Daniel C. Esty, Commissioner of the Department of Energy & Environmental Protection (DEEP), spoke on July 28, 2011 at the Sherwood Island State Park Nature Center. The event was co-sponsored by The Friends of Sherwood Island State Park and Green Village Initiative (GVI). This was one of the Sunset lecture series that the Friends of Sherwood Island hosts.
The meeting was attended by more than 100 individuals including various elected and state officials, members of the Friends of Sherwood Island, Park employees and area Inland Wetlands staff and Commission members. Commissioner Esty spoke about the newly established Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) and the rationale behind its creation.
Dan is thrilled to be the first new Commissioner of DEEP despite the 16% of staff layoffs at DEEP. One of the top items on his agenda is Park improvement and the topic of the talk was “Connecticut Parks – Back to the Future.” He spoke of his plans and ideas for the future, including the greening of the State Parks, maximizing social networking to attract visitors and the rationale behind the new Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
Commissioner Esty spoke of the importance for DEEP to establish and maintain partnerships with local communities, including groups like the Friends of Sherwood Island. He also expressed appreciation for the many volunteers who donate their time to work on environmental issues. The State and many local communities rely on the help of volunteers to fulfill the statutory requirements regarding land use commissions, such as the New Canaan Inland Wetlands Commission.
A major goal is moving the State Parks towards a leadership role in clean energy with greater efficiencies and renewable power. He says we have to pursue economically cheaper energy. Commissioner Esty wrote the Green to Gold book based on the premise that building a green energy plan will lead to economic growth.
The 1st wing of DEEP is the Department of Energy with a 6 trillion dollar marketplace in Connecticut. Energy efficiency and renewable power are critical to lowering costs. We have the nations first Green Bank, which is a special funding mechanism, designed to give us flexibility in engaging the private sector while driving the clean energy agenda. Esty wants to position Connecticut as a leader in clean energy and the most efficient state in the country. These are goals that will define the 21st century.
The 2nd wing of the Department is the important issue of Pollution Control. On the pollution control front they are moving away from the tradition of command & control regulations where the government dictates very specifically what must be done, to an economic incentive approach. Such an approach is really more about engaging the private sector and working with the businesses, community and others to ensure we are guiding people toward the behaviors we expect. We are trying not to dictate in great detail what they must purchase in the way of pollution control or exactly how they have to produce the desired savings.
The 3rd wing of the Department is environmental conservation of the State forests and parks. Planning for wise land use and conservation while balancing wildlife management and recreational expectations. That’s the joy brought by the park we are in today and the 106 others like it.
Green the parks; lead by example, this is the mission for the Pilot Parks that are Sherwood Island, Rocky Neck, and the Osbourndale Unit. Esty notes that some work at Hammonassett has already been done along these lines. Goals include: utilizing clean energy, expanded recycling, better waste disposal, efficient water use, along with better protection of conservation areas as well as reducing and eliminating the use of hazardous products.
Part of the DEEP commitment to the State Parks is access to all, and there are now a certain number of free passes to the parks available at local Libraries.
Esty made other additional important points as well. The opportunity of energy saving through home energy audits and assessment is significant. Better insulation in windows and doors and the potential savings from rainwater collection are among the items reviewed in a home audit. Driving home energy efficiency, Westport is included in a 16 town, Neighbor-to-Neighbor Energy Challenge program with 3.5 million dollars funding from Department of energy.
Connecticut is the 2nd thinnest state in the country. The goal is to get kids outside! Go to a park! No Child Left Inside® is a DEEP initiative that encourages families to enjoy the outdoors and to nurture the next generation of environmental stewards.
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