Murphy touts bipartisan bill to ‘save our oceans’
WESTPORT — As local environmental efforts continue to show success, lawmakers at the national level have introduced bipartisan legislation to strengthen the movement.
U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., held a roundtable discussion at Earthplace on Monday to discuss the Save Our Seas 2.0 Act, bipartisan legislation that includes a Murphy-authored proposal to increase research on plastic alternatives.
Murphy was joined by state Sen. Tony Hwang, state Sen. Will Haskell, state Rep. Jonathan Steinberg, Westport Selectwomen Jen Tooker and Melissa Kane, and other local dignitaries for the meeting.
The original Save Our Seas Act was signed into law in 2018. The bill promoted international action to reduce marine debris along the nation’s coastline. While the act was minimalist in its legislative applications, Murphy said the act represented a bipartisan mission statement to the federal government.
“We should be integrating all of our efforts into a plan to save our oceans,” Murphy said.
According to Murphy, the amount of waste being put in the Atlantic Ocean alone has tripled since the 1960s.
“Now, just about everything that lives in the ocean is coming back with some amount of toxic plastics inside of them,” he said. “We have an enormous amount of work to do in the United States, but it is truly a global problem.”
Save Our Seas Act 2.0 looks to build on the work of the original by increasing investments in domestic infrastructure, additional support for marine debris programs, and enhanced U.S.-international engagement.
Waste management, changing of consumer habits, and more were discussed as ways everyone could work to make an impact.
Steinberg noted the Long Island Sound Blue Plan as an example of an environmental initiative led at the state level. The initiative was started as a way to preserve the Long Island Sound’s ecosystems and resources.
Steinberg added while the state seems to be moving beyond single-stream recycling, there is currently no place to send waste. There is opportunities for composting, he said, but this would require people to change their current behaviors in disposing of waste.
“We need a comprehensive plan across the board,” Steinberg said.
Hwang said the Long Island Sound Blue Plan was another “model of bipartisanship.”
“It was an example for us to put our money where our mouth is and really work towards a plan that will benefit everybody,” he said, adding the environment was nonpartisan issue that affected everyone.
With the seventh anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, Hwang said it’s evident climate change is present and affecting communities.
“That storm was devastating and created a whole new set of concerns and solutions that we needed to get to,” he said.
Haskell noted the impact of local environmental efforts and how it has helped to change consumer behaviors.
“I think Westport has been a leader on this effort for as long as I can remember,” he said, pointing to the plastic bag-ban implemented by the town in 2009. “It set a model for the rest of the state by showing what works here could work everywhere.”
Westport has also led with environmental work done by the youth. Haskell said he recently visited Saugatuck Elementary School and witnessed students composting to dispose of waste.
“It’s a really amazing thing thing to see second-graders sort their way through,” he said. “I no longer think anybody can say it’s too complicated.”