Fairfield County is still one of the most polluted countries in the nation, according to the American Lung Association’s 2022 “State of Air” report.
Fairfield County has the highest ozone readings in the eastern U.S. Despite this being the county’s best reading in any State of the Air report to date, the average number of unhealthy days for ozone was more than five times the minimum number for it to earn an “F” grade.
Middlesex, New London, Fairfield and New Haven Counties maintained F grades. Litchfield maintained its C grade. All counties reported improved levels of ozone, with the exception of New Haven which remained the same.
The grades for ozone and short-term particle pollution were based on a weighted average calculation of data collected over a three year period. The sample was collected at monitoring sites across the country by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Quality System.
Ruth Canvoi, director of advocacy for the American Lung Association, said that this data is extremely relevant to Connecticut, as Fairfield County remains one of the most polluted counties in the country.
“Clearly we have a lot of work to do in Connecticut,” she said.
The report indicates that this may be because of the amount of transportation emissions that moves through Fairfield County from other states, including emissions from medium and heavy-duty trucks.
Gov. Ned Lamont has proposed legislation, H.B. 5309, that seeks to adopt stronger emissions standards for medium and heavy-duty vehicles, which account for as much as 53% of nitrogen oxide emissions in Connecticut, despite being only 6% of the on-road vehicle fleet. Adopting these standards – which have already been adopted by New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts – would not mandate that Connecticut businesses purchase these vehicles, nor would it place affirmative requirements on those businesses.
The state is already taking steps to reduce harmful emissions.
Under Lamont’s executive order, the Connecticut Department of Transportation can no longer purchase or use state funds to purchase diesel buses after 2023 and must create a roadmap for electrifying the state’s bus fleet by 2035. The state now has 10 battery electric buses on the road, with two more coming soon, and nearly 50 more on order.
“Fairfield County, Connecticut is the county with the highest ozone in the eastern half of the nation, in part because of pollution transported from other states.” the document says.
Canvoi said that the purpose of the report is to put the complex numbers and figures that are collected into a frame that everyone can understand. In tandem with the education, research, and advocacy efforts that the American Lung Association does, Canvoi said she hopes there will be legislative change to follow.
“We do a lot of policy work at the federal, state, and local level. It’s imperative to have strong laws across the country,” she said.
The legislature has other bills under consideration too:
S.B. 4 is an air quality act that focuses on expanding public and private utilization of electric vehicles in Connecticut to protect human health and the environment.
S.B. 10 would require the state to reach 100% net zero carbon emissions for electricity by 2040.