Minutes of the August 25, 2010 meeting of the Council on Environmental Quality held in the Holcombe Conference Room at 79 Elm Street, Hartford.
PRESENT: Barbara Wagner (Chair), Howard Beach, Janet Brooks, Bruce Fernandez, Karyl Lee Hall, John Mandyck, Richard Sherman, Karl Wagener (Executive Director), Peter Hearn (Environmental Analyst).
Chair Wagner convened the meeting at 9:07 AM, noting the presence of a quorum.
Chair Wagner asked if there were revisions to the minutes of the July 28, 2010 meeting. There was none. Sherman moved to approve the minutes; second by Brooks. Approved unanimously, with Mandyck abstaining because he had not been at the meeting. Hall arrived after the vote.
Chair Wagner announced with regret the resignation of Ryan Suerth from the Council. Wagner said that personal commitments prevented him from continuing. She will prepare a letter thanking him for his contribution.
Chair Wagner and the members discussed briefly the letter from the Council regarding the contamination situation in Tylerville. Wagener said that staff from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and from the Department of Public Health (DPH) had asked for and received copies. Sherman said the Council’s letter states the problems and could be the basis of recommendations to the General Assembly.
Executive Director's Report
Wagener began with the announcement that the Council, along with all agencies, had been requested by the Office of Policy and Management (OPM) to submit a budget proposal for FY12 with a 15% reduction in spending. After eliminating virtually all expenditures, there still is a shortfall that can only be covered with a reduction in working hours. Members discussed what services might have to be eliminated or reduced, including publication of the Environmental Monitor, review of environmental impact evaluations of other agencies and several others, and directed Wagener to submit the budget option accordingly.
Wagener said he had also completed and submitted to the governor the Council’s annual administrative report, which the Department of Administrative Services publishes online.
Wagener said he attended the Temporary Forest Practices Task Force meeting. He said that the impetus for the task force was the frustration of some foresters with the different regulations in each town. Wagener said that the DEP was generating data on complaints that he hoped would prove useful. Sherman said that, on a different forestry topic, he thought the state was losing economic activity because there are no lumber graders in the state and that may be a need worth addressing at a future meeting.
Wagener reported that the DEP had completed work on the stream flow regulations that had been discussed at prior meetings, and on which the Council submitted comments. He described that changes that had been made to simplify compliance and to offer some protection to Class IV streams. He said the regulations require the Council to be notified about stream classifications as they are proposed. The regulations have been submitted to the General Assembly’s Regulations Review Committee.
Members discussed a proposed schedule of agenda items for the remainder of 2010. Sherman suggested that other organizations should be invited to discuss with the Council the proposed legislation that it intends to recommend to the General Assembly. Members agreed. Wagener said he knows that there are business groups that might like to provide input on areas of common concern. The Council asked staff to proceed with planning for this, with the Capitol or the Legislative Office Building as preferred venues.
The Council continued its review and discussion of issues raised at the public forum held in Haddam in April:
Connecticut Yankee site – He said that the consortium of owners is interested in selling site and it is being appraised. Groundwater monitoring results to date are reportedly good. The State Bond Commission has approved money for open space preservation; it is too early to know if the site will be acquired by the state. He said that there is nuclear waste stored on the site; the plan is for the US Department of Energy to take control of the waste for permanent storage at a yet-to-be-determined site in the future. Acquisition cannot move forward until the appraisal is completed. Members agreed that the Council should keep an eye on this.
Siting Council – Wagener said that two people who came to the Public Forum complained that the Siting Council was too friendly to applicants. After considerable discussion of the procedures that might lead to such a complaint, members agreed that staff should contact the Siting Council’s new Executive Director, Linda Roberts, and inform her of the complaints. Fernandez asked if the Siting Council procedures were common to all agencies. Brooks said the DEP is under pressure to shorten the administrative procedure process to expedite permit applications by accepting written comments only. Hall said the Department of Public Utility Control (DPUC) has a Consumer Counsel to represent public interests and that would be an interesting model to follow. Fernandez said that the solution is beyond the authority of the Council to redress, and therefore the people who raised the issue at the public forum should be directed to an authority that can make changes to the Siting Council procedures. The Council agreed to invite the new Executive Director of the Siting Council to a meeting.
Quarry/Gravel mine – When the Public Forum ended, citizens came to staff and submitted a complaint about a mining operation in Haddam that was not controlling dust or stormwater. The staff forwarded these complaints to the DEP personnel responsible for such potential violations. The site received two visits. A notice of violation was issued and the owner is cooperating and implementing wetlands improvements, according to the DEP staff.
Illegal Tree Cutting / Trespass – This complaint will be addressed again in the Council’s legislative recommendations.
Hawleyville Transfer Station – The people who spoke in Haddam (and at the August 2009 CEQ meeting) about the site of the transfer station in Newtown successfully pursued legislation in the 2010 session that would mandate rejection of a permit application for such a facility near aquifers without a statement of need in the state’s solid waste management plan. The DEP has questions about the law and is awaiting an opinion from counsel; Council staff has requested a copy.
Higganum Center – Members discussed the proposal of turning Higganum Center into a model of smart growth, as discussed at the public forum. Sherman added that getting the area appropriately classified on the state plan of conservation and development might help, if it is not already so. Members agreed that unless the state is actually doing any work in the area, it will be difficult right now to expect any action toward responsible growth.
Valley Railroad – Staff has learned that the DEP is not interested in making capital improvements to the unused portions of the rail line because they would have to be torn up if the railroad decided to expand service onto that portion. The railroad told staff that it would expand to that portion if there were consumer demand and available resources. The current lease is in effect until 2027. Until then, the public is allowed access just as with any other state property, but such use is not encouraged because conditions do not meet normal standards for trails. Wagener reiterated that the annual spraying of herbicides is being done now by appropriately-licensed applicators. So the status quo of an unimproved, unused rail line, with trestles over which pedestrian traffic is not allowed, maintained by annual spraying, is likely to be the state of affairs for many years. Because of the lease, the public will have the current informal trail resource but nothing more.
Recycling – Wagener reported that the Council has received a complaint about recycling deficiencies in state parks and that staff is investigating it.
Indicator of the Month
Chair Wagner rearranged the agenda slightly to take up this matter next. Wagener told the Council he would like to add Energy Star air conditioner sales to the energy data in the Council’s Annual Report. Wagener described the feedback loop of hot weather leading to more air conditioner use, leading to demand for peak power, leading to worse air quality, leading to the demand for more air conditioner use. He reviewed the work of Christopher Cech, the Counsel’s summer intern. Cech identified the state’s dirtiest power plants and showed correlations between plant location and community demographics and between plant location and frequency of asthma occurrence. Wagener said that Cech’s work was excellent.
Mandyck supported the idea of adding air conditioning sales to the indicators. He said he was surprised at some of the federal sales data on this use since it did not correspond to data he had seen in his work. He said that in climates like Connecticut the energy savings from Energy Star air conditioners will not produce a payback for the consumer due to infrequency of use, absent tax credits or rebates. Mandyck added that there is evidence that, for large units, the costs associated with the higher federal efficiency standards imposed in 2006 created incentive to repair old units rather than purchase new ones.
Discussion continued on the topic of the economics of energy efficient appliances and the differences in consumer demand for efficiency among various types of appliances. It was agreed that air conditioner sales would be a good indicator to add to the annual report and that the text should reference the fact that affordability and cost recovery are important in the consumer’s choice. Members also agreed to issue a news release highlighting what is revealed by the indicator and the relationship of peak electricity consumption to air pollutant emissions in cities.
Mandyck left at this point to attend another meeting.
Review of State Agency Actions
Draft Environmental Classification Document - Wagener referred the Council to the response that was received from OPM to the Council’s comments on the draft generic Environmental Classification Document (ECD). He said only one of the Council’s suggested changes was made. He added that, if implemented, there will be two different processes, with different agencies following different paths. This could be a source of confusion to the public.
Connecticut Siting Council Public Notice Requirements – Wagener referred the Council to the draft letter on landowner notification that had been sent out prior to the meeting. Brooks said that the letter should include reference to the Connecticut Siting Council’s Rules of Practice that allows the change to be implemented, namely Section 16-50j-21: (1) The council shall, within one week of the fixing of the date, mail written notice of a hearing in any pending matter to all parties and intervenors, to all persons or groups of parties otherwise required by statute to be notified, to such other persons as have filed with the council their written request for notice of hearing in a particular matter, and to such additional persons as the council directs. The council shall give notice by newspaper publication and by such other means as it deems appropriate and advisable.
The letter was approved unanimously, with that modification after a motion by Hall that was seconded by Brooks.
Emerald Ash Borer – Wagener distributed a brochure on the threat of the Emerald Ash Borer. He said that the state is prepared, legally, for the arrival of this pest because the Agricultural Experimentation Station adopted regulations last year to allow inspection, quarantine and confiscation as needed to slow the progress of this insect. The Emerald Ash Borer, unlike the Asian Longhorn Beetle is highly mobile and the eradication strategy of clear-cutting that is used to destroy the beetle will not work on the borer.
Proposed Training Requirements for Wetlands Agencies
Chair Wagner referred to the list of questions regarding proposed training for wetlands agency members that had been sent out before the meeting, and said that the question of enforcement of any requirements is the key question. Beach said that the current requirement is inadequate and that training should perhaps be required of all members of a wetlands commission. Brooks added that because the law and regulations change, there should not be an exception for members with prior academic or legal training. It was her observation that individuals with excellent credentials often are not current on changes in the law. Brooks listed a number of other problems with the way training is now conducted:
· The requirement that all three segments be completed within one calendar year is a problem. Two years is a more reasonable requirement.
· Segment II on the law should be an annual, mandatory update.
· There are programs offered by groups outside the DEP that could qualify as continuing training. These should be certified as acceptable by the DEP, if continuing training is required.
· One-time training should not be considered adequate for the lifetime of the commissioner.
Chair Wagner said that not all can make the sessions when scheduled and there should be an option of live or on-line training. Wagener said that on-line testing could be a way to be excused from a live class. Fernandez said that all individuals who complete the training should be notified by the DEP of changes; Beach said that now the town wetlands agents receive notice of changes. Brooks said towns should be allowed to apply fees to cover the cost of training members. During discussion of the question of testing, Hearn described the methods used by numerous organizations to simultaneously teach and test participants online. There was further discussion of all the questions. Beach left at this point.
In response to a question from Fernandez, Wagener explained the history of the training bill that the Council supported in the last legislative session. Sherman said that the Council should speak with the DEP to determine how these ideas are regarded by the DEP.
Chair Wagner nominated Beach, Brooks and Fernandez to a subcommittee to solicit input from the DEP and all other environmental and business groups interested in improving training for the town wetlands commissions. The subcommittee is to report back before the October meeting.
There being no further business, Chair Wagner asked for a motion to adjourn which was made by Brooks, seconded by Fernandez and approved unanimously at 11:51 AM.