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7/15/2013 - Constituent Letter - Adrienne Farrar Houël: Bridgeport ahead of the curve against climate change

President Barack Obama recently announced a comprehensive plan of action to address climate change and its far-reaching effects on our planet. This historic announcement, which includes a plan to reduce carbon pollution, expand energy efficiency initiatives and increase in renewable energy use, holds promise for healthier lives for our residents and the growth of Bridgeport's green businesses.

For far too long, members of Congress and other national leaders who question the validity of climate change have stood in the way of real progress on this issue. While Washington remains in a partisan stalemate, Bridgeport has implemented innovative strategies thanks to the leadership of Mayor Bill Finch and his BGreen 2020 initiative. The resulting new policies and programs address climate change on the local level, save residents money and bring jobs to the Park City.

An excellent example of Mayor Finch's vision is the creation of Bridgeport's new eco-industrial park, a growing center for green businesses located in the South and West End neighborhoods of Bridgeport. One of the earliest of these is Park City Green, founded by my organization, Greater Bridgeport Community Enterprises, Inc. This new enterprise is a public/private partnership that has already created seven jobs for Bridgeport residents. With the recent passage of the Mattress Stewardship Program legislation, sponsored by state Sen. Andres Ayala and the Bridgeport delegation, the mattress recycling market in Connecticut will be structured so that Park City Green will grow to its full potential and hire as many as 25 employees. Our employees earn a living wage for their families and participate in the economic development of our city, while fighting climate change using sustainable mattress deconstruction techniques.

Also in the eco-industrial park, you'll find Bridgeport Biodiesel, which converts cooking grease into fuel; EnviroExpress, the only Liquefied and Compressed Natural Gas filling station east of the Mississippi; and Flexipave, which recycles tires into permeable pavement. Long-standing businesses in the park include Santa Energy, which distributes green fuels and installs energy conserving HVAC systems, and RESCO, our waste-to-energy facility serving Bridgeport and 24 towns in Fairfield, Litchfied and New Haven counties.

As Mayor Finch has stated many times, "waste is a resource." The eco-industrial park brings this statement to life, transforming the waste stream into useful products through processes that create jobs, and revitalize our city.

I am proud to be a part of the new green economy that we have created in Bridgeport. Mayors like Bill Finch have known for years that tackling climate change can be a catalyst for new jobs and new economic opportunities like those we see every day at the eco-industrial park. Now that President Obama is following the lead of mayors across the country on this issue, I am hopeful that we will see even more green businesses and jobs in Bridgeport and other American cities.

Adrienne Farrar Houël is president and CEO of Greater Bridgeport Community Enterprises, a nonprofit economic development corporation, and president of the board of directors of Park City Green, the first mattresses recycling operation licensed in the state of Connecticut. She currently serves as chair of the Energy Improvement District of the city of Bridgeport.