See second half of this news article on the Meeting sponsored by the Mianus River Watershed Council on Protecting Drinking Water Watersheds.
Town Reps Push for State Power Panel
By Hoa Nguyen
Published November 17 2005
Instead of just opposing a proposal to build a liquefied natural gas facility on Long Island Sound, legislators said they support creating a state energy department to evaluate such proposals and address broader energy issues.
The new agency would change the focus from a specific project to the overall issue of Connecticut's increasing need for energy, Sen. William Nickerson, R-Greenwich, said at a legislative breakfast forum sponsored by Audubon Greenwich at Town Hall yesterday morning.
"We have no focal point" for establishing energy policy, he said, adding that he plans to introduce a bill next year to create such a department.
Nickerson was among legislators presenting their views on environmental issues in the first of two forums held back-to-back yesterday morning. The second forum featured two state Department of Public Health experts on drinking water.
The nearly four-hour discussion spanned the gamut of topics, including Broadwater Energy's proposal for a floating natural gas storage tank on the New York side of Long Island Sound, about 10 miles off the coast of East Haven.
While state officials have been critical of the project, siding with environmentalists who say the facility does not belong in the environmentally sensitive Sound, Connecticut legislators said they are somewhat powerless because the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has authority over the project.
"Quite frankly, the feds are driving the bus," said Rep. Claudia "Dolly" Powers, R-151st District.
Instead of focusing on one project, legislators proposed looking at all of the energy issues in the state, including the high demand for electricity in southwest Connecticut, which may make Long Island Sound an attractive place to build a natural gas facility
"We're going to have to bring in additional gas, we're going to have to bring in additional energy," said Rep. Lile Gibbons, R-150th District, who also supported the idea of creating an energy department.
In addition to the Broadwater proposal, legislators also answered questions about the need to better fund the state Department of Environmental Protection. Officials there have said that budget cuts make it hard for them to proactively address environmental issues in addition to their mandated role of reviewing and issuing permits, such as for hunting or industrial uses.
Legislators said they would push for more funding, but they needed the lobbying support of environmentalists and their coalitions.
"That department has been emasculated for years," Rep. Livvy Floren, R-149th District said. "But you know, the pie is only so big. What we need are coalitions."
In the second forum, sponsored by the Mianus River Watershed Council, Lori Mathieu, a state public health supervisor, spoke of her department's efforts to regularly assess 3,800 sources of public drinking water in Connecticut, including reservoirs and community wells.
About 24 percent of the land area in Connecticut contributes to public drinking water supplies, she said. While the state has some of the most rigorous statutes in the country to protect water supplies, Mathieu said that officials fall short when it comes to planning and addressing issues before they appear as problems.
"It's frustrating to be in reactive mode all the time," she said, adding that her department lacks the staff to do more planning.
Mathieu also said Connecti-cut's "home rule" -- which gives municipalities strong legislative authority over local issues -- requires better coordination between state agencies and local land use agencies.
"It's got to come from the ground up and not from the state down," she said.
Also, as the state becomes more developed, Connecticut must pay more attention to the land where its public drinking water supplies are, Mathieu said. Development is starting to creep closer to these watersheds, she said.
"They've only been protected because they have not been developed," Mathieu said. "We're starting to see this development pressure like we've never seen before."