Minutes of the September 22, 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, Kip Kolesinskas, and Lee Dunbar.
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 9:30 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 Kalafa. The motion passed.
3. Approval of Minutes of August 25, 2021
Ainsworth asked if there were any suggested changes to the draft minutes of August 25, 2021. Vidich made a motion to approve the draft minutes of August 25, 2021; seconded by Dunbar. The motion passed with Kolesinskas abstaining because he was not present at the previous meeting.
4. Chair’s Report
Ainsworth reported that a Connecticut Siting Council (CSC) member noted that the Council did not submit comments regarding a proposed telecommunications facility and inferred that the lack of such comments indicated that the Council did not have any concern regarding the proposed visual impact. Ainsworth added that the CSC should make its decision based on information in the record and not the absence of information in the record. There was general discussion regarding the Council’s comments to the CSC. Hearn suggested that the Council could develop and send a letter to the CSC staff and CSC members indicating that 1) the Council’s comments are based on a desktop review of the information in applications and petitions that are initially submitted to the CSC; 2) there are many reasons why comments might not be submitted by the Council, so absence of comments about a project does not constitute an endorsement of it or of any of its components; and 3) the Council’s comments are provided to offer additional information or perspective about issues raised in the submissions to the CSC, that can be considered by the CSC and by the parties to the proceedings. Vidich made a motion to send a letter with the content described by Hearn to the CSC for consideration; seconded by Charamut. The motion passed with Ainsworth abstaining.
Ainsworth reported that he has not approached the Governor’s Office regarding the assignment of one or more members of the public to the Council. He indicated that the Council is operating well even with the current member vacancies and that if meeting attendance becomes an issue, he could reach out to the Governor’s Office for a designee. Charamut indicated that it would be better if the Governor’s office was contacted before attendance at Council meetings became a problem. Dunbar suggested that greater diversity on the Council would be of value. Hearn reported that the Governor’s office reached out to him recently to inquire about vacancies on the Council.
Ainsworth noted that the Connecticut General Statutes (CGS) allows for the Council’s meetings to be held remotely. Hearn added that until April 30, 2022, a public agency may hold a public meeting that is accessible to the public by means of electronic equipment or by means of electronic equipment in conjunction with an in-person meeting. He added that the statute does not specify “shall” but rather “may”, and that the Council’s current efforts to include members of the public in the Council’s meetings are appropriate and compliant with the law.
5. 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.
6. Citizen Complaints and Inquiries Received
Hearn stated that he received an inquiry regarding the possible presence of “murder hornets” in the State. He added that he was able to determine from an image that the insect was believed to be a Cicada killer wasp and not a “murder hornet”. Charamut added that it is also referred to as a “sand hornet”.
Hearn reported that a resident near the University of Connecticut (UConn) campus in Storrs notified him that flooding, possibly due to the construction of an agricultural field at the University, has escalated from flooding the yard to flooding the house three times in the last eight months; and that in the past four years, the trees in the adjacent woods have become black and have been falling over. Hearn said that he contacted UConn regarding the complaint and UConn responded that the project manager inspected the farm property and reported that the stormwater control structures were in good shape. The project manager added that where stormwater flows were evident, it appeared that the stormwater was dispersed and slowed by the established plantings and check dams. Hearn said that UConn had claimed previously that there was flooding in that location prior to its creation of the farm field. Ainsworth noted that this is a civil matter and that there may be no recourse for the complainant other than through litigation. Ainsworth added that the complainant might have no recourse if the natural flow of stormwater has not been concentrated/channeled or altered in some way.
Hearn also 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 DEEP received a Petition for a Declaratory Ruling from the complainant alleging that the DOT violated various provisions of wetlands law. On August 6, 2021, DEEP ruled that:
- a declaratory ruling will not provide the relief sought because a declaratory ruling is used to determine the applicability of a State regulation or decision and that the State’s wetlands law stand on its own;
- DOT and OPM must determine if the action requires CEPA review, not DEEP (the DOT’s Environmental Classification Document [ECD] governs.); and
- DEEP inspected the site and found no impacts to regulated areas and will continue to monitor for compliance with General Permit for the Discharge of Stormwater and Dewatering Wastewaters from Construction Activities.
7. Executive Director’s Report – Staff Activities
- Connecticut Environmental Policy Act (CEPA) and Environmental Monitor Notices
Hearn reported that the Council is mandated by statute to publish a notice that is submitted on an approved form. He added that recently, DEEP submitted a notice for an Environmental Impact Evaluation (EIE) that it wished to be published in the September 7 edition of the Environmental Monitor. Staff saw that no Post-Scoping Notice had been published previously, which is a requirement of the Regulations of Connecticut State Agencies. Dunbar questioned if there is an opportunity for public comment after a Post-Scoping Notice is published, and if not, why is a such a notice required? Hearn responded that there is no opportunity for public comment for the Post-Scoping Notice, and it serves to inform the public on the status of the proposed action / project and whether an EIE will be developed. Hearn added that DEEP complied with this provision of CEPA and submitted a Post-Scoping Notice for publication in the September 21 edition of the Environmental Monitor.
Hearn also reported that the Connecticut Green Bank (CGB) inquired about the possibility of developing notices for publication in the Environmental Monitor. Hearn stated that he notified the CGB that the notices had to be submitted by a sponsoring State agency, but consistent with the provisions of CGS Section 22a-1b(e), a third party, such as the CGB, could assist the sponsoring agency with the scoping process provided certain conditions are met. Hearn noted that he will be opening up the online submission system to accept submissions from CGB. He added that he was unsure how the collaboration would be structured since CEPA would not allow the CGB to also have a financial interest in the proposed projects that are the subject of the notices. Kalafa noted that he was glad the CGB projects would participate in the CEPA process. Hearn said that it would be up to the Department of Administrative Services (DAS) and the Office of Policy and Management (OPM) to determine CGB’s compliance with CEPA and he would keep the Council informed of developments regarding that question.
- Environmental Updates
Hearn reported that a separate environmental update has been drafted that includes data for daily vehicle miles travelled (DVMT) per capita, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and commercial lobster landings. Aresta noted that DEEP recently released the 2018 data for statewide GHG emissions, which indicated that:
- there was an approximately 2.7 percent increase in statewide GHG emissions from the 2017 levels, using the consumption-based model for electric generation;
- there was an approximately 8 percent increase in statewide GHG emissions from the 2017 levels, using the generation-based model for electric generation; and
- the report documents that the transportation sector and the electric generation sector account for the greatest percentage of GHG emissions in Connecticut.
Aresta added that over the last ten years, the GHG emissions from electricity production using the consumption-based model has generally been higher than the generation-based model, except from 2017 to 2018. Dunbar suggested that the Council report GHG emissions consistent with DEEP’s report and use the consumption-based model results. Vidich said he would be interested in knowing how much electricity generated from fossil fuel generators in Connecticut was being exported to other states. Aresta indicated that Connecticut does purchase renewable energy credits (RECs) from generators outside the state, and he was unsure if the net export of electricity could be attributed to specific fossil fuel generators.
- Research on Invasive Plants
Hearn reported that staff has undertaken some research regarding the progress made controlling invasive plants in the state since the Council’s report in 2002 (Great Infestations). Hearn reported that staff:
- developed an inventory of legislation introduced but not adopted in last five years;
- developed an inventory of the State’s statutes regarding invasive plants, running bamboo, and funding;
- reviewed activities of Invasive Plant Council (IPC) and Connecticut Invasive Plant Working Group (IPWG);
- reviewed legislative and IPC actions regarding Council’s recommendations in “Great Infestations”; and
- conducted literature search for invasive plants in Connecticut.
Hearn added that Council staff is awaiting the financial data of the Connecticut Lakes, Rivers & Ponds Preservation Account from DEEP and will be interviewing concerned/knowledgeable individuals/entities about invasive plants in the state with the goal of developing a status update report.
Hearn displayed a map that depicted the presence of invasive aquatic plants in Connecticut, which was surveyed by the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station (CAES). Charamut noted that the CAES primarily surveyed lakes and ponds in the state, and there is a significant gap in the coordination of activities to reduce or eliminate invasive species. Kolesinskas questioned the scope of the Council’s update report and noted that a significant amount of financial resources from various sources, including State and Federal agencies, has been spent to control invasive species. Hearn responded that the scope of the update report on invasive species will likely focus on actions undertaken to identify and control invasive plants in the state.
- Wetlands Data
Hearn discussed the history of the wetland data indicator in past issues of the Annual Report and noted that the inclusion of this indicator was discontinued because the data was several years old and was incomplete. He added that analysis of data provided by DEEP in response to a staff request showed that approximately eighty-seven percent of the records did not include data on wetland acres lost or restored as a consequence of approvals by municipal inland wetland agencies. He also noted that the number of municipalities reporting data to DEEP has been declining and the process for transferring the data from the municipal reporting forms to the wetland database is time consuming and could result in data input errors. Vidich suggested that the Council might want to identify municipalities that repeatedly fail to provide wetland data to DEEP. Kolesinskas agreed with identifying non-participating municipalities and added that wetlands provide a valuable function for carbon storage that impacts climate change. Charamut noted the absence of online training for municipal wetland officials. Kalafa asked if there was anything the Council could do to facilitate the provision of online training materials for wetland officials. Ainsworth suggested that the Council could send a letter to DEEP requesting that the training materials be made available online. Hearn indicated that he would confirm if the training materials are currently available, and if not, he would check with DEEP regarding plans to make the training materials available. He added that he would develop a letter for DEEP if needed. Vidich commented that Public Act 21-29 has provisions for the training of planning and zoning (P&Z) officials. He added that P&Z training is different than wetlands training but could serve as a model.
8. State Agency Actions
Release-Based Remediation Workgroup’s Ad Hoc Team for Releases on Residential Properties
Hearn reported that the ad hoc team for releases on residential properties would be meeting this afternoon. He added that the agenda included speakers from the real estate sector, the Department of Insurance and the Department of Housing and that the speakers would address different models or mechanisms that could be adapted to assist homeowners facing large costs resulting from a disastrous spill. These included 1) something analogous to the State’s program to assist residences with crumbling foundations; 2) Connecticut’s C-Pace program; and 3) existing or enhanced homeowners insurance policies.
b. Connecticut Siting Council (CSC)
Aresta reported that staff reviewed the proposed five megawatt (MW) solar facility in East Windsor and developed comments for the Siting Council’s consideration, which were distributed in advance of the meeting to Council members. He added that the draft comments address: 1) agriculture on the proposed sites, 2) minimizing impacts to farmland soils, and 3) protection of wildlife. Kolesinskas suggested that the comments be revised to 1) request more detail regarding crop production and agricultural co-use on the proposed sites, and 2) highlight the importance of farms and prime farmland soils for food production. He added that the conversion of agricultural land to solar facilities could have adverse impacts on agricultural communities. It was the consensus of the Council members to submit the revised comments to the CSC for Petition 1463.
c. PFAS research by DEEP and the Department of Public Health (DPH)
Hearn reported that DEEP and DPH have begun a program to identify and map likely sources of PFAS using $2 million provided by bonding in 2020. He reviewed the actions undertaken by DEEP and DPH so far to identify potential sources of PFAS chemicals, which include:
- initial mapping for industry types and sites with codes that indicate likely use or storage of PFAS, airports, and fire training facilities;
- initial identification of potential sites that are proximate to sources of drinking water to assess vulnerability; and
- initial testing of some wells in Connecticut for PFAS.
Hearn noted that DEEP has indicated that the mapping / testing is less than one percent complete, and that an initial estimate is that there are over 7,000 sites that are likely sources of PFAS. He added that a typical test for PFAS can cost about $250; however, the cost is expected to go down as more labs acquire the capability to test and there is also a possibility that the DPH will be able to test for PFAS in the near future. Ainsworth noted that the PFAS chemicals are extremely stable and do not “break down” quickly in the environment. Charamut agreed with Ainsworth and noted that there are many chemical compounds that are identified as PFAS chemicals.
9. Other Business
Ainsworth asked if there were any other items for discussion by Council members or the public. Hearing none, Ainsworth asked for a motion to adjourn. Vidich made a motion to adjourn the meeting at 11:35 AM; seconded by Charamut. The motion passed.
 (Passcode: 9qP$tTzA)