(Washington, D.C.) – Today U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), and U.S. Representative Joe Courtney (D-Conn.) introduced companion legislation to protect the environmental integrity of Plum Island. The bills – one in the House and one in the Senate – would repeal the law requiring the General Service Administration (GSA) to set aside its traditional process for disposing of excess federal property – a process that allows the agency to transfer government land to another federal agency, state/local government, or private steward, and give due consideration to all stakeholders – and sell the island to the highest bidder. The Senate version is co-sponsored by Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). Courtney joined Representative Tim Bishop (D-N.Y.) in introducing the House version.
“The level of environmental uncertainty in allowing GSA to auction off Plum Island is unacceptable,” Blumenthal said. “Congress must repeal their short-sighted decision to sell Plum Island and provide GSA with the flexibility it needs to transfer the facility to another federal agency or other entity that has an impeccable environmental record. We must ensure that future generations can enjoy the environmental and recreational benefits of open space, and preserve extraordinary natural resources like Plum Island.”
“Plum Island shouldn’t be sold to the highest bidder,” Murphy said. “It’s not every day that we have chance to protect an entire island in the Sound, and squandering this chance would be unforgiveable. Congress made a mistake in authorizing this sale, and it’s long overdue that we correct it. Potential repercussions from the sale of Plum Island to a private owner, who would likely develop the area, are frightening for Long Island Sound and Connecticut. As we work to keep the Sound clean, and maintain the rest of the area’s natural habitats, allowing potentially major and environmentally damaging developments on Plum Island just isn’t smart. This space needs to be managed by an entity that has the environmental preservation as its top priority. Anything else would be a step backwards in our goal of achieving a cleaner, healthier planet.”
“Plum Island is a unique ecological resource that should be preserved for future generations,” Courtney said. “Currently, the law prescribes only one fate for Plum Island should the site leave federal ownership: sale to a private owner. I applaud the steps that Southhold, NY and stakeholders on both sides of the Long Island Sound have taken towards preserving the island, but it is clear that Congress must eliminate the sale requirement to allow for other options for its future – including preservation as an ecological treasure. I am proud to join with Senators Murphy and Blumenthal, as well as Congressman Bishop and our colleagues in New York to offer this commonsense proposal today.”
The environmental significance of Plum Island is remarkable. In the 2006 Long Island Sound Study, Connecticut state agencies in collaboration with New York and federal agencies as well as environmental organizations recognized the ecological and recreational importance of Plum Island as a Long Island Sound Stewardship Site. In addition, GSA’s own Final Environmental Impact Statement concluded that any development of Plum Island could have a major impact on land use, air quality, water resources and biological resources in the area. The legislation allows GSA to transfer Plum Island to a federal agency, state/local government, or private steward that would protect the environmental integrity of the area.