Washington, DC - Gov. Jodi Rell's nominee to take over the troubled Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection comes from a state with an even worse environmental record, according to a letter to the state General Assembly released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). PEER is urging that Gina McCarthy, a top environmental official from Massachusetts, identify what parts of the Bay State's checkered environmental record she supports and what parts she opposes prior to her confirmation hearings.
"Environmental protection in Massachusetts has gone from bad to worse during the time that Gina McCarthy has been in a high position there," stated New England PEER Director Kyla Bennett, a former U.S. Environmental Protection Agency biologist and attorney. "If she is confirmed, will Gina McCarthy import the very same policies that are failing next door?"
PEER points to several aspects of a deteriorating anti-pollution program in Massachusetts, which has -
- The lowest rate in New England for having up-to-date permits for its major air pollution sources. Less than a third (32%) of the state's big emitters have proper permits specifying up-to-date pollution controls;
- Less than 10% of its rivers classified as swimmable and fishable. More than half (55%) of Massachusetts' stream bodies do not support aquatic life, and more than a quarter (27%) are unsafe for contact with human skin; and
- A failing toxic control program. For example, an estimated 90% of Boston public schools have at least one environmental problem linked to asthma or allergy attacks in its students.
In addition to the rising environmental failings in Massachusetts, PEER is raising concerns about union busting, gag orders to silence staff and increasing politicization of permitting and enforcement decisions by the Mitt Romney Administration.
"With the departure of John Rowland and his longtime Commissioner Art Rocque, Connecticut is now just emerging from a long tradition of DEP trading public health for political favors," added Bennett, whose organization helped unmask several of those dealings. "Connecticut needs an environmental leader committed to being tough, consistent and effective in reducing pollution but nothing in Gina McCarthy's Massachusetts record suggests any of those qualities."
The General Assembly will be considering McCarthy's nomination in the coming weeks.