Minutes of the July 22, 2020 meeting of the Council on Environmental Quality (Council) held in compliance with Governor Lamont’s Executive Order 7B.
MEMBERS PRESENT: Keith Ainsworth (Acting Chair), Kip Kolesinskas, Alicea Charamut, Lee Dunbar, Alison Hilding, David Kalafa, Matthew Reiser, and Charles Vidich.
ALSO IN ATTENDANCE: Peter Hearn (Executive Director) and Paul Aresta (Environmental Analyst).
Call to Order: Establishment of a Quorum
At 9:30 AM, Ainsworth asked members to introduce themselves and then noted that there was a quorum of Council members present.
Ainsworth mentioned that the meeting is being recorded. Ainsworth noted that the “citizen comment period” is usually reserved for individuals to bring information to the Council about items that are not on the agenda. If there are items on the agenda that citizens wish to comment on, that they should indicate so and the Chair may recognize them during discussion of that agenda topic.
2. Approval of Agenda
Ainsworth suggested a change to the agenda so that the Council may consider the submission of comments for Connecticut Siting Council (CSC) Petition 1423 under State Agency Actions. Having no other suggested changes to the agenda, Vidich made a motion to accept the revised agenda; seconded by Hilding. The motion passed.
3. Approval of Minutes of June 24, 2020
Hearn indicated that he received a few minor edits to the draft meeting minutes for the June 24 meeting and reviewed them with Council members. Vidich made a motion to approve the minutes of the June 24 meeting as revised; seconded by Charamut. The motion was approved.
4. Citizen Comment Period
There were no comments by citizens.
5. Chair’s Report
Ainsworth noted that Hearn had been contacted by Senator Blumenthal’s office informing him that changes to the Federal Regulations governing the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) had been enacted. Senator Blumenthal sent a statement to the Council that he was not in favor of the NEPA changes and would continue to support protection of the environment.
Ainsworth added that the Connecticut Environmental Policy Act (CEPA) and the State’s environmental classification document (ECD) should be able to address environmental review issues in Connecticut despite the revisions to NEPA.
6. Citizen Complaints and Inquiries Received
Hearn indicated that he has received a few complaints and inquiries from citizens in Connecticut including:
- The installation of a fence along the shoreline that was constructed to restrict access below the high tide line. Hearn indicated that he referred the complainant to the appropriate contact at the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP). Hearn also indicated that he has contacted the complainant but has not received a response regarding the current status of the complaint.
- The presence of a potentially poisonous toad and a possible bear sighting. Hearn indicated that he returned the call from the complainant who had decided the toad was likely not poisonous; but was concerned about a bear in the neighborhood. He told the person how to report a bear to DEEP.
- A report of potentially illegal deposition of materials in the Town of Monroe. Hearn indicated that the complainant alleges that the individuals involved with the potentially illegal deposition of materials might also be involved in surety bond fraud and also might have been connected to the illegal deposition of materials in Plainfield in Connecticut in 2015. Vidich questioned what was being deposited in the Town of Monroe. Hearn indicated that he didn’t have that information, but the illegal deposition of materials in Plainfield involved hazardous waste and/or contaminated soils.
- Issues associated with forest management practices at Massacoe State Forest.
- An inquiry regarding the percentage of dockets and petitions, submitted to the Siting Council, which are approved.
Dunbar suggested that Hearn notify any complainants that the Council will follow up on complaints and referrals and would appreciate information on the status of the issue. Hearn indicated that he does often follow up with citizens. He said they do not always respond, perhaps because the issue was resolved. Charamut suggested that data on the percentage of CSC approvals would be interesting to have. Hearn indicated that staff would need to analyze the CSC record of decisions rather than rely on the analysis of the citizen who inquired. He said he could provide that information to the Council.
7. Executive Director Report
- News & Staff activities
- Hearn noted that the Council received a compliment regarding the 2019 Annual Report, Environmental Quality in Connecticut, from a citizen who was interested to read a thorough report on Connecticut’s environment.
- Hearn reported that DEEP posted a link on their website to the 2019 report, “Fuel for Thought”, which addresses heating oil releases in Connecticut.
- Hearn added that in a recent edition of “National Woodlands”, the Connecticut Forest and Park Association identified the retention of the Council as an “independent state environmental watchdog agency” among its top six 2019 priorities.
- Hearn reported that the United Illuminating Company (UI) submitted information regarding the costs associated with routine versus emergency vegetative management practices to the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA). He said that the information showed that emergency vegetative management was significantly less expensive than routine vegetative management.
- Hearn also reported that the University of Connecticut published a notice indicating that the Record of Decision for the proposed ice skating rink was completed and that the Office of Policy and Management (OPM) will be reviewing the Record of Decision.Hearn indicated that the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was well done and the anticipated environmental impacts should be minimal.
- Hearn noted that a letter was sent with the Council’s recommendation to the Town of Woodbridge regarding the availability of more current information on the potential presence of PFAS chemicals in artificial turf. Ainsworth noted that the Town Commission, which is chaired by Robert Klee (former DEEP Commissioner), approved the use of artificial turf in Woodbridge with the condition that it contain no PFAS chemicals.
- Hearn said that the State is encouraging state agencies use Microsoft Teams for collaboration and virtual meetings. Vidich questioned the requirements of the operating system for the use of Teams. Hearn indicated that he was unaware of the specific technical requirement for Teams, but he had used the application for a virtual meeting with OPM and it worked well. Ainsworth noted that the judicial branch is using Teams and there are resources available on their website that describes how to use it.
- Lastly, Hearn noted that four charts that appeared in the 2019 Annual Report were updated to reflect data for 2019. Hearn mentioned that the 2019 data for forest birds, marine species, dissolved nitrogen, and driving were not available at the time the 2019 Annual Report was released. Hearn further noted that notice of the updated charts will be sent to subscribers of the Council’s publications.
- Update on ECD comments
Hearn indicated that he recently discussed the Council’s suggested revisions to Connecticut’s generic ECD with OPM. Hearn noted that the initial comments were revised as follows:
- move the recommendation for hazardous and radioactive waste disposal from Part I to Part II of the ECD;
- move the modified recommendation for siting power plants from Part I to Part II;
- revise the capacity of fossil-fueled power plants or combined heat and power plants (unless classified as a Class I renewable energy resource) from two megawatts (MW) or greater to one MW or less;
- remove the word “renewable” to indicate the ECD addresses the construction of all energy facilities on water;
- move the recommendation for siting energy facilities on undeveloped land from Part I to Part II;
- delete the recommendation regarding stormwater in Part II; and
- retain the modified recommendation regarding Plans of Conservation and Development in Part II but remove the requirement for Project consistency with: (A) the policies of the State C&D Plan, developed in accordance with section 16a-30 of the CGS; or (B) other relevant state agency plans; or (C) applicable regional or municipal land use plans.
Other suggested refinements from the Council related to the draft generic ECD would remain. Dunbar questioned whether forestry management practices that are supported by state grants would be subject to the proposed revisions to the generic ECD. Hearn indicated that all state actions that fall within the purview of CEPA would be subject to the ECD. It was the consensus of the Council members to provide the revised draft comments regarding the revised generic ECD to OPM for their consideration.
- Internships – update
Hearn reported that one of the Council’s summer interns recently submitted a draft report summarizing the results of her research into forestry management and carbon sequestration. The other intern continues her research into the possible correlation between median household income and elevated bacteria levels. There was general discussion regarding the impact of impervious surfaces on water quality. Dunbar requested a copy of the final report on forestry management and carbon sequestration.
- Coventry Sewer Update
Hearn noted that there is a perception by some public officials in the Town of Coventry that the Council is against sewers; however, he remarked that the Council has supported the use of sewage collection and treatment infrastructure in some areas to address water quality issues. Hearn reiterated that the Council’s objection to the proposed sewer expansion project in Coventry focused on the integrity of the EIE process and the need for enhanced scrutiny for consistency with regional and local planning objectives for private projects that are totally dependent on public infrastructure. Charamut stated that sewer projects usually address water quality issues, but that was not the case in Coventry. Hearn also noted that at a recent meeting of the Coventry Water Pollution Control Authority a resident voiced her concern for the development of senior or affordable housing in the western part of Coventry and suggested that the village would be a more appropriate location for senior housing. Vidich and Kolesinskas noted that the Town of Coventry may not have adequately planned, through their land use planning process, for the expansion of sewers in the western part of Coventry.
- Developments at MIRA
Hearn noted that DEEP announced it would not support the issuance of bonds to finance renovations needed at the resource recovery facility (RRF) operated by the Materials Innovation and Recycling Authority (MIRA), located in Hartford. DEEP’s decision was based on a preference for waste diversion and by the projected costs to municipalities that deliver municipal solid waste (MSW) to that facility.
Aresta provided an overview of registered and permitted solid waste management facilities in the state of Connecticut and noted that there may be insufficient capacity for the four remaining RRFs to process the MSW that is currently going to MIRA. Aresta also discussed the waste characterization study that was completed by DEEP in 2015 and noted that organics comprise approximately one third of MSW. Aresta stated that there are a few existing and proposed large scale anaerobic digester or composting facilities in the state and there is legislation that requires certain larger producers of organic wastes to deliver to an operational “source-separated organic material composting facility” if within twenty miles.
Dunbar questioned how much waste is generated by larger producers of organic wastes and whether it is recoverable. Aresta noted that organics make up approximately thirty-two percent of the industrial/commercial/institutional waste in Connecticut and it is estimated that approximately forty-three percent of that material is recoverable. There was general discussion regarding organic waste collection and processing. Charamut suggested developing a white paper on the management of organic wastes in the state. Hearn noted that the Council may develop a series of white papers that address solid waste management, including the beverage container deposit program, recycling, organics processing, and others.
9. State Agency Actions
- Connecticut Siting Council
Petitions 1415, 1416, 1423 - comments recommended
Petitions 1417, 1418, 1419, 1420, Dockets 490, 491- no comments recommended
Aresta summarized several Petitions and two Dockets and indicated that the Council was recommending comments for Petitions 1415, 1416, and 1423 only. Aresta noted that Petition 1415 is for a proposed solar facility in North Stonington and the Council had recommendations to address the need for a spill prevention, control, and countermeasures plan (SCCP), and measures to protect wetlands, vernal pools, and wildlife. Aresta noted that Petitions 1416 and 1423 are both for fuel cell installations at existing Home Depot stores and the Council has recommendations for the petitioner to confirm that the proposed facilities would be in compliance with both state and town noise regulations.
- GC3 Update
Hearn provided an update on recent activities of the Governor’s Council on Climate Change (GC3). Kolesinskas noted that it was nice to see how much progress the working groups had made and noted the presentation by Dr. Mitchell regarding the need for racial equality and consideration of environmental justice issues in the environmental permitting process. Charamut noted that the Rivers Working Group developed draft recommendations that address protection of inland waters and public access to waterbodies by all residents of the state. Ainsworth noted that several municipalities have restricted public access to some beaches and waterbodies in response to the Covid crisis.
10. Other Business
Hearn alerted the Council that there is a proposal by DEEP to revise the spill reporting criteria. Hearn noted that currently, approximately half of all petroleum releases are less than five gallons. DEEP’s proposed regulation would increase the reporting criteria for petroleum releases from any release that poses an environmental hazard to any release greater than five gallons. Releases of less than five gallons that have been cleaned up within one hour of the release would not have to be reported.
Hearn also noted that comments to DEEP are due by August 20 and the Council staff will need to review the proposed changes before determining if comments are warranted. Vidich noted that changes to the spill reporting requirements, including electronic reporting of releases, is important. Reiser suggested that revisions to the spill reporting requirements could be beneficial since DEEP would be able to focus on more serious releases and many small releases may not get reported currently. Charamut mentioned that the revised reporting requirements should be done in parallel with release-based remediation of potentially contaminated sites. Ainsworth agreed with Charamut and suggested that Council staff review the proposed revisions to the reporting requirements and send comments to the Council for approval prior to the next Council meeting.
Hearn next noted that DEEP has proposed to amend sections 22a-174-1 and 22a-174-3a of the Regulations of Connecticut State Agencies concerning the New Source Review permitting requirements for incinerators and that comments are due by September 4, 2020. Hearn added that a public hearing will be held on September 2, 2020 if requested by August 12, 2020. Hearn said that while staff has not yet reviewed the proposed revisions, a request for a public hearing will have to be made before the Council meets again. Ainsworth said that comments can be submitted regardless of the public hearing.
Ainsworth asked if any citizens wished to make comments. There was no response.
Vidich made a motion to adjourn the meeting at 12:02 PM; seconded by Dunbar. The motion passed.
Pursuant to Executive Order 7B, a transcript of this meeting is available by email request of the Council (mail to; firstname.lastname@example.org).