Minutes of the February 23, 2005 meeting of the Council on Environmental Quality, held in the Ensign Room of 79 Elm Street, Hartford.

PRESENT:  Thomas Harrison (Chairman), Howard Beach, Susan Mendenhall, Richard Sherman, Norman VanCor, Wesley Winterbottom, Karl Wagener (Executive Director)

Chairman Harrison called the meeting to order at 9:05 AM and determined that a quorum was present.  He welcomed the two new members, Richard Sherman and Norman VanCor.

Winterbottom made a motion to approve the minutes of the February 4, 2005 meeting.  Second by Beach.  Approved unanimously, with Mendenhall abstaining because she had not been present.

Chairman’s Report

         Chairman Harrison reported on the CEQ budget recommendation in the Governor’s proposed budget, released on February 9.  He also recounted the recent history of the Council’s budget, and said the Governor’s budget recommendation would fully fund the Executive Director position, and that he hopes to see the second staff position restored eventually.  Chairman said that he and Wagener had testified before the Appropriations Committee last week, and would be meeting with the Conservation and Development Subcommittee on March 1. 

Chairman Harrison asked the members and guests to introduce themselves, and then introduced Lori Brown, Executive Director of the Connecticut League of Conservation Voters.  Ms. Brown presented brief summaries of the most significant environmental legislation in the 2005 session; bill topics included diesels, green buildings, farmland preservation, smart growth, clean cars, bottle bill expansion, pesticides, stream flow, and others.  There was some discussion of details, and the members thanked Ms. Brown for her timely update.

Executive Director’s Report

Wagener said that he occasionally receives requests for the Council to post meeting minutes on its website.  After a brief discussion, members concurred that approved (not draft) minutes should be posted.  

Wagener said he initiated the paperwork to begin design and production of the annual report.

Following up on the actions of the February 4 meeting, Wagener said that 1) he had presented the Council’s testimony on the proposed State Conservation and Development Policies Plan, 2) the letter on the mowing of tidal wetlands had been completed and sent, 3) the letter recommending prompt revision of the Connecticut Environmental Policy Act regulations had been completed and sent, 4) the letter regarding the dock application in Ash Creek was being revised to acknowledge recent correspondence received from the DEP, and 5) the letter on the Norwich State Hospital was being revised and he had received additional information from Dr. Bingham after the February 4 meeting.

Citizen Complaints

            Wagener reported that he had very recently received a complaint from the Chairman of the Clinton Water Pollution Control Commission, which he thought should be brought to the Council’s attention at this meeting.  The complaint concerns the DEP’s approval of a plan, via a water discharge permit renewal, to move Unilever’s discharge from Hayden Creek to the Hammonassett River.  Harrison said he would not participate in the discussion because of the possibility that his firm has a conflict of interest; he would look into this to determine if recusal was necessary.  Wagener distributed the public notice that the DEP had published in the newspaper in 2001, when the public had its only opportunity to request a public hearing.  Members agreed that nothing in the notice suggested that anyone concerned about the Hammonassett River would have had a reason to obtain the entire permit application or request a public hearing.  Members discussed several points relating to the notice, and instructed Wagener to draft a letter to DEP Commissioner McCarthy, for review by members.  The motion to draft a letter was made by Mendenhall, seconded by Sherman; approved unanimously (Harrison abstaining).  Sherman said the letter should say that the DEP’s public notices should not mislead the public, and that perhaps the one in question should have been re-noticed.  Wagener said he did not know what the solution might be in this case, as the permit had been issued, though the pipe was still awaiting DOT approval for placement in the Route 1 right-of-way; delay until the permit renewal came up again in 2007 was a possibility, but he did not think the Council could get into the technical merits of the alternatives.  Members agreed that the main point is that the municipalities and citizens should have a forum in which to present alternatives.

Review of State Agency Projects

Tolland Sewer Construction – Wagener said that the DEP had responded to the Council’s comments on this Environmental Impact Evaluation, and that in his view the EIE did a reasonable job of describing the impacts, which is the requirement of CEPA.  However, he noted that this grant for sewer construction did not address a high-priority water pollution control need, or a high-priority statewide economic development need.  The grant was a state subsidy of sprawl, which would help the town with its tax base.  Wagener said this was his first experience with an EIE prepared for a Small Town Economic Assistance Program (STEAP) grant, and it illustrated a procedural problem.  The grants are approved before the EIE is initiated, yet CEPA states that an EIE is to be completed prior to decisions being made regarding funding a project.  After considerable discussion, and recognizing that details would have to be worked out regarding funding of the EIEs, Sherman made a motion to draft a letter for review by members that would recommend that those STEAP-funded projects that are subject to CEPA should have an EIE completed before the grant is approved.  Second by Beach.  Unanimous.

New Interim Rail Car Service Facility – Wagener said that he had reviewed the EIE for this project, which would be entirely on the grounds of the New Haven Rail Yard, and that he saw no need for comment.  Part of the area was a flood zone, though the floor would be above the 100-year and 500-year floods.

Discussion of Annual Report Topics

Members discussed the specifics of several indicators, and possible minor revisions to the format that would enhance readers’ understanding of the graphs.  Members suggested more explanation at the beginning of the indicators, both of the graphs’ format and the reasons for selecting the specific indicators that appear in the report.   

Other Business

Chairman Harrison asked staff for a list of locations of past public forums, and asked members to consider where the next forums should be. 

Beach made a motion to adjourn.  Second by Mendenhall.  Unanimous.  Chairman Harrison declared the meeting adjourned at 11:20 AM.