Ask any resident “What is the biggest environmental challenge facing Connecticut?” and you will get answers that range from climate change, to air and water quality, to loss of open space and environmental justice. But there is a bigger threat to environmental protection in our state that is largely unknown and seldom discussed: By 2022, retirements at the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) will result in the loss of 44% of the staff in its Environmental Quality Division, and more than 30% department wide. This looming state agency human resource crisis is not limited to DEEP, as the recently released Connecticut CREATES Project reports. The brain drain, at DEEP especially, could not come at a worse time for the environment.
Just 50 years ago, the Connecticut General Assembly established the Department of Environmental Protection. Much progress has been made since then, especially related to air and water quality, but we still have a long way to go. Emerging new contaminants are impacting our water resources. Land development is outpacing our ability to protect farm and forest land. We only need to look at this past year to see the vulnerabilities in our food supply system and the benefits of our state parks and forests. Combine these challenges with the imminent impacts of climate change and it is obvious that losing close to half of DEEP’s most seasoned staff, with their institutional knowledge of our state’s environmental regulations and natural resources, will wreak havoc. The environment and public health will suffer and those most affected will include our most vulnerable communities.