Minutes of the October 24, 2012 meeting of the Council on Environmental Quality, held in the Holcombe Conference Room, 79 Elm Street, Hartford.
PRESENT: Barbara Wagner (Chair), Howard Beach, Janet Brooks, Bruce Fernandez, Karyl Lee Hall, Alison Hilding, Richard Sherman, Karl Wagener (Executive Director), Peter Hearn (Environmental Analyst).
At 9:01 AM, Chair Wagner noted the presence of a quorum and called the meeting to order.
Chair Wagner asked for a motion to approve the September 26, 2012 minutes as drafted. Hilding made a motion to approve the minutes. It was seconded by Beach and approved unanimously. Brooks and Fernandez had not arrived at the time of the vote.
Executive Director’s Report
Wagener reported on three correspondences that had been authorized by the Council. He had not yet received a response to the Council’s letter to the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) requesting its analysis of whether the state’s existing regulations contained an enforceable prohibition of hydraulic fracturing. He added that he would be attending a meeting of managers from DEEP and other agencies to discuss hydraulic fracturing. The Governor’s office had not yet responded to the Council’s letter regarding remediation in Tylerville. The Council’s comments on the draft revisions to the state’s Plan of Conservation and Development had been submitted.
Review of State Agency Actions
a. Siting Council consultation re: electric distribution substation in Shelton –
Wagener said that no comments were recommended by staff regarding this proposal.
b. University of Connecticut's Hazardous Waste Storage Facility, Tech Park, and related issues – Wagener said that he had received several calls and emails about the advisory committee that had been appointed to make recommendations for siting the hazardous waste storage facility at the University of Connecticut (UConn) Storrs Campus, which had its fourth meeting in the previous week. That committee discussed the matrix that had been proposed as a device for quantifying the attributes of potential locations. He said he spoke with Richard Miller, Director of UConn’s Office of Environmental Policy. Mr. Miller said that by December there should be sufficient information to know whether there is an appropriate site for the facility in the north campus; until then a decision among alternatives cannot be made.
Wagener said that Patricia Bresnahan, a member of the advisory committee, had expressed concerns about the matrix format because it allowed for, among other things, averaging of risk. Dr. Bresnahan’s comments had been distributed to Council members prior to the meeting. Some changes had been made to the proposed matrix, but Wagener said that Dr. Bresnahan still has concerns about the approach to risk. Dr. Bresnahan spoke from the audience to say that at the last siting committee meeting it was proposed that risk could be more accurately assessed if weighted values were assigned to characteristics of each site; she said this is also a flawed method for risk assessment. She said that an additional shortcoming in the analysis is that the risk analysis is not separated from cost estimates. The correct approach should be to assess the best sites based on the risk each poses and then analyze the costs of associated with each. She said she is not certain that there is a commitment by the administration to relocate the facility from where it is currently. Wagener reported that Mr. Miller said there would not be a risk assessment for each area under consideration, as a formal risk assessment would be too costly. Wagener said the final site selection will have to go through a review under the provisions of the Connecticut Environmental Policy Act (CEPA). CEPA requires an acceptable location, not necessarily the best location, he said.
Sherman said that it is his understanding that improvement of the existing facility or construction of a new facility will not be eligible for state funds unless it is in conformance with the state’s Plan of Conservation and Development (C&D Plan). Wagener said he is uncertain how the revised C&D plan will categorize the present location. There was discussion of the current facility’s location in the watershed of a surface drinking water supply and just outside the mapped direct recharge area of drinking water wells. Sherman found it incomprehensible that the area surrounding the existing MAA facility is a Class A-mapped direct recharge area but the area where the facility is located is not. Beach offered a possible explanation, based on mapping experiences in Simsbury, where he has seen recharge maps exclude areas around some properties on the premise that the water in the immediate vicinity could not be used for drinking water. Sherman said UConn has delayed for 11 years and he is uncertain there is a commitment to move the facility out of the drinking water watershed. He urged a second communication with President Herbst to request a response to the Council’s previous letter. After discussion it was decided that a phone call to the president’s office would be an appropriate follow-up to the Council’s previous letter.
c. Other Actions – Wagener reported briefly on the contents of the draft Comprehensive Energy Strategy, which includes proposals to increase use of natural gas and improve energy efficiency in transportation and buildings. He said that DEEP will hold hearings in November. Sherman said a closely related issue is the need to adopt the 2012 national energy efficiency code, that he would provide more research on that, and that the Council might want to comment on that before the comment period ends.
Wagener said that he contacted the Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) in response to a citizen’s inquiry about the proposed sale of the Cedarcrest Hospital site in Newington. He said that the 2012 jobs bill created a process whereby priority state-owned brownfield sites could be offered for sale without going through the usual surplus property transfer process. He informed DECD staff that an earlier law had required a plan to preserve ten acres of the property as open space; DECD staff responded that there had been no bids for the site and that it will take the other law into consideration if it ever sells the site.
Preliminary discussion of recommendations for legislation
Wagener referred the Council to the invasive species memo and analysis that had been distributed prior to the meeting, which compared the 2002 recommendations of the Council’s special report on invasive species, Great Infestations, with subsequent state actions. While several of the specific recommendations had been implemented in the last ten years, the current status makes it clear that the state effort lacks centralized direction, adequate staffing, sufficient financial resources and appropriate authority over invasive species on private property, Wagener said. No invasive species, once discovered in the state, has been eradicated, though hope remains for eradication of one or two. Hall asked if there are other states that have had more success. Chair Wagner said that if there are examples of successful efforts, they should be studied. Beach said he will be attending the Connecticut Invasive Plant Working Group’s symposium on invasive species and will report back to the Council. Dr. Bresnahan, who had been the state’s coordinator for the Connecticut Aquatic Nuisance Management Species Plan spoke from the audience to say that the greatest need is for a rapid response team. There was considerable discussion of the impediments to effective response to new discoveries of invasive species. Beach recounted successes and failures in his town and said the most effective strategy would be state aid to localities. Chair Wagner asked what legislative recommendation would be effective to combat invasive species. Wagener said there is a need for a plan to determine priorities for terrestrial species, such as was prepared for aquatic species. Chair Wagner suggested that the Agricultural Experiment Station would be a logical resource for such a study. Wagener said he would contact it and UConn for advice. It was decided to put this in the Council’s draft legislative recommendations for 2013.
The Council discussed the draft list of possible recommendations and instructed staff to publish the list well in advance of the November 28 public forum.
Preliminary discussion of annual report topics
Wagener distributed one page of an improved format for the annual report indicators. He proposed a plan to publish it earlier than in prior years; those indicators for which data is unavailable will be added as they become available and will be the subject of e-alerts as they are published. The Council concurred.
Beach made a motion to adjourn the meeting at 11:31; approved unanimously. The meeting was adjourned.