Comments on Connecticut's Comprehensive Energy Strategy

September 25, 2017
Anne Hulick

Dear Commissioner Klee and Deputy Commissioner Sotos,

Climate change is the most pressing public health issue of our time, affecting residents across Connecticut and around the world in unprecedented ways. Climate change contributes to extreme weather events, extreme heat, poor air quality, water borne diseases, increase in vector borne diseases and can exacerbate mental health problems. The public health impacts of a changing climate disproportionately impact children, the elderly, vulnerable populations and persons of lower socio-economic status. It is imperative that Connecticut take swift, bold action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to mitigate the public health threats we are already facing and which are likely to become more prevalent and extreme without action. As a nurse, I am deeply concerned about the health impacts of climate change and urge you to strengthen the draft Comprehensive Energy Strategy to address the following concerns.

Extreme weather events:  Connecticut has already experienced severe weather events including the recent, prolonged statewide drought and the ravages of Hurricane Sandy. Extreme weather events pose serious risk of human health and damage to the environment, seriously impact our economy and can exacerbate mental health issues including depression and anxiety.

Extreme heat days:  Increased temperatures, particularly over a longer period, lead to a multitude of serious health problems including dehydration, heat stroke, exacerbation of cardiovascular disease including sudden death, exacerbation of respiratory ailments including COPD, increased cerebrovascular accidents and impact diabetes-related conditions. Prolonged extreme heat leads to more emergency room and hospital admissions, significantly impacts children who cannot regulate their temperatures as well as adults, puts outdoor workers at risk and disproportionately impacts vulnerable populations and those without access to fans, air conditioners or cooling centers. 

Poor air quality: Climate change and rising temperatures impact certain air pollutants. Ground level ozone and particulate matter exacerbate respiratory conditions including asthma attacks leading to increased emergency room visits and lost school days as well as complications from cardiovascular disease and premature death. Rising carbon dioxide levels cause changes in plant growth that contribute to more pollen and other airborne allergens, worsening allergy symptoms and contributing to longer periods of seasonal allergies.  In 2016, all of Connecticut’s eight counties received failing grades on air quality[1] and we experienced 31 “unhealthful air days” according to state agencies.[2]

Vector-borne diseases: Changing weather patterns and warming temperatures have caused the spread of vectors (mosquitos, ticks and fleas) to expanded portions of the U.S. The CDC reports that the number and distribution of cases of Lyme Disease has increased and the distribution has expanded since 2010 as far north as central Maine.[3] 

Water impacts and water-borne diseases: Climate change impacts water sources by affecting water temperature, quantity and quality.  Intense storms lead to more stormwater runoff that can contaminate water sources with harmful toxins and bacteria. Algal blooms and cyanobacteria can render water sources unsafe for use, contaminate fish and shellfish and contribute to water-borne diseases. 

Residents of Connecticut are already experiencing health impacts from climate change. I urge the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to do everything in its power to protect public health by strengthening the draft Comprehensive Energy Strategy to include the following recommendations.

Recommendations:

  1. Increase the Renewable Portfolio Standard to 40%: New York has committed to 50% renewable energy by 2030 and Rhode Island has committed to 40% by 2035.[4] There is no reason that Connecticut’s standard should be lower. 
  2. Remove limits on rooftop solar installations and fully commit to activating a full-scale shared solar program. 
  3. Firmly reject all expansion of natural gas infrastructure and reliance on fracked natural gas, the externalities of which are likely more harmful and more polluting than drilling oil.
  4. Rigorously ramp up electric vehicle usage, buildup of EV infrastructure and expand incentive programs to enable more people to purchase or lease electric vehicles. Transportation accounts for 43% of greenhouse gas emissions in CT which impair air quality. 

Sincerely,

Anne Hulick, RN, MS, JD

Director Clean Water Action, Connecticut; Coordinator, Coalition for a Safe and Healthy CT.


[1] American Lung Association, State of the Air 2016, page 64, available at http://www.lung.org/assets/documents/healthy-air/state-of-the-air/sota-2016-full.pdf

[2] Gregory B. Hladky, Connecticut Drivers Using More Gasoline, Creating Bigger Pollution and Health Problems, The Hartford Courant (May 26, 2017), available at http://www.courant.com/news/connecticut/hc-ct-driving-pollution-20170519-story.html

[3] https://health2016.globalchange.gov/vectorborne-diseases.  See figure 5.2 Changes in Lyme Disease Case Report Distribution.

[4] Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative Status Report (2016).  http://acadiacenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/Acadia_Center_2016_RG...

Region/State: