HARTFORD – State Representative Irene Haines (R-34) applauded the passage of legislation that would ban the intentional or organized release of helium balloons into the atmosphere.
The bill introduced by Rep. Haines and taken up by the Environment Committee was passed 123-12 in the House of Representatives on Thursday, May 23rd.
The current law on the books says due to the harmful effects of these balloons when they fall back down to our lands and waterways, we should not intentionally release ten or more,” said Rep. Haines. “If ten or more are harmful, isn’t the intentional release of one to ten equally as harmful? Let’s be responsible with our litter and properly dispose of these balloons and nylon strings.
The legislation received broad support from environmental groups and outdoor enthusiasts during a public hearing in the Environment Committee in February.
Long Island Soundkeeper Bill Lucey noted in his testimony, “I spend many days out patrolling Long Island Sound and pick up balloons on almost every trip. These balloons can last for years, can be ingested by marine wildlife, and entangle engine intakes and wildlife alike. It is just another form of littering showing disrespect for our natural resources. Balloons can still be enjoyed tethered to a mailbox.”
“The release of helium balloons is littering plain and simple,” wrote Executive Director of the Connecticut Audubon Society Patrick M. Comins. “In the course of our activities through the Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds, our staff frequently encounters the remains of balloons along our coastal beaches and marshes. Often these balloons are bound with string or ribbons that can serve an entanglement hazard for many species of birds and marine organisms, including Osprey and sea turtles, the latter of which can also mistake balloons for edible prey, serving as a choking hazard.”
The legislation would go into effect on October 1st and would prohibit the knowing, intentional or organized release of helium balloons. Currently, the release of nine or more is subject to a $35 fine.
The bill now awaits action in the State Senate. The legislative session ends at midnight on Wednesday, June 5.