Sackett v EPA Supreme Court Ruling
In the Sackett v EPA ruling, the Supreme Court narrowed the scope of the Clean Water Act by ruling that the CWA only applies to wetlands that are “indistinguishable from Waters of the United States.” This excludes millions of acres of wetlands from CWA oversight and places our communities, public health, and local ecosystems in danger – particularly as climate disasters intensify.
This is unconscionable and sets the US back decades in protecting OUR water.
Fortunately, Connecticut has strong protections for our wetlands and watercourses. But we can still lose wetlands through federal projects that fall under Army Corps jurisdiction.
Congress must act fast to right this wrong! We’ll let you know what you can do to help.
Aquatic Pesticides: Who’s in Charge?
Every few years, problems or at least questions arise about the state’s permitting program for aquatic pesticides. When a person, or association, or town applies to the state for a permit to put pesticides into water, what rights, if any, do towns have to oppose, or alter, or oversee, or enforce permits?
Typically, an applicant wishes to eliminate troublesome plants or sometimes animals in a pond or lake. (Note that the term pesticide includes herbicides.) CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) has primary authority, but towns must be notified. Some towns believe they have broad authority through their Inland-Wetlands and Water Courses commissions to put conditions on permits for aquatic pesticide use and to oversee the implementation. Other towns feel that if an applicant has a DEEP permit, there is nothing significant they can do. Meanwhile, due to staff cuts, DEEP is rarely able to check the accuracy of applications (for example, whether or not there is a downstream outlet from the water body to be treated), or to verify that conditions in the permit are being met.
The issue of noncompliance with environmental permits extends well beyond the aquatic pesticides the program, and, in 2017, the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) has been doing research into the problem, preparatory to issuing a report. Permits for aquatic pesticides stand out as particularly troubling. This is a matter of considerable public concern because of the growing evidence that pesticides in general are more harmful than advertised.
Attorney Janet Brooks, a member of CEQ and former, longtime member of the Attorney General’s staff, addressed the issue of authorities in a column in Habitat in the summer of 2017 (Habitat is the newsletter of the Connecticut Association of Conservation and Inland Wetlands Commissions). In “Pesticides and the Wetlands Act” she emphasized the broad authorities of municipalities. A brief discussion among experts at the Rivers Alliance October network conference, clarified that the state and municipalities have “concurrent” or “parallel” authority over applications of aquatic pesticides. This isn’t much help to town officials who aren’t sure exactly what they can or cannot do.
Eventually, the issue may end up in the Attorney General’s office. Meanwhile, we’ll do our best to keep you posted.
US Sen. Chris Murphy Releases Long Island Sound Investment Plan
At a May 2 press conference at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford, U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy announced the release of his Long Island Sound Investment Plan to ensure that the Sound is protected and “remains the ecological landmark and economic driver it is today.”
“From the thousands of species of wildlife the Sound support, to the fishing and aquaculture industries, to submarine manufacturing, and simple family afternoons on the beach, our state fundamentally depends on a healthy Long Island Sound,” Sen. Murphy said. The plan outlines the federal programs that support the Sound and the funding they require. It advocates for increased investments in programs that support job growth, like aquaculture research at Milford Lab (one of only two federal aquaculture research labs in the country) and programs that protect habitats. It also discusses ways to address water-quality challenges.
The plan calls for a total of $860 million in funding for the following federal programs:
Promoting Stewardship and Fostering Healthy Coastal Habitats
- $10 million for the EPA’s Long Island Sound Geographic Program to support implementation of the Long Island Sound Study
- $600,000 for the National Estuary Program to develop and implement the Long Island Sound Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan (CCMP)
- $68.4 million for NOAA’s Habitat Conservation and Restoration programs to protect marine life and strengthen natural ecosystems, including $21 million for the Community-based Restoration Program
Growing and Supporting Connecticut’s Fishing Industry
- $20 million for aquaculture research at NOAA labs
- $80 million for the National Sea Grant Colleges System, which provides $1.1 million in funding for education, research, and stakeholder collaboration at Connecticut Sea Grant at UConn Avery Point
- $9 million to support aquaculture research in salt waters through the Marine Aquaculture program
- $121.8 million to help restore fish habitats, manage the catch share program, and combat illegal fishing through the Fisheries Management Programs and Services
- $150 million to improve aquatic habitat science and implement protected species management through the Fisheries and Ecosystem Science Programs and Services
- Maintaining adequate resources and staffing at Milford Lab
Preparing for the Next Storm and Investing in Coastal Resilience
- $53.8 million for Coastal Zone Management and Services to provide data and tools to coastal states on resiliency efforts
- $10 million for Coastal Ecosystem Resiliency Grants to implement habitat friendly coastal resiliency projects
- Continued implementation of Connecticut’s $54 million federal Housing and Urban Development grant to prepare our coastline for the impact of rising sea levels and severe storms
- $10 million for the newly created National Oceanic and Coastal Security Fund to help Americans respond to the threats of rising sea levels and warming oceans
Read a press release with a link to the full plan.