REGIONAL – On a recent stop in Old Saybrook, days before becoming officially sworn in as U.S. Representative of the 2nd District, Joe Courtney stopped in the Paperback Café, spoke and shook hands with several customers, before sitting down to talk about issues he is concerned about.
Courtney was appointed to the House Armed Services this past December and recently appointed to the Education and Labor Committee.
Perhaps currently, one of the most discussed issues along the shoreline is the proposed Broadwater liquid natural gas facility which would be located 11 miles south of Branford.
The facility along with the floating storage regassification unit would require security zones and greatly affect boat traffic in Long Island Sound.
The Federal Regulatory Commission’s, FERC, recent issuance of a Draft Environmental Impact Statement makes the facility a step closer to reality; however, Courtney said he is opposed to the project and hopes to work hard in Congress to stop it in its tracks.
“I vigorously oppose Broadwater and during the campaign it was an issue that defined that one of the many differences between me and my opponent because he voted for the Bush Energy Plan which opened to the door to the legal process that is saddled us with this structure,” Courtney said.
Courtney hopes to build strategies with state legislators and members of Congress to keep the process from moving forward.
Specifically advocating reinserting state and local government in the citing process, Courtney said he would also look into how the appropriation process could be modified to slow down FERC and change its approach.
Courtney looks forward to working with Congressman Tim Bishop from Long Island and Representative Rosa DeLauro from Connecticut’s Third Congressional District, which has 25 towns, including shoreline towns from Guilford to Stratford.
Protecting the area from the Broadwater project is both a safety issue and an environmental issue.
“I was endorsed by the National Sierra Club for this election because they know I am somebody who has a strong record in support of the environment and the Connecticut River obviously is a big piece of this district’s national heritage and we will work hard to do what we can to strengthen all the work that’s been done in the past to preserve it,” Courtney said.
Courtney said this preservation could include protection of the 1,000 acre parcel in Old Saybrook, Essex, and Westbrook known as The Preserve and dredging of Old Saybrook’s North Cove to remove growing amounts of silt which has impacted this body of water.
“I want to work with Senator Dodd and Lieberman’s office to review a lot of these types of projects,” Courtney said.
Any possible federal assistance for purchasing the Preserve could be delayed due to lack of funds, Courtney said, adding, “All earmarks for specific funding projects for the state of Connecticut are in serious jeopardy for 2007, it’s likely requests like that cannot be considered until 2008, because the Republicans couldn’t pass a budget this year.”
Recently, Deep River held a workshop discussing strategies in smart growth and ways of balancing preservation of open space with ongoing development which brings towns funding in property taxes.
“One effort that I am particularly interested in is that we should do more to recycle contaminated properties, brown fields that are dotted all across the Second Congressional District from old mill sites that are opportunities to create jobs, housing, and shopping centers, but because of the environmental issues that surround these properties, developers in communities don’t want to go near them,” Courtney said.
Courtney believes the government should assist in encouraging this type of redevelopment.
In addition to smart growth, Courtney believes steps should be taken to make the area less vulnerable.
Rate payers have been paying for the construction of the Yucca Mountain Project for the past thirty years, Courtney said.
The project would move spent nuclear waste that is being temporarily stored at nuclear power plants throughout the country including the decommissioned Connecticut Yankee Nuclear Power Plant in Haddam and the Millstone Nuclear Power Plant in Waterford.
The real problem, Courtney said, is “We don’t have a true system of risk based funding for Homeland Security. As a result, places like Connecticut went backwards the last couple of years at the same time Homeland Security funds were being invested in places out in the Midwest that are way off the chart in terms for being real security targets.”
During his campaign, Courtney noted that volunteer fire departments throughout the Second Congressional District are frustrated about unfulfilled promises of funding for needed equipment.
Courtney joins Chris Murphy from the 5th Congressional District as the two newly-elected Democratic U.S. Representatives from Connecticut.
The 5th District includes 41 towns in the northwest corner of the state.