OLR Research Report

July 20, 2010




By: Kevin E. McCarthy, Principal Analyst

You asked for a description of initiatives by Connecticut municipalities to address climate change. OLR report 2010-R-0299 describes climate change initiatives at the state level. Climate change refers to several related phenomena, including rising air and water temperatures, changes in precipitation patterns, and changes in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events such as severe storms.


A wide variety of Connecticut municipalities have taken steps to address climate change. This report describes initiatives in Bridgeport, Cornwall, Ridgefield, Stamford, and West Hartford. These initiatives include setting goals to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases (GHG), creating advisory groups to address climate change and sustainability, and developing plans and implementing specific measures to promote energy efficiency and renewable energy.

Much of the information in this report regarding these municipal initiatives is taken from the website of the Governor's Steering Committee on Climate Change. The website (http://ctclimatechange.com/) also describes actions municipalities can take to address climate change, funding sources and support programs, municipal models and other information. The committee held a summit on climate action and municipalities on March 13, 2010 at Yale University. Presentations and videos from the summit are available on the committee's website.



In 2008, Mayor Finch issued an executive order that established a goal for the city government to reduce its annual GHG emissions from a 1990 baseline by 7% by 2012 and 20% by 2020, in accordance with the city's Plan of Conservation and Development. In order to meet this goal, the executive order required (1) the city to obtain at least 25% of its electricity from renewable resources by 2012 and (2) all new major city construction and major renovation projects to earn at least a silver rating under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program, or its equivalent under similar rating systems.

The order established a Sustainability Community Advisory Committee, which is charged with:

1. overseeing the completion of a city-wide and municipal government GHG inventory,

2. making recommendations to the mayor and the city on how to meet the city's sustainability goals,

3. preparing educational materials for households and businesses describing climate change and actions they can take to promote sustainability, and

4. identifying economic and workforce development opportunities associated with green jobs.

The executive order is available at www.rpa.org/bgreen/BGreen_2020_Executive_Order.pdf.

The city, in collaboration with the Bridgeport Regional Business Council, has developed a program to promote sustainability. Among the program's specific measures are (1) conducting energy audits to identify potential energy efficiency and GHG reduction measures; (2) reducing the amount of building space the city occupies by at least 10% over the next five to 10 years, a change projected to reduce energy costs by about $2.5 million per year; (3) using advanced waste treatment techniques, including composting and anaerobic digestion, and capturing methane (a GHG) from landfills and sewage treatment plants as an energy source;

and (4) analyzing the feasibility of installing solar and other renewable systems on city buildings and establishing incentives for installing these systems on private buildings.

Since the order was issued, the city and the Regional Business Council have developed a comprehensive sustainability plan, BGreen 2020. The plan was developed following an 18-month planning process with a Community Advisory Committee and five technical subcommittees.  The process involved over 200 participants from city, state, and federal governments, businesses, and civic and neighborhood groups.  The plan is a comprehensive strategy to improve the quality of life, social equity, and economic competitiveness while reducing GHG emissions and increasing the community's resilience to the impacts of climate change.


The Cornwall Energy Task Force consists of a chairperson appointed by the town's selectmen and other volunteers. It advises the selectmen on energy issues and promotes clean energy and climate-friendly actions in the town. The task force:

1. runs events and makes presentations to promote greater understanding of energy and conservation, including a phonathon for the Connecticut Clean Energy Options program (which encourages people to buy electricity from suppliers who get their power from renewable resources), presentations on Kilowatt Conservation, an energy information booth for numerous town fairs, and a solar Christmas tree;

2. helps surrounding towns establish energy committees and develop innovative programs; and

3. works with middle schools to develop solar energy curricula, kits, poster art competition, and a field trip for 7th-8th graders to Talcott Mountain Environmental Center.

The task force also helped create a library corner on energy that includes books, films, Kilowatt Meters to borrow, and application information on incentive programs. It also a ride-share program created and a webpage on the town site.


Ridgefield is one of 14 Connecticut municipalities participating in the U.S. Department of Energy's Neighbor to Neighbor Energy Challenge program. In Connecticut, the program is a partnership between a team of nine public, private, academic, and non-profit organizations and participating municipalities. The program seeks to engage 10% of households in the participating municipalities to set specific, measurable goals of 20% for energy savings and clean energy use and help them achieve those goals. The other municipalities in Connecticut are Bethany, Cheshire, East Haddam, East Hampton, Glastonbury, Lebanon, Mansfield, Portland, Weston, Westport, Wethersfield, Wilton, and Windham. Further information about the program is available at http://www.ctsavesenergy.org/files/EECBG%20Project.pdf.

The private Ridgefield Action Committee for the Environment was formed in 2007 to promote sustainability in the town. It led the effort to have the town commit to using renewable energy sources to meet 20% of the demand for energy used in town operations. The committee (1) developed an anti-idling campaign that resulted in a 10% reduction in idling, (2) helped decrease energy use in town schools by 12%, and (3) educated the community and schools about recycling and clean energy. The committee also organized a day-long retreat on environmental sustainability attended by 70 Ridgefield leaders, including town selectmen, planners and commissioners, Board of Education members, school administrators, students, community group members, and business leaders. The committee helped launch a recycling campaign and a program to make bins for composting available to residents. The committee prepared an analysis of the town's “carbon footprint,” which it presented to the town council on June 22, 2010. The committee's website is http://www.racefortheearth.com/.


Since 1998, the city has implemented more than 70 energy efficiency projects within existing municipal buildings and new construction for an annual savings of 13,267,800 kilowatt-hours, or approximately 19% of municipal consumption. In 2007, the city adopted an ordinance requiring that all city buildings over 5,000 square feet meet the LEED Silver certification level. In 2009, the city received two grants from the Clean Energy Fund to install photovoltaic systems on a school and at the city's Highway Department.

In 2007, Mayor Malloy established a task force called Sustainable Stamford, consisting of members of the city's business, educational, environmental, and religious communities; city staff; and local citizens. The task force's goals include the promotion of renewable energy, recycling, promoting sustainability in city purchasing, and drafting an ordinance to form an Energy Improvement District (OLR report 2007- R-0672 discusses these districts, which can promote energy efficiency and renewable energy).

In 2010, the task force, in collaboration with the local chapter of the Building Owners and Managers Association, issued the Corporate Sustainability Challenge to the city's building owners and managers. The challenge seeks to make commercial buildings more energy efficient, sustainable, and environmentally healthy. The challenge asks building owners to benchmark their energy and water consumption for one year and adopt sustainability policies, such as waste reduction. The task force will work with building owners and managers as they analyze energy and water use, develop strategies, and implement policies that meet their needs and budgets. Participants will be eligible to receive a year of free single-stream recycling from the city, a service they would otherwise have to pay for.

The task force website (http://www.cityofstamford.org/content/25/50/105109/109387.aspx) provides recommendations to residents, businesses, and schools on how they can save energy and promote sustainability.

West Hartford

The town council established a Clean Energy Task Force to advise the town on issues dealing with alternative energy sources and energy conservation. In 2006, the town committed to “Smartpower 20%,” calling for 20% of the town government's energy purchases to be from clean energy sources. Using funding from the Connecticut Energy Efficiency Fund, the town replaced or retrofitted lighting and motors throughout its buildings, saving 454,000 kilowatt hours per year of energy, resulting in a savings of at least $60,000 per year. The town has joined the Environmental Protection Agency's New England Community Energy Challenge to improve energy efficiency and benchmark energy use in school and municipal buildings. West Hartford has also signed the U.S. Conference of Mayors' Climate Protection Agreement and has committed to reducing emissions from energy consumption in town to a level equal to 10% below 1990 emissions by 2020, and to 80% by 2050.

In order to meet these goals, the town's Plan of Conservation and Development calls upon the town to develop and adopt a comprehensive energy plan that covers municipal and school services as well as identifying ways for residents to participate in meeting the plan's goals. The plan also calls on the town to support methods to:

1. measure and reduce the carbon footprint of municipal buildings, including the school buildings;

2. educate private property owners about ways they can reduce the carbon footprint of their structures; and

3. measure and reduce the carbon footprint of the town's transportation network.

Further information about the task force is available at http://www.west-hartford.com/government/CleanEnergy.htm.

In 2009, the task force developed a comprehensive energy plan at the request of the town council. The plan addresses energy use by town facilities and vehicles, energy-efficient procurement practices, and the financing of these measures, among other things. The task force stated that implementation of the plan would “further West Hartford's efforts in addressing global climate change and at the same time will result in both short and long term savings for the town.” The plan is available at http://www.west-hartford.com/government/ West_Hartford_Energy_Plan-2009-03-06.pdf.