Capitol Idea Rell proposal for state Capitol should be expanded
Hartford Courant editorial
September 08, 2010
Gov. M. Jodi Rell's initiative to "green" the state Capitol is fine as far as it goes, but the growing energy and environmental challenges we face call for much stiffer tea. How about greening all state properties? How about stopping the relentless sprawl that is the state's most serious environmental problem?
Mrs. Rell has announced improvements to be made to the state Capitol grounds this fall, including rain gardens, rain-harvesting cisterns to collect rainwater that will irrigate the grounds — and porous walkways to allow rainwater to filter into the ground instead of running off into the sewer system.
The project aims to reduce stormwater runoff and demonstrate green techniques. Few could argue with the goal. Heavy stormwater runoff carries pollutants into rivers and streams, can cause sewage overflows and increases the cost of water treatment.
But if the Rell administration recognizes that the problem is serious, its response should be more substantive. The state is making some effort to encourage what is called low-impact development — the state Department of Environmental Protection ran a demonstration project a couple of years ago in Waterford — it has not been a front-burner cause. It should be.
The runoff of polluted water is a byproduct of sprawl. Poorly planned low-density development means the loss of water-holding trees and plants and the addition of asphalt for roads, parking lots and driveways.
The antidote for sprawl is smart growth, and here Mrs. Rell's record is intermittent and halfhearted — strong in transportation, weaker in other areas. Meanwhile, the state is still sprawling. In her final months, Mrs. Rell could make a start at greening the rest of the state. Some steps might include:
Putting state offices where they can be served by transit, and then encouraging workers to take buses and trains, so they don't need huge paved parking lots.
Putting buildings on parking lots in cities to re-create healthy urban density.
Preserving remaining undeveloped ridgelines in the state. Ridgeline development not only degrades rare ecological areas and ruins scenic vistas, it causes major runoff problems.
Let's hope that greening the Capitol is just a first step. With shortages looming in the South and Southwest, an adequate water supply is one of Connecticut's great assets. It must be protected.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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