Minutes of the November 17, 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, and Kip Kolesinskas.
ALSO IN ATTENDANCE: Peter Hearn (Executive Director), Paul Aresta (Environmental Analyst), and Matthew Pafford (Office of Policy and Management - OPM).
1. Call to Order: Establishment of a Quorum
At 9:31 AM, Ainsworth called the meeting to order. Ainsworth noted that the virtual meeting was being recorded. Ainsworth took attendance and confirmed that there was a quorum of Council members present.
2. Approval of Agenda
Vidich made a motion to approve the agenda; seconded by Charamut. Ainsworth asked if there were any suggested changes to the agenda. Hearn suggested adding 1) adoption of meeting dates for 2022 to the Executive Director’s Report and 2) adding the Department of Administrative Services (DAS) and “renewable energy” to State Agency Actions. Vidich revised his motion to approve the revised agenda as suggested by Hearn; seconded by Charamut. The motion passed.
3. Approval of Minutes of October 27, 2021
Ainsworth asked if there were any suggested changes to the draft meeting minutes of October 27, 2021. Hearing none, he asked for a motion to approve the draft meeting minutes. Vidich made a motion to approve the draft minutes of October 27, 2021; seconded by Kolesinskas. The motion to approve the draft minutes passed.
4. Citizen Comment Period
Ainsworth asked if there were any members of the public who wished to speak. No members of the public wished to speak.
5. Citizen Complaints and Inquiries Received
- Hearn noted that the comment period for the General Permit for Alternative Treatment Systems, which was raised at the previous meeting, had already lapsed.
- Hearn reported that he received a request for clarification regarding the Connecticut Department of Insurance’s (DOI) rules regarding the obligation to fund the clean-up of residential oil spills. He added that he referred the person to the DOI for additional information/clarification.
- Hearn reported that a homeowner contacted the Council requesting information regarding the installation of solar photovoltaic (PV) technology on his house. Hearn added that Aresta provided the homeowner with links to the information requested.
- Hearn reported that he received an inquiry regarding the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s (DEEP) plans to address PFAS contamination around the state. He responded that the state established a working group to develop strategies to address PFAS contamination and that DEEP and the Department of Public Health (DPH) have identified and mapped possible locations of PFAS contamination, undertaken some testing of well water, and provided some filters to address PFAS-contaminated water.
- Hearn reported that he received an inquiry regarding the delay in remediating the English Station site in New Haven. He noted that English Station is the location of a former United Illuminating (UI) power generating plant and that in 2016, DEEP negotiated a Consent Order requiring clean-up to an industrial - commercial standard; however, that would not allow future uses like residences. He added that in the same year, UI sold the property, which was subdivided and then resold. He noted that the English Station site is extremely complex and has not yet been fully characterized. The delays in the remediation are due, in part, to the fact that the new owners of the parcels have refused to agree to a partial soil and PCB remediation plan put together by UI and DEEP, and that they want a more thorough clean-up that would allow for residential use. Hearn indicated that no action is required by the Council since the site will be cleaned to at least an industrial – commercial standard.
6. Executive Director’s Report
- Tentative schedule for Council meetings in 2022
Hearn noted that the tentative schedule for Council meetings in 2022, which was provided to Council members in advance of the meeting, will be on the fourth Wednesday of every month, except for November and December to avoid any conflicts with the holidays. Vidich made a motion to approve the schedule for Council meetings in 2022; seconded by Reiser. The motion passed.
- Council Vacancies
Hearn reported that the Governor’s office sent a letter requesting that the Council identify member vacancies on their website and identify qualified women and minority candidates to fill those vacancies. Hearn added that he contacted the Governor’s office and was provided with information on the process for interested candidates to be appointed to the Council, which includes submitting a completed application and attaching a resume. Hearn noted that he has identified six potential candidates to fill the three vacancies on the Council. Ainsworth stated that if no new members are appointed to the Council, it could make establishing a quorum a problem and if no members are appointed by 2023, the Council would not have enough members to function. Ainsworth encouraged the members to proactively identify potential candidates for the Council and to advocate for the Council to the appropriate appointing authorities. Hearn noted that there are currently two vacancies to be appointed by the Governor and one vacancy to be appointed by the President Pro Tempore.
- Killingly - NTE Energy
Hearn reported that the Independent System Operator for New England (ISO-NE) requested permission from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to cut NTE Energy, a proposed combined cycle natural gas power plant, from future power considerations. He added that NTE Energy was required to achieve certain milestones in order to be in commercial operation by June 1, 2022. Failure to meet the milestones prompted ISO-NE to terminate NTE Energy’s capacity supply obligation (CSO). If accepted by FERC, the ISO-NE would remove NTE Energy’s qualified capacity from near term future plans. Hearn noted that the facility could still be constructed and that NTE Energy could participate in the electricity market in the future.
7. Staff Activities
- Research on Invasive Plants
Hearn reminded the Council that in 2022, it will be twenty years since the Council released its report on invasive species (Great Infestations). Hearn added that Council staff is still awaiting the financial data for the Connecticut Lakes, Rivers & Ponds Preservation Account from DEEP and anticipates releasing an update to the invasive species report early in 2022. Ainsworth asked if the update to the report will focus exclusively on plants. Hearn responded that the update to the report will likely include some insects, such as the emerald ash borer, and invasive plants (both terrestrial and aquatic). Ainsworth noted that there are concerns about Asian jumping worms that can destroy the soil profile. Vidich asked if the update to the report will include content on climate change. Hearn responded that climate change will likely be discussed in the context of how changes in Connecticut’s climate might allow for an expanded range for certain invasive species. Charamut added that although there might be little that state agencies can do to combat some invasive species, they should continue to survey and track the spread of invasive species so action can be taken on new threats and the extent of the invasive species problem in the state can be known.
- Sitecore Training
Hearn reported that Aresta provided training on the use of Sitecore to develop notices for the Environmental Monitor to representatives from the University of Connecticut (UConn) and the Department of Social Services (DSS). He added that it will be the first notice developed by DSS for the Environmental Monitor.
- Conservation Land Inventory
Hearn reported that Aresta was coordinating with the DPH and OPM to acquire data on the acreage of Class I and Class II land, owned by water utilities and some municipalities, that is open space. Vidich inquired if the acreage of Class I and Class II land was available by municipality and requested that he be copied on it, if available. Hearn indicated that it might be possible to determine the acreage by municipality.
- Record of Decision (ROD)
Hearn reported that he commented on the ROD for the Bridgeport Facilities Planning for East Side and West Side Wastewater Treatment Plants to the Office of Policy and Management (OPM). He identified some minor issues of no consequence that did not materially affect the substance of the ROD, such as the copy of the text of the scoping notice in the ROD was slightly different than the scoping notice that was published in the Environmental Monitor.
8. State Agency Actions
- Draft comments for Environmental Impact Evaluation (EIE) for Naugatuck Valley Regional Wastewater Study
Hearn noted that draft comments regarding the EIE for the Naugatuck Valley Regional Wastewater Study was distributed to Council members in advance of the meeting. He added that the Study identified a preferred action that involves 1) upgrading the Ansonia wastewater treatment plant (WWTP), 2) installing new sewage conveyance pipes for the sewage from both the Seymour and Derby WWTPs to the Ansonia WWTP, and 3) installing a new conveyance pipe for the treated wastewater from the Ansonia WWTP to the existing discharge point near the Derby WWTP. The Council’s draft comments focused on two questions: 1) the need to consult with the Natural Diversity Database (NDDB) and 2) whether increasing stormwater flows are incorporated into the design for the upgraded Ansonia WWTP and the conveyance pipes. Charamut suggested that the three towns might not have combined stormwater and sewer infrastructure. Hearn responded that there is also the possibility that stormwater could enter the sewer systems by inflow and infiltration. Kolesinskas questioned whether the facility design for the Ansonia WWTP considered the possible increase in flooding because of climate change. Hearn indicated that the Ansonia WWTP is in an area of reduced flood risk. Hearn added that the draft comments can be revised to recommend that the potential for flooding be considered. It was the consensus of the Council members to submit the revised draft comments for the EIE to DEEP.
- Wetlands Training and Data Reporting
Hearn noted that the comprehensive training program for inland wetland agency officials is still not available as an online course. He added that Aresta contacted the DEEP Wetlands Program to inquire about the status and timing for the training materials. DEEP responded that the education and training materials are in final review and will be provided to UConn’s Center for Land Use Education and Research (CLEAR) to be hosted online, which might take an additional two weeks. Hearn also reported that, though staff had provided DEEP’s Wetland Program with three mechanisms to facilitate the electronic reporting of actions undertaken by municipal wetland agencies/commissions, no action by the Wetlands Program on that matter is expected until after the online training is operational.
- Release-Based Remediation Workgroup
Hearn reported that the Release-Based Remediation Workgroup is moving to the second phase process that will establish topical subcommittees focused on the following:
- Modification of clean-up standards for lower-risk tiers,
- LEP-implemented, risk-based alternative clean-up standards, and
- Clean-up completion documentation, verifications, and audit frequency and time frames.
Hearn added that both he and Ainsworth have been participating in the Release-Based Remediation Workgroup and he anticipates that the Council will be invited to participate in one or more of the three topical subcommittees.
- Integrated Resources Plan (IRP)
Hearn noted that DEEP regularly updates the state’s IRP, and the 2020 IRP, which was recently released in October 2021, identified the following key objectives:
- Decarbonize the electricity sector.
- Secure the benefits of competition & minimize ratepayer risk.
- Ensure energy affordability and equity for all ratepayers.
- Optimize siting of generation resources.
- Upgrade the grid to support and integrate variable and distributed energy resources.
- Balance decarbonization and other public policy goals.
He added that in order to achieve the objective of decarbonizing the electricity sector, the Millstone power plant would need to continue to operate past 2029. He also stated that DEEP will rely on the outcome of its stakeholder engagement process to improve and refine solar siting and permitting practices with respect to grid-scale procurements and develop siting practices tailored to ground-mounted solar projects. In addition, DEEP suggested in the IRP that there should be a shift for the alternative compliance payment (ACP) for Class II resources
to subsidize the state’s solid waste reduction programs.
b. Connecticut Siting Council (CSC)
- Petition 1467
Aresta reported that staff reviewed a proposal for a 125-foot telecommunications facility proposed to be constructed in Stratford. Aresta added that the proposed site is adjacent to Interstate 95 south and the railroad tracks in a previously develop area. No comments are recommended.
- Petition 1469
Aresta reported that staff reviewed a proposal for a 1.99-megawatt solar photovoltaic electric generating facility located in North Canaan. He added that the proposed site has and/or is near forested wetlands and a vernal pool in the northeast portion of the proposed site and that an aquifer protection area is in the western portion of the proposed site. He noted that the Council’s draft comments, which were provided to Council members in advance of the meeting, included recommendations to minimize potential impacts to: the wetlands and the vernal pool, wildlife, and groundwater. Vidich suggested adding a sentence to the draft comments recommending that the Petitioner adhere to requirements of the North Canaan Aquifer Protection Ordinance. Vidich made a motion to provide the revised draft comments to the CSC; seconded by Kolesinskas. The motion passed.
- Petition 1470
Aresta reported that staff reviewed a proposal for a 125-foot temporary telecommunications facility at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield. He added that a telecommunication tower was approved on the University property in CSC Docket 495; however, the approved tower is proposed to be moved from the northern part of the University property to the southern part of the University property and the temporary tower is needed until the administrative process and construction is completed, which might take twelve to eighteen months. No comments are recommended.
c. Department of Administrative Services (DAS)
Hearn reported that DAS submitted its first Scoping Notices to the Environmental Monitor for renewable energy projects in the state, including: 1) a Notice of Scoping for Kensington State Fish Hatchery Solar Project in Berlin, and 2) a Notice of Scoping for Department of Correction Solar Projects in Cheshire.
9. Other Business
Council Member News
Hearn noted that Vidich has mentioned the importance of riparian corridors at a couple of Council meetings. He added that Vidich will be presenting the findings from a recently released report titled “The Case for Riparian Corridor Protections: Zoning Strategies to Reduce Pollution of Inland Waters and Resultant Hypoxia of Long Island Sound”.
Charamut noted that the Town of Bolton voted to retain both a planning and zoning commission and a wetlands commission rather than combine the two commissions. She added that the group, Desegregate Connecticut, is advocating for municipalities to merge land use commissions because they believe that it is difficult to find qualified volunteers for the commissions, especially in small towns and rural areas. Kolesinskas suggested that Desegregate Connecticut might be calling for the combining of municipal land use commissions to establish standard guidelines for land use decisions. Ainsworth commented that the CSC has jurisdiction for certain projects of statewide importance that supersedes municipal regulation. Vidich noted that the Council’s wetland report, “Swamped”, examined the impact of combined land use commissions versus independent wetland commissions. Charamut noted that evaluating the impacts of combined land use commissions versus independent wetland commissions would be difficult since the reported data of wetland agency actions is incomplete, and the training has been temporarily suspended.
Ainsworth asked if there were any other items for discussion by Council members or the public. Hearing none, Ainsworth asked for a motion to adjourn. Vidich made a motion to adjourn the meeting at 10:54 AM; seconded by Charamut. The motion passed.
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