Minutes of the September 22, 2010 meeting of the Council on Environmental Quality held in the Holcombe Conference Room at 79 Elm Street, Hartford.

PRESENT: Barbara Wagner (Chair), Howard Beach, Janet Brooks, Liz Clark, Bruce Fernandez, Karyl Lee Hall, John Mandyck, Richard Sherman, Norman VanCor, Karl Wagener (Executive Director), Peter Hearn (Environmental Analyst).

Chair Wagner convened the meeting at 9:07 AM, noting the presence of a quorum.

Chair Wagner asked if there were revisions to the minutes of the August 25, 2010 meeting. There was none. Hall moved to approve the minutes; second by Beach. Approved unanimously, with VanCor abstaining because of his absence from that meeting. Brooks and Fernandez arrived after the vote.

Chair's Report

Chair Wagner introduced the newest member to the Council, Liz Clark who spoke briefly of her belief that the Council’s work was important.

Executive Director's Report

Wagener discussed the wetlands training subcommittee’s plans for the round table on wetlands training legislation scheduled for October 1st. He said he has received commitments from the Council on Soil and Water Conservation, The Connecticut Association of Conservation and Inland Wetland Commissions (CACIWC), the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), the Connecticut Homebuilders Association, the Connecticut Farm Bureau, the Connecticut Association of Wetlands Scientists, Rivers Alliance, and the Attorney General’s Office. He announced that a new DEP-produced DVD for training wetlands commissioners will debut on Thursday September 23. Chair Wagner said that she would like to appoint Howard Beach as the chair of the Council’s previously-appointed subcommittee on wetlands training issues.

Wagener said he and Hearn met with representative of the Department of Information Technology to plan changes to the Council’s website. He said the new changes will give staff greater control over the appearance and navigation of the site but no substantive changes to content are planned.

Wagner called attention to the letter received from the Commissioner of Environmental Protection Amey Marrella in response to the Council’s letter regarding the Maromas open space lands. Hall said that the response from Commissioner Marrella lacked any timetable for action, which is essential in such communications. She said there should be a request for a timeline for action. VanCor agreed. Wagner asked the Council if that is their consensus. All agreed that a timeline, possibly tied to legislative action, should be requested.

Wagener reported on the response to the Council’s news release regarding the link between the use of inefficient air conditioners and air pollution.

Wagener announced two bits of news about former chairs of the Council. Tom Harrison is teaching an environmental law course at the University of Connecticut, where Wagener will be lecturing the next day. Donal O’Brien will be recipient of the prestigious Audubon Medal.

Wagener answered the question that had been raised at the August 25th meeting regarding the need for lumber graders in Connecticut. Sherman and Wagener discussed the role of lumber graders in construction that uses local lumber.

Wagener said that he and Chair Wagner met with Matt Fritz of the Governor’s office to discuss the groundwater contamination in Tylerville and the letter that the Council had sent to Governor M. Jodi Rell.

Chair Wagner welcomed Linda Roberts, the new Executive Director of the Connecticut Siting Council (CSC). Roberts spoke briefly of her background. She said that she came to the meeting because she read in the minutes that CSC issues were on the agenda. She brought with her Brian Golembiewski, the DEP’s representative to the Siting Council, and Melanie Bachman, the attorney for the Siting Council.

Sherman asked for an explanation of how the DEP’s input is presented to the Siting Council. Golembiewski explained the referral process within the DEP. Hall observed that protection of views from disruption by cell towers is a major public concern, but is not a priority at the DEP. Golembiewski said that the DEP will comment when cell towers affect the scenic views from the Long Island Sound, as part of its coastal zone management program through the Office of Long Island Sound Programs. He said the DEP will also object if cell towers detract from a park experience. Brooks said that if the DEP has authority to restrict unsightly structures in certain coastal parts of the state, she would like to have a future Council session to discuss how controls could be extended to other scenic areas in the state. Hall expressed interest in knowing the criteria that are used along the coast. Members agreed that the special report on scenic resources needs to be advanced.

Citizen Complaints

Wagener recounted citizen complaints that had been received, including one from Norwalk about construction in a park and one about recycling in state parks.

Outdoor Wood Furnaces in Connecticut

Chair Wagner introduced Nancy Alderman, president of Environment and Human Health Inc. (EHHI). Using handouts, photos and charts she explained the technology and its inherent design flaw, which creates more ground-hugging smoke than is produced by indoor wood stoves or fireplaces. She said studies have shown this smoke to be up to 22 times more toxic than the smoke from those other sources. She explained that the 200 foot setback requirement in current state law is inadequate. She said the Department of Public health (DPH) has not supported changing Connecticut law to include smoke as a public health nuisance, claiming it would make enforcement more difficult. Chair Wagner asked Wagener to look into this.

VanCor said the Council should investigate the issue further before recommending new legislation. Brooks said that the Council should review the forthcoming EHHI report.

Review of State Agency Actions

Recommendation to the Connecticut Siting Council – Wagener referred to the draft letter that had been approved by the Council regarding improving notice of potential cell towers to residents whose views will be affected by their presence. He said that upon closer reading of the regulation he concluded that the CSC, not the applicant, would have to notify the homeowners. Therefore he had sent to the Council a new draft recommending notice to residents in the viewshed that will have full-year or partial-year views of the tower. The draft suggested that this be done for all residences within 2,500 feet or such distance as the CSC deems appropriate. The Council asked questions of the Siting Council representatives (see above) regarding how notice is provided now and up to what distances residents are informed. Golembiewski said that the industry claims 98% certainty in its predictions for partial-year and full-year tower views. Fernandez asked why, if nothing precludes the CSC from notifying residents who will be affected adversely by views of a cell tower, do they not do that now? After discussion it was decided that exposure to views of a cell tower are an issue for property-owners, not just residents, and that the draft should be revised to urge notice to owners not residents. Mandyck said that this recommendation should also be advanced in the legislature. He said the distance within which notice is required should not be limited. Brooks made the motion to revise the letter urging the Siting Council to send notice to all property-owners that are projected to have views of a proposed tower.  The motion was seconded by Fernandez. After considerable discussion, the motion was approved unanimously.

Waterbury – Oxford Airport – Wagener briefly reviewed the history of the environmental impact evaluation (EIE) for this project. He said the Department of Transportation (DOT) has released the same EIE that had been released a year ago and then withdrawn. He said there are only two small problems: 1) It refers to the document as a “draft EIE” when in fact there is no provision in the Connecticut Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) for draft EIEs, only EIEs, and 2) It makes the common mistake that animals displaced will move to nearby habitats. In reality, this will not happen except at the expense of other animals in the other habitats. These minor objections were included in his comments on the EIE; by consensus, members agreed to send the comments, with one minor wording clarification.

Bristol Square Depot – Wagener said the EIE for this project appeared to be adequate, and staff proposed no comments.

Draft Environmental Classification Document (ECD) – Wagener said that the Office of Policy and Management (OPM) had released its final revisions to the generic ECD that is used by all agencies except the DOT, DEP, Department of Public Health and the Department of Economic and Community Development. In the final version, OPM is proposing that this generic ECD be used by all agencies unless those other agencies revise their own by April 2011. He said he failed to see how the law supports such a requirement. Wagener said that OPM staff had asked for a response from the Council, and members agreed that the Council position remains unchanged: the CEPA regulations should be amended to create a uniform process for all agencies and require all agencies to amend their ECDs to conform to the regulations.

Indicator of the Month

Wagener described the two energy indictors that were not discussed at the August meeting, “efficiency at work” and “buying cleaner electricity”. Sherman suggested the graph for “efficiency at work” be reworked so that improvement is presented as an ascending trend rather than as a descending trend. Mandyck suggested that information on how people can sign up for “green energy” suppliers should be included in any future press about the “buying cleaner energy” indicator. VanCor asked that staff check on how utilities provide this and other mandated information to customers who do not receive bills because they have automatic deduction.

Wagener said the staff is researching the possibility of a new indicator to track air pollution in relation to energy demand.

Preliminary Discussion of Recommendations for Legislation

Chair Wagner said she would like a discussion of issues for the Council’s legislative agenda to be the first item for the Council’s October 20th meeting.

Other Business

Lisa Wadge asked to update the Council on her concerns about the Phase I study of groundwater contamination in Tylerville. Wadge said that she was concerned that the report is not comprehensive and has erroneous information. She said that the consultant’s review of prior studies omitted some of the previous studies. She had been assured by the DEP that if she provided the DEP with the missing studies, the DEP would take that data into account in future reports. She said that her preference is that it be in the official Phase I report, since a survey of all existing reports was a requirement of the consultant’s contract. She answered “yes” when Hearn asked if inclusion of those reports would lead to a different conclusion than would occur if they were excluded. She said that one of the missing studies disproves the speculation in the Phase I study that the Botelle residence is a source of TCE contamination. Wagener said that the Council might need to see these documents before it could act on this. Chair Wagner suggested authorizing staff to contact the DEP staff to discuss this matter, and that the Council might want to communicate with the DEP based on what is learned.

Chair Wagner asked for a motion to adjourn if there is no further business. VanCor made the motion, seconded by Fernandez; the meeting was adjourned at 11:45 AM.