Expressing disappointment about the limited role the federal government has taken in recent lawsuits, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal LAW ’73 spoke to an intimate group at a Pierson College Master’s Tea Monday about his office’s environmental, health care and tobacco reforms.
A Democrat in an unprecedented third term as state attorney general, Blumenthal expressed respect for President George W. Bush and the way he has governed the nation in a time of war. But Blumenthal was less enthusiastic about the administration’s handling of domestic issues, especially what he called the government’s “misguided” economic policies.
Blumenthal began the session with a discussion of the state’s recent victory in a lawsuit against Dominion Virginia Power Company. Connecticut, New York and New Jersey sued the company under the Clean Air Act and the New Source Review, which sets different standards for new energy plants. In the settlement, Dominion agreed to spend $1.2 billion to reduce pollution at eight power plants and also pay a $5.3 million fine. Blumenthal cited the settlement as an historic move for the environment.
Because the state had to take much of the initiative in this and other lawsuits, Blumenthal said he was disappointed with the federal government’s lack of involvement.
“[The federal government], in effect, is embarrassed or shamed into taking steps of its own,” Blumenthal said.
Blumenthal also spoke about his health care and tobacco initiatives. After winning a $3.6 billion settlement for Connecticut in a multi-state lawsuit against major tobacco companies, Blumenthal said he advocated the continuing regulation of tobacco. Though he said he was against complete prohibition of tobacco, Blumenthal suggested a plan to reduce cigarette nicotine content over a period of time.
While acknowledging Bush’s recent success in foreign affairs, Blumenthal said the administration has been less effective in dealing with domestic issues such as prescription drug costs, the environment and education.
“There are still a lot of unsolved problems in this country, and a lot of problems that this administration has ignored or belittled,” he said.
Although he acknowledged the importance of rebuilding a post-war Iraq, Blumenthal said he hopes the administration’s domestic agenda is not lost.
“The real hard part of this war is what we do now that we’ve won it,” he said. “My main concern is that people may lose sight of the domestic challenges we face.”
Blumenthal also spoke briefly about Yale’s labor relations conflict but said he was reluctant to make further statements without more knowledge of recent developments.
“I’m hoping that the negotiations will be successful,” Blumenthal said. “I’ve supported the unions’ efforts to gain fair treatment for their workers.”
Elizabeth Jordan ’06 said she came to learn more about the law and its application.
“I learned a lot about his policy, especially during his talk about the cooperative efforts of states and the lack of initiative of the federal government,” Jordan said.
Pierson Master Harvey Goldblatt said he was pleased with Blumenthal’s tea.
“He’s a very prominent figure in the government of Connecticut, as well as a very prominent Democrat,” Goldblatt said.