Minutes of the October 23, 2019 meeting of the Council on Environmental Quality (Council) held in Room 4B on the fourth floor of 79 Elm Street in Hartford.
MEMBERS PRESENT: Susan Merrow (Chair), Keith Ainsworth (by phone), David Kalafa, Lee Dunbar, Alison Hilding, Charles Vidich, Alicea Charamut, and Matthew Reiser
ALSO IN ATTENDANCE: Peter Hearn (Executive Director), Paul Aresta (Environmental Analyst), Matthew Pafford (OPM), and Lori Brown (Connecticut League of Conservation Voters)
1. At 9:31 AM, Chair Merrow convened the meeting and noted that there was a quorum of Council members present.
2. Approval of Agenda
Chair Merrow began the meeting by requesting that two new items be added to the agenda. Connecticut Siting Council (CSC) Petition 1278A and CSC Petition 1386 would be discussed under “State Agency Actions”. The second addition would be discussion of the meeting with Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) Commissioner Katie Dykes. That would be added to the agenda under “Other Business”. Chair Merrow asked if there are any other additions or modifications to the agenda. Ainsworth made a motion to approve the agenda as revised; seconded by Charamut. The motion was approved unanimously.
3. Approval of Minutes of September 25, 2019
There were no suggested changes to the draft minutes of the September 25, 2019 meeting. Kalafa made a motion to approve the draft meeting minutes of September 25, 2019; seconded by Reiser. The motion was approved unanimously.
4. Chair’s Report
Chair Merrow noted that a new “Lower River Steward for the Connecticut region” has been selected by the Connecticut River Watershed Council (CRC) and the Steward would be starting soon. Charamut noted that the new river Steward will be Kelsey Wetlang.
5. Citizen Comment Period
Chair Merrow welcomed Lori Brown from the Connecticut League of Conservation Voters. Brown thanked the Council for the work it had done in keeping the environmental community informed about issues it might, otherwise, not learn about. She expressed concerns regarding the ability for DEEP to ensure compliance with existing permits given the Department’s current and future staffing levels. Brown also expressed concerns about DEEP’s proposed permitting and enforcement activities that were described by Commissioner Dykes in the “20BY20 Initiative”. Hearn showed some of the key points of the final “20BY20 Initiative” that were presented to the public by Commissioner Dykes on October 2nd. He noted that there appeared to be greater emphasis to enforcement than had been in the initial “20BY20” release. He said that the Commissioner reported that many of the comments received had emphasized the need for improvement in enforcement and use of financial assurance mechanisms to guarantee compliance. He said this will be important if there is a shift to “general permits” from individual permits and increasing dependence on “permit by rule”. Hearn reviewed the proposed permitting timeframes for various permits that would be acted upon either immediately, within three months, six months, or twelve months. Hilding said a company’s compliance history should play a role in decisions about expedited renewals.
Brown said that permit renewals based on no changes in operations on a site may not be appropriate if circumstances around the permitted site have changed or if new laws and regulations have been enacted. Dunbar concurred with Brown’s comments and questioned what type of personnel resources are in greatest need at DEEP to better ensure permit compliance. Reiser noted that DEEP has been using consultants and private resources, such as Licensed Environmental Professionals (LEP), to help ensure sites are in compliance with permits and remediation standards. Brown said it is worth finding out how the backlog of permit applications was cleared.
Kalafa suggested providing Commissioner Dykes with specific topics that the Council views as priorities when it met with her in November. It was the consensus of the members that during the November meeting, the public could express their comments and concerns during the “Citizen Comment” period, but the Council would seek to discuss its priority issues directly with the Commissioner.
Brown also noted that there are two working groups that are meeting to address issues related to 1) the Transfer Act and 2) gravel mining. Brown noted these task forces were comprised primarily of legislators and representatives from industry.
6. Citizen Complaints and Inquiries Received
a. Above Ground Storage Tanks
Hearn mentioned that, in response to an inquiry from the public, the Council’s staff is collecting data and developing a summary of the issues regarding home heating fuel oil releases and possible recommendations to minimize them in the future. Hearn noted that Council staff will be meeting with representatives from DEEP about the problem tomorrow.
b. Update on Harbor Point Complaint from Stamford.
Hearn said that he recently met with State Representative David Michel at the Harbor Point area of Stamford to review the existing site conditions and to learn more about the specific issues that are of concern to Representative Michel. Hearn noted that when he was at the Harbor Point area he could detect odors that the residents there have attributed to the historical burial of coal tar containers. Hearn described Representative Michel’s concerns about the Harbor Point project and similar large projects that appear too big to sanction. He also summarized the many other environmental concerns that were raised by Representative Michel during their meeting.
c. Fairfield Contaminated Soils
Hearn said that the contaminated sites in the Town of Fairfield that resulted from the deposition of contaminated soils at the Town’s public works yard is reportedly being remediated by the Town of Fairfield. Hearn noted that the guidance offered by the Department of Public Health to isolate the contamination from the public differed from DEEP’s remediation guidelines. He inquired of DEEP about this and was told that the Remediation Standards are designed for the long term protection of the public from contamination when the future of the site is uncertain over time. The DPH guidance was aimed at preventing exposure at a known site that is being actively managed. Ainsworth pointed out that DEEP’s Remediation Standard Regulations (RSR) would only apply if the property were commercial and being transferred subject to the Transfer Act.
d. Ash landfill, Putnam
Hearn noted that the Council received a call from a concerned citizen regarding the proposed expansion of the existing ash landfill in Putnam. The proposed ash landfill expansion would significantly increase the height of the existing landfill and impact several acres of wetlands. Ainsworth noted that he is representing one of the residents of Putnam that is opposed to the proposed expansion and would not comment on this matter. Hilding expressed the concern that the availability of land could make the northeast portion of the state a target for undesirable projects. Hearn indicated that the Town of Putnam Inland Wetland Commission had denied the proposed expansion because the application was incomplete. He will keep the Council abreast of developments should the applicant resubmit.
7. Report on Staff Activities
- Residential Heating Fuel Oil Report
Hearn said, in reference to the study of fuel oil spills discussed earlier, he expects to have a summary of that work at the November meeting.
- Migration of the Council Website
Hearn noted that Aresta has been working with BEST and Connecticut Interactive to migrate the existing Council website to the new format for State websites. This has required repairing broken links, removing unnecessary files and folders, and identifying orphan webpages. Hearn indicated that the “beta” version of the new Council website would be done in early December and the final “live” website would be completed by mid to late January 2020.
- New Connecticut Environmental Policy Act (CEPA) Regulations
Hearn said that Council Staff met with representatives from DEEP and the Office of Policy and Management (OPM) on October 10 at DEEP’s offices to discuss how best to implement the new provisions of the revised CEPA Regulations regarding the publication of notices in the Environmental Monitor. Those revised Regulations are now posted on the Council’s website. Staff has updated the existing templates for submitting notices to the Environmental Monitor for state agencies to use. A user guide was created by staff to assist agency personnel with the use of the templates. In November, Aresta will make a brief presentation at a training session for the agencies that submit to the Environmental Monitor.
- Remediation Standard Regulations (RSR) Comments
Hearn noted that the Council submitted to DEEP the comments on the RSR that had been approved by the Council.
- PFAS Draft Action Plan
Hearn reported that staff also submitted comments regarding the draft PFAS Action Plan to DEEP. He showed a two sentence modification that had been suggested by one of the Council’s members to include emphasis on determining the pathways of exposure and the relationship between the pathways and the probability of risk to human health and to environmental risk.
- Environmental Human Health Initiative (EHHI) Meeting
Hearn mentioned that he recently attended a meeting of the EHHI in New Haven to learn more about their legislative agenda for 2020. Hearn noted that the organization’s top priority will be banning carcinogenic fire retardants in children’s clothing.
8. State Agency Actions
a. DEEP Proposed Environmental Use Restriction (EUR) Regulations
Hearn indicated that DEEP has proposed revisions to the EUR Regulations, concurrently with the RSR Regulations. The revision would include the use of a new restrictive covenant when pollution remains on a parcel and is above the default cleanup criteria. The covenant will be a means to restrict disturbance of the contaminated media on the parcel. Currently there exists an Environmental Land Use Restriction (ELUR), which conveys an interest in the parcel to the state and must be approved by DEEP. The proposed change is to add a Notice of Activity and Use Limitation (NAUL) that also binds future owners to maintain the land use restriction. It can and it can be approved by either an LEP or by the DEEP Commissioner. Ainsworth mentioned that EURs are intended for sites that are contaminated and the contamination is not accessible and is not spreading.
Hearn said that comments are due on November 12th and if the staff deems any aspect of the proposed regulations to be concerning, draft comments will be sent to the members for their input before anything is submitted.
Hearn also noted that DEEP has recently released a draft report titled “An Electric Vehicle Roadmap for Connecticut”. Hearn indicated that Council staff has reviewed the draft report, but will not be submitting comments.
Charamut said she wished to remind the members that the 2019 Water Networking Conference will be held at the Leir Retreat Center in Ridgefield on October 30, 2019, and that topics for the conference may include stormwater management, water quality, and PFAS contamination
b. Consideration of Comments for Connecticut Siting Council (CSC):
Petition #1385 - Aresta indicated that Council staff reviewed this Petition for Declaratory Ruling (Petition) for the proposed construction, maintenance and operation of a 1.992 megawatt AC solar photovoltaic electric generating facility in Old Lyme. Chair Merrow noted that the area is an important habitat for forest birds. Aresta noted that draft comments had been prepared and distributed to Council members recommending the Siting Council: 1) require the Petitioner to provide information regarding the presence of any state-listed species that were looked for, 2) consider the impacts that the proposed project would have on core forest, 3) request design modifications that could eliminate or reduce negative impacts on the critical habitat at the site, and 4) assess the visibility of the proposed project from the soon to be developed properties adjacent to the proposed site. Hearn reviewed additional language regarding Important Bird Areas and core forests that was added to the first version of the draft comments, which had been sent to Council members prior to the meeting.
Petition #1278A – Aresta indicated that Council staff also reviewed this Petition for the proposed Phase II construction of a Customer-Side 2000-Kilowatt fuel cell facility to be located at 86 Middletown Road and a second Customer-Side 2000-Kilowatt Fuel Cell Facility to be located at 195 McDermott Road in North Haven. Aresta noted that draft comments had been prepared and distributed to Council members recommending the Siting Council: 1) defer a decision regarding the proposed project until DEEP is able issue a determination regarding appropriate protection measures for any box turtles in the vicinity, and 2) request additional information to prevent adverse impacts on the wetlands and or watercourse located proximate to the proposed site at 195 McDermott Road.
Petition #1386 – Aresta indicated that Council staff also reviewed the proposed installation of a wireless telecommunications facility at an existing Eversource-owned electric transmission line structure in Weston. Ainsworth noted that the proposed tower makes good use of the existing structure and is very efficient. Aresta noted that no comments will be submitted for the proposed project.
It was the consensus of the Council members to authorize the Council’s staff to submit the comments regarding Petition 1385 and 1278A to the Siting Council.
9. Other Business
Chair Merrow confirmed that DEEP Commissioner Katie Dykes will attend the next meeting of the Council and suggested that the conversation should focus on a few key issues. Hearn noted some of the issues that were raised at the last meeting included General Permits, Permits-By-Rule, adequate staffing, the policy regarding the review of private infrastructure projects, gravel mining operations, regulation of fuel oil storage tanks, and municipal training for planning and regulation of activities affecting inland wetlands. Kalafa clarified that the policy regarding review of private infrastructure projects pertains to projects that rely on previous public investments. Dunbar said that many of the complaints and issued raised by citizens to the Council involve regulation and enforcement. Hilding concurred that there is dissatisfaction with enforcement and there are seldom any repercussions for non-compliance. It was also suggested that the Commissioner address how better to engage the public to improve awareness of DEEP’s activities and secure support for those activities. It was recommended that specific examples be used to highlight recent issues involving regulation and enforcement. Hearn said that he would develop a short list of discussion topics and provide them to Commissioner Dykes in advance of the meeting.
Hearn noted that Susan Whelan, Deputy Commissioner at DEEP, will be leaving DEEP by the end of the month.
Having no further business, Chair Merrow asked for a motion to adjourn. Dunbar made a motion to adjourn; seconded by Ainsworth. The motion passed unanimously. The meeting adjourned at 11:52 P.M.