Minutes of the April 28, 2021 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, David Kalafa, Charles Vidich, Matt Reiser, and Lee Dunbar.
ALSO IN ATTENDANCE: Peter Hearn (Executive Director), Paul Aresta (Environmental Analyst), and Dr. Zbigniew Grabowski
Call to Order: Establishment of a Quorum
At 9:30 AM, Ainsworth called the meeting to order. Ainsworth confirmed which Council members were present and noted that there was a quorum.
2. Approval of Agenda
Ainsworth asked if there were any suggested changes to the agenda. Hearing none, he asked for a motion to approve the agenda as presented. Vidich made a motion to approve the agenda; seconded by Kalafa. The motion passed.
3. Approval of Minutes of March 24, 2021
Ainsworth asked if there were any suggested changes to the draft minutes of March 24, 2021. Hearing none, Ainsworth asked for a motion to approve the draft minutes. Vidich made a motion to approve the draft minutes of March 24; seconded by Charamut. The motion passed with Kalafa abstaining, having been absent for part of the March meeting.
4. Citizen Comment Period
Ainsworth asked if there were any members of the public that wished to speak. Dr. Grabowski noted that he wished to speak regarding the potential development of a property to a gas station in Canton. Ainsworth noted that he has been involved with the proposed project and recused himself from further discussion. Kolesinskas, acting as temporary chair, asked Grabowski to continue. Grabowski discussed the potential environmental issues associated with the proposed development in Canton, including habitat continuity corridors, ridgeline protection, wetland contamination, drinking water protection, and State supervision and monitoring of hazardous sites. Vidich questioned the current status of the regulatory approvals for the proposed project. Grabowski stated that the proposed development is seeking regulatory approval from the Town of Canton’s Planning and Zoning (P&Z) Commission. Kolesinskas asked what the area of the host property is and if there have been any efforts to preserve a portion of the proposed parcel as open space. Grabowski stated that he believes the property is 17 acres and that the local land trust would be interested in preserving a portion of the property. Charamut noted that Rivers Alliance provided written comments to the Town’s P&Z Commission. She added that a citizens group concerned about the proposed project provided information to the Town’s P&Z Commission regarding the potential bedrock fracturing that could occur as a result of blasting on the proposed property, which may cause seepage from a nearby site that could contaminate drinking water wells in the area. Kalafa questioned the Council’s role in a municipal regulatory action and the environmental issues associated with the proposed project. Dunbar noted that it might be too early to determine the Council’s role and suggested tabling the item to allow staff to investigate the environmental issues associated with the proposed project. After additional discussion, Kalafa made a motion to table this item until the next Council meeting to allow staff to investigate the environmental issues associated with the proposed project; seconded by Dunbar. Hearn noted that additional time to research the issues and to determine the State’s policy and regulatory role with the proposed project would be beneficial. The motion passed.
Ainsworth thanked Kolesinskas and resumed as Acting Chair for the remainder of the meeting.
Kalafa asked about the topic of a potential conflict of interest for Council members. Ainsworth noted that there are three issues associated with a potential conflict of interest:
- attorneys, such as himself, might have a conflict of interest if that person represented a party or was involved in providing legal counsel on a particular issue;
- a person might have a direct or indirect personal or financial interest; and/or
- a person is actively involved in advocating a certain position.
Ainsworth added that although the proposed project may be a municipal issue, Connecticut General Statutes (CGS) Sec. 22a-13 empowers the Council “to receive and investigate citizen complaints alleging violation of any statute or regulation in respect to environmental quality”. He added that the Council’s role also includes the review of programs and activities of the State and local governments, with particular reference to their effect on the environment.
Ainsworth asked if there were any other members of the public that wished to speak. Hearing none, he asked Hearn to summarize and citizen complaints and inquiries received.
5. Citizen Complaints and Inquiries Received
Hearn began by noting that there is a webpage on the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s (DEEP) website that directs people to contact the Council if a person observes an environmental problem that no other agency/municipality seems to be solving effectively.
Hearn stated that he received a few complaints and inquiries and that some have been resolved and some are still pending:
a. Hearn reported on an inspection report from DEEP regarding the cover material on Kosciusko Park, which is a former landfill, in Stamford. He said that the report noted that there was a small area of the park where a geotextile was observed; however, the DEEP staff was uncertain if the geotextile was the landfill cover or a piece of sedimentation and erosion control fabric and noted that the maintenance of the landfill cover is the responsibility of the City of Stamford. Hearn indicated that he believes that DEEP should provide the information to the City of Stamford and request that the landfill cover material be addressed.
b. Hearn noted that he recently received information from the University of Connecticut regarding the alleged flooding of a property, which is downgradient of State land. Hearn added that the flooding might be the result of a mitigation, identified in an Environmental Impact Evaluation (EIE), for construction which displaced farmland for a road. Hearn also noted that the University stated that, although it claims no responsibility for any flooding, it is taking steps to minimize any runoff from the property.
c. Hearn reported that a person in Haddam has complained again regarding the use of all terrain vehicles (ATVs) in the State forest in Haddam. He added that he reported the situation to DEEP’s Forestry Division and it recommended that the issue be referred to DEEP’s Environmental Conservation Police (EnConn). Consequently, Hearn notified the complainant and requested additional information regarding the specific date, time and location of the ATV use. To date, the complainant has not responded.
d. Hearn reviewed the definition of “clean fill”, which can include brick, ceramics, concrete, and asphalt paving fragments that is not restricted as to where it can be disposed, and “bulky waste”, which must go to designated/approved locations for disposal. Hearn added that neither DEEP’s inspection of the property nor the delivery documentation for the fill material indicated that any unsuitable material was placed in the quarry in Monroe. He added that he will continue to monitor the issue. Ainsworth added that certain materials in “clean fill”, such as asphalt, bricks, and ceramics, could be mistakenly viewed as bulky waste.
a. Hearn indicated that he referred to DEEP the request from a resident of West Hartford to landscape state-owned land behind his house. DEEP staff followed up and indicated that the resident should restrict landscaping activities to his personal property and that he should have his property surveyed to ensure that there are no alterations to the State’s property.
b. Hearn noted that a resident suggested a law that would require the replacement of every tree that is removed for a project, such as the construction of a house.
c. Hearn reported that a resident was concerned about impacts on wildlife associated with the potential development of a solar facility in Durham. Hearn noted that he responded to the resident and informed him that the Council usually comments of projects seeking regulatory approval from the Connecticut Siting Council (CSC) if there are significant environmental issues.
d. Hearn also reported that the complaint regarding pesticide violations by a Norwalk–based pesticide company has resulted in the issuance of several notices of violation (NOVs) by DEEP. Hearn reminded the Council that the response to the original complaint was delayed due to staff issues and precautions associated with on-premises inspections as a result of the precautions regarding the COVID 19 virus. Hearn noted that the NOVs were issued for a variety of alleged violations, including the supervision of pesticide applications, being an unlicensed business, making false statements, applying pesticides to waterways without a special permit, and supervisory issues. Hearn indicated that the complainant was pleased with the Council’s efforts and that he would continue to monitor the status of the NOVs.
6. Executive Director’s Report
- Released Annual Report
Hearn reported that the draft Annual Report was revised 1) to include information on the Natural Diversity Data Base (NDDB) on the State-Listed Species page, 2) to finalize the Climate Changers page, and 3) to incorporate all the comments that Council members had suggested with the draft Annual Report prior to the release of the final Annual Report. Hearn added that, consistent with the Council’s directive, an electronic copy of the Annual Report was provided to the Governor’s Office, the press, legislators, and the general public in advance of Earth Day. He added that the Council reviewed the usage statistics for the website visits for the Annual Report and noted that there were over 1,100 page views between April 21-24, with the majority attributed to Annual Report webpages. He added that the Annual Report was well received by members of the environmental community, including DEEP staff, which asked for a special presentation for DEEP staff, and a few news outlets provided coverage of the Annual Report publication.
7. State Agency & Legislative Actions
- Draft Spill Reporting Regulations - discussion of possible comments
Hearn noted that the Council provided comments for DEEP’s consideration prior to them revising the Spill Reporting Regulations (SRR). Hearn reported that the Council’s staff has reviewed the recently released draft SRR and had a few questions regarding the amount and timing of releases that should be reported. Specifically, Hearn questioned the intent of certain provisions of the draft SRR, including:
- 1) the release of five (5) gallons or more of oil or petroleum if released within any period of twenty-four (24) hours; and
- 2) the release of either ten (10) pounds or more or one and a half (1.5) gallons or more, of a reportable material other than oil or petroleum, if released within any period of twenty-four (24) hours.
There was general discussion regarding the intent and purpose of the two provisions. Hearn reviewed draft language that the Council may consider submitting to DEEP regarding the draft SRR. Dunbar suggested that the 24-hour measure was likely DEEP’s attempt to exempt minor, slow releases from being reported. Ainsworth suggested that the language might have been added to quantify a reportable quantity. Kolesinskas suggested making a distinction between intermittent and continuous releases. Charamut questioned whether the draft SRR includes provisions for historical releases. She added that the exemption for sewage releases of 100 gallons should match the legislative language, which is currently pending legislative approval, so that it would be consistent. She also encouraged the Council to include a requirement that spills be reported electronically and that information be made available for public inspection through a web-based platform on DEEP’s website. It was the consensus of the Council members for Hearn to draft comments regarding the draft SRR, as discussed; distribute the draft comments to Council members; revise if necessary; and then submit those comments to DEEP prior to the comment filing deadline.
- Industrial Stormwater Permit
Hearn noted that DEEP has made a tentative decision to reissue without modifications the general permit for the discharge of stormwater associated with industrial activity (industrial general permit).
Legislature – Bills to Watch
Hearn reviewed the status of several bills at the legislature that address environmental issues and noted which bills the Council had provided comments for and whether a special report had been developed by the Council that addressed the subject matter. Hearn then reviewed specific provisions of Senate Bill-1037, An Act Concerning Solid Waste Management, which includes provisions for refinement of the “Bottle Bill”. He noted that the current legislation is consistent with the recommendations identified in the Council’s report, Low Deposit Low Return, including a raise in the deposit fee to 10 cents, expansion of the deposit fee to bottles of seltzer, hard cider, juices, teas, sports drinks and liquor nips that are not currently covered by the program, an increase in the handling fee to at least 3 ½ cents for each beverage container returned for redemption, and a provision for a task force to evaluate solutions for managing the bottle bill moving forward.
Kalafa questioned the status of Senate Bill 701, An Act Concerning the Bolton Lakes Regional Water Pollution Control Authority. Hearn indicated that the Environment Committee did not act on the Council’s request to consider the proposed legislation; however, he believed a resolution of the issue might be addressed through negotiation with DEEP.
Kolesinskas noted that the draft Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) includes provisions for the establishment of a stakeholder group to improve and refine solar siting and permitting practices with respect to grid-scale solar projects to better protect agricultural land. Kolesinskas made a motion for staff to develop a letter to send to DEEP encouraging DEEP to establish the proposed stakeholder group, consistent with the intent of the draft IRP; seconded by Charamut. The motion passed.
Connecticut Siting Council (CSC)
- Docket 499
Aresta reported that staff reviewed an application for a new telecommunications facility to be located at 16 Coote Hill Road in Sherman. He noted that staff developed draft comments for this Docket, which were distributed in advance to Council members, that recommended that the applicant make efforts to minimize the potential visual impacts of the proposed tower and for the applicant to adhere to the time of year restrictions suggested by DEEP to protect state-listed species. Hearn noted that he has not engaged in the review of the application nor the draft comments because he lives near the proposed tower and he wants to avoid the “appearance” of a conflict of interest.
- Petitions 1446, 1447, 1448, 1449, and 1450
Aresta reviewed Petitions 1446, 1447, 1448, 1449, and 1450 and noted that most of the Petitions were for small cell wireless facilities on relatively lower height poles in primarily developed areas. He reported that there was also a Petition for a fuel cell; however, the proposed fuel cell would be located in a previously developed area located adjacent to a parking area and Interstate 95. He added that Council staff was not recommending comments for these Petitions.
- Petition 1451
Aresta reported that this Petition was for the proposed construction of an approximately six megawatt (MW) AC solar photovoltaic (PV) electric generating facility at 277 Sadds Mill Road in Ellington. He added that Council staff developed draft comments, which were distributed in advance to Council members, that address the need to survey the proposed site for wildlife and state-listed species, preservation of the existing prime farmland soils on the proposed site, and development and use of a spill prevention plan. Kolesinskas questioned whether the proposed solar project was associated with a “community” solar project or if the electricity would just go to the electric grid. Aresta stated that he was unsure if the proposed project was part of a “community shared” solar project.
- Petition 1452
Aresta reported that this Petition was for a proposed small cell wireless telecommunications facility on a new approximately 38-foot utility pole adjacent to 36 Drinkwater Place in Greenwich. He added that there was not a great deal of information on environmental conditions at the proposed site but that the main issue was the possible impact the proposed pole could have on the visibility of an existing school sign on Drinkwater Place.
It was the consensus of the Council members to submit the comments to the Connecticut Siting Council.
8. Other Business
There was no other business.
Ainsworth asked for a motion to adjourn. Kalafa made a motion to adjourn the meeting at 11:34 AM; seconded by Charamut. The motion passed.
Pursuant to Executive Order 7B, a recording and transcript of this meeting is available by email request of the Council (mail to; email@example.com).
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