Environment | Connecticut Public Radio


Keene/Cheshire Cty (NH) Historical Photos (Creative Commons)

Connecticut's Department of Transportation has released an environmental impact report for the proposed high speed rail line between New Haven and Springfield Massachusetts. 

Bike Trail for the Merritt Parkway Gets Renewed Look

May 24, 2012
Bev Norton / Creative Commons

After languishing for more than 20 years, the idea of a bike trail along the Merritt Parkway is getting serious consideration. But don’t count on being able to ride your bike to work instead of tackling the notorious Merritt traffic anytime soon.

dvwtwo (Flickr Creative Commons)

Bear sightings in Connecticut are on the rise this year, and their numbers are growing. Appearing to talk about black bears and what you should do if you come across a bear is Paul Rego, a wildlife biologist with the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

The core of the black bear population in the state is in the northwestern area, Rego says, in Litchfield County and western Hartford County. They're heading south in dramatic fashion, and somewhat to the east. Rego estimates their numbers at around 500.

A Call to Close Bridgeport Coal Plant

May 15, 2012

Environmentalists have been trying for years to shut down Connecticut’s last remaining coal-burning power plant. They could make more headway on that goal this year, since the power plant’s operating permit is up for renewal. WNPR’s Neena Satija reports on a public hearing held on the matter last night in Bridgeport, where the plant is located.

In Beekeeping, Honey's Worth A Few Stings

May 7, 2012
Chion Wolf

[TRANSCRIPT] Host: Honey bees help produce nearly one-third of the food we consume every day ... and beekeepers dedicate their lives to protecting this unsung hero of American agriculture. WNPR's Patrick Skahill visited with a local beekeeper to learn more about the craft.

Here's the thing about beekeeping. Eventually, you're going to get stung.

*Crackle* Oops! Ow! And there's one in the mouth ... spitting ...

OK. That hurt. Beekeepers call that "earning your stripes."

The Language of Climate Change

May 4, 2012
Stephen Thomas (Flickr Creative Commons)

A big part of the conversation about our earth and our environment is about how we talk about these issues. Despite what is considered “settled science” on climate change - the language around it still includes political landmines.

And, despite what’s widely viewed as one of mankind’s most pressing problems, reports have shown flagging interest in the subject of climate change in recent years.

Wikimedia Commons

It seems clicheed, but here in Connecticut, shad is more than a fish.

First of all, it's our official state fish. Second, it's linked to a peculiar fishing culture that barely exists any more. If you've driven down along the lower Connecticut River, you've probably seen those sad shacks and wondered about them. And the Windsor Shad Derby is still a giant event as is the selection of a Shad Derby Queen.

Last year, Connecticut’s small farms braced themselves against some extraordinary weather, including Tropical Storm Irene and the October snowfall. And now, after a warm, dry winter, they may be facing an even worse threat in the form of damaging agricultural pests. WNPR’s Jan Ellen Spiegel reports.

“They are coming up, there are some raspberries there.”


Apr 17, 2012
Kevin Krejci

Sure, we’ve got more choice than ever before.

But do you ever wonder what happens to all that food on the shelves that doesn’t get bought - and eaten?

Journalist Jonathan Bloom is author of American Wasteland: How America Throws Away Nearly Half of its Food and What We Can Do About It.  He’ll talk about all the food we throw away.

But, you’ll be shocked how much of our “waste problem” comes from the medical field.  Not just biomedical or hazardous waste - but the plastic packaging from countless products.  

Earth Day Special

Apr 16, 2012

We’ve come a long way since Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson, then a U.S. senator from Wisconsin, started a national movement to protest a massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California in 1969.

Since our first Earth Day in 1970, our cars, buildings, and even light bulbs have become more energy efficient.

Air pollution is no longer accepted as the cost of doing business...and the word “environment” is now part of our common language.

But we still have a long way to go.

Robert Ballard on the Titanic

Apr 13, 2012
Inst. for Exploration & Inst. for Archaeological Oceanography

Dr. Robert Ballard is probably the world’s most famous explorer - in part because of his Titanic discovery - in part because of his tireless mission to uncover secrets of the deep.

Leadership in the Arctic

Apr 13, 2012
NASA, Creative Commons

Rising global temperatures means a shrinking ice cap in the arctic.  But it also means a new maritime frontier for oil exploration, shipping and tourism.  But how to deal with all of this increased human traffic in a place not really made for humans?  The United States Coast Guard Academy and the Law of the Sea Institute at the University of California's Berkeley School of Law are sponsoring a two-day conference called “Leadership for the Arctic.”

Hartford is paying $600,000 to a local non-profit to plant 1,000 trees across the city. As WNPR’s Jeff Cohen reports, the money will begin to replace some of the trees lost in last October's snow storm.

One thousand trees may sound like a lot. But consider this: the city probably loses between 200 and 400 a year. And in last October’s storm, it lost around 3,000.

Still, Ron Pitz says the money to plant new trees will put a dent in replacing city trees that have been recently lost.

"This is a nice shot in the arm for us."

A vacant 26-story office tower in downtown Hartford may get a new life. A Fairfield developer has plans before the city to turn the old Bank of America building into nearly 300 apartments. The project is in the early stages, and the city says there's no public or private financing committed to it yet. But it's worth noting the ambition -- the building at 777 Main Street has nothing happening inside of it, and developer Bruce Becker has an idea: He wants to build 286 apartments and a bunch of retail space near Hartford's State House Square.

Energy Efficiency Funding In Jeopardy

Apr 3, 2012

About half the homes in Connecticut are heated with oil, now at more than $4 a gallon. But if those homeowners want help lowering their oil bills through energy efficiency, they could find themselves frozen out of a funding program unless the legislature takes action.

That’s the sound of a large fan set in the frame of Lars Helgeson’s kitchen door in Madison. Technicians from an energy services company are using it to figure out where air leaks are and fix them. 

Where We Live: The Acid Rain Wars

Apr 2, 2012
Amanda Slater

Long before “climate change” came into public consciousness as a major environmental issue - we worried about “acid rain” - caused by emissions of carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides that react with water in the atmosphere to create acids. Gene Likens was at the forefront of the national acid rain debate in the 1980s...now he’s focusing on climate change. Starting on July 1, he will be Special Advisor to UConn President Susan Herbst on Environmental Matters.

Sustainable Density

Mar 30, 2012

Worldwide, more people are moving to cities than ever before...but can our cities handle the load?

Between 1990 and 2008, the EPA reports that in roughly half of the 50 largest metropolitan regions dramatically increased their growth.

Why are people flocking back? Lower crime rates...along with a desire by empty nesters and young adults for walkable communities...high-paying jobs, stores, restaurants, parks, and supermarkets.

Then there’s high cost of commuting as gas prices go up.

Bird Bracket

Mar 16, 2012


Mar 12, 2012
Chion Wolf

Rats are political. Yes, I know all the jokes. But what I really mean is that the decisions about where there will be rats and where there won't be are all snarled up in politics.

A controversial plan to build a massive liquefied natural gas plant in the middle of Long Island Sound is over for good. Broadwater Pipeline LLC has asked to withdraw from its federal certificates.

Broadwater, a partnership of Royal Dutch Shell and TransCanda Corporation, wanted to construct a 20-story high floating LNG platform tethered to the bottom of Long Island Sound.

"It was four football fields long. It was going to have an accompanying 27-mile long pipeline."

Imagine Your Town Without Trees

Mar 5, 2012
Chion Wolf

After a series of bad storms, Governor Dannel Malloy declared a “War on Trees!” Or, at least, that’s what it seemed like at the time. The governor was reacting to the hundreds of thousands of power outages caused by downed trees after a tropical storm and a freakish October snowstorm.

In his defense of more aggressive tree-cutting he coined this signature phrase: “Trees grow, ladies and gentlemen of the state of Connecticut, they grow.”

Scraping the Sky

Feb 29, 2012
Jay Zhang (Flickr Creative Commons)

A hundred years ago, the tallest building in the world was 700 feet. Today, the record is 2,000 feet taller than that...and this trend isn’t slowing down. Skyscrapers have gone from being merely “tall” to “supertall.” Seven of the world’s ten tallest skyscrapers were built since the turn of the millennium.

Your Connecticut Story

Feb 27, 2012

The state of Connecticut is asking residents for their “Connecticut Stories” today...part of a new marketing push.

It may not prove to be “I Love New York” - the highly memorable 1970s campaign that rebranded a city and a state - and that had a young Dannel Malloy working on.  But Connecticut’s brand new effort to market itself is a big step up from the days of Governor Jodi Rell’s $1 promotion budget - which helped get the state wiped off of tourism maps of New England.  We’ll talk about the new campaign with state tourism director Randy Fiveash. 

NIMBY (Not in my backyard)

Feb 25, 2012
Flickr Creative Commons, coofdy

Wildlife has clearly run amok in Connecticut, with talk of organizing the first bear hunts since 1840, sightings of cougars/ mountain lions- with one killed on the Merritt parkway and moose on the loose in Litchfield, Granby and Trumbull.  But through it all, our backyards have remained a cherished piece of domestic solitude, where nature can be arranged and managed to create a world where we are in charge (plants go here, stones go there, etc.) Until now...

Low-Income Renters Struggle to Find Housing

Feb 24, 2012

Home values continue to fall, and yet housing is becoming increasingly difficult to afford. As WNPR’s Neena Satija reports, a new study from the Center for Housing Policy shows the situation is particularly dire in Connecticut.

In 2010, nearly a quarter of all working households suffered from what’s called a “severe housing cost burden.” That means more than 50 percent of households' income goes toward housing. The problem is worst for people who are renting. Megan Bolton is a senior research analyst at the National Low-Income Housing Coalition.

The Science Of Dust

Feb 13, 2012
Gilles San Martin/flickr creative commons

There was a time when nobody studied dust. In fact, two kinds of nobody studied two kinds of dust. Astronomers were annoyed by interstellar dust because it got in the way of what they were looking at. It took a long time for them to realize the dust itself was worth looking at.

Same goes for earthbound particulate dust. Dust might creep into a sample on a slide if somebody got sloppy. And that was a problem. Only recently did scientists start looking at the dust itself and even cataloging it in, off all things, a dust library.

The Urban Metabolism

Jan 31, 2012

Having a “high metabolism” is seen as a positive for humans...what about cities?

The idea of “urban metabolism” comes from a new book by Austin Troy, associate professor at the University of Vermont’s Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources.  He’s the author of The Very Hungry City: Urban Energy Efficiency and the Economic Fate of Cities

Wolves In The World

Jan 23, 2012
Chion Wolf

Chion Wolf

We tell ourselves that Connecticut weathered huge storms last year, and that's both true and not true. Irene, for example, never struck Connecticut as a hurricane.  Any kind of hurricane. Irene's sustained winds reached about 50 mph.

Fracking In 2011

Jan 6, 2012
Adrian Kinloch (Flickr Creative Commons)

2011 was the year fracking “cracked the public consciousness” - and it stands to be an environmental and political issue in 2012. We get an update from Nick Kusnetz who was recently a reporting fellow for ProPublica, focusing on fracking.

Here is an excerpt from ProPublica's reflection on fracking in 2011 by Abrahm Lustgarten: