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A Brief Environmental Assessment of Mayor Segarra’s Great Stadium Swindle

Brazil built 13 stadiums for the World Cup. Former Brazilian President Lula da Silva called for a “Green World Cup.” Brazil tracked the carbon emissions of every construction project under the Agenda for a Sustainable World Cup.

Hartford now wants to build one stadium for a minor league team. Mayor Pedro Segarra has called it a “done deal.” It’s not. And it is not a green deal, either. That Mayor Segarra has not mentioned the impact such a project would have on the climate should not surprise.

Members of Hartford’s Court of Common Council posture politically, calling for 50-50 private-public partnerships and guaranteed living wage jobs for Hartford residents. None of them have called for an environmental examination of the stadium proposal. This should be essential, and help guide the decision whether or not to build the stadium.

In California, state law requires an environmental impact report to include a carbon model that “assesses the greenhouse gas emissions associated with project construction materials, ongoing operations, water and transportation,” according to AECOM, the company that renovated Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.

Why are we so far behind our peers? The Brailsford & Dunlavey report Mayor Segarra commissioned does not use words like “carbon”, “emissions”, or “greenhouse.” Segarra’s hastily drafted RFP is not near California standards. It seeks suitors who know how to use that climatey favorite “sustainable.”

Tab 4 of the RFP must be clearly marked: “Renewable Energy/Sustainable Construction.” It seeks: “A discussion of how renewable energy can be integrated with the Ballpark and the MXD, and detail on a commitment to sustainable construction, with the goal of achieving at minimum a LEED Silver certification for all phases of building construction.”

This is more chicanery. The greenest building is the one you don’t have to build. I will challenge any LEED certification for this project. Any valid LEED analysis must include the carbon footprint of New Britain Stadium, which will be forcibly abandoned because of this proposed new stadium, 13 miles north.

How Segarra’s stadium would denude New Britain’s stadium, is, to me, negligent and possibly reckless environmental and regional planning.

If New Britain and Hartford are pretty much broke, and the state of Connecticut not far behind, why do we think it is appropriate for New Britain to abandon a $15 million piece of infrastructure still carrying active debt service? It’s not.

No city would spend $15 million on a school or a bus terminal, use it for 17 years, and then abandon it. Not when Pittsfield, Massachusetts has a century-old wooden minor league stadium it still uses. If the Rock Cats stay in Hartford all 25 years, no other minor league team can use New Britain’s stadium for that same quarter century.

In a cash and resource strapped climate, the owners of the Rock Cats and Mayor Segarra ask us to simply leave our neighbor to the south with a hulking, unusable piece of publicly-financed infrastructure. This is the policy generated by a guy who uses public funds for caviar on New Year’s Eve. In honor of Bastille Day, it has the tin ear of “Let them eat cake.”

The embedded energy costs and fossil fuel emissions and public investment held in New Britain’s Stadium only 13 miles away should allow Hartford to focus new greenhouse gas releases on higher priority infrastructure like housing, eliminating the food desert and local economic growth.

Mayor Segarra will not provide a carbon emissions budget for his stadium swindle. His vision of economic development does not account for global warming. His administration’s energy policy is a bluff, and this is another facet of that bluff.

If we show genuine concern about our fossil fuel usage, and want to lower the quantity of carbon emissions to preserve human life on the planet Earth for millenia, building a minor league baseball stadium in Hartford is not an appropriate development.

The energy costs of a new stadium, while a perfectly good one goes to waste just south of Hartford, are unnecessary. With economic development projects, we should aim for better than carbon neutral, which is all that Brazil did for the World Cup.

Building a 43,000 seat stadium in Brazil used 148,993 gallons of diesel and 410,000 kWh of electricity, according to Julia Ziesche of the Heinrich Boll Stiftung Green Political Foundation in Germany. The stadium construction generated a total of 23,819.92 tons of CO2, which Brazil offset by planting 171,504 trees.

Since our stadium will seat 20 percent of that arena, we can proportionalize our numbers: about 30,000 gallons of diesel and 82,000 kWh for about 4,763 tons of carbon emissions. Knox Parks would need to plant almost 30,000 trees to offset those emissions.

Comparatively speaking, 30,000 gallons of diesel would give you about 635,000 miles of driving in an average passenger vehicle (or 436 round trip drives from Hartford to Fort Lauderdale). My rough estimate says 82,000 kWh could power a central air conditioning unit for an average house for 570 days.

Even if it doesn’t seem like a lot, we are talking finite resources that should go to securing fundamental human rights instead of entertainment. And rough estimates do not measure waste generation, water usage, nor what kind of carbon footprint will be generated by the traffic from the stadium construction.

I’m not sure if this counts the out of town stadium architects and stadium construction companies flying people to and fro. California’s model, though, seems to account for carbon-miles of bringing raw materials like rebar and concrete to build the stadium from far away.

I am not certain if our analysis of Brazil’s numbers accounted for the 9,000 injection mold plastic seats to be imported from Mexico or China, or for the multi-million dollar big screen scoreboard for the outfield made somewhere in Asia. We also need to account for the jumbotron the Rock Cats will leave behind in New Britain.

Can New Britain sell that, and other parts of the stadium, to make up some losses?

During the 18-month secret negotiating stage, Mayor Segarra could have done a solid carbon modeling to determine how much emissions are spent now, and what the cost-benefit outcome of a new stadium would be in terms of economic development versus environmental degradation. He didn’t. He was not even in the ballpark.

Instead, we got a dishonest $70,000 brochure that the City’s own Economic Development Director has distanced himself from, a report that didn’t even mention the word climate. In a city with one of the country’s highest child asthma rates, you would think that projecting carbon flow from stadium traffic jams would be a priority.

Until the City performs an honest assessment of the environmental impact of this stadium, we should not spend another dollar or public or private monies to move this forward.

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