill that was harmful to the environment, would CEQ be able to recommend a different approach or speak out against the bill? That would be disloyal to the legislative entity of which they would be a part. It is a clear conflict of interest.
To protect this still beautiful state, let’s save CEQ once again. Join Rivers Alliance, CFE/Save the Sound, and many other environmental groups and advocates at a public hearing on Monday, March 2 in front of the Appropriations Committee. The hearing will be held in Room 2C of the Legislative Office Building, with officials speaking starting at 6:00 p.m. and the public invited to speak beginning at 6:30 p.m.
If you can’t make the hearing, you can also submit testimony electronically at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would like Rivers Alliance to deliver testimony for you or to add your name to a sign-on letter, please respond to email@example.com. We’ll also keep you updated on whether and when CEQ needs more help, and let you know when it is once again saved, with your help. Thank you.
Margaret Miner is the Connecticut Executive Director of Rivers Alliance. She can be reached at (203) 788 5161.