Robert Klee, Chairman of Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (“DEEP”) presented an overview of DEEP’s responsibilities and activities.
Mr. Klee stated that DEEP has a 900 member full time staff, which expands by an additional 600 during the summer months. These employees are spread over three areas of responsibility, energy, environmental conservation and environmental quality; included as part of these responsibilities is a charge to protect the state’s wildlife. He pointed out that Connecticut has a lot of open spaces and woodlands. This means that Connecticut residents frequently interact with wildlife including some that is potentially dangerous such as bears. This has to be managed as well as the need to stock streams and lakes with fish.
The energy responsibility was faced with over 20 years of neglect. DEEP developed a new comprehensive strategy that focused on efficiency, opening up opportunities for natural gas, expanding renewable energy and transportation (electric car promotion). The anticipated results for this strategy are reduced power consumption, lower costs and cleaner air.
For environmental quality the goal is to make industry function like nature. This ultimately means no waste. Again this will mean reduced energy needs as well as cleaner air and water. Mr. Klee cited the example of Connecticut trash. Presently, Connecticut generates about 3.8 million tons of trash annually, which is mostly burned. Much of this trash contains material that can be reused in some form and has value. Connecticut has improved its recycling rate to 30% and has set a 60% goal at the end of ten years. This will require technology applications as well as microbial use to attack some organic trash to generate useful gas and other beneficial byproducts. Additionally, large trash segments that are particularly difficult and expensive to deal with such as mattresses are starting to be broken down into components and becoming the basis of new industry rather than a major headache.
On the environmental conservation front new attention and resources are being applied to Connecticut’s parks and woodlands. New facilities are being constructed and old ones renovated. Also, other improvements such as trails that can be used by all residents are in the works and DEEP is raising 750,000 trout a year for our streams.
Climate change is significantly impacting DEEP’s responsibilities. Consequently, the department monitors, among other things, the water temperature in Long Island Sound. We know that warming temperatures have already resulted in sea life changes. Many lobsters that used to be abundant in the Sound have moved north and things like blue crabs that used to be south of here are moving in. DEEP has two climate change related tasks. These are the mitigating of climate changing gases such as C02 and developing adaptation techniques for the changes that have and will occur. So far we have reduced the C02 emissions by 40%. The state is looking for an 80% reduction by 2050. At the same time we have developed new approaches on how and what to develop to help with adaptation. An example of this is the microgrid program that will allow for continued power for an area even when there is a general power failure.
Q & A
Q. Electric cars require plants to build and facilities to run them. This expends energy. Is this energy less than the amount saved by their use?
A. We have already achieved much energy reduction in the state. For example there is only one coal burning power plant left and it runs only in the winter.
Q. Will Connecticut pay a rebate amount to someone buying a Tesla?
A. We pay rebates for the purchase of an electric car, but there is a price point cut-off and Tesla is above that point.
Q. Some states charge solar-using homeowners a fee. What is the Connecticut position?
A. We want to avoid such fees as they discourage solar use. We need to become partners with the power companies.
Q. What can be done to bring natural gas to all areas of the state?
A. Bringing gas to all areas of the state isn’t feasible. But we are looking at alternatives such as geo-thermal to make cheaper energy available everywhere.
Q. Deer are a problem. Will the state ever sponsor a state-wide culling program?
A. There have been local culling programs, but I don’t see a state-wide program in the near future.
Q. The state legislature has banned the sale of electric cars in the state. Can this be reversed?
A. DEEP was not involved with the legislation and won’t be in the future.
Q. People using generators are charged an 8.1% surcharge for propane used in generators. Why is this?
A. I am not aware of this and will look into it.
Q. Will an adequate budget be maintained to protect the state’s open spaces and provide estuary maintenance in the future?
A. We consider this a priority and will continue to make the necessary funds available.
Q. Is anything being done with regard to the buildup of nitrogen in the Sound?
A. We are addressing this problem and have developed on-going programs including new forms of construction that help with this situation.