Minutes of the February 27, 2008 meeting of the Council on Environmental Quality, held in the Holcombe Room, 79 Elm St., Hartford.


PRESENT:   Thomas Harrison (Chairman), Howard Beach, Bruce Fernandez, John Mandyck, Earl W. Phillips, Jr., Richard Sherman, Norman VanCor, Barbara Wagner, Wesley Winterbottom, Karl Wagener (Executive Director), Peter Hearn (Environmental Analyst).


GUEST: Carmel Zahran, Student at Trinity College and CEQ intern from 2007.


Chairman Harrison called the meeting to order at 9:06 AM, noting the presence of a quorum.    Chairman Harrison asked for comments and revisions to the minutes of the January 23, 2008 meeting.  There were none. Mandyck moved to accept the minutes. Beach seconded.  The minutes were accepted with no changes.  Winterbottom abstained by reason of having been absent at the January meeting. Phillips was absent for the vote, having not yet arrived.


Chairman’s Report


Chairman Harrison reported that he and Wagener had attended the Appropriations Subcommittee meeting to present and discuss the Council’s budget for this fiscal year.  


Harrison reported on a meeting he attended on the previous night launching the Department of Environmental Protection’s No Child Left Inside program for this year. Eighty to ninety people attended this event at the Governor’s residence to recognize this innovative program that is receiving national acclaim.


Executive Director’s Report


Wagener showed a copy of the Audubon Society’s State of the Bird Report, which he said was an excellent report.  Some Council members had received copies in the mail directly.


Wagener mentioned press coverage of an art installation called “Catch and Release” that involved the mounting of dead birds, painted to look like endangered birds.  A brief discussion followed about the law regarding this piece and the role that the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) played in the controversy.


Legislative Update:  The Parks Stewardship Bill proposed by Governor Rell has been getting much press.  It is a proposal for $15 million to set up a fund for proper stewardship of the parks.  It would require the DEP to create a program for forest and park stewardship.   The bonding amount is consistent with the Council’s analysis, said Wagener. 


Update on Council’s Review of State Inland Wetlands Programs


Wagener and Chairman Harrison introduced Carmel Zahran, a Trinity College student who completed a portion of the Council’s ongoing study of the DEP’s oversight of inland wetlands regulation.


Ms. Zahran explained that her research involved a statistical analysis of randomly selected towns.  The purpose was to determine if there was a difference in performance of towns that had members who had completed the training provided by the DEP and towns that had no trained members. The conclusion was that there was a difference in performance.  Trained towns allowed less disturbance of wetlands.  The strength of the trained vs. untrained correlation was a “p” value of .01 which is a very strong correlation.  


The data showed only a weak correlation between “training” and with activities permitted in upland review areas.  Ms. Zahran speculated that this might be due to ambiguity in the form that could have led to reporting inaccuracies.   The strongest variable may be the scale of the project; however the size of the total project is absent from the wetlands reporting form that simply asks for acres disturbed.


Fernandez said that Farmington had just recently instituted its upland review process and he suspected many other towns might be in a similar situation.  Beach and Fernandez said that courts have limited upland regulation to activities that will negatively impact specific aspects of the wetland and this has had an intimidating effect on commission members.


Chairman Harrison asked if there were other changes on the reporting forms that she would recommend.  Ms. Zahran said an indication of the presence of trained commission members should be on the form.


The Council directed the staff to share this information with the DEP.  Sherman said given the fiscal constraints on the DEP, the use of students to perform such beneficial research is a wonderful model to follow. Chairman Harrison thanked Ms. Zahran for her efforts.  She said she would like to continue aspects of wetlands research and he invited her to continue her participation.


Citizen Complaints


Staff discussed two recent complaints.  Susan Masino, who spoke at a previous Council meeting, had been investigating the state of recycling at schools and public facilities in her area, with little success.  Wagner mentioned how common it was to find resistance to recycling at schools and restaurants.  A discussion followed about the success of Bristol’s demonstration single source demonstration project.  Wagener said that although the quality of recyclables in a single-source system may occasionally be inferior, it might be the wave of the future.   Hearn said the DEP recycling efforts for the 2008 would emphasize education with resources available on its website for individuals, and organizations interested in expanding recycling.


The other citizen complaint was a follow up to earlier complaints regarding property owners in Milford who were encroaching on state property.  Although it seemed that the DEP action had slowed, Wagener said he checked with the DEP and was assured that such was not the case.  The DEP is trying to work out a solution with the town for parking alternatives for the area, as cars are part of the problem.  He said that staff would continue to follow this issue.


Review of State Agency Actions


Middlebury Water System Expansion – Wagener reported that the staff had reviewed an Environmental Impact Evaluation for a water supply system expansion in the town of Middlebury.  It was in conformance with the state’s Plan of Conservation and Development and no action was recommended.


Discussion and Possible Final Approval of Council Report on Environmental Funding


Chairman Harrison began this with a discussion of the issue of the Freedom of Information Act and public access to draft documents. His concern was that although the public is entitled to these documents, there are so many drafts in so many hands it created the possibility of confusion on the part of the public and officials.   He said the Council should give consideration to a protocol to address what could be a potential embarrassment.  Sherman suggested draft documents be clearly identified as such.  Several members noted that in an era of electronic transmittal the identifying stamp will need to be on each page.


Distribution of the final document was discussed next.  Many Council members expressed a preference for distribution to the legislature electronically.   Mandyck said a printed copy should be sent to the Governor and an offer be made to meet with her or her staff.


Chairman Harrison said any final, minor suggestions should be to staff by Thursday.  He directed staff to prepare a press release and plan a press conference.   VanCor suggested locations for the press conference.   Mandyck reminded the Council members that he must recuse himself from any discussion or conclusions regarding air conditioning and energy use.  Phillips urged a stronger statement in the executive summary regarding the importance of capital expenditures for preservation of farms and open space.  Unlike operational costs, these capital needs had a time window that was an opportunity which if lost would be lost forever.  Wagner suggested how that could be added to the report.  A short discussion followed on whether the reasons for the various goals should be added to the report.  Winterbottom suggested some changes along these lines.  Harrison said the report had already been approved subject to only these minor changes.


There being no further business, Chairman Harrison asked for a motion to adjourn. A motion was made by Winterbottom, seconded by VanCor, and the meeting was adjourned at 10:53 AM.