Minutes of the August 25, 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), Matt Reiser, Alicea Charamut, Charles Vidich, David Kalafa, and Lee Dunbar.
ALSO IN ATTENDANCE: Peter Hearn (Executive Director), Paul Aresta (Environmental Analyst), and Matthew Pafford (Office of Policy and Management - OPM).
Call to Order: Establishment of a Quorum
At 9:36 AM, Ainsworth called the meeting to order. Ainsworth took attendance and confirmed that there was a quorum of Council members present.
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 Dunbar. The motion passed.
3. Approval of Minutes of July 28, 2021
Ainsworth asked if there were any suggested changes to the draft minutes of July 28, 2021. Hearn noted that the "Northwest Hills Council of Government" on page 5 should be revised to the “Western Connecticut Council of Governments". Kalafa made a motion to approve the draft minutes of July 28, 2021, as revised; seconded by Dunbar. The motion passed with Reiser abstaining because he was not present at the previous meeting.
4. Citizen Comment Period
Ainsworth asked if there were any members of the public that wished to speak. No members of the public wished to speak.
5. Natural Diversity Data Base (NDDB)
Hearn introduced Jenny Dickson and provided a summary of her education and experience. Dickson provided an overview of the NDDB program and noted that the NDDB is advisory and not regulatory. She added that maps are generated that contain point features which are randomly buffered to provide a general area of where one or more state-listed species are located. In response to questions from Council members, including Ainsworth, Dunbar, Vidich, and Kalafa, Dickson responded as follows:
- NDDB can identify a species, publicize the existence of it, and alert a sponsoring State agency that the activity must take the species into account for actions on State property, but not on private property, unless the property owner or developer gives permission or requires a state-issued permit or is receiving state funds.
- Private property owners can request a NDDB review; however, private property owners are not required, in most cases, to provide the NDDB with information regarding state-listed species found on their property.
- Information regarding the absence of state-listed species on a property is usually not retained unless the information is part of a regulatory record.
- DEEP and some of its conservation partners have identified critical habitats for certain state-listed species.
- The NDDB letters usually have some guidance on site specific surveys, but DEEP could do a better job of conveying the message that just because there is no NDDB buffer area in a certain location doesn’t mean that there are no state-listed species or suitable habitat present.
- The state-listed species are mostly those that are in-state breeding species, and not migratory species, although those species may also be protected.
- DEEP’s Wildlife Division monitors the presence and extent of some invasive species, but that is not NDDB’s focus.
- DEEP can request a site-specific survey to make a determination regarding potential impacts of an action if it is believed that suitable habitat exists.
- There is no timeframe for a NDDB determination; however, most are completed within two to four weeks, unless specific information is requested or if site-specific surveys are required at certain seasons of the year.
- Among other states, Massachusetts does a very good job of protecting state-listed species.
- There is a lack of information about state-listed species in certain parts of the State for many reasons, including 1) much of the State is private property, and 2) some of the state is not subject to development because it is conservation land or water company land.
6. Citizen Complaints and Inquiries Received
Hearn stated that he received a few new complaints and inquiries including 1) an inquiry about resources that might be available for an injured hawk, 2) a request to do a follow-up on the Environmental Update on air quality that would address the need for wood burning restrictions, and 3) a query about regulations/laws regarding a proposed solar energy project in North Branford. Hearn added that he provided the residents with information and noted that the Council would review any solar energy proposals submitted to the Connecticut Siting Council (CSC).
Hearn noted that he received an inquiry from a resident regarding invasive species. He added that the resident suggested that an update to the Council’s 2002 special report, “Great Infestations” might be timely. Hearn stated that he will distribute that special report to Council members for consideration at the next Council meeting.
Hearn reported on the complaint that had been discussed at last month’s Council meeting regarding alleged filling of wetlands by the Department of Transportation (DOT) in Stratford. He said that staff has received all the relevant permits and plans for the project and there is no indication of filling of wetlands or of Long Island Sound. He added that staff from DEEP had visited the site and found no filling. Based on the site plans the filling that was planned was to raise the salt shed above the 100-year flood line. Hearn pointed out that, pursuant to Connecticut General Statutes (CGS) Section. 22a-12(b), the Council has the authority to review such projects at any stage. “The council shall have the authority to require submission by all state agencies, at all stages of development, of construction plans for review and comment by the council which shall include, but not be limited to, all plans of the Department of Transportation which anticipate the paving or building upon land not previously paved or built upon”. Ainsworth noted that it was good that other State agencies work cooperatively with the Council. Hearn concluded by stating that no action by the Council was necessary at this time.
7. Executive Director’s Report – Staff Activities
- Title V Inquiry
Hearn reported that the Council reviewed another Clean Air Act Title V permit for a facility in New York. He added that the Council inquired of DEEP why certain Title V permits were publicized by DEEP. He reported that DEEP responded that Connecticut receives notices as an “affected state” because Connecticut is within 50 miles of the border of the state where the activity may occur. He added that 1) DEEP doesn’t comment on Title V permits from adjacent states unless the permit deviates significantly from Connecticut’s regulatory scheme in a manner that would contribute to adverse impacts in this state, and 2) DEEP posts the notices on their website so that Connecticut residents in border towns are aware of the activity since it would normally be noticed in a the adjoining state’s newspapers rather than in a newspaper in the border towns.
- Working Group’s Ad Hoc Teams - Releases on Residential Properties Volunteers
Hearn reported that DEEP has entered into phase II of the Working Group on Release-Based Remediation, and is seeking volunteers for two ad hoc committees to address: 1) special consideration for releases impacted or comprised of historical fill or releases attributed to common anthropogenic impacts; and 2) releases on residential properties.
Hearn added that the first meeting of the ad hoc committee on releases on residential properties is expected to be this week and that he will participate in the residential properties committee to identify mechanisms that could address residential releases, including certain recommendations identified in the Council’s special report, “Fuel for Thought”. These include 1) the incorporation of eligibility for financing of oil storage tanks through the Connecticut Heat Loan Program, and 2) requiring that all new residential insurance policies sold in the State address accidental releases.
- Energy Efficiency Board’s - Draft 2022-2024 Conservation and Load Management (CL&M) Plan
Hearn reported that the Council submitted comments regarding the 2022-2024 C&LM Plan on August 13, 2021. He added that the comments support the recommendations identified in the Council’s special report, “Fuel for Thought”. These included: 1) expanding the eligibility for financing of oil storage tanks through the Connecticut Heat Loan Program, administered by Capital for Change; 2) requiring inspections of oil storage tanks and supply equipment, and 3) working with DEEP and others to eliminate “silos” within State government.
- Environmental Updates
Hearn reported that the Council developed and distributed an update to the 2020 Annual Report that highlighted the impact of wildfires in the western United States and Canada on Connecticut’s air quality. He added that in July 2021, Connecticut experienced 3 days with an Air Quality Index (AQI) above 100 for PM 2.5, which is very unusual for the summer.
Aresta noted that a separate environmental update has been drafted that includes data for 2020 for daily vehicle miles travelled (DVMT) per capita and commercial lobster landings. He noted that commercial lobster landings increased 35 percent from 2019 to 2020. He also reported that DEEP usually provides data regarding annual greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, but no information has been received since the 2017 data was provided last year. Consequently, the Council obtained and analyzed data on GHG emissions from 1) certain large stationary facilities that reported to the Environmental Protection Agency, and 2) gasohol and diesel fuel sales to non-governmental customers, as reported by the Connecticut Department of Revenue Services. He added that GHG emissions from large stationary facilities increased 20 percent from 2017 to 2018, and the gasoline consumption trend increased by 1.8 percent from 2009 to 2019. Dunbar and Ainsworth commented that some of the data for 2020 might be influenced by the response to the COVID 19 virus and that some notation in the text regarding the potential impact of COVID 19 might be warranted.
8. State Agency Actions
- Stakeholder Engagement on Bottle Bill Implementation - Public Act 21-58
Hearn reported that DEEP has organized a stakeholder process for implementation of certain provisions of Public Act 21-58, the “Bottle Bill” revisions. Hearn added that the Council drafted comments in response to DEEP’s questions, which were distributed to Council members in advance of the meeting. Hearn reviewed the key provisions of Public Act 21-58 that address beverage container redemption and noted that the current stakeholder process focuses on:
- Section 8, which requires DEEP to develop the terms for a memorandum of agreement that provides for the in-state processing of not less than eighty per cent of the wine and liquor beverage containers sold in this State;
- Section 9(a), which authorizes DEEP to approve the formation of a beverage container stewardship organization; and
- Section 9(c), which requires any beverage container stewardship organization approved under Section 9(a) to submit a plan for a state-wide beverage container stewardship program on or before July 1, 2022.
Hearn added that Public Act 21-2 from the June Special Session was an implementer bill that requires DEEP to establish a grant program to support the development of new redemption centers and modernize existing redemption centers. Dunbar and Vidich questioned how the stewardship organization would operate and what would happen if the industry did not participate in the process. Hearn responded that DEEP is soliciting comments to address those questions and that the stewardship organization would likely be a 501C3 not-for-profit organization that would include representation from the beverage container industry and other stakeholders. Hearn reviewed the Council’s specific comments to most of DEEP’s questions. After some discussion, Vidich made a motion to submit the comments regarding the “Bottle Bill” implementation to DEEP; seconded by Charamut. The motion passed.
- Post-Scoping Notice for Coventry Low-Pressure Sewer Extension
Hearn reported that DEEP submitted a Post Scoping Notice for publication in the most recent issue of the Environmental Monitor indicating that:
- DEEP determined this proposed action to be consistent with the State C&D Plan;
- the main objective of the proposed project is to support economic development;
- there are a number of properties in the project area that have substandard septic systems that are also near private drinking water wells;
- the main purpose of this current review and post-scoping notice is to modify or supplement an approved Environmental Impact Evaluation;
- it is anticipated that the existing funding agreement between the State of Connecticut and Bolton Lake Regional Water Pollution Control Authority (BLRWPCA) will be modified to reflect the proposed sewer service area; and
- the area has long been designated in Coventry’s long-range Plans of Conservation and Development and numerous iterations of zoning regulations as an area targeted for commercial development and professional office space.
Charamut questioned whether it is common to amend funding agreements for wastewater infrastructure. Hearn responded that it is uncommon, and he was unaware if it has happened in the past.
b. Connecticut Siting Council (CSC)
- Petition 1460
Hearn noted that the Council submits comments to the CSC for some projects, in part, to better inform project developers regarding appropriate measure to protect the environment. He added that in this case, the Petitioner has designed the proposed project with 100-foot buffers near the wetlands to reduce the impact on the wetlands and vernal pool obligate species. He stated that the Council developed comments for the Siting Council’s consideration, which were distributed in advance of the meeting to Council members, that address: 1) the wetland buffer, 2) minimizing impacts to farmland soils, and 3) protection of wildlife. Vidich made a motion to submit the comments regarding Petition 1460 to the CSC; seconded by Charamut. The motion passed.
- Petition 1461
Aresta reported that staff reviewed a Petition from SBA Communications Corporation for proposed replacement and extension of an existing telecommunications facility located at 130 Welles Road in Groton. No comments are recommended.
- Petition 1462
Aresta reported that staff reviewed a Petition from Distributed Solar Operations, LLC and IKEA Property, Inc. for a 0.90-megawatt AC solar photovoltaic electric generating facility to be located in the parking area for IKEA in New Haven. No comments are recommended.
c. Water Planning Council (WPC) and the Western Connecticut Council of Governments (WestCOG) Reports
Hearn reported that the WestCOG released a report regarding riparian corridor protections: strategies. He added that the report lays out the science behind reducing pollution of inland waters and resultant hypoxia of Long Island Sound. Vidich commented that Public Act 21-29 expands the responsibility of zoning commissions in protecting the water quality of Long Island Sound from 24 coastal municipalities to all 169 municipalities in the State.
Hearn noted that the WPC’s draft recommendation in a report on well water in the State, which was discussed at last month’s meeting, was adopted by the WPC and it includes recommendations regarding testing requirements for new and existing private and semi-public wells. Dunbar questioned whether the water plans are protective of water-dependent wildlife. Charamut responded that the focus of the State Water Plan has been on water availability for drinking and not necessarily on the protection of wildlife. Kalafa added that the WPC is comprised, almost evenly, of representatives of the water supply industry and environmentalists.
9. Other Business
Ainsworth asked if there were any other items for discussion. Hearing none, Ainsworth asked for a motion to adjourn. Dunbar made a motion to adjourn the meeting at 11:49 AM; seconded by Vidich. The motion passed.