Minutes of the January 23, 2008 meeting of the Council on Environmental Quality, held in the Holcombe Room, 79 Elm St., Hartford.
PRESENT: Thomas Harrison (Chairman), Howard Beach, Bruce Fernandez, John Mandyck, Richard Sherman, Norman VanCor, Barbara Wagner, Karl Wagener (Executive Director), Peter Hearn (Environmental Analyst).
GUESTS: Richard Miller, Director of Environmental Policy, University of Connecticut
Chairman Harrison called the meeting to order at 9:01 AM, noting the presence of a quorum. The minutes of the December 2007 meeting were accepted with no changes. VanCor and Beach abstained, not having been present at the December meeting.
Chairman Harrison reported on the meeting he attended between board members of the Connecticut League of Conservation Voters (CLCV) and Governor Rell in December. The meeting lasted about 30 minutes. The Governor showed interest in what was presented about the status of funding for the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). Chairman Harrison reported that although Governor Rell made no promises, she seemed receptive to what was presented.
Chairman Harrison mentioned that, coincidentally, this morning WNPR broadcast a short piece on the DEP and its small funding level relative to neighboring states.
Executive Director’s Report
Wagener referred the members of the Council to the documents that had been mailed to them prior to the meeting. One set was a list of the authorizing statutes for the Council, which the Governor had requested be sent to members of all boards and commissions.
Wagener said that Council members had received an article in the Hartford Courant about the old Griswold Airport and the land transfer controversy that surrounded it. A quick reading of the article could lead a reader to conclude that the Council had dredged up this old issue, while in reality the staff only responded to questions from a reporter who was doing a story on the project. Although this was no longer an issue for the Council, he mentioned that some good had come out of it. The Commissioner had pledged to update the property transfer policy, and the controversy provided a good example for the new law requiring that notice of property transfers be posted in the Environmental Monitor.
Wagener reported that he had received a letter from David Bingham regarding the state owned Seaside property in Waterford. Wagener said that Governor Rell had announced that the state would retain ownership of it. Bingham’s letter said that the situation was emblematic of the problem of deferred maintenance on state properties. Properties were neglected and contaminated to the point of virtual worthlessness. Bingham recommended that state agencies be held accountable for the property they owned.
Chairman Harrison asked how the federal government deals with surplus property that is contaminated. He said it would be worth finding out if there was a reserve fund to deal with these issues that may be a model for Connecticut.
Wagener said he attended one of the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy Listening Sessions, sponsored by the Department of Economic and Community Development, in Hartford. The session was packed and he delivered the short comments that had been reviewed by members.
Review of State Agency Actions
Composting facility at University of Connecticut -- Richard Miller, Director of Environmental Policy at the University of Connecticut (UCONN), spoke about a proposed composting facility on the Storrs campus. The proposed facility had come to Council’s attention as the consequence of citizen complaints. Mr. Miller explained that the initial survey work was done in preparation for a public meeting to present the plan. Some members of the public learned of it before UCONN had a chance to present the plan. In power point he showed the site, alternative sites, and the criteria that went into deciding on possible locations.
The project would be a 10,000 sq. ft structure on a cement slab. It would have rows of composting material that would be rotated when compost is added to prevent the odors that are associated with anaerobic decomposition. Only manure, leaves, brush and animal bedding would be composted. It would have no food wastes or bio-solids (sewage sludge). The University would save money and energy by reducing the need to bring in compost from elsewhere. Because it is covered and on a concrete slab there would be no runoff or leach ate.
VanCor observed that 10,000 sq ft. seemed small and questioned whether the facility could be expanded to 30,000 sq ft or if there were plans for an additional location. Miller responded that this is the only facility planned currently and that it could handle between ¼ to ½ of UConn’s wastes. An expansion of the size VanCor mentioned would require an environmental review under the Connecticut Environmental Policy Act (CEPA). At the moment there are no such plans. Miller said that 25,000 sq ft was the size that would trigger CEPA, and that UCONN tried to replicate the CEPA process in their approach.
Harrison asked Wagener if the Council staff had responded to the citizens’ complaints. Wagener said he had acknowledged the letters but that UCONN then announced that it was reconsidering the criteria and looking at alternatives.
Chairman Harrison thanked Mr. Miller for taking the time to come to the Council to explain this interesting project.
Discussion of Funding of Environmental Programs
Wagener referred the Council members to a draft report that was mailed to them before the meeting.
Chairman Harrison suggested that there should be targets for environmental protection functions such as air, water and waste management as distinct from parks and recreation. Members concurred. Chairman Harrison said the report should state what percent of the increase needed should go to environmental protection in contrast to parks. Fernandez pointed out that recommendations like these are specifically in keeping with items 4 and 5 of the Council’s authorizing legislation (CGS Sec. 22a-12). Members agreed
Mandyck said that if Connecticut’s expenditure were to be brought up to the mean of the other states, the percent requested would be close to .8%. Sherman added that comparison to other states is often the yardstick used by the legislators to measure appropriate spending levels. VanCor said there is no point to asking for less than is needed to do the job. Sherman asked to what degree of accuracy could Council staff calculate the money needed by the DEP to implement the environmental protection programs needed. Wagener said he would not be able to calculate the workdays needed for all of the tasks. Mandyck suggested the Council should request the legislature to direct the DEP to come up with an estimate of what it would cost to meet the state environmental protection goals within the timeframes mandated. Wagner said that should include implementation of all mandated programs as well.
VanCor made a motion to approve the draft conditionally, on the condition that the changes discussed at the meeting will be made and the draft circulated for members’ review. Second by Sherman. The motion was approved unanimously with Mandyck reaffirming his recusal from any discussion of air conditioning; and stating that his endorsement of the report in general in no way implies an endorsement of the references to air conditioning in Part Two of the report.
Proposed Telecommunications Facility (Tower) in Woodstock -- Wagener referred the Council members to the packet he had sent them prior to the meeting. It included a letter from a citizen about the proposed location of a cell tower near Black Pond in Woodstock. In the packet were two illustrations of the visual impact of the tower and a draft of a letter to the Connecticut Siting Council recommending consideration of alternative sites. Sherman said he knows the pond very well and believes the tower would have a far greater visual impact than can be seen in the illustrations. Chairman Harrison suggested a rewording of the last sentence to state that the Council concludes a case has not been made on public safety. Wagner made a motion to approve the draft comments with the rewording of the last sentence, seconded by Beach. The motion was adopted unanimously.
There being no other business Chairman Harrison adjourned the meeting at 11:35 AM.