Casting aside notions of red or blue, gubernatorial candidates discussed ways to turn Connecticut green at a forum on environmental issues Monday at Kroon Hall.
At the forum, officially titled “Getting to Green,” the two leading candidates, Republican Tom Foley and Democrat Dan Malloy, along with a third independent candidate, Tom Marsh, each delivered a prepared speech and responded to questions in front of an audience of over 100 people, mainly adults,that included environmental activists and forestry students. Nancy Cohen, an NPR host and managing editor of the Northeast Environmental Hub, moderated the forum, which was sponsored by the Connecticut Fund for the Environment.
The forum was structured so that each candidate addressed environmental issues individually rather than directly engaging in debate. Malloy went first, beginning with a five-minute speech in which he highlighted his history of bringing innovative approaches to environmental issues. In 1997, he said, he received a call from then-Vice President Al Gore to attend a climate change conference in New York that sparked his interest in promoting environmentally friendly government policies during his 14 years as mayor of Stamford.
Malloy said he is primarily concerned with changing the operation of the Department of Environmental Protection, a concerned echoed by speakers who would follow him. Though short on specifics, he promised to hold agencies involved in environmental issues to a high standard.
“Here we are at a University, where everyone knows that they have to have all the papers in by a certain date,” Malloy said. “Standards are just that, and I think we need to hold ourselves to high standards.”
If he is elected governor, Malloy said he will demand a 15 percent reduction in consumption of electric energy and attempt to make Connecticut the most energy-efficient state in the nation. He also said he opposes installing windmills in the Long Island Sound. The waterway is too important to the flow of commercial and leisure traffic to justify the addition of windmills, he added.
Foley, too, expressed opposition to windmills in the Sound, but otherwise diverged from Malloy’s position. While Malloy said he would expand the state’s environmental regulation agencies to simplify the flow of energy policy, Foley said he’d do the opposite. If elected, Foley said he would make cuts that require the agencies to do more with fewer resources. He cited the growth of state agencies as an obstacle to energy reform, not a benefit.
When Cohen asked Foley whether he believed humans are causing climate change, Foley said he is not qualified to make that decision because he is not an environmental scientist.
“We need to figure out what we can do to react appropriately to the impact of rising temperatures,” Foley said. “It makes sense to us for other reasons to reduce use of fossil fuels … I would support all the policies people who support global warming would support, regardless of the science.”
In addition to the two frontrunners, Independent candidate Marsh spoke on the need to better organize state agencies working on environmental policymaking. To demonstrate, Marsh held up a chart during his speech showing a web of bubbles and lines that he said represented the disarray of the state’s energy policy.
With the gubernatorial election now two weeks away, polls show Malloy ahead of Foley by margins of 5 to 8 percentage points.