Minutes of the June 25, 2008 meeting of the Council on Environmental Quality, held in the Old Appropriations Room in the State Capitol, Hartford.

PRESENT:  Thomas Harrison (Chairman), Howard Beach, Richard Sherman, Norman VanCor, Barbara Wagner, Wes Winterbottom, Karl Wagener (Executive Director), Peter Hearn (Environmental Analyst), Brittney Holmgren (Intern)

Chairman Harrison convened the meeting at 9:09 AM and determined that a quorum was present. 

Winterbottom made a motion to approve the May 23, 2008 minutes.  The motion was seconded by Wagner and approved unanimously. 

Chairman’s Report

Chairman Harrison reported that the meeting would adjourn early due to the Council’s press conference, scheduled for 10:30 AM to announce the release of the Council’s annual report for 2007. Chairman Harrison reported that the Governor had requested all state agencies to reduce spending and that Wagener would elaborate on that in the Executive Director’s report.

Executive Director’s Report

Wagener reported that the Governor had ordered nearly all state agencies to reduce spending.  The Council was instructed to reduce non-payroll spending by about five percent (about $730).

Wagener reported that he had received the final version of the report on wetlands training that had been done by the Council’s Fall ’07 student intern, Carmel Zahran. It showed that training programs for wetlands commissions were statistically associated with smaller wetlands disruptions.

Wagener reported that the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) was able to complete the hiring of one staff member for the wetlands section before the Governor’s hiring freeze went into effect. However, the position for an invasive species coordinator, which had been authorized, may not be filled due to the freeze. Chairman Harrison asked if vacancies due to an employee leaving would be filled. Wagener said there is an approval mechanism in place that allows for that in some cases.

Wagener reported that summer intern Brittney Holmgren is working on a report on what the state is doing to preserve its scenic resources.

Chairman Harrison complimented the staff on the good job that was done on the 2007 annual report. Wagener commented that this year, like last year, the number of printed copies was greatly reduced to save money. Only 500 copies were produced for distribution heads of state agencies and all legislators.  As had been done last year, 1,400 postcards were printed for persons who would have received copies in the past, urging them to go to the interactive version on the Council’s web site.

Review of State Agency Actions

New Haven Rail Yard – Wagener said he did not expect to recommend comments on the Environmental Impact Evaluation, though he had not yet received a paper copy.

Citizen Complaints

Plainfield Renewal Energy – Wagener said a decision by the Siting Council to re-open the hearing on this project would turn on the narrow issue of whether there is a change of conditions at the site.  He proposed amending the May draft letter to the Siting Council to suggest an examination of the adequacy of public notice for the Canterbury portion of the project.  Mr. Noiseux of Canterbury asked to speak from the audience; Chairman Harrison gave permission, and Mr. Noiseux spoke briefly about the case

Wagener said an important issue is whether the Siting Council has adequate procedures in place to deal with similar and future questions like these; this was the first facility of its kind to go through the petition and declaratory ruling process.  Chairman Harrison recognized Scott Guilmartin, Vice President of Plainfield Renewable Energy LLC, who spoke briefly, saying that in his view the Town of Canterbury received the required notice and the Siting Council visited the final site.  Harrison said he thought a recommendation to the Siting Council to re-examine the circumstances of public notice is the best course.

Wagener added that, following up on questions raised in May, he had received a copy of correspondence from the DEP to the Rivers Alliance containing the opinion that the property in question did not fall under the state’s property transfer act because the site of the plant had been sliced off of the landfill portion and had never itself been an establishment as defined by the act.  Beach made a motion to approve the draft of the letter calling for a reexamination.  VanCor seconded.  All voted in favor.

Kleen Energy – Wagener provided the Council with an update on status of the Kleen Energy Plant construction site in Middletown. The DEP, the Siting Council and the town’s zoning enforcement officer all visited the site.  The DEP had issued a Notice of Violation in May, and Kleen Energy responded with a very thick document showing how they had complied with the permit requirements and making the point that they had put the Siting Council on notice about the special problems that were anticipated at this site.

Wagener pointed out that this raises two questions.  First, should the DEP have required an individual permit for this site?  Second, if the developer was in compliance with the 10-year storm requirements in the permit, is planning for a 10-year storm adequate protection? Beach said that the town could impose more stringent conditions.  VanCor said that towns may also stipulate more stringent conditions in a permit.  Hearn said that the town found the site to be in compliance with the conditions of its permit.  Wagener said that the state’s general permit does not provide for stipulations and that he has been getting other complaints about the general permit process.  Members agreed with Wagener that the Council might want to review the draft general permit during the anticipated renewal process later this year.

Other Business

VanCor suggested holding a public forum in the fall or winter.  The consensus was that it should be in the eastern part of the state. Wagener said he will propose some possible locations at a future meeting.

The meeting adjourned at 10:02 so the room could be set up for the 10:30 news conference.