Minutes of the January 27, 2010 meeting of the Council on Environmental Quality held in the Holcombe Conference Room of 79 Elm St., Hartford, CT.  

PRESENT: Barbara Wagner (Chair), Howard Beach, Janet Brooks, John Mandyck, Earl Phillips, Richard Sherman, Ryan Suerth, Norman VanCor, Karl Wagener (Executive Director), Peter Hearn (Environmental Analyst).

Chair Wagner convened the meeting at 9:03 AM, noting the presence of a quorum.

Chair Wagner asked if there were any clarifications or revisions of the minutes of the meeting of December16, 2009. There being none Wagner asked for a motion to approve. Mandyck so moved, seconded by VanCor with all in favor except for Suerth who abstained since he had not been present at that meeting.

Chair’s Report

Wagner said that she had no items to report and asked if anyone had a need to shift agenda items to accommodate guest speakers or to meet other commitments. Phillips said that he would have to recuse himself from any discussion of agenda items 7B, 8A, and 8B due to the potential of conflicts if his firm represents any parties involved with these agenda items. 

Executive Director’s Report

1. While Wagener was out of the room responding to a message, Hearn reported that the Connecticut Marine Trades Association (CMTA) had expressed concern about the proposed expansion of service along the shoreline east railroad to Commissioner Amey Marrella of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). The CMTA’s concern was that increased bridge openings would have negative economic impacts on recreational and commercial interests that depend upon easy access to the Long Island Sound. Commissioner Marrella responded in a letter that the DEP has not yet received a request for expanded service from the Department of Transportation (DOT) and that a DEP role is premature and urged the CMTA to work with the DOT on a solution acceptable to both.  Wagener returned and said that staff would continue to follow this because it was a major issue raised at the Council’s public forum in New London.

2. Referring to the Executive Director’s Report that had been distributed in advance of the meeting, Wagener reported that staff was contacted by citizens concerned about a proposed outdoor concert venue in Vernon.  It is near the Tankerhoosen River, a high quality stream with rare species in it.  The proposal is before the local P&Z. It has been the policy of the Council not to comment on matters pending before local zoning commissions.

3.  Contaminated Properties.  Staff has met, and continues to meet, with Lisa Wadge of the Citizens for Clean Groundwater to plan a potential joint report on the number of contaminated sites in the state.  Brooks expressed reservations about a joint publication. Wagener said the publication may contain data that we work on jointly, and that the Citizens for Clean ground Water and the CEQ could draw its own summaries out of the data contained within it.

4.  Water Quality Standards.  The DEP is proposing several revisions to the state’s Water Quality Standards.  One of the changes involves oxygen levels in marine waters, so the definition of hypoxia, as used in the CEQ Annual Report, could change.  This could require re-working some indicators for next year’s annual report. No action was recommended, as the Council did not have scientific input on the definition of hypoxia.

5. Ozone Standard.  The U.S. EPA is proposing to tighten the ambient air quality standard for ground-level ozone.  Governor Rell has written to the EPA in support because it should result in better air in Connecticut as upwind states reduce emissions.  This change would require time-consuming revisions to the “Good Air Days” indicator next year.

6.  NO2 Standard.  The U.S. EPA also is proposing revisions to the ambient standard for NO2 by adding an hourly standard.  This will not affect the “Clearing the Air” indicator because it is based on the annual standard, which will remain unchanged.  He said he assumes for the present that it would not affect “Good Air Days,” either, because Connecticut would not violate the proposed hourly standard. Wagener said he will inform the Council on developments with regard to this change.

7.  Intern.  Wagener reported that a Fairfield University student, Brianna Cohoon, has begun work as an intern this semester.  She is already helping with the annual report.

8.  Wagener reminded the Council the question was raised in December as to whether state permits or environmental impact evaluations have a shelf life, making them invalid if construction does not begin within a specific period. He referred the Council to a briefing paper on this that had been mailed to them. Wagener suggested that one appropriate time to raise this question is when the DEP produces the long awaited revisions to the regulations for the Connecticut Environmental Policy Act (CEPA).  Wagener said that many federal agencies require, under NEPA, a review of delayed projects that is limited to the question of whether conditions had changed. Mandyck added that, at a minimum, the public should definitely be notified when long-delayed projects are to commence.

9.  Wagener distributed a brochure for upcoming Roundtable discussions on state forest policy.


Wagner introduced Kevin Case, Northeast Director of the Land Trust Alliance. He described the three goals of the alliance: 1) Increase the pace of conservation through the federal tax code, 2) assure defense of conservation easements through federal and state laws and education, and 3) Providing assistance to small land trusts by promoting appropriate standards and practices with technical expertise and grants.

He mentioned that the Land Trust Alliance was offering an accreditation program that will help to satisfy potential donors and government agencies that appropriate ethical and fiscal policies are in place at a land trust. He also said that the Alliance is exploring the feasibility of an insurance program that would insure land trusts in their legal efforts to protect their lands from encroachment.  Mr. Case referred to the legislation that had been passed in Connecticut to provide stiff civil sanctions for encroachments on public land and on land trust properties. He said that he believed this legislation, which was prompted by the Council’s study “Preserved But Not Protected”, is unique in the nation. He said that the glaring examples of outrageous encroachments and the response of the legislature might be a good topic for the Alliance’s annual conference which is being held in Hartford.

The Hartford conference, called the Land Conservation Rally will be held at the Hartford Convention Center on October 2nd through October 5th. It will consist of seminars, workshops and field trips. The agenda is still open for people wishing to propose presentations.  Members thanked Mr. Case for the very interesting information.

Discussion of Council Recommendations for 2010

The Council began a point by point discussion of a list of possible legislation to remedy Connecticut’s biggest environmental deficiencies that was prepared by staff. 

The question was raised as to whether the Council should recommend that the pace of state land preservation be increased given the limitations of the state’s budget. VanCor and Brooks said that it is the Council’s duty to explain the issue for the legislature and executive branch to decide; not to raise such questions is an abdication of responsibility.  With regard to farmland preservation Mandyck asked that a definition of “on target” be included in the document. Without a definition he said it is confusing to see a large increase in acquisition for a given year followed be a categorization of “not on target”.

The Council members agreed on the importance of a registry of preserved land in the state.  Concern was expressed that there will not be funds in the DEP budget to manage such a registry and that at the town level it would have to be voluntary. Wagner said that due to the economic downturn, many land-use officials in the towns have very little to do and this would be the perfect time to engage them in such a project. Sherman said that voluntary reporting is always problematic and asked if UConn had any programs under which this could be funded and operated.

Wagener reviewed the finding of the legislature’s Program Review and Investigations Committee (PRIC) report on Municipal Solid Waste Management in Connecticut. He said these had not yet been incorporated into a bill. VanCor said he would like the Council to comment on the recommendations before they appear as proposed legislation. Because of the number of points he wished to make about the topic it was suggested by Wagener that a special meeting be scheduled to come up with detailed comments specific to the recommendations of the PRIC report; members agreed, and that the language of the draft could remain unchanged.

Brooks said that she would like to see the recommendations regarding training of wetland commissioners strengthened. She said the training standard is far too low for persons who have such an important responsibility. Beach and Brooks described the present training requirements. A discussion followed on what would be an adequate training standard and how much time a volunteer commission member has to devote to being trained. Sherman reminded the Council that any revisions will be effective only if the DEP has an effective enforcement mechanism and it has not been effective in policing the current regulations with non-compliant towns. The Council agreed on the immediate need for a policy to bring towns into compliance with the existing training requirements, and that the overall training requirement should be discussed in the future.

The Council then discussed the problem that had come up in two citizen complaints in 2009 of unauthorized timber cutting on private property. It was agreed that a call for an increase in civil penalties for this illegal activity, when not a mistake in a commercial forest timber operation, as an expansion of the 2006 law that applies to protected lands, is an appropriate remedy to recommend.

The Council asked staff to have the legislative priorities document ready for release next week.

Citizen Complaints

Oxford Airport Hangar Project – Wagener introduced Herman Schueler, the Economic Development Director of the town of Oxford. Wagener explained that the CEPA statute had not anticipated the sort of public–private partnership with which Mr. Schueler is involved, citing a 2001 CEQ report to that effect. He explained the history behind the Oxford airport expansion and the Council’s involvement. An EIE was produced at the contractor’s expense that was reviewed by Council staff and found to be adequate. Subsequently it was withdrawn from public review and a contract for a new one has been requested of another consultant. The consequence is delay and additional expense. Wagener said he had requested documents from the OPM regarding that decision more than a month ago, but he had not yet received them. Mr. Schueler spoke of the jobs that the project would bring to the region and the added expense to the taxpayers for a study that will duplicate what has already been done. He thanked the Council for their sensitivity to this dilemma. Phillips pointed out that the issue is the desire to have an EIE process that is free from taint of conflict of interest. Members agreed that the cost and delay of the EIE was not consistent with the Council’s contention that CEPA need not be time consuming nor expensive, and that it should not be an impediment to private-sector investment; the Council has been working on various fronts to try to effect efficiency in CEPA.  Sherman said that the north campus project at UConn raised a similar problem and had a two step solution – an EIE for a master plan with follow-up documents for specific projects, a solution that could perhaps be used for airports. Council members agreed that this is a challenge that should be addressed in future revisions of CEPA regulations. Members also asked staff to draft a letter for the Chair’s signature to OPM about the impediments to the execution of this attempted public-private partnership. Mandyck suggested holding the Council’s next public forum in Oxford.

Tylerville Contamination – Wagener reported that the Phase One study for Tylerville has been mostly completed and the results are being received in components as they are produced by the DEP.

Review of State Agency Actions

CT Siting Council solicitations for comments re: telecommunications towers -- Members agreed by consensus to send the draft comments about the towers.  The adequacy of notice to landowners was also discussed. Often the abutting property owners who receive notice are the least impacted by the visual presence of the tower, but the homes with the biggest visual impact do not receive notice. The Council agreed that this concern should be the subject of a separate letter to the Siting Council.

The Council approved the comments that had been proposed by staff for the Torrington site, in the event the application, which had been withdrawn, is resubmitted. Hearn mentioned that there was one more site in East Lyme that had a comment deadline prior to the next Council meeting and the issue was the same as was discussed with the Old Lyme towers – the need for water view simulations. The Council approved staff recommendations for all the sites.

Proposed sale of Seaside Regional Center, Waterford – After discussion, members agreed by consensus to send the letter that had been distributed in advance.  Phillips excused himself after this discussion to attend another appointment.

Draft Stream Flow Standards and Regulations – After considerable discussion, members asked staff to draft potential comments for members’ review that followed the outline distributed in advance, as firm data allowed. Members asked that the comments include the need to consider fiscal impacts on cities and the relation to responsible growth policies.

Indicators of the Month

Lobster.  Originally conceived as an indicator of Sound health, the decline of this cold water animal is hypothesized to be due to the warming of the waters of the Sound. Members asked if there is a better indicator of the health of the life in the Sound. Sherman suggested a selection of animals from the “seafood sampler” indicator for this role. The Council asked staff to explore this approach.

Oxygen in Long Island Sound. This indicator does represent a condition in the Sound that is worsening. Wagener said that low oxygen could be expressed as intensity, duration or as area affected. The Council decided that area affected is the most easily understood measure, but that it was not ideal, and asked staff to consider a substitute indicator of ecological health.

Nitrogen in Long Island Sound. Wagener pointed out that this is not a condition so much as it is a discharge that may bring about other consequences. Members suggested removing this as a stand-alone indicator, and maybe including the discharge trends in the explanation of the other indicator(s).

There being no further business the meeting was adjourned at 11:35AM.