New Swap Shack Open

Middletown’s new Swap Shack at 185 Johnson Street (part of the city’s transfer station) is open just in time for Christmas. There are lots of toys and other times for free pick-up. Pictured below are the new building and some of the offerings inside.  For information on what kinds of items can be dropped off, and where larger items like furniture can be donated or dropped off, click here.

Who’s Walking In Portland?

In its mission to promote healthy and eco-friendly activities like walking and bicycling, Portland’s Complete Streets Group wants to celebrate those who already engage in these activities and serve as an example for others. Shown here is Jeff Burgess who walks 4 miles on Main Street every day, from Edgewood Road to the Arrigoni Bridge and back, in any weather. He said, “After I retired, I started walking to get in shape. It clears my head and gives me time to think about things or listen to a podcast. The round trip takes me about 1 hour and ten minutes, unless I run into someone along the way and stop for conversation.”

Asked if anything along the way interfered with his enjoyment of walking, he cited broken and uneven sidewalks in some places and property owners who don’t remove snow and ice after storms in the winter. As for any tips he’d offer as encouragement to others to start walking, Jeff said, “Try out Main Street. It’s flat. Take it slow at first and gradually increase your distance. It might be tough to get started, but once you get moving, you’ll enjoy it.”

NRG Power Plant Tax Agreement Terminated in June

NRG power plant in Middletown as seen from the Air Line Trail in Portland. Photo by John Hall

The Jonah Center recently learned that the tax agreement between the City of Middletown and Middletown Repowering (the NRG entity that proposed a new 375 MW gas turbine at the plant on River Road) was terminated at the June 7 meeting of Middletown’s Common Council. The issue was not on the meeting agenda, but rather was “taken off the table” during the meeting.  It passed unanimously.

This is good news for those who are concerned about climate change and local air pollution, and for tax payers. (The agreement froze taxes at the 2019 level until the project became operational.) Still, in light of the high level of public engagement in the preceding months, how and why the agreement was terminated without our knowing about it and without a public statement is a bit of a mystery,. Continue reading

Ask Common Council to Support TCI

The Transportation Climate Initiative (TCI) is a carefully constructed regional plan to  reduce carbon emissions from the transportation sector.  If  implemented, TCI will create allowances for the wholesale distribution of oil and gas, place a fee upon those allowances, and invest the resulting revenue in clean public transportation, electric vehicle infrastructure, and non-motorized transportation options such as bike routes. Over time, the allowances will decline and the cost will rise, to ensure lower emissions from transportation.

The emission reductions will occur because the revenue from the sale of allowances will be invested in clean transportation. For example, more electric school buses will use less gasoline and diesel fuel. That will also reduce emissions of particulate matter (PM) that are so harmful to respiratory health, especially for children whose developing lungs are especially vulnerable to particulate matter pollution. Asthma is often a direct result of PM pollution, and diesel school buses are notorious emitters of PM.

In short, TCI will produce a double benefit: 1) reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and 2) reduce air pollution that is especially harmful to children and low income residents of who live near highways and congested streets where air pollution is the worst.

In the 2021 session of the Connecticut General Assembly, TCI was vigorously opposed by Republicans and the oil and gas industry who called it a disguised gas tax that would lead to exorbitant gas prices at the pump that would ruin the economy and hurt the poor. But TCI actually includes a mechanism to ensure that the wholesale fees will not raise gas prices by more than 5 cents per gallon. And if Republicans really wanted to help the poor, they could 1) expand the child tax credit and the earned income tax credit that would offset a higher price for carbon, and 2) relieve the poor from the harmful effects of air pollution.

Since retail gas prices have risen in the past months, TCI is sure to face stiff opposition from its usual opponents. But if we delay climate action until a time when it is easy, painless, and convenient, we can be sure that no action will happen.

Urge Middletown’s Common Council and Mayor Florsheim to urge our local legislators and the leaders of the Connecticut General Assembly to pass legislation to enact TCI.