Part of Governor Jodi Rell’s budget plan is a proposal to have the Department of Environmental Protection absorb the Council on Environmental Quality, also known as the C-E-Q. Some are worried if the C-E-Q loses its independence it will lose its effectiveness.
Ever since the Council on Environmental Quality was created in 1971 it has been independent of the Department of Environmental Protection. It’s job is to keep an eye on the state’s environment and to make recommendations to the Governor to improve environmental programs. In recent years the CEQ has advised the state on how to improve the protection of wetlands and to stop illegal encroachment on public and private land. The Council is housed in the same building as the DEP. It has a separate staff and a total budget of 168 thousand dollars
Barbara Wagner is the volunteer Chair of the Council and is appointed by the Governor. Wagner says the CEQ is very sympathetic to the current financial problems faced by the state. But she says it would be a challenge for the Council to do as good job as it has in the past if it is absorbed by the state agency.
“We have had a very positive impact pointing at issues that someone say who say worked at the DEP may have not felt comfortable pointing to. And those are the kinds of conversations we want to have with governor and legislature pointing to the things we are more capable and more effective at doing when we had an independence.”
The Governor’s proposal could also eliminate the CEQ’s staff of two. Some environmental groups say they have come to rely on the CEQ to investigate citizens complaints. They plan to lobby the legislature to save it.