Hwang: Clean air and water play role in solving other problems

State Sen. Tony Hwang, a Republican, beginning his second term, talks about environmental issues during a statewide conference. — Brad Durrell photo

State Sen. Tony Hwang, a Republican, beginning his second term, talks about environmental issues during a statewide conference. — Brad Durrell photo

Having clean air, water and land is about more than just protecting the environment. It can also play a role in solving other problems Connecticut is facing, state Sen. Tony Hwang said at a recent statewide environmental conference.

With such competing needs as budget shortfalls, the opioid epidemic, domestic violence, and the incarceration of so many citizens, the ability to enjoy nature by spending time outdoors with animals and plants in their natural habitat is part of the solution, Hwang said.

The interconnection between solving problems in the state and preserving the environment for everyone’s benefit is a smart way for environmental advocates to pitch their mission in a tough budget climate, he said.

Strong environmental measures are no longer a “dollar and cents debate” with this approach, according to Hwang, a Fairfield Republican whose district also includes Easton and Weston. He stressed that environmental measures usually are pursued in a bipartisan manner in Connecticut. “There is no Republican or Democratic solution to this,” he said.

He said suburban legislators can work with their urban peers to ensure that environmental action — such as open space initiatives — benefits city dwellers as well as residents living in more rural and suburban communities.

State Sen. Tony Hwang talks about environmental issues during a statewide conference. — Brad Durrell photo

State Sen. Tony Hwang talks about environmental issues during a statewide conference. — Brad Durrell photo

Hwang, now in his second Senate term, was one of three state legislators featured in a panel discussion during the Connecticut League of Conservation Voters 16th annual environmental summit, held in December at a boathouse overlooking the Connecticut River in Hartford.

A few hundred environmental activists and government officials attended the conference. Water issues, climate change, solid waste management, and the state budget’s impact on environmental programs were among the topics discussed.

Gov. Dannel Malloy and state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Robert Klee made presentations, with Malloy warning the state’s financial restraints would impact the state park system in 2017.

Hwang urged people to reach out to those with differing environmental views and encourage dialogue between ideological extremes. “You may get to a middle ground [and create] mutual respect,” he said.

Federal uncertainty

What will happen with environmental action on the national level is uncertain with a new presidential administration coming into power, Hwang said.

But during the past campaign year, his children helped remind him why it’s so important to preserve the natural beauty of Connecticut, he said, describing it as a “tremendous gift … that is worthy of saving.”

The state’s natural beauty is part of why we live in Connecticut, said Hwang, who appeared in a panel with state Reps. James Albis and Jonathan Steinberg. Many other state legislators also were at the summit.

Albis, the outgoing Environment Committee co-chairman and an East Haven Democrat, said that despite the state’s budget woes, he thinks bipartisan approaches can be successfully pursued on environmental issues because “everyone wants clear air [and] water.”

Steinberg, a Westport Democrat, talked about the need for a balanced approach in promoting solar, electric vehicles, natural gas, and energy efficiency, with their varied impacts on consumer costs, the business climate and carbon footprint.

Hwang was first elected to the Senate in 2014, and his current district includes all or parts of Fairfield, Easton, Newtown, Weston, and Westport. He previously served three terms as a state representative.

State Sen. Tony Hwang, center, was part of a three-person legislative panel with state Reps. James Albis, left, and Jonathan Steinberg at the Connecticut League of Conservation Voters 16th annual environmental summit. Hwang represents Easton and Weston. — Brad Durrell photo

State Sen. Tony Hwang, center, was part of a three-person legislative panel with state Reps. James Albis, left, and Jonathan Steinberg at the Connecticut League of Conservation Voters 16th annual environmental summit. Hwang represents Easton and Weston. — Brad Durrell photo

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