Library hosts climate change lecture with DEEP commissioner
DARIEN — Budget problems are damaging clean energy initiatives in the state, but one can still participate by raising awareness and engaging within the community, said Commissioner Robert Klee of the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP).
Klee gave a lecture on the topic of climate change in addition to the state’s new budget, approved on Oct. 31 of last year, and the policies that will affect DEEP’s plans in the upcoming years.
“We can issue an argument about the best approach to the problem but to simply deny the problem not only betrays future generations but also betrays the spirit of innovation of practical problem solving that guided our founders,” said Klee.
More than 30 people attended a climate change lecture at the Darien Library on Jan. 17.
A frustration for Klee and environmental agencies was the sweeps in fundings for bodies like the Connecticut Green Bank, regional funds and state’s energy efficiency funds. According to Klee, $127 million was cut from the Connecticut Energy Efficiency Fund for the fiscal year 2018 and fiscal year 2019.
The Connecticut Green Bank, established in 2011 by the Governor and the General Assembly as a “quasi-public agency”, has seen its budget cut by half in the fiscal year 2018 from around $26 million down to $13 million, according to Klee.
“This was a particular place where Connecticut was showing a new model, we were the first state in the nation to create a bank like this,” Klee added.
The Connecticut Green Bank is a third party involved in the town’s tentative plans to invest in solar energy. In the past two months, top officials in Darien have explored bids to install solar panel arrays on three municipal buildings - the town hall, the police department and the public works garage - for a tentative 20-year period.
Deepika Saksena of Darien posed for a picture with the commissioner. “I thought the event was good,” Saksena said. “It energized people and there were some great questions. Everybody is interested in this issue.”
Klee constantly emphasized the ways in which climate change affects the daily lives of Connecticut residents. One particular example was the rising sea level of the state’s coastline.
“The punch line number is a 50-centimeter increase by 2050. Decisions will need to take into account that the coastline is changing and that the difference - nearly two feet - is concerning.”
When a Norwalk resident asked how citizens could get involved, Klee responded: “There’s a lot of opportunity to get involved through Sustainable CT, within your community and holistically. For everyone, there’s something to be passionate about whether it be parks or education or transit or clean energy. Distributing clean energy in your communities are savings and a great showcase for your town.”
Regarding the Trump administration, Klee voiced his disapproval of the administration’s decision to pull out from the Paris Climate Agreements.
“I was very impressed by Commissioner Klee,” Judy Liebeskind of Stamford said. “He seems to be in a good place and he has talent. I’m happy I came because I learned a lot and plan to look up other ways in which I can contribute to my community.”
Klee noted that as a response to the adverse effects of coal power - such as health effects in urban areas, the poor and minority populations - the state is trying to invest in cleaner technology such as wind, solar and hydro. “We’re doing this even as the federal administration is trying to open up the coasts for drilling.”
Marie Hawe, another Stamford resident, also believed she benefited from the event. “It’s great that it Connecticut seems to be at the forefront of this issue. We’re a small state but if we can develop the practices, we can serve as a model for the rest of the country,” Hawe said.
The event, held in the Louise Parker Berry room, was cosponsored by the Darien Library, the Darien League of Women Voters, the Darien Nature Center and the Robinson+Cole law firm.