Minutes of the March 9, 2009 meeting of the Council on Environmental Quality, held in the Holcombe Conference Room, 5th Floor, 79 Elm St., Hartford.  (This meeting was originally scheduled for February 25, 2009 but was postponed.)

PRESENT: Barbara Wagner (Chair), John Mandyck, Richard Sherman, Ryan Suerth, Karl Wagener (Executive Director).

The meeting was convened at 9:10 AM.

Chairman’s Report

Chair Wagner began the meeting by noting that Howard Beach and Wesley Winterbottom had phoned to say that they were ill and could not attend the meeting.  Also, Speaker of the House Christopher Donovan had appointed Janet Brooks of Middletown to replace Norman VanCor on the Council on the previous Thursday, and new member Brooks had a previously scheduled conflict and could not attend this meeting.  Wagner said that VanCor’s experience and commitment would be missed; members agreed. Because of the absences, Wagener said the approval of the minutes would be postponed until the March 25 meeting.

Executive Director’s Report

Wagener said he had received additional copies of the Connecticut Audubon Society’s State of the Birds report and distributed copies to members who had not received a copy in the mail.

Wagener summarized the information in the budget update he had distributed to members the previous week.

Annual Report:  Discussion of Format and Content

Following discussion of restrictions on state spending, members decided to publish the full report on the web only.  The Council would print limited numbers of a one-page summary for distribution to Governor Rell and the General Assembly.  Wagener said that staff had found a stack of post cards from 2006; members agreed that one stroke of a black marker made them useful for the current year.  Members suggested that this web-only approach be regarded as a trial, and that feedback be solicited more prominently on the website.

Members suggested that there be publicity in advance of the report’s release, which was planned to be on or near Earth Day.  There was also discussion of the potential for greater use of email for distribution, especially if nongovernmental organizations wanted to share distribution lists.

Members discussed some of the trend data that had been distributed in advance of the meeting.  Wagener presented the reasons for switching to UConn’s satellite imagery-based data for farmland to replace the USDA’s Census of Agriculture.  Members agreed that the satellite data, provided by the UConn Center for Land Use Education and Research (CLEAR), were preferable.  There was also discussion of possible ways to convey levels of confidence in the data, as suggested by Sherman. Wagner said she would like to see the report discuss, where possible, the positive impacts on the economy of the environmental improvements.  Wagener noted the downturn in marker share for Energy Star appliances; Mandyck said that states could receive federal stimulus dollars to promote Energy Star sales.   Members agreed that the Council should check on that.

Review of State Agency Actions

a. Campus Plan Update, Southern Connecticut State University – Wagener referred to the staff comments on the Environmental Impact Evaluation (EIE) that were distributed in advance of the meeting, and agreed they should be sent after strengthening the wording about state policy discouraging development in the floodplain.

b. Various Siting Council dockets – After discussion, members agreed that even though recent events have prohibited much progress on the scenic resource issue, it would be a good idea to communicate to the Siting Council about the need to state on the record the scenic impacts and policies explicitly.  Council staff would communicate this each time it receives and reviews an application with potential scenic impacts.

Also, Wagener reported that the office had just received a copy of an application to the Siting Council for a telecommunications tower in Warren where one of the two candidate sites would be on land to which the state had purchased the development rights.  While the application addressed the regulatory issues associated with this proposal, there remained in his analysis the question of the state’s role in enforcing the conservation easement.  Members agreed that Wagener should communicate with other agencies and seek an informal opinion from the Attorney General’s office as to whether or not the state could allow such a use irrespective of Siting Council statutes.

c. Other:  New Hartford Water Pollution Control Facility Upgrade – Wagener said that a response from the DEP, dated February 26, 2009, had been received late last week, after the agenda was sent out. The letter was in response to the Council’s comments on the EIE for this project.  Members agreed that the Council should reply to 1) thank the DEP for the clarification that the sewers will be limited to the west side of Route 44 and that some of that area includes vacant or underutilized buildings that would benefit from sewer expansion, and 2) express the Council’s disagreement that the classification of the area as a “Growth Area” necessarily allows for any type of development.  After reviewing relevant sections of the Conservation and Development Policies Plan, members agreed that the Plan’s text required each agency to consider the Plan’s Growth Management Principles, not just the classification that is determined by the Office of Policy and Management.

Chair Wagner adjourned the meeting at 10:44, and noted that the Council would return to its regular meeting schedule on March 25.