While you were scrambling toward the July 4 holiday and probably a lot more concerned about getting to the shore, getting a steak on the grill or otherwise getting away, there were a number of developments worth noting in the world of the environment and energy.

Plum Island plan: The U.S. General Services Administration issued its final environmental impact statement on the sale of Plum Island – the soon-to-be deactivated animal disease research site in Long Island Sound. It recommended a public auction, which has environmentalists and others incensed.

They contend the GSA ignored their calls and the strong sentiment of nearby communities to conserve the property as open space to keep it the de facto wildlife refuge it has become.

Beach Days (or not): The Natural Resources Defense Council annual report on the state of U.S. beach water quality put Connecticut smack in the middle of the 30 coastal states.

From Memorial to Labor Day 2012, there were a total of 298 beach closing or advisory days among 73 beaches. That’s way lower than the 538 days in 2011 – which is no surprise since 2011 included massive beach closings after Tropical Storm Irene.

But it was a good bit worse than the previous three years. The worst offenders were in Fairfield County – again no surprise since the inner Sound tends to be warmer and trap more contaminants.

Paint recycling, finally: Paint recycling was signed into law in Connecticut in 2011. Last week the first program was launched by PaintCare, a D.C.-based organization for the paint industry that recycles unused paint. PaintCare will open 100 drop-off sites around the state in the next few months.

While it keeps paint out of the trash, not to mention people’s basements and garages – it will mean higher paint prices. Paint in containers greater than one-half pint will have a “recovery fee” tacked on to finance the program.

CT Farm Energy partial reprieve: The Connecticut Farm Energy Program, which was forced to shut down May 1 when its funding ran out is about to get back to work. A new grant came through a few days ago – or at least half of it did. That means Amanda Fargo-Johnson will be back helping farms and other rural businesses secure money for energy upgrades – for a year anyway.

Energy efficiency-r-us: Turns out Connecticut folks are getting pretty good at saving energy. An update to the Council on Environmental Quality’s annual report showed homes and businesses are using energy more efficiently – a trend that’s been in evidence for several years. But it showed the number of households signing up for clean energy has flattened out. No surprise, it does cost a bit more.

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Jan Ellen SpiegelEnergy & Environment Reporter

Jan Ellen is CT Mirror's regular freelance Environment and Energy Reporter. As a freelance reporter, her stories have also appeared in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, Yale Climate Connections, and elsewhere. She is a former editor at The Hartford Courant, where she handled national politics including coverage of the controversial 2000 and 2004 presidential elections. She was an editor at the Gazette in Colorado Springs and spent more than 20 years as a TV and radio producer at CBS News and CNN in New York and in the Boston broadcast market. In 2013 she was the recipient of a Knight Journalism Fellowship at MIT on energy and climate. She graduated from the University of Michigan and attended Boston University’s graduate film program.

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