What's Utopia's Ultimate Impact On Environment?
By Robert Fromer
Utopia” is a noun variously defined to mean “a place or state of ideal perfection.” The opposite of utopia is dystopia, defined as being an imaginary, wretched place.
Anyone who has thoroughly researched the Norwich State Hospital's sale and the Utopia proposal for the property and its intended impacts knows that it is more appropriately named “Dystopia.”
Connecticut's de facto economic policies reflecting business uber alles, (above all else) promote mindless growth accompanied by enormous energy waste. Dystopia is a prime example.
These policies urgently need to be counterbalanced with sound environmental planning and protection. Fortunately, there is a structure in place to accomplish the task.
The legislature created the Connecticut Environmental Policy Act (CEPA) to preserve and protect the state's natural resources, granting government officials the fiduciary responsibility for their stewardship. The declared policy is to use all practicable means and measures available to fulfill the responsibility of each generation as trustee of the environment. This is done by attaining the widest range of beneficial uses of the environment without degradation, risk to health or safety, or other undesirable and unintended consequences. Nevertheless, to some, a green environment is the color on a dollar bill. Just follow the money trial, and you will find CEPA being bypassed and ignored for private gain.
Preston First Selectman Rob Congdon, out of design or simple ignorance, has been giving incomplete or erroneous information underlying the transfer of the Norwich State Hospital and its very likely adverse environmental impacts.
He dismissed the traffic issues, claiming that additional vehicles could pose a problem, but said, “the positives [of the project] far outweigh the negatives.” However, the Dystopia plan would require a 2A Bypass, which Congdon supports against the express wishes of all affected municipalities.
He further claims that there has been an environmental review for the hazardous waste and the Route 2A bypass prepared by the Department of Transportation. Yet cleaning up hazardous waste is not the only environmental issue. Mr. Congdon acts as if the cleanup solves and comprehensively encompasses all the environmental problems.
First, there is no authority for a town to prepare an environmental impact evaluation for the state. Second, Preston has no town regulations for preparation of comprehensive environmental evaluations even closely comparable to the state's under the Connecticut Environmental Policy Act.
The Fuss and O'Neill engineering firm prepared Phases I and II assessments for the transfer of the 100 acre area under the Hazardous Waste Act for the state Office of Policy and Management, the DPW and the state Department of Environmental Protection, which is separate and distinct from a CEPA evaluation, although the same information is normally included.
A CEPA evaluation requires characterization of all environmental factors, description and analysis of adverse and beneficial impacts, direct and indirect, and mitigation measures for significant adverse consequences. An evaluation would require consideration of impacts on the town and surrounding communities: solid waste, water quality, air quality, energy consumption growth, noise, groundwater, traffic congestion, flooding, erosion or sedimentation, natural land resources and formations, historic, archeological, cultural, recreational or scenic resources, species of animal or plant and their habitats; interference with the movement of any resident or migratory fish or wildlife species. The Route 2A evaluation should be included in a hospital site impact evaluation.
In less than 30 years, oil and natural gas will run out and the price will skyrocket. You are now witnessing the slow run-up to the slope of the steep price increase of the future. Nothing will stop the inevitable depletion of energy resources. Growth requires energy and fuel supplies. It's a simple calculus – no energy, no growth.
Every human activity involves using energy, usually from fossil fuels. Even nuclear power plants require oil/gas for construction, operation, maintenance and decommissioning. Other species have the same requirements for energy. Think hard if you can find some act, which does not involve the use of energy to achieve it. In fact, you won't find any.
Is Mr. Congdon going to require a life-cycle energy analysis and assessment to design, plan, construct, operate, maintain and maybe eventually demolition of the project? What happens after 30 years to the tax base if Dystopia abandons the project? Or, if the state enacts tax reform abandoning the property tax as a revenue source?
How much solid waste will Utopia generate? Will it go the incinerator to produce more air pollution and require expansion into the neighboring properties? How much litter? How much air pollution? How much stormwater pollution? How much sewerage? How much water use?
The property contains a 200-acre forest, all uncontaminated land, across the street from the hospital campus. Utopia wants to fragment and destroy the forest by relocating Route 12 through it. Is this wise environmental planning?
After the environment is destroyed, like Humpty-Dumpty, it can't be put back together, again, and a lot of energy will be wasted on entertainment and for the greed of a few.
There are environmental effects and consequences to all energy use from fossil fuels. These impacts involve essentially irrevocable changes to our atmosphere with possible severe climatic impacts. There is roughly one kilogram of carbon dioxide released per dollar of economic activity in the U.S., generating very long-term disruption to our atmosphere since the gas remains in the atmosphere for an average of hundreds of years.
Mr. Congdon has criticized Dr. David Bingham and me for being “environmentalists.” We accept that name with pride. But, we are, also, acting as informed citizens entitled to prosecute causes of action for protection of the environment. As such, we have an important duty to perform. It is up to the courts to decide if our claims are justified, not to those who are uncaring, or ignorant, about our fragile planet Earth.