Minutes of the October 28, 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, 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 confirmed which Council members were present and then noted that there was a quorum. Ainsworth noted that the meeting was being recorded and that public comment is welcome during the specified public comment period for items not on the agenda, or during the appropriate time for items on the agenda.
2. Approval of Agenda
Ainsworth asked if there were any suggested changes to the agenda. Hearing none, Ainsworth asked for a motion to approve the agenda as presented. Kolesinskas made a motion to approve the agenda; seconded by Vidich. The motion passed.
3. Approval of Minutes of September 23, 2020
Ainsworth noted that the draft minutes were revised and asked if there were any additional changes to the draft minutes of September 23, 2020. Kalafa made a motion to approve the revised draft minutes of the September 23, 2020 meeting; seconded by Vidich. The motion passed.
4. Citizen Comment Period
There were no comments from the public at this time.
5. Chair’s Report
Ainsworth noted that Governor Lamont and most of the Governors in New England requested that the Independent System Operator for New England (ISO-NE) make changes to the energy markets to encourage the development of clean energy, including possible market-based incentives.
6. Citizen Complaints and Inquiries Received
Hearn stated that he received a few complaints and inquiries from citizens in Connecticut including:
- A person complained of contaminated well water that was causing health issues. Hearn reported that well water was tested and the local health department confirmed it had no bacterial contamination. Hearn said that the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) explored the possibility that contamination could be due to an off-site cause, but its records showed no likely sources. He said that the initial well water complaint soon transformed to a complaint about mold and other issues that were landlord/tenant issues.
- A person complained about the mis-application of pesticides by a business in the state. Hearn reported that he contacted DEEP and was informed that DEEP does not yet have procedures in place that will allow inspections to be conducted indoors unless social distancing can be guaranteed. He said that inspections that can be completed outdoors are not affected.
- A person was concerned about the proposed development of a parcel located in New Milford near the Housatonic River that is also proximate to a Natural Diversity Database buffer area. Hearn reported that she was advised to bring these concerns to the attention of the Zoning Commission when the project is considered.
Kolesinskas concurred that the appropriate recourse would be to bring these issues to the attention of the local boards and commissions.
7. Executive Director’s Report
DEEP’s Waste Management Initiative
Hearn remarked that DEEP has created the Connecticut Coalition for Sustainable Materials Management (CCSMM) and noted that four working groups were created to explore ways to reduce the amount of solid waste that is generated; improve reuse, recycling, and organics collection; and other employ innovative solutions to waste management. He said that the working groups are gathering information and holding meetings. Hearn said that he would like to submit the beverage container redemption report, if approved by the Council, to the appropriate working groups.
Draft Report: Beverage Container Redemption Program
Aresta noted that the draft report on Connecticut’s beverage container redemption program (“Bottle Bill”) was revised since the last Council meeting to include:
- the addition of content to support two new recommendations, requested by Council members, that address an examination of handling fees for retailers and redemption centers and an increase in post-consumer content in the manufacture of products sold in the state and region;
- the additions of a definition of recycling and a sentence on the economic impact of recycling in the State;
- the addition of a new preface and a change to the title of the report; and
- various minor changes to content and formatting.
Ainsworth indicated his support for the revised report. Kolesinskas made a motion to approve the revised draft report for publication and distribution; seconded by Vidich. The motion passed.
Hearn indicated that the approved report could be released as early as Friday of this week to the CCSMM working groups, the Commissioner of DEEP, and email subscribers for the Council’s publications. It was suggested that the Council might want to wait until after the election to distribute the report to the Legislature. Ainsworth suggested that the current legislators, and especially the Commerce Committee and Environment Committee, should receive a notice regarding the release of the report and that new legislators can be provided notice later.
Hearn indicated that the residents in Stamford submitted a petition to DEEP, with twenty-five or more names, requesting a public hearing to voice their concerns regarding remediation activities at the Harbor Point sites in Stamford. He indicated that he participated in a meeting on September 30th with Representative Michel, Deputy Commissioner Betsey Wingfield, and approximately twenty DEEP staff to listen to and possibly address the concerns of residents regarding the remediation and redevelopment activities at Harbor Point. It was noted at the meeting that some of the issues, such as the expansion of the bulkhead and movement of potentially contaminated soils, were done with DEEP’s permission. It was also noted that some concerns, such as drainage issues, the location of the rock-crushing machine, and noise violations, were within the jurisdiction of the City of Stamford. Hearn noted that the residents still have questions and concerns regarding soil contamination, violations of DEEP’s Stormwater General Permit, and characterization of the site(s).
Ainsworth questioned if the site(s) in the Harbor Point area had undergone an environment assessment prior to redevelopment activities. Hearn indicated that the site(s) were previously used for manufacturing and industry and that, based on the previous uses, a Phase I environmental assessment would have been pro forma and a Phase II was likely to have been required. He reiterated that a major concern of the residents in the area is the level of pollutants that may be present in the soil on the site(s). Hearn noted that during the time a DEEP inspector was at the site(s), because of the Covid-19 virus work realignment, the number of environmental complaints, resulting from construction activities at Harbor Point, were reduced. Hearn mentioned that DEEP is working to address the resident’s remaining concerns and expects another meeting.
Presentation to the Water Planning Council Citizen Advisory Committee (WPCC)
Hearn reported that he was requested to provide an assessment of the risk posed by solar energy facilities to drinking water watersheds. Hearn showed an analysis of certified Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) facilities, approved between February 2016 and July 2020. It indicated that the majority of the solar systems greater than 250 kilowatts (kW) were constructed on rooftops and on “developed” land. In addition, the majority of these facilities were located in a GB or GA designated groundwater area and only six facilities (four unique sites) were located in aquifer protection areas. Hearn indicated that the presentation included other information, including but not limited to, the need for stormwater and erosion controls, contaminants that might be associated with solar panels, and the possibility of reusing and/or recycling older solar panels. Charamut, Vidich and Kolesinskas noted that the construction of solar facilities, on land, could affect groundwater recharge resulting from changes in the drainage patterns and compaction of the native soils. Lee questioned how much land would be needed to meet the requirements for zero-emission electric generation that has been called for by the Governor and the Governor’s Council on Climate Change (GC3). Kolesinskas noted that people are starting to examine how much land is needed, and added that there has been inadequate analysis of the distribution and transmission infrastructure capacity to support responsible development of renewable energy facilities. Vidich and Kolesinskas noted that there should be more emphasis on energy efficiency and building design to address energy requirements, rather than on more electricity generation. Hearn noted that during his presentation he mentioned that the Council supports the development of renewable energy facilities at appropriate sites.
Environmental Classification Document (ECD) Comments
Hearn said that draft comments were sent to the Council before the meeting regarding the revised Generic ECD. The comments recommended inclusion in Part II of “construction of an energy facility on or in water, and/or undeveloped land, except for emergency generation”. This new requirement would be in the public interest by providing additional public notice. It was also suggested that an existing provision that addresses potential impacts on agricultural land be modified from “a block totaling 25 or more contiguous acres” to “a block totaling 25 or more acres”. This suggested revision would eliminate any possible confusion regarding the intent to address potential impacts on farmland, regardless of its connectivity. Vidich asked if the revised provision for farmland would affect privately owned land. Hearn indicated that the Generic ECD applies to State actions. Dunbar made a motion to approve the draft comments; seconded by Vidich. The motion passed.
8. State Agency Actions & Legislative Update
Legislature: Release-Based Remediation Program and Environmental Justice
Hearn reported that Governor Lamont signed the release-based remediation program into law, which was passed unanimously by the Legislature, to replace and streamline the Transfer Act. The new release-based program transitions the State from its transfer-initiated approach for property remediation to a release-based approach. The new law requires the formation of a working group to assist DEEP with the development of new release-based remediation regulations. Hearn pointed out that the Council is listed as a member of the working group in the legislation. The regulations must include provisions on remediation supervision, verification, auditing, any required fees, tiers of releases - based on risk, that assign the required level of supervision and verification. Ainsworth noted that the new law could be a transformational change in the way contaminated sites are remediated in Connecticut if it is done correctly. Ainsworth asked members of the Council to participate in the working group if they had time and interest. Charamut noted that the ability to access information online, regarding contaminated sites and remediation efforts, is very important for transparency. She added that the ability to access online data has been very important recently and would negate the need to visit DEEP’s records room. Ainsworth stated that it will be very important that DEEP maintain oversight of the remediation efforts and the activities of the Licensed Environmental Professionals (LEP). There was general discussion regarding the schedule for the development and adoption of the new regulations.
Hearn reviewed the bill that was approved by the Legislature to revise the state’s environmental justice law. It requires facilities, proposed for “environmental justice communities”, with negative environmental impacts, improve communication with the public and provide services or funding that would mitigate any environmental effects on the surrounding community. Vidich questioned which municipalities would be subject to the new legislation. Hearn responded that there are forty-eight municipalities that could be impacted by the new legislation. Dunbar questioned whether modifications to an existing facility would trigger the new requirements or if it only applies to new facilities in the designated communities. Hearn responded that he was unsure and that he would distribute the answer to the Council.
Governor’s Council on Climate Change (GC3)
Hearn reported that the GC3 working groups have completed their initial draft reports and are continuing to meet to: 1) review the comments received and 2) finalize the reports.
Connecticut Siting Council
- Petition 1434 and Pet 1435 (comments recommended)
- Dockets 495 - no comments recommended
- Petition 1434 - Aresta noted that Petition 1434 is for the proposed installation of a new 63-foot steel pole and associated radio communications equipment to be located at an existing electrical substation in Farmington. Aresta added that the site is developed and there are a number of tall electric transmission line poles in the immediate area and there would be no impact on wetlands or wildlife; therefore, no comments are recommended.
- Petition 1435- Aresta noted that Petition 1435 is a proposal for the proposed replacement and extension of an existing telecommunications facility located on state-owned property, managed by the Connecticut Department of Transportation, off Leetes Island Road in Branford. The draft comments request additional information regarding visibility and any potential impacts on wildlife.
- Docket 495 - Aresta noted that Docket 495 is an application for a 130-foot telecommunications facility to be located at 5151 Park Avenue in Fairfield. Aresta added that the site is part of Sacred Heart University and there would be no impact on wetlands or wildlife. Aresta noted that the main impact would be visual; however, the applicant’s analysis indicates that 26 acres of land within a two-mile radius of the proposed tower would have visibility. No comments are recommended.
Hearn noted that Docket 493 was withdrawn, by the applicant, because the applicant was able to renew the lease agreement with the existing landowner.
It was the consensus of the Council to approve the comments for Petition 1435.
9. Other Business – Meeting schedule for 2021.
Hearn noted that he would distribute the tentative schedule of meeting dates for 2021 to the Council for their consideration at the next Council meeting.
Ainsworth asked if there were any members of the public that wished to speak. Hearing none, he asked for a motion to adjourn. Dunbar made a motion to adjourn the meeting at 10:57 AM; seconded by Vidich. The motion passed.
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