Connecticut health, safety violations necessitate careful business selection

On Nov. 10, TrendCT, the Connecticut Mirror’s statistics offshoot, published a damning article on how much each town in the state has incurred in fines for corporate violations of environmental, health or work safety laws since 2010.

Towns with established corporate plants or factories tended to fare the worst with the Environmental Protection Agency, the Federal Motor Carrier and Safety Administration and the Occupational Safety and Health Administrations. Places such as Clinton, home to a Unilever plant for more than 100 years until its closing in 2011, owed over $4.5 million combined to the three agencies.

Perhaps this is more of an indictment of the corporations themselves than the towns in which they reside, but in an age where environmental consciousness is imperative to the well-being of future generations, local developers need to be more discerning about which companies they allow to set up shop. Obviously, the bigger the corporation is, the more likely they are to possess a rampant disregard for the things the aforementioned three agencies are supposed to police.

Connecticut is not the only one in the wrong, though; every state inviting corporate activity makes itself vulnerable and many of these behemoth firms are repeat offenders across the United States. Walmart, for instance, was forced to pay $81.6 million to the EPA in 2013 after multiple counts of violating the Clean Water Act and the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act at its stores throughout the country.

That may seem like a lot of money, but to the Walton family – which has a combined net worth of $149 billion – it’s a speeding ticket that barely impacts business. Walmart is cheap and convenient, people don’t care about its moral atrocities. Unfortunately, this is but another instance of personal, short-term benefits coming before the environment. We as consumers need to better reconcile our shopping choices with our moral inclinations (given that we accept the consensus on climate change made by 97 percent of actively publishing climate scientists).

This is applicable to Storrs because of the burgeoning business brought by the advent of Storrs Center. Businesses such as Price Chopper occupy large plots of land, which are particularly tempting for big box outlets such as Walmart.

It is the developer’s moral responsibility to consider the past behavior of these firms and proceed with caution despite the fact that it may attract many consumers. If that doesn’t happen, students and townspeople should actively protest. In a warming world, our duty to protect the Earth starts on the local level and change exists in any dose.