WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) today led Connecticut’s congressional delegation and 14 members of New York’s congressional delegation in expressing strong support for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Nitrogen Strategy to reduce nitrogen levels in the Sound and restore its ecological health. In a letter addressed to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, Murphy and his colleagues emphasized that excessive nitrogen – which is caused by sewage treatment plants, fertilizers, and tributary sources – reduces oxygen levels in water, threatens coastlines, and kills marine animals and plants. The members of Congress urged the EPA to prioritize resources to implement the Nitrogen Reduction Strategy as quickly as possible.
“The importance of nitrogen reduction in the Long Island Sound is multi-fold. If implemented, the EPA Strategy will foster life in the Sound by reducing the low-oxygen dead zones that are currently suffocating fish and other aquatic life indigenous to the Sound. The key to the implementation of this plan will be the setting of explicit scientific endpoints and investment in the surrounding communities, giving them the actionable tools and resources to meet these endpoints. We hope that you will prioritize EPA funding and resources toward reaching these goals,” wrote the members of Congress. “Swift implementation and adequate resources will be the key to saving the Sound.”
The EPA announced their plan to reduce Long Island Sound nitrogen levels after Connecticut and New York’s environmental advocates submitted a petition demanding a revised Nitrogen Reduction Strategy. The Nitrogen Reduction Strategy hadn’t previously been updated since 2000. The new EPA plan will focus on improving low-oxygen zones, reducing toxic algae blooms, protecting salt marshes, and preventing ocean acidification through local mitigation plans.
In addition to Murphy, the letter was signed by Connecticut’s entire Congressional delegation – U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and U.S. Representatives John Larson (CT-1), Joe Courtney (CT-2), Rosa DeLauro (CT-4), Jim Himes (CT-4), and Elizabeth Esty (CT-5) – and members of New York’s Congressional delegation, including U.S. Senators Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), and U.S. Representatives Eliot Engel (NY-16), Charles Rangel (NY-13) Jerrold Nadler (NY-10), José Serrano (NY-15), Yvette Clarke (NY-9), Gregory Meeks (NY-5), Grace Meng (NY-6), Lee Zeldin (NY-1), Joseph Crowley (NY-14), Steve Israel (NY-3), Kathleen Rice (NY-4), and Louise Slaughter (NY-25).
The full text of the letter is available online and below:
Honorable Gina McCarthy
Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20160
Dear Administrator McCarthy:
We write to you in strong support of your recently released EPA Nitrogen Strategy for restoring ecological vigor and health to our beloved Long Island Sound and to seek your leadership to help gather federal resources needed to convert this bold strategy into action.
As you know, eight regional environmental organizations got behind the Nitrogen Strategy with a vision to further enhance the control of the nitrogen pollution that has been devastating Long Island Sound’s ecosystem for decades. We recognize the need for federal and state funding to empower the regional action plans that will allow communities all across the Sound and our large tributaries to identify the most cost effective investments in nitrogen pollution reductions.
The importance of nitrogen reduction in the Long Island Sound is multi-fold. If implemented, the EPA Strategy will foster life in the Sound by reducing the low-oxygen dead zones that are currently suffocating fish and other aquatic life indigenous to the Sound. The strategy will further reduce and eventually eliminate algal blooms, improving the health, use, and beauty of the Sound. The strategy will allow salt marshes to subsist, thereby protecting local neighborhoods by absorbing floodwaters and coastal storms. Finally, the strategy will lead to improved seagrass and shellfish health and the mitigation of localized ocean acidification.
We applaud the comprehensive nature of the strategy, insofar as it looks upstream in order to ensure that responsibility for the Sound’s health includes sources of pollution in the three major tributaries that extend beyond Connecticut and New York and into Massachusetts, Vermont, and New Hampshire. All states and communities within the Long Island Sound watershed will have a role in this strategy. The Watershed Council is backing the strategy and willing to give their assistance to implement it.
We agree that the EPA Nitrogen Strategy is an additional ambitious step toward restoring the Long Island Sound and many of these organizations are willing to work with the EPA and states to meet the deadlines set out in the plan. The key to the implementation of this plan will be the setting of explicit scientific endpoints and investment in the surrounding communities, giving them the actionable tools and resources to meet these endpoints. We hope that you will prioritize EPA funding and resources toward reaching these goals.
While significant progress has been made over the last decade in Connecticut and New York to curb nitrogen levels and reduce hypoxia in the Sound, last summer we still witnessed local fish kills, turtle die-offs, toxic tides and closed beaches. We cannot let last summer become the new norm. We are excited and encouraged that the EPA is aggressively pursuing an action plan that will rescue local bays and harbors, ensure more oxygen in the western Sound, and tackle nitrogen input from the three main rivers originating from northeast states. Swift implementation and adequate resources will be the key to saving the Sound. We look forward to this renewed EPA effort and your further support in identifying this project as a funding priority.
Christopher S. Murphy
Charles E. Schumer
James A. Himes
Elizabeth H. Esty
Eliot L. Engel
José E. Serrano
Yvette D. Clarke
Kathleen M. Rice
Louise M. Slaughter
Honorable Curt Spalding Honorable Judith Enck
EPA Region 1 EPA Region 2
5 Post Office Square 290 Broadway 26th Floor
Boston, MA 02109-3912 New York, NY 10007-1866
Honorable Rob Klee Honorable Basil Seggos
Commissioner Acting Commissioner
CT Dept. of Energy & Environmental Protection NYS Dept. of Env. Conservation
79 Elm Street 625 Broadway
Hartford, CT 06106-5127 Albany, NY 12233-1001