Minutes of the March 2, 2010 meeting of the Council on Environmental Quality held in the Ensign Conference Room of 79 Elm St., Hartford, CT.
PRESENT: Barbara Wagner (Chair), Janet Brooks, Bruce Fernandez, Karyl Lee Hall, John Mandyck, Richard Sherman, Karl Wagener (Executive Director), Peter Hearn (Environmental Analyst), Brianna Cohoon (Intern).
Chair Wagner convened the meeting at 9:03 AM, noting the presence of a quorum.
Chair Wagner asked if there were any clarifications or revisions to the minutes of the meeting of December16, 2009. There being none, Wagner asked for a motion to approve. Brooks so moved, seconded by Mandyck with all in favor; Fernandez abstained since he had not been present at that meeting.
Chair Wagner said she wished to welcome Karyl Lee Hall, who had been appointed to the Council, replacing Earl Phillips. She commended the good service of Phillips and asked members to sign the certificate for him.
Executive Director’s Report
Wagener reported that Brooks and he had collaborated with the president of the Madison Land Conservation Trust to submit a proposal to present a workshop at the Land Conservation Rally to be held at the Hartford Convention Center in October, as discussed in January by guest Kevin Case of the Land Trust Alliance. Their proposed presentation is about Connecticut’s successes in dealing with encroachment on open space lands.
Wagener reported on the status of the Council’s budget in the revisions that have been proposed for next fiscal year. If adopted, the reductions should pose no serious problem for the short term, but he noted that it does lock the Council into the current online format for the annual report because there is no money to make any structural changes to the format.
He referred the Council to the letter from the Commissioner of the Department of Public Works (DPW) in response to the Council’s letter regarding the proposed sale of the Seaside property in Waterford, which was discussed briefly.
Wagener reported that he met with Senator Ed Meyer, Co-Chair of the General Assembly’s Environment Committee, and discussed a number of topics. Wagener summarized a number of bills that have been proposed, including a bill to require an assessment every four years of the amount of pollution that originates from outside the state. He said that the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is opposed to the bill, as are most environmental groups. He mentioned that the source of the idea is a citizen, Robert Klancko, who often publishes a critique of the Council’s annual report and who contends that Connecticut industry is unfairly burdened by pollution regulations when the majority of pollution arrives from outside the state.
Wagener next mentioned a package of bills that were advocated by industry organizations. Their common theme is that DEP’s guidance documents and general permits, as well as recommendations of the Interstate Transport Commission, are defacto regulations and should go through the Uniform Administrative Procedures Act process. Another bill would authorize the Siting Council to assess penalties and award damages in cases where applicants were shown to have misrepresented facts with resulting costs to opponents of the proposed project. Another bill would require that the state be notified regarding any permits on land upon which the state holds conservation or preservation restrictions. He said that there also is a bill to allow municipal regulation of cell tower locations.
Wagener said that two bills that were recommended by the CEQ have not been proposed as stand-alone legislation but may yet appear as part of larger bills. One is a requirement that the DEP develop and maintain an inventory or registry of all preserved open space in the state. The other is the recommendation from last year that municipal wetlands agencies be required to state on the record that they are or are not in compliance with statutory training requirements (i.e., at least one member or staff person must complete the DEP’s wetlands training program). After considerable discussion of the pros and cons of the statutory training requirements, the Council agreed that it should seek enforcement of the requirement, regardless of what that requirement should be, because even minimal training has been shown to improve local wetlands agency performance. Members agreed to recommend to add to an appropriate bill language that would require wetlands agencies to state on the record the number of members and staff that had completed training. The Council members also expressed the desire to see this information on all monthly municipal wetlands reports that are sent to the DEP.
Discussion of annual report topics
a. Preliminary review of 2009 trend data – Wagener referred the Council to a status report on the indicators in the Annual Report that had been prepared by Brianna Cohoon, the Council’s intern. He asked the Council members to consider the current data with an eye to finding a theme in the data. Two themes that recurred in the discussions were the role of individual responsibility and the fact that it is no longer a mystery as to what needs to be done to reduce pollution; the question is whether there is the resolve to do it.
b.Special report on number and distribution of contaminated properties – Wagener asked Hearn to report on a collaborative effort that could lead to an indicator on contaminated land in the state. Hearn said that as a consequence of the research that is being done by the Citizens for Clean Groundwater (CCG) it may be possible to create a new indicator that represents the extent of the problem and, ideally, the rate of progress that is being made with regard to groundwater pollution. The CCG has done extensive work culling sites listed in various programs to create a definitive non-duplicative list of known contaminated or potentially contaminated sites into one single inventory. Hearn said this data could provide the basis of an indicator on progress if combined with data on properties that are in remediation and properties that have been remediated. Although Council staff had been collaborating with the CCG to obtain data and to categorize it correctly, the Council decided against issuing a joint report. However, the Council agreed that it would be advantageous to have CCG present the report at a Council meeting and to invite interested parties to comment in a public forum.
c.Indicators of the Month
Clean Shellfish Beds: This is a surrogate for clean water in the Sound. Council members asked questions about the shellfish varieties in the indicator and whether some were more sensitive indicators than others. Wagener said that the indicator is derived from Department of Agriculture figures that do not make such differentiations. Beds are counted if they are open for commercial harvesting and are monitored regularly for cleanliness. Chair Wagner asked the source of the 80,000 acre goal; Wagener said that experts at the Department of Agriculture have described that as a realistic target.
Reviving Tidal Wetlands: Wagener said this indicator is derived from the DEP data on restored tidal wetlands. Sherman suggested that progress in this indicator should be measured against a statewide goal.
a. Oxford Airport Hangar Project and the Connecticut Environmental Policy Act (CEPA) – Wagener referred the Council to the draft letter that had been distributed prior to the meeting. He mentioned that Senator Kane had convened a meeting of parties interested in this issue of the inadequacy of CEPA with regard to public–private partnerships such as the Oxford Airport. After considerable discussion, the Council agreed that the failure to approve a peer-reviewed environmental impact evaluation (EIE) that shows no adverse environmental impact, because of its authorship by a consultant associated with the developer, is potentially damaging to CEPA and a needless impediment to the proposed action. The rejection of the EIE is forcing the state to spend additional money to re-package the same data in a study done by a different consultant. The Council asked staff to re-draft the letter to convey that message, and to continue to work on clarifying legislation.
b. Tylerville contamination – Hearn reported that citizens have reported new well tests that show TCE contamination levels at 100 times the acceptable limits. Additional complaints have been received regarding the inadequacy or inconsistency in well testing in the affected area. He said that he has a meeting scheduled with citizens about this. Chair Wagner said she wished to attend, if available.
c. Water diversions at the University of Connecticut (UConn) – Wagener said he had received a detailed complaint from the Mansfield Conservation Commission regarding a proposed diversion between watersheds at UConn. He said the complaint was made also to the DEP, and he would be receiving the DEP’s response and would review it. Wagener also said that he had heard from Richard Miller, UConn’s Director of Environmental Policy, who said that any such work would require a permit from the DEP, and that no work was anticipated until 2014.
d. Others –Wagener reported that the Council had been copied on a complaint to the DEP from the Town of Groton regarding the DEP’s awarding of an open space grant to the Groton Open Space Association, and had received copies of correspondence on the same subject from the latter group. He expected to receive and review the DEP’s response to the complaint.
There being no further business, Chair Wagner asked for a motion to adjourn. Sherman made the motion which was seconded by Fernandez and the meeting adjourned at noon.