Minutes of the May 26, 2021 meeting of the Council on Environmental Quality (Council) held in compliance with Governor Lamont’s Executive Order 7B.
MEMBERS PRESENT: Kip Kolesinskas (Acting Chair), Alicea Charamut, David Kalafa, Charles Vidich, Matt Reiser, 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 9:35 AM, Kolesinskas noted that he would serve as Acting Chair for the meeting because Keith Ainsworth was not present. Kolesinskas called the meeting to order and confirmed that there was a quorum of Council members present. Kolesinskas noted that members of the public would have an opportunity to speak and requested that they identify themselves prior to speaking.
2. Approval of Agenda
Kolesinskas 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 April 28, 2021
Kolesinskas asked if there were any suggested changes to the draft minutes of April 28, 2021. Reiser noted that Grabowski was misspelled one time in the draft minutes. Kolesinskas asked for a motion to approve the draft minutes as corrected. Kalafa made a motion to approve the draft minutes of April 28; seconded by Dunbar. The motion passed.
4. Citizen Comment Period
Kolesinskas asked if there were any members of the public that wished to speak. No members of the public spoke.
Reiser asked if the Council members would be having the monthly meetings at the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s (DEEP) offices after July 1. Hearn indicated that some staff at DEEP will be working on alternating days to minimize the number of people working in the building after July 1. He added that he is unsure if DEEP will allow larger in-person meetings, but he will seek to reserve the meeting room for the Council’s upcoming meetings just in case.
5. Citizen Complaints and Inquiries Received
Hearn stated that he received a few new complaints and inquiries and that he has updates on prior complaints and inquiries:
- Hearn reported that he received a complaint from a person concerned about the conversion of a playground to a parking facility in Kensington and whether that action would be an environmental justice (EJ) issue. Hearn reported that DEEP is not dealing with it as an EJ matter. He added that air monitoring equipment for particulate matter of 2.5 microns of an inch (PM 2.5) has been installed in the vicinity that will monitor air quality to document PM2.5 levels and to track changes in those levels.
- Hearn reported that a resident contacted him regarding the removal of a defective and potentially full liquid propane tank from her property. Hearn suggested that the resident contact the municipality’s Fire Marshall immediately, which she did.
- Hearn noted that he received information from the University of Connecticut regarding the alleged flooding of a property, which is downgradient of State land. Hearn added that the University stated that, although it claims no responsibility for any flooding, it will install check dams and vegetation by the fall of 2021 to minimize any runoff from the property. Hearn added that he will continue to monitor the situation
- Hearn reported that the City of Stanford has been in contact with DEEP’s Waste Engineering and Enforcement Division and will be working to repair the landfill cover at Kosciusko Park. He added that he sent a follow up email asking that the Council be kept informed of the status of the problem.
- Hearn reported on the complaint brought by Mr. Grabowski to the Council at the last meeting regarding proposed development in Canton. He added that the group of concerned residents had requested intervenor status in a municipal zoning commission proceeding. Hearn noted that the request for intervenor status was denied on May 19 by the municipal zoning commission and the proposed development was also turned down without prejudice because it lacked sufficient information for the municipal agency to make a decision.
6. Executive Director’s Report
a. Annual Report
Hearn reported that there were minor corrections made to the Annual Report. He added that Aresta sent emails to everyone that contributed data and information for the Annual Report expressing the Council’s appreciation for their efforts. The Council was asked by the Connecticut Association of Conservation and Wetland Commissions to provide summary information regarding the 2020 Annual Report. Hearn developed an article for its publication on the Annual Report’s key findings with a link to a visual presentation of the Annual Report’s key indicators.
b. Approval of Revised Code of Ethics
Hearn reported that back in 2015, the Council adopted a code of ethics and it was an outgrowth of a suggestion that when a member of the Council had expressed an opinion about an issue prior to it coming before the Council, there was an appearance of a conflict of interest. In response, the Council adopted its own code of ethics that supplements the State’s code of ethics, which primarily addresses a financial interest for an individual or the individual’s family. The proposed revisions to the Council’s code of ethics would change from “if the person’s viewpoint on this matter is so rigid that no amount of information or discussion could alter it” to “does the person have a professional or personal requirement or position on a matter before the Council such that their ability to remain a neutral and balanced evaluator of any issue before the Council has been materially compromised”. Reiser noted that “before the Council” appears twice in the proposed sentence and the second appearance is not needed. Dunbar expressed concern regarding the proposed change and noted that many Council members have specific expertise and experience regarding many subjects that come before the Council. Dunbar added that the proposed changes to the Council’s code of ethics might prohibit Council members from contributing important information and guidance on certain issues. Kalafa agreed with Dunbar and noted that if a Council member was not in conflict with the State’s code of ethics guidelines, they should be allowed to participate in discussions. Hearn noted that the proposed code of ethics would require the Council member to identify a potential conflict of interest, but he/she would still be able to participate in discussion if appropriate. Kolesinskas noted that it’s difficult to have “balance” on all discussions that the Council might have and agreed that as long as Council members are not benefiting financially, they should be allowed to participate. Dunbar made a motion to table this item to obtain additional information; seconded by Charamut. The motion passed.
c. Discussion of Connecticut General Statutes (CGS) 22a-19 and right of citizen intervention – possible action
Hearn reviewed the language for CGS 22a-19. He added that it could be difficult for a local regulatory agency to determine whether an action was reasonably likely to have the effect of unreasonably polluting, impairing or destroying natural resources. Hearn noted that about three years ago, the Council did a paper on the public trust, which was well received, and perhaps a white paper is due about how the public trust relates to CGS 22a-19 and the right of people to intervene. To produce the white paper, he indicated that he would need to research whether the Connecticut Attorney General has issued any advisories and whether there are already determinative judicial decisions on the subject. Charamut supported the idea of developing a white paper on the applicability of CGS 22a-19. Kolesinskas added that some municipalities do not have enough staff or are unfamiliar with the provisions of the law and a white paper would be helpful to them as well as the public. Hearn questioned if it would be appropriate to develop and submit a letter to the Town of Canton highlighting the key components of CGS 22a-19, given the time constraints associated with developing a complete, peer-reviewed white paper. Dunbar made a motion for the Council to develop and submit a letter generally supporting public involvement in the Canton proceeding as it relates to environmental issues; seconded by Charamut. The motion passed.
d. Staff Activities
- Hearn reported that the draft comments regarding the Spill Reporting Regulations were submitted to DEEP on May 10, 2021.
- Hearn reported that he sent an email to Commissioner Dykes requesting information about the stakeholder process for solar projects that was proposed in the draft Integrated Resources Plan. He added that Commissioner Dykes indicated that a process will be established and that the Council would be welcome to participate. Hearn noted that he would inform the Council once he receives additional details.
- Hearn indicated that the Council tracks the amount of land in Connecticut held for conservation in the Annual Report. He added that Aresta has been updating the inventory of land trust land that was completed in 2015, by reviewing land records, and collecting information done by Amy Patterson’ Connecticut Land Conservation Council, DEEP’s Protected Open Space Mapping (POSM) project, and available data on water company and municipal lands. He noted that it will be difficult to collect the information regarding conservation land held by the municipalities and some other entities because while the land might be undeveloped it might not be in “conserved” status.
- Hearn reported that the Council had commented on the proposed transfer of a water company’s property, which contained an older oil storage tank. Based on the Council’s comments, the water company replaced the oil tank and associated equipment at the house prior to the sale. He added that the Council recently reviewed another proposal to transfer a water company’s property in Hamden, which included conditions that would prohibit oil storage on site and limit impervious surfaces in order to protect the environment.
- Hearn reported that there will be additional staff at the Department of Public Health (DPH) receiving training and assistance from the Council for the development of notices for the Environmental Monitor.
7. State Agency & Legislative Actions
- DEEP retirement cliff illustrated
Hearn reported that a high number of staff at DEEP are expected to retire in the near term. He added that there was a study done to evaluate workforce efficiency and organizational design to generate recommendations about how to best mitigate the risk to service continuity brought about by the anticipated retirements. The report noted that there is a high amount of turnover for younger employees at DEEP who leave for private sector opportunities and better compensation. He also noted that the environmental quality branch is facing the highest amount of potential retirements, which could affect services and impact the environment and the public.
- Release-Based Remediation Working Groups – update
Hearn reported that the Release-Based Remediation working groups and subgroups have been meeting in May and that the working groups have or will be providing information to DEEP. There is a concern among some of the participants that the release-based remediation regulations will be developed by DEEP once they receive the working groups’ reports and there might not be additional opportunity for providing feedback before it is released as a draft to the public. Hearn added that the subgroup that he has been participating on has been addressing the administrative details associated with the different Tiers for addressing remediation.
- Advisory Committee to help improve permit assistance
Hearn reported that DEEP is seeking volunteers for an advisory committee, which is being formed by DEEP, to provide input on the how to improve DEEP’s permit concierge service. Charamut questioned what types of projects would receive the concierge service. Hearn indicated that the permit concierge service would be for larger projects that require many permits from DEEP. Dunbar added that the younger employees at DEEP, who are leaving state service, may be doing so because of the focus on helping projects receive permits rather than focusing on protecting the environment. Hearn added that licensed environmental professionals (LEPs) are given more responsibility for remediation and monitoring of environmental issues due to limited resources at DEEP.
b. Connecticut Siting Council (CSC)
- Docket 500
Aresta reported that staff reviewed an application for a new 94-foot telecommunications facility to be located at 1061-1063 Boston Post Road in Milford. He noted that the proposed tower would support the telecommunications equipment that are installed on top of a former Howard Johnson hotel nearby, which is being removed. No comments are recommended.
- Docket 501
Aresta reported that staff reviewed an application for a new 115-foot telecommunications facility to be located at 106 Sharon Road in Salisbury. He noted that the site for the proposed tower is on the property of the Wake Robin Inn, which is eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. He added that the proposed tower would be very visible from the western portion of a nearby lake. He stated that the Council developed comments for the Connecticut Siting Council’s (CSC) consideration, which were distributed to Council members and posted on the website, recommending that the tower be constructed no taller than necessary and that the applicant should consider methods to minimize the potential visual impact.
- Petition 1453
Aresta reported that this Petition was for the proposed modifications to the existing Killingly Substation located at 216 Park Road in Killingly. He noted that the proposed work involved the expansion of the substation, which is in a Natural Diversity Database (NDDB) buffer area; however, the Petitioner failed to consult with DEEP. He stated that the Council developed comments for the CSC’s consideration, which were distributed to Council members and posted on the website, recommending that the Petitioner consult with DEEP’s NDDB to ensure that all protective measures are addressed.
- Docket 502
Aresta reported that staff reviewed an application for a new 100-foot telecommunications tower to be located at 118 Newton Road in Woodbridge. No comments are recommended.
- Docket 503
Aresta reported that staff reviewed an application for a new 104-foot telecommunications facility to be located at 43 Osgood Avenue in New Britain. No comments are recommended.
It was the consensus of the Council members to submit the comments to the CSC.
c. University of Connecticut: historic buildings
Hearn reported that the University proposed to remove buildings at the former Spring Manor Farm and recently made a determination that the project does not require the preparation of an Environmental Impact Evaluation (EIE) and that the University has coordinated with the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) to address their recommendations. He added that the recommendations for mitigation included:
- the preparation of a short booklet on Spring Manor Farm’s history and up to 100 printed copies will be available at no cost to the general public;
- salvage up to three (3) pallets of hand-formed concrete block; and
- raise awareness on epilepsy by including asters and other purple wildflower species.
Kolesinskas noted that the buildings fell into disrepair and there may be environmental issues associated with the buildings, such as lead paint and asbestos.
d. Department of Administrative Services: State Police Firing Ranges cancelled
Hearn reported that the projects/actions to locate a new state police firing range, which was an issue brought before the Council a few years ago, has been cancelled. He added that the Department of Administrative Services (DAS) recently published two notices in the Environmental Monitor using the project cancellation notice template. These notices were the first to be used to provide notice of a cancelled project/action for reasons other than the environmental review required by the Connecticut Environmental Policy Act (CEPA), as requested by OPM.
e. Legislation: Updates
Hearn reported on some bills that the Council has been following. He reported that the revised “bottle bill” has not passed both houses of the State legislature. He added that Senate Bill 701 (An Act Concerning the Bolton Lakes Regional Water Pollution Control Authority) passed both houses of the State legislature and has been sent to the Governor for signing. Kolesinskas highlighted the need for land use planning and noted that the proposed expansion of the sewer project will increase development in Coventry while reducing agricultural use in the area. Charamut noted that certain State agencies failed to resolve this issue. She added that DEEP might still issue an EIE for the proposed project. Dunbar questioned whether the Council would be able to review and comment on the EIE if it were published. Hearn noted that the issue of the Coventry sewer project could have been resolved through an EIE and/or if the Town of Coventry had made changes to their zoning/land use plans for that area of Coventry. Kalafa noted that there were likely discussions between DEEP, OPM and the Governor’s office regarding the proposed project and pending legislation. Hearn suggested submitting a letter to the Governor highlighting the Council’s concerns. Kalafa made a motion to draft and submit a letter to the Governor’s office highlighting the need for consistency with land use plans and the environmental review of sewer projects; seconded by Charamut. The motion passed.
Charamut noted that there were changes to the Senate Bill 961 (An Act Concerning Certain Sewage Disposal Systems and Alternative Sewage Treatment Systems), which transfers regulatory authority over small community sewerage systems with daily capacities of up to 10,000 gallons from DEEP to the DPH. She added that, if adopted, two staff people and some funding would also be transferred from DEEP to DPH. Hearn noted that the Council’s previous report on alternative treatment systems indicated that DEEP did not have the resources to adequately regulate alternative treatment systems.
Hearn noted that the sale of Plum Island has been cancelled and that a group is raising funds to conserve and manage the island. He added that the Island is only partially developed and could provide important habitat if protected. Hearn also reported that the Biden Administration made an announcement on Earth Day committing the US to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50-52 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. This commitment is in addition to the Biden Administration’s pledges to be net zero emissions by 2050 and have a carbon-free power sector by 2035. In addition, Connecticut’s is committed to a 45 percent reduction in emissions by 2030 and 80 percent reduction by 2050.
8. Other Business
Kolesinskas asked if there was any other business. Charamut noted that an approximately 86-acre site near Candlewood Lake, which was formerly a Girl Scout camp, has been sold. She added that this is a concern because Candlewood Lake is subject to blue-green algae blooms, which is usually caused by increased runoff of phosphates and nitrogen, and that increased development near the Lake might increase water quality issues in the Lake. Kolesinskas added that there are other non-profit and for-profit properties, such as Boy Scout and Girl Scout camps and golf courses, that may be available for sale and that conservation groups should take a more proactive role in identifying these properties and securing them for conservation.
Kolesinskas asked for a motion to adjourn. Dunbar made a motion to adjourn the meeting at 11:32 AM; seconded by Charamut. The motion passed.
Pursuant to Executive Order 7B, a recording and transcript1 of this meeting is available by email request of the Council (mail to; firstname.lastname@example.org).
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