Minutes of the November 15, 2006 meeting of the Council on Environmental Quality, held in the Holcombe Conference Room, 79 Elm Street, Hartford.

PRESENT:  Thomas Harrison (Chairman), John Mandyck, Earl Phillips, Richard Sherman, Norman VanCor, Barbara Wagner, Wesley Winterbottom, Karl Wagener (Executive Director).

Chairman Harrison convened the meeting at 9:03 AM and determined that a quorum was present. 

VanCor made a motion to approve the October 26, 2006 minutes.  Second by Sherman.  Approved unanimously, with Winterbottom abstaining for the reason that he had not been present.

Chairman’s Report

Chairman Harrison asked about the status of the requested position action, and Wagener replied that he was expecting approval soon, as it had been reviewed by the necessary offices.

Harrison asked the members to review the proposed meeting schedule for 2007, and made a motion to adopt it.  Second by Winterbottom.  Approved unanimously.

Executive Director’s Report

Wagener reported on the Connecticut Forest Conservation Forum, of which the Council was a cosponsor, which he attended on the previous day.  He said he gathered some useful information and also spoke with some town planners on questions that were relevant later in the agenda. 

Wagener said that he had been asked by at least one organization to bring up the question of writing to the Attorney General, as several parties have done, to ask him to look into the Norwich Hospital property transfer in light of news reports about the transferee’s involvement in lawsuits in New York.  Members said the Council should act only if the other cases had an environmental component, and otherwise the Council should take no action at this time.

Citizen Complaints

Members reviewed the draft letter to the Commissioner of Transportation that had been distributed in advance, that contained recommendations regarding two topics – road sand and salt, and tree clearing – discussed in October.  After some discussion, the letter was amended to recommend to the Commissioner that the DOT require applicants for tree-clearing encroachment permits to obtain all necessary municipal permits first.  Winterbottom asked if the current policy of using only calcium chloride in drinking water watersheds would continue; Wagener said he would investigate.  Wagner made a motion to send the letter, subject to the change discussed and subject to a satisfactory answer on the calcium chloride question, and further subject to members’ review of the final draft by e-mail.  Second by Winterbottom.  Approved unanimously.

Harrison said he had heard from some Council members that some complaints of minor significance were consuming a disproportionate amount of time.  Members agreed that all complaints were important, but that there should be a more definite procedure for classifying complaints for detailed presentations and speakers.

Review of State Agency Projects

Proposed Infrastructure Improvements and Rentschler Field Development – Wagener reported that he had attended a meeting at the invitation of the Department of Economic and Community Development to review and discuss the grassland mitigation component of the project.  He said it was very useful, and he used the information to redraft the proposed comments on the EIE.  On the question of timing, several members said they did not realize that the EIE covered all future development of the site, and in light of that fact suggested some language to emphasize the importance of successful mitigation and to highlight the connection between this project and the DEP’s grassland habitat initiative.  Sherman suggested that the comments should include a statement that projects should generally include funds for mitigation and not rely on the DEP and its budget to mitigate impacts; members agreed.  Members agreed.  Winterbottom made a motion to send the amended comments, subject to members’ review of the final version by e-mail.  Second by Wagner.  Approved unanimously, with Mandyck having recused himself for the reason that he is employed by the company that owns the property. Phillips was not present when the vote was taken, and recuses himself from all votes on this matter.

Discussion of the proposed West Haven or Orange train station was postponed until December.

Wagener said he had received a copy of an application to the Siting Council for an interesting project in Lebanon that would burn chicken manure and wood to generate steam and electricity, yielding an ash that could be used to condition agricultural soil.  Members agreed that the Council did not need to conduct a thorough review and submit comments, but VanCor suggested, and members concurred, that the Council should consider submitting a general statement that the benefits of this type of project, if technologically sound, could advance several state goals. 

Discussion of Inland Wetland Topics

Members discussed the memo from staff that had been distributed in advance of the meeting.  After considerable discussion, members agreed that the Council lacked solid information on the pros and cons of combined commissions, and decided to postpone action on that question pending further information.  The Council then decided to have staff draft a memo to the governor that focused on the recommendations that related to the DEP budget, highlighting the unmet demands for DEP services and the need for at least four more staff in the inland wetlands office.  The Council also decided to schedule a forum in the future to solicit public input on the non-budgetary issues listed in the current memo.

Harrison adjourned the meeting at 11:35.