Minutes of the April 20, 2011 special meeting of the Council on Environmental Quality, held in Conference Room 6A, 79 Elm St., Hartford.
PRESENT: Barbara Wagner (Chair), Janet Brooks, Liz Clark, Bruce Fernandez, Karyl Lee Hall, Karl Wagener (Executive Director), Peter Hearn (Environmental Analyst).
Chair Wagner convened the meeting at 9:00 AM, noting the presence of a quorum.
Chair Wagner asked if there were revisions to the minutes of the March 23, 2011 meeting. There were none. Fernandez motioned to approve the minutes. This was seconded by Brooks. Clark abstained because of absence from that meeting.
Executive Director's Report
Wagener updated the Council on meetings that he had attended to discuss legislation.
The Council discussed the timing of the release of the annual report that had been distributed prior to the meeting. The Council decided to release the report on Thursday, April 21, the day before Earth Day.
Wagener said that there had been a request from a state agency to publish the Environmental Monitor weekly, if possible. He said that the new environmental classification document (ECD) has changed the process some state agencies now used to elicit comment from other agencies. Notices that formerly were routed only to state agencies without an appearance in the Environmental Monitor will now be submitted for publication in the Environmental Monitor. It is not known at this time how much of an increased workload this will be for Council staff. He said that the statute requiring the Council to publish the Environmental Monitor requires publication only once a month. The Council publishes it twice monthly to enhance productivity and reduce delays in the projects that are submitted. Council members inquired into the details and mechanics behind the production of the Monitor. Wagener said that publication normally is not a big demand on time, though there are exceptions. He said he was more concerned that the statute requires it to be sent to every municipal clerk, and some might not want to be burdened with it weekly. After some deliberation it was decided that a weekly publication should be considered but not implemented at this time, and that the Council could change to a weekly publication schedule if the number of projects increases.
Approval of Annual Report
Wagener pointed out the changes to the annual report since it was discussed at the March meeting. The Council approved the changes. It was suggested that for next year’s report there could be links or windows with graphics containing more nuanced details for persons who may be interested in learning more. Brooks suggested these modifications could be rolled out monthly in the next year. Fernandez said it would be beneficial if the report could be downloaded in a PDF format. Wagener said that a printable PDF version would soon be available on the website. Chair Wagner asked for a motion to approve the report. Hall made the motion to approve it as presented with the minor editorial changes suggested at the meeting. This was seconded by Fernandez and approved unanimously.
Members discussed how a paperless publication should be submitted to the governor, as required by statute, and agreed that it would be appropriate to deliver a bound paper version to the governor later that day.
Chair Wagner said she liked the one-page summaries that had been produced in past years for the legislature. Members agreed that a printable summary should be made available as soon as possible.
Wagener said the Council had received a complaint about an outdoor wood burning furnace. He said the DEP had already visited the location and issued a notice of violation. The owner had been granted a 30 day extension to remediate the violations. Council staff will continue to follow the issue. An unfortunate aspect of this case is that the town apparently had issued the owner a building permit even though the structure is in violation of state regulations.
Review of State Agency Actions
a) Glastonbury Boat Launch Facility – Chair Wagner and Wagener recused themselves from this discussion, as they had in the past, because they are both town residents and wish to avoid an appearance of a conflict of interest.
Chair Wagner asked Brooks to conduct the meeting in the absence of Sherman, who had been acting as chair for this issue at past meetings. Brooks asked Hearn to bring the Council current with regard to developments concerning the issue. Hearn referred to the recent letter from the DEP, and began by stating for the record that there is no inconsistency in the Council’s letter to the Office of Policy and Management (OPM) regarding shore frontage for the proposed project. On page 1 the Council’s letter describes the 120 ft of “active boat launching activity”. On page 2 the letter depicts the scale of the proposed park by quantifying the river frontage of the entire project as “over 1,000 ft of river frontage.”
Hearn recounted for the Council the history of correspondence regarding the proposal. In February the Council sent a letter to OPM advising that a CEPA analysis was legally required for the proposed project. (The DEP had requested the advice of the OPM in this matter.) OPM responded to the Council’s letter stating that the DEP was subject to the provisions of its ECD that were in effect prior to April 2011. OPM asked the DEP to respond to the Council’s letter. Hearn referred the Council to the DEP response that had been e-mailed to them previously. Brooks suggested that the best way to approach this would be to take each point in the Council’s letter and examine the DEP’s response to it. Fred Riese of the DEP was present in the audience and offered to answer any questions. He had brought a conceptual rendering of the site plan and an aerial photo of the location.
As each point was reviewed Brooks asked Mr. Riese if he wished to elaborate regarding the DEP’s response. After considerable discussion and examination of documents, the Council members did not agree with the DEP’s contention that the project was not of a magnitude sufficient to trigger a review under the Connecticut Environmental Policy Act (CEPA). Hearn was asked to draft a response to the DEP stating the Council’s concerns and emphasizing that the practical difficulties of applying CEPA in this case were irrelevant to compliance with the law. Hall said that CEPA is a due diligence requirement and that the process is in question here. The major policy concern is that the DEP implement CEPA which was passed to guarantee that projects with potential negative impacts be carefully evaluated before proceeding.
Margaret Miner of the Rivers Alliance was in the audience and spoke at the invitation of the Council. She said she was concerned there may be other Small Town Economic Assistance Program (STEAP) grants to municipalities that escape a CEPA review due to fragmentation of funding that can create an appearance of insignificance that is misleading.
b) Siting Council – The Siting Council had solicited comment on two proposed telecommunication towers. One is proposed for Woodstock, the other for Bloomfield. Staff did not recommend comments for either.
There being no further business Chair Wagner asked for a motion to adjourn. Clark offered the motion which was seconded by Brooks. The meeting was adjourned at 11:40 AM.