Minutes of the October 22, 2014 meeting of the Council on Environmental Quality, held in the Holcombe Conference Room on the fifth floor of 79 Elm Street in Hartford.
PRESENT: Susan Merrow (Chair), Janet P. Brooks, Lee E. Dunbar, Karyl Lee Hall, Alison Hilding, Karl Wagener (Executive Director), Peter Hearn (Environmental Analyst), Jonathan Bauer (Intern)
At 9:37 AM, Chair Merrow called the meeting to order, noting that a quorum was present.
Chair Merrow asked for a motion to approve the meeting agenda. Brooks made the motion which was seconded by Hall and approved by all.
Chair Merrow asked if there were any additions or modifications to the minutes of the September 24, 2014 Council meeting. Wagener said he had received an email from Hilding regarding a typo. There were no other changes suggested. Brooks moved to approve the minutes as modified to correct the typo. Hilding seconded. The motion was approved.
Public Comment Period
Chair Merrow asked if there is anyone present from the public who wished to address the Council. No one wished to do so.
Freedom of Information Act Compliance
Chair Merrow reminded members that the Council is subject to the statutory requirements of Connecticut General Statutes Section 1-200 et. seq. With regard to communications associated with the term "meeting," agency communications, including those done through e-mail, must comply with the requirements of Connecticut General Statutes Sections 1-200 and 1-206. Chair Merrow added that she was not saying there had been wrongdoing in the past.
Executive Director’s Report
Wagener said that he had participated in a conservation policy summit sponsored by the Connecticut Land Conservation Council on October 8th. The panelists included representatives of land trusts, municipal conservation commissions, water utilities and the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (specifically, Deputy Commissioner Susan Whalen and Graham Stevens). Hearn and Bauer also attended, and Bauer prepared an excellent summary. Wagener said he was interested to learn how many participants, including state representative Mary Mushinsky, identified one of the major challenges facing land preservation efforts in Connecticut as being a decline in the public’s perception of the need for preservation.
Wagener next referred the Council to the copies of e-mail correspondence from Mr. Robert Fromer that had been sent before the meeting. Discussion followed on the email exchange therein between Mr. Fromer and DEEP Commissioner Rob Klee. Following discussion, the Council agreed to keep an eye on the issue of standards and guidelines for shoreline structures, as proposed by Mr. Fromer, but did not add it to its list of immediate priorities.
Pertinent to the discussion with Commissioner Klee at the Council’s September meeting regarding the need to update DEEP’s regulations regarding the Connecticut Environmental Policy Act (CEPA), Wagener noted that a recent legal action against DEEP appears to make mention of “Findings of No Significant Impact,” which exist only in the antiquated regulations, as the Council has noted on several occasions.
Wagener said that after the Council’s discussion of public participation in the deliberations of the Water Planning Council at the last meeting, Dunbar asked if there is a participation model in state government that allows for reiterative or “back and forth” dialogue. Using a brief slideshow titled “Must Agencies Listen?” Wagener showed the results of a staff review. He discussed the various mechanisms and requirements for public input into the decisions of agencies, siting specific state regulations, federal regulations and statutes that are controlling for multiple state functions. He ended with the question of whether there should be a single “best practice” model for public input. Dunbar said there can be a need for a “second round” of comments in rule-making procedures. He used a hypothetical example where an agency proposal could receive comments from a group with a different proposal; that would be vigorously opposed by the public if it were aware that it was being considered. The agency would be unaware of the opposition because the alternative proposal would not be made public before a rule is promulgated. Brooks said the website of the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority posts all comments for its dockets and the state’s judicial website posts all submissions regarding a case. After discussion, the Council decided that this is a question that the Council should pursue. It directed staff to explore models used by other governmental jurisdictions. Wagener noted that DEEP staff had been invited to a future meeting to demonstrate the new website for public participation, when it is ready.
Update on Flame Retardants in the Ambient Environment
Nancy Alderman, President of Environment and Human Health Inc. (EHHI) was invited to speak about her organization’s recent report on the topic of flame retardant chemicals in consumer products. Ms. Alderman stated that flame retardant chemicals are so ubiquitous that they are present in everyone’s blood and urine and are found at the highest levels in the United States. Although they were removed from infant’s pajamas they remain in sheets and blankets and many accessories used for infants. She said they are in clothes for children over nine months old. She said that EHHI will be seeking a labeling requirement for products containing those chemicals. Chair Merrow thanked her for bringing these matters to the Council’s attention.
Review of State Agency Actions
Wagener said the Water Planning Council had adopted a memorandum of understanding between the University of Connecticut (UConn) and the Office of Policy and Management (OPM). He said there were some changes from the draft that had been previously circulated.
Wagener said he attended a meeting of representatives of UConn, OPM and other agencies regarding the Campus Master Plan for the Storrs campus. He said that it is OPM’s advice that UConn lacks the statutory authority to produce a comprehensive environmental impact evaluation (EIE) for the master plan. He said UConn plans to seek the needed statutory authorization in next legislative session. Hilding said that UConn’s expansion will have major regional impacts that must be taken into consideration and a building-by-building analysis would be inadequate. Dunbar said that a master plan EIE approach could be challenging given how fluid master plans tend to be over time, and that it would be have to be undertaken carefully.
Indicator of the Month: Water Quality and Pollution in Long Island Sound
Wagener showed the Council the proposed revisions to the “Sound and Shore” section of the annual report. It included a new indicator of dissolved nitrogen and a rearrangement of the existing indicators. The Council expressed preliminary support for the changes.
Wagener recalled that the Council had received a communication several weeks before from inland wetlands staff in the Town of Greenwich regarding a municipality’s dilemma when it receives notice of an application for use of aquatic pesticides in town in light of DEEP’s exclusive jurisdiction over pesticide use. Brooks clarified that DEEP has the sole regulatory authority over the pesticides themselves, but that if a town wishes to regulate removal of plants or other physical disruption of the wetlands it is the town’s prerogative to do so. Wagener said that staff checked with DEEP and was told that only two towns routinely schedule hearings on this matter, and that the DEEP pesticides office receives only a handful of communications from municipalities regarding pending applications. Following discussion, the Council decided that the problem raised by Greenwich does not appear to be a statewide concern, and that the town may have the ability to correct the administrative problem. Hilding raised the question of whether the Water Planning Council should consider aquatic pesticides when it works on the state water plan.
There being no further business, Hilding made a motion to adjourn which was seconded by Dunbar. Adjournment was at 12:01 PM.