The scene of the state capitol a few minutes before the legislative session ends at midnight on June 7, Yehyun Kim / CT Mirror

As the General Assembly finished its business for 2023, there were congratulations all around for the bipartisanship, the camaraderie, the seriousness with which they took their roles and the business before them, but in the end, the environment and the climate change crisis was not one of the areas such plaudits were deserved.

With each passing year, the climate crisis not only grows worse, but the time we have to deal with it slips away.  To punctuate that, as the session ran out of time, the smoke from Canada’s massive wildfires made our air very unhealthy in the Northeast and made clear that the climate crisis is at our doorstep and getting worse.  And yet, the House and Senate moved at a pace throughout the session like there was no urgency at all.

Connecticut has state laws in place that set mandated goals for reducing our greenhouse gases and switching to 100% renewable energy.  So what progress was made on getting to those goals?  None. 

Yes, if you are a fan of nuclear energy and the unproven dream of small modular reactors, well, the General Assembly made that a priority. But prioritizing unproven and costly energy solutions when they could have massively expanded low-cost and readily available solar energy makes no sense whatsoever.  In the end, a bill establishing a climate crisis and mandating a roadmap for the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to detail out how we get to our renewable goals died in the Senate.

And on our other crisis of mountains of waste, and our need to truck it out to Ohio since the MIRA incinerator shut down, what did they do to address it? They made plans to build a new generation of incineration instead of reducing the waste stream and getting compostable materials out of it so we can move away from burning it and polluting our air and compounding our climate crisis.

Yes, the General Assembly did pass some positive bills including an enhancement to our Environmental Justice Law, and they did pass a bill that gives more power to PURA and how we govern our electric utilities to protect consumers, and in the absence of an environmental and climate crisis, some would say those were good steps forward, but in a crisis, that is too little too late.

Connecticut should lead New England on true renewable energy and should be a leader on waste reduction. We need to see meaningful progress this year and accelerating every year as we confront the specter of climate change at our doorstep. The citizens of Connecticut deserve no less. Our health and the livability of the state depend on it.

Stephen Lewis is Chairman of the Greater Hartford Sierra Club.