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Lamont, DEEP push for improved climate change plans

Hartford — Gov. Ned Lamont on Tuesday signed an executive order expanding the responsibilities of the Governor’s Council on Climate Change, pushing state regulators, environmental experts and other stakeholders to produce plans to adapt to the impacts of climate change while cleaning up the energy grid and boosting the economy with green jobs.

The council, which has developed strategies to meet mandatory greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals, was created in 2015 under former Gov. Dannel Malloy’s administration. Lamont’s executive order, his third while in office and second on climate issues, calls on the council to monitor progress and to report on ongoing efforts to reduce emissions by Jan. 15, 2021, and annually thereafter.

The group also must submit to the governor an updated statewide adaptation and resilience plan addressing a host of climate change effects, including sea level rise and flooding, and preparing the state for impacts on agriculture, infrastructure and public health.

Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Katie Dykes said in an interview that the council will take an inventory of assets and operations statewide that could be vulnerable to climate change.

The executive order also adds several seats to the council “to ensure a diversity of voices are represented,” according to a news release from the governor’s office. The council will include municipal leaders, health officials and advocates for affordability and environmental justice.

Under the order, which comes two weeks after the state’s request for proposals for up to 2,000 megawatts of offshore wind power, DEEP must examine pathways and strategies to achieve a 100-percent clean energy grid by 2040. DEEP also must ensure that electrification strategies to decarbonize the building and transportation sectors result in genuine emissions reduction, according to the order.

Speaking at DEEP headquarters to an audience of environmental advocates, lawmakers, regulators and the media, Lamont said the investments were not only good for the environment but could help recharge the state economy with high-tech green jobs.

Environmental leaders wholeheartedly applauded the initiative.

Lori Brown, executive director of the Connecticut League of Conservation Voters, said in a statement that the group was "thrilled" the state was "moving closer to a zero-carbon future and that the Lamont administration is taking the issue of climate change seriously."

Bill Lucey, soundkeeper for Connecticut Fund for the Environment/Save the Sound, said it is imperative the state "take stock and start planning how our communities will restore overbuilt shorelines to naturally wave-buffering dune, marsh and reef, invest in wastewater and stormwater management projects to prevent flooding and sewage releases, and establish resilient electric grids that will keep the lights on. Without this preparation, our regional economy and public health will be at risk."

Lamont added that the efforts of advocates, lawmakers, regulators and nearby states are combating toxic partisanship and environmental rollbacks at the federal level.

“We need to keep the pressure on,” he said. “It says a lot about who we are as a people and who we are as a state. And I’m not going to take my eye off that ball.”

b.kail@theday.com 

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