Since 1973, CRRA has compiled a laudable record of environmental responsibility, transparency and public education, yet there are those who attack CRRA with misinformation, disinformation and myths.
Recently, a group calling itself the Connecticut Coalition for Environmental Justice published a "fact" sheet about CRRA. This group intervened in CRRA's plans to build a state-of-the-art recycling facility which would help the state reach its recycling goals. Here are this group's claims and the facts about each issue this group raises:
CCEJ claim: Hartford has eight regional waste facilities that accept waste from as few as eight towns and as many as 70 towns. Connecticut burns more of its trash than any other state.
Reality: Connecticut makes such extensive use of the modern engineered trash-to-energy combustion process because it is more protective of the environment and public health than any other disposal method. That's why state law prefers trash-to-energy over other disposal methods.
CCEJ claim: The trash incinerator in Hartford burns 2,700 tons of trash per day, more than any of the other five incinerators in Connecticut.
Reality: CRRA’s Mid-Connecticut Project trash-to-energy facility serves 70 towns and more than 1 million people. Its modern engineered combustion process has scrubbers, filters and other technology that protect the environment and public health. Old-fashioned trash incinerators and “town dumps” have no such controls. You can see our emissions test results at http://www.crra.org/pages/emissions.htm .
CCEJ claim: At 17%, asthma rates in Hartford are twice the national average.
Reality: CCEJ offers no source for this claim and has no basis for linking this claim to any of CRRA's activities. However, Michelle M. Cloutier, M.D., the director of the Asthma Center at Connecticut Children's Medical Center, says that "outdoor air quality has improved overall in the past 20 years while rates of asthma have increased." ("Learning About Asthma," Letters to the Editor, Hartford Courant, page A9, April 1, 2006.)
CCEJ claim: The trash incinerator in Hartford releases mercury, dioxin, nickel and many other toxins known to cause cancer, asthma, diabetes, neurological problems and even early death.
Reality: The Hartford trash-to-energy combustion plant's emissions are cleaner than even the toughest environmental standards require. Using CCEJ’s logic, humans should not breathe because we exhale carbon dioxide which is believed to cause global warming.
CCEJ claim: The Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority (CRRA), owner of Hartford's trash incinerator, is the biggest polluter in the city.
Reality: CCEJ should supply some facts for this serious allegation. To our knowledge, neither the federal nor the state government has identified any single entity as such. The fact is that CRRA meets or exceeds the toughest state and federal environmental protection requirements.
CCEJ claim: CRRA operates five regional waste facilities in Hartford. These facilities are: One ash landfill, the largest cardboard and paper recycling facility in the state, the largest container (glass, metal and plastics) recycling facility in the state, the largest bulky waste landfill in the state and the largest trash-to-energy incinerator in the state.
Reality: By the end of 2008, CRRA plans to operate only two facilities in Hartford – the trash-to-energy plant and a state-of-the-art recycling facility. However, until recently CCEJ has stalled CRRA’s efforts to consolidate the recycling centers. In late February, CCEJ withdrew its opposition to CRRA's plans for the recycling center, and DEP has issued the permit modification necessary to complete the consolidation.
CCEJ claim: CRRA is proposing to expand three of their largest-in-the-state facilities in Hartford. These facilities are the bulky waste landfill, the container recycling facility and the trash incinerators.
Reality: Again, CRRA will close the landfill by 2008 and consolidate its container and paper recycling facilities. CRRA is committed to ensuring that cities and towns have sufficient capacity for handling their trash and recycling, but there is no proposal to expand the trash-to-energy plant.
CCEJ claim: Between 400 - 600 diesel powered trucks visit the CRRA facilities in Hartford each day, which adds to the amount of pollutants in our air.
Reality: Tens of thousands of diesel-powered vehicles drive through Hartford every day; CRRA-related vehicles account for a tiny fraction of this traffic. According to the CCEJ's own expert witness (Department of Environmental Protection hearing, Sept. 11, 2006), the impact of diesel emissions is concentrated within a quarter-mile of their source. There are no Hartford residences within one-third of a mile of any CRRA facilities. Further, a Hartford recycling facility that processes construction and demolition material recently received a permit to expand its capacity five-fold. Despite the fact that that truck traffic for this facility will also increase five-fold, CCEJ actually supported its expansion.
CCEJ claim: CRRA is trying to make the City of Hartford liable for the long term maintenance cost of the landfill to which CRRA brought trash from over 100 towns, and from which it profited greatly.
Reality: The City of Hartford opened the landfill in 1940 and still owns it today. CRRA and the city have reached an agreement designed to relieve the city of the financial burden of post-closure maintenance. As a quasi-public, CRRA cannot earn profits.
CCEJ claim: CRRA should help Hartford improve its recycling rate.
Reality: Under state law, each town is responsible for its own recycling program. As part of CRRA’s host community benefits, it pays $100,000 a year to help fund the City’s recycling program, and each year the CRRA Trash Museum provides educational programs to over 4,000 Hartford residents – more than one-fifth of the 20,000 visitors to the museum. Until recently, CCEJ has thwarted CRRA's attempts to expand its recycling program by opposing the state-of-the-art recycling facility. CRRA has agreed to increase its assistance to the city starting in 2007.
CCEJ claim: CRRA does not pay taxes! Instead, they pay $5 million in PILOT payments to Hartford which may be less than what they would pay if they paid taxes.
Reality: CRRA is a governmental entity. Its PILOT and other payments – more than $5.3 million a year – are equivalent to the property taxes a private company owning similar facilities would pay. Those host community benefits will increase substantially in the next few years.
CCEJ claim: CRRA's contractors are also exempt from city taxes.
Reality: Aside from one contractor – the Metropolitan District which, ironically, was selected through a no-bid process many years ago – all CRRA’s contractors pay taxes in accordance with the law.
CCEJ claim: Very few Hartford residents or people of color are hired as staff or contractors at the CRRA facilities.
Reality: To date, the new CRRA has hired one new contractor to operate one of its Hartford facilities. That new contractor has promised to focus its recruitment efforts on Hartford residents, and in fact 21 of its 24 employees as of September 2006 were Hartford residents. CRRA will insist on similar promises from all its contractors as they are chosen.
CCEJ claim: CRRA's contract with the city expires when the landfill closes, every year since 1995 CRRA has announced that the landfill will close in two years.
Reality: Prior to June 2006, CRRA had never announced a closure date for the landfill. In June, CRRA announced that the final load of material will be delivered to the landfill by the end of 2008. Under CRRA's revised closure plan, which has received tentative approval by the Department of Environmental Protection, the closure process will begin in 2007.
CCEJ claim: The 23 year old contract with no expiration date prohibits the city from opposing any expansion of the landfills or from regulating CRRA's operations.
Reality: The lease agreement clearly states it expires when the landfill has reached permitted capacity.
CCEJ claim: Every year the City of Hartford must respond to between 50 - 150 fire calls to CRRA's facilities. In 2005, CRRA had 70 fires in their facilities and 460 apparatus calls which required 12,000 hours of un-reimbursed Hartford city staff time.
Reality: These claims are wildly exaggerated. In 2005, CRRA had 30 fire calls, only one of which required Fire Department involvement. The others were false alarms or minor events handled by the plant’s fire suppression systems.
CCEJ claim: CRRA refuses to provide host community benefits to Hartford in proportion to the number of regional facilities located here.
Reality: CRRA pays the City of Hartford host community benefits resulting from negotiations between CRRA and the City, and these benefits will increase under a new host community agreement signed in February 2007.
CCEJ claim: CRRA refuses to negotiate with community organizations.
Reality: In April, CCEJ presented CRRA with demands totaling more than $14 million. CCEJ said it would support plans for its new recycling facility if CRRA acceded to those demands. This calls into question CCEJ’s true intent: is CCEJ truly concerned with the environment or with the $14 million it has demanded from CRRA?
FACTS: The Connecticut Coalition for Environmental Justice, which works to perpetuate many myths such as these, has never produced one piece of hard scientific evidence to back up its claims about CRRA.