According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, environmental justice is “the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.”
In 1998, CFE received a grant from the EPA to start its Environmental Justice Program, which helps provide urban communities with greater access to information and helps empower them to use that information to reduce environmental risks.
CFE's EJ Program connects community organizations with a network of attorneys to help them address environmental pollutions in their neighborhoods. Our EJ work takes place mainly in Bridgeport, New Haven, and Hartford and focuses on air pollution issues.
OUR CURRENT EJ WORK
CFE is currently working to shut down the last operating coal plant in Connecticut, which is inequitably impacting an economically struggling and environmentally overburdened area in Bridgeport. Bridgeport Harbor Station coal plant is dirty and dangerous for the health of the community. Although most health risks exist within a three-mile radius of the plant, studies show that everyone within 30 miles is at risk.
In 2010 alone, Bridgeport Harbor Station released 1,389,597.3 tons of carbon dioxide, 1,273.2 tons of sulfur dioxide, 948.9 tons of nitrogen oxide, and 26 pounds of mercury (2008) into the air. Exposure to these pollutants exacerbates heart disease, asthma, bronchitis and other serious health problems, and it can even lead to premature death. Bridgeport's mortality rate due to asthma is almost 3 times as high as the rest of Connecticut for adults over 65. For children under 17, Bridgeport's asthma mortality rate is almost 10 times higher than the rest of Connecticut.
Since the start of our Environmental Justice program, CFE has achieved several major victories for the cities of New Haven and Bridgeport and the health of the local residents.
CFE, and others, successfully negotiated an agreement with PSE&G in 2009 on its plans to build a new peaking plant on the New Haven Harbor site. PSE&G's plan was met with resistance from the organizations due to the fact that any new plant would introduce more pollution into the East Shore neighborhood, which was already disproportionately overburdened by toxic emissions.
The final agreement, reached after three months of negotiation stipulated that PSE&G would reduce emissions from its old oil burning plant and take other steps to offset any increased emissions from the new turbines and create a net reduction of pollution in the neighborhood. Specific terms of the agreement included that the existing, older diesel-powered New Haven Harbor Station use more natural gas instead of diesel to produce power; reducing plant idling time from 14 hours to 12 hours; and contributing $500,000 to the new East Shore Air Quality Account – a fund to be used to further reduce pollution in the area through initiatives such as retrofitting garbage trucks with particulate filters.
Hospital of St. Raphael
In 2006, CFE successfully intervened in the Hospital of St. Raphael's permit application to replace one of its three on-site boilers with a new boiler using No. 6 fuel oil. CFE argued that the use of No. 6 fuel oil would result in the hospital unreasonably polluting the surrounding densely-populated neighborhood, would aggravate asthma and heart disease in vulnerable populations, and is a significant cause of illness and disease in New Haven.
As a result of the settlement, the hospital will burn natural gas instead of oil from at least April 1 through August 31 each year. This agreement reduces emissions of harmful pollutants, like nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide, and particulate matter, by more than 15 tons. The neighborhood surrounding the hospital benefits most from particulate matter reductions on summer days when air is stagnant, ozone levels are high, and people are outside or have their windows open.
In 2003, CFE attorneys defeated Quinnipiac Energy's efforts to reopen the 100-year-old oil burning English Station power plant in New Haven. Quinnipiac Energy had filed a request to the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection to reopen the plant, which lied in the densely populated, low-income Fair Haven neighborhood. CFE attorneys and experts highlighted that if reopened, the plant would send short but intense bursts of soot into the air, typically on the hottest, most humid days of the summer, when residents were already breathing some of the dirtiest air in the country. These bursts of soot would have led to increased pollution and would aggravate asthma and heart disease in vulnerable populations.
In 2002, a hearing officer granted a permit to Quinnipiac Energy to reopen the plant. However, in a major victory for environmental justice and human health, that permit was reversed by DEP Commissioner Art Rocque and English Station was not reopened.