GOLDRICK: Fiorello Is No Friend to the Environment

Sean Goldrick served two terms as a Democratic member of the Greenwich Board of Estimate and Taxation. He lives in Riverside.

GOP state representative candidate Kimberly Fiorello continues to demonstrate just how extreme, anti-environment, and jarringly detached from the facts, her views truly are. 

In her oped on energy policy, Fiorello declared her opposition to closing the state-run MIRA waste-to-energy incinerator in Hartford: “Connecticut’s publicly owned trash-to-energy plant, which manages half of our state’s trash is desperately in need of renovations,” she stated.  “Instead of producing energy from our waste with advanced emissions systems, soon we will be putting our garbage on trucks and rail cars to send to landfills in Ohio and Pennsylvania. Sound green to you?”

First, that MIRA incinerator manages 30% of CT’s waste stream, not 50%.  And the claim that this incinerator produces energy “with advanced emissions systems” is completely false. In fact, it releases dioxins, lead, mercury, greenhouse gases, particulate matter, ash, and other toxins into the air, so many toxic substances that it’s officially labeled a “toxic emissions facility.”  

Toxic emissions from that MIRA incinerator have wreaked tremendous damage on the health of the people of Hartford, resulting in substantially elevated rates of asthma, cancer, pre-term births, and premature death.  In fact, nearly half of all Hispanic children in Hartford suffer from asthma, more than five times the national average.  Indeed, it and other incinerators emit many times more hazardous toxins into the atmosphere than a comparably sized coal-fired power plant.

Fiorello wants that highly toxic facility to continue generating energy.  But she apparently isn’t aware that MIRA’s total generating capacity of 35 megawatts represents well under 1% of Connecticut’s total generating capacity.  Indeed, solar and wind already generate nearly twenty times more power in Connecticut than does MIRA’s noxious operation.  Moreover, the Institute for Local Self Reliance points out that incinerators like MIRA’s Hartford facility actually consume more energy than they produce.

Fiorello also appears unaware that the Lamont administration decided to close the MIRA incinerator because it has a better plan, a clear vision for sustainable waste management that does not include incinerators or landfills.  The state’s plan initiated in 2016 targets 60% diversion of waste by 2024 “by reducing waste, increasing reuse, recycling, and composting, and focusing on the development of waste conversion technologies.”  

That plan makes clear that Connecticut does not need this “toxic emissions facility.” Governor Lamont stated that he, “cannot support sending hundreds of millions of state taxpayer or electric ratepayer dollars to MIRA to attempt to keep a failing decades-old facility running, right here in Hartford where it impacts our vulnerable residents.”  DEEP commissioner, Katy Dykes, explained that MIRA’s proposal for an $800 million taxpayer bailout constituted, “a false choice, and a bad deal for taxpayers across the state, Hartford residents, and the environment.”  Indeed, just last month, representatives of 69 Connecticut municipalities, including Greenwich, met as the Connecticut Coalition for Sustainable Materials Management to help develop a modern, cost-effective, and environmentally, sustainable materials management system for the state.

Fiorello asks, “what happened to all the money we already send to Hartford? Among the many line items driving up your electric bill, one of them is for a governmental green bank to invest in green ideas.”  

Fiorello’s criticism of Connecticut Green Bank is right in line with the GOP’s attacks on clean energy innovations. 

Founded by the Malloy administration in 2011, Connecticut Green Bank has been so successful that it won Harvard University’s “Innovations in Government” award, and spurred the creation of green banks across the country.  Yet when Republicans seized operational control of the Connecticut legislature in 2017, they raided Green Bank’s funding, while at the same time pushing through legislation that gave hundreds of millions of dollars in annual subsidies to Dominion Energy for its expensive and uncompetitive nuclear power from its Millstone nuclear power plant in New London, Connecticut.

Fiorello claims, “There are private sector innovators interested in opening waste-to-energy or recycling businesses in Connecticut. But this is a capital-intensive industry and they can’t flourish here, where they face over-regulation and uncertain regulations.  It took Quantum Biopower, Connecticut’s first anaerobic digestion plant, three years to get from DEEP…”

Fiorello clearly doesn’t understand the difference between incinerators, which produce energy by burning trash, and anaerobic digestion plants like Quantum, which create sustainable energy from composted organic materials.  Indeed, Turning Earth, an anaerobic digestion plant, was permitted by the state and received a $4.5 million loan from Connecticut Green Bank, but was forced to return the loan after the GOP raided Green Bank’s funding. Turning Earth is now looking to create an operation in California, whose green bank offers more dependable financing.

The Connecticut League of Conservation Voters recently announced its list of the eight General Assembly legislators deemed by the League to have the worst legislative records on environmental issues.  All eight are Republicans.  Should she manage to get elected, Fiorello appears certain to take her place among those ignominious, anti-environment, eight.

Editor’s note: Letters to the Editor in support of local candidates in the Nov 3, 2020 election may be submitted to [email protected] for consideration beginning July 15 and with a hard deadline of Oct 26, 2020 at noon.