A plea agreement reached yesterday between the U.S. Attorneys’ Office and Conopco, Inc. (better known as Unilver) in a matter involving Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) has been approved, and one of the provisions of the agreement directs Conopco to provide $2.5 million in funding to build an Institute of Community Resiliency and Climate Adaptation at the University of Connecticut.
State Senator Len Fasano (R-North Haven) helped lead passage of a bill in 2012 (Special Act 13-9) to create the Institute, but, until now, sufficient funds were not available.
“This is a critically important development for our shoreline residents,” said Sen. Fasano. “Hurricane Irene and Super Storm Sandy stretched state resources and forced us to review our state’s overall preparedness for extreme weather events. This Institute will conduct studies and gather research that will help to inform the decisions facing property owners and DEEP as they work to fortify coastal properties and prevent erosion.
“This Institute has the potential to change the paradigm of how we prepare for extreme weather. It will lend a proactive, objective and scientific voice to a process that for too long has been far too reactionary and subjective – and, at times, unfair to property owners.
The mission of the Institute is to help mitigate the risks posed by severe weather and changing climate. Research will help property owners better predict their vulnerability to flooding and erosion and recommend steps toward greater resiliency. This initial funding will be used to help launch the Institute. Additional funding will be needed to begin conducting research.
The plea agreement was reached in an effort to resolve several incidents in which Conopco violated federal environmental law. In addition to the $2.5 million for the Connecticut Resiliency and Climate Adaptation Center, Conopco will pay an additional $500,000 to fund various environmentally beneficial projects in the Town of Clinton, and another $500,000 will be used to design and construct a fishway at the Chapman Mill Pond.