Jepsen not satisfied with Plum Island statement

By Bryan Cohen | Oct 29, 2012

HARTFORD, Conn. (Legal Newsline) - Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen pointed out what he says are deficiencies in the draft environmental impact statement that recommends the federal government sell Plum Island.

Jepsen said Friday that the lack of critical evaluation and analysis and other insufficiencies call the document into question. Jepsen filed the comments with the Department of Homeland Security and the General Services Administration in proceedings related to the island's sale.

Plum Island is located 12 miles off the Connecticut shoreline in the Long Island Sound.

"It would be a tragedy to squander this opportunity to preserve Plum Island in its relatively natural state for generations to come," Jepsen said. "Absent a complete and candid evaluation of what the applicable statute actually requires and exploration of all possible scenarios and their related impacts, it is impossible to use the DEIS as a guidance document in making important decisions about the future of the island and of Long Island Sound."

The DEIS, which was released in July, evaluated four potential uses for the island if it was sold. Jepsen alleges that the DEIS does not recognize potentially detrimental development scenarios and their environmental impacts. The document allegedly recommends the sale assuming that some conservation will occur despite a lack of assurances about the environmental conservation.

Jepsen alleges the DEIS neglects to explore the intent of a 2009 federal law that states the sale of the island would be limited to real and personal property. The document allegedly fails to explain how it came to a conclusion that the entire island should be sold.

"The failure to conduct a complete examination of the nature of the legal directive from Congress and of the likely consequences of development, even as a result of moderate development activities on Plum Island, denies the government and the public the ability to properly determine whether the public benefits of the proposed sale would outweigh its true environmental costs," Jepsen said.

Approximately 664 acres of the 840 acre island are undeveloped, including 196 acres of relatively undisturbed upland forests, 101 acres of beach and dune systems, and 96 acres of freshwater wetlands. The island houses breeding grounds for multiple protected bird species, is the home to a known rare plant species and is associated with multiple endangered species.

The island is the site for the Plum Island Animal Disease Center. The DHS recommended that the facility be closed and that a new one be constructed in Manhattan, Kan.

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