Minutes of the January 26, 2011 meeting of the Council on Environmental Quality held in the Russell Conference Room at 79 Elm St., Hartford.

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

Chair Wagner convened the meeting at 9:08 AM, noting the presence of a quorum.

Chair Wagner asked if there were revisions to the minutes of the December 15, 2010 meeting. There was none. Brooks moved to approve the minutes; seconded by Sherman and approved unanimously, with VanCor abstaining for reason of having been absent at that meeting.

Executive Director's Report

Wagener reported that the Council’s legislative recommendations to the governor and the legislature had been delivered. He said that the governor’s policy committee also had delivered its environmental recommendations to the governor.

Wagener said that the governor’s proposed budget was scheduled to be released on February 16. He also reported that he had received requested data on spending, staffing, and revenue of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), and he had updated some of the statistics in the Council’s 2008 special report on environmental spending needs. While he did not anticipate publishing a formal report, he could make the updates available upon request. Members discussed budgetary matters.

Wagener reviewed several bills that related to the Council’s recommendations, which were discussed by members.

Wagener noted that there is a proposed bill that would require an environmental assessment prior to the transfer of surplus land out of state ownership. He said that the system in place since 2002 already has a review mechanism that appears to be working well. A short discussion followed on whether there could be a determination of environmental value without an Environmental Impact Evaluation (EIE). Wagener said the DEP has an evaluation process in place that is under revision, and that the current system also relies on public input to inform the agency of a parcel’s characteristics. Wagener noted that the December 21, 2010 edition of the Environmental Monitor included a notice of the first dedication of state surplus land to open space since the 2002 law went into effect; it resulted from the comments of citizens.

Wagener introduced Jeremy Wilcox, a student at Eastern Connecticut State University and the Council’s intern for the spring semester.

Review of State Agency Actions

Glastonbury Boat Launch Facility – Because Chair Wagner and Executive Director Wagener, both residents of Glastonbury, had recused themselves from this discussion, Sherman asked Hearn to report on developments regarding the issue. Hearn reported that Commissioner Marrella had responded to Sherman’s letter and acknowledged the possibility of a need for an EIE and saying that it had been referred to the Office of Policy and Management (OPM) for an opinion. Hearn said he spoke to a staff at OPM, and that as of last week OPM was still awaiting the complete file on the project. Hearn noted that Fred Riese of the DEP was in the audience and asked if he wished to add anything; Riese said that the DEP had been in conversation with OPM and is expecting a decision in about two more weeks.

Requests from the Connecticut Siting Council (CSC) for comments regarding the proposed siting of communication towers:

Milford - No comments were recommended by staff for the tower proposed for Milford. After some discussion, members concurred.

Hartland – Brooks said that she would recuse herself from this agenda item. After a brief introduction to the application, Wagener introduced David Sherwood, who is the attorney for a resident who, Mr. Sherwood said, purchased a home because of its secluded location in a cul-de-sac adjacent to Tunxis State Forest, very near the proposed tower location. In addition to scenic impacts, Mr. Sherwood described the potential fatalities that could be a consequence of such a tall structure in this migratory flyway. He introduced a wildlife biologist, George Logan, who elaborated on the potential impacts and distributed information showing the area’s importance to birds. Susan Murray, a resident of Hartland speaking from the audience, said the tower would add service to only 1/8 of a mile of a minimally traveled road; she said that there are other locations that would be better choices. Mr. Sherwood said he wished to add an observation of his, and of others, who called the Council’s offices. He said that calls to the Council were always answered promptly. He contrasted this with other agencies that did not return citizens’ calls.

Considerable discussion of the Hartland issue followed. Hall asked if the DEP had submitted comments, given the tower’s proximity to the state forest. Sherwood said that residents have spoken to the DEP and are not expecting negative comments from the agency. Fred Riese of the DEP, who was in the audience, was asked about DEP comments and replied that the increase in number of applications for communications towers has led to a situation where the DEP no longer has adequate staff to review them all. He said that when state lands are affected the DEP will sometimes ask for further investigation before a siting decision is made. Some members expressed surprise to learn that some applications are not reviewed. Chair Wagner recalled that previous presentations by DEP staff left her with the impression that most applications are reviewed. Sherman made a motion to submit comments to the CSC on the Hartland application, stating that it had received compelling information that the proposal could have impacts to important scenic resources and to migratory birds and that those potential impacts need to be examined closely, and to add a note to put the CSC on notice that the DEP is not reviewing all application and that therefore the lack of comments from the DEP on an application does not mean that there are no significant environmental aspects to the proposed siting. Second by Hall. Mr. Riese clarified that notices of all applications are circulated within the agency so personnel that have a concern about a location can bring that concern forward.  The motion was adopted unanimously.

Canaan – Wagener referred the Council to the draft letter that had been distributed prior to the meeting. He pointed to a photo simulation of the proposed tower as it would appear prominently on a hilltop. Fernandez asked why the applicant would not put the communication antennas on the electric transmission towers that already transect the region. Wagener said he would add that question to his draft comments. Hall made a motion to approve the draft with the revision. Fernandez seconded. Approved unanimously.

Others - A letter from Keith Ainsworth, an attorney working for the Town of Branford, had been distributed to members prior to the meeting. Brooks made a motion to add discussion of that letter to the agenda. Second by VanCor. Motion was adopted unanimously, with Hall abstaining. The letter solicited the Council’s response to the idea that the many communication towers proposed along the coast should be presented as a single plan, as the cumulative impact of these towers on the shoreline is greater than each individual siting. Hearn asked if greater use of stealth towers would accomplish the same goals. Wagener recommended conferring with the DEP on both of these suggestions. There was considerable discussion of the need to consider cumulative impact. Members asked staff to report back at the next meeting as to the Siting Council’s statutory authority to consider cumulative impacts, and to confer with the DEP, to which the letter also was addressed, to learn if the DEP intended to respond.

Citizen Complaints

Dumping and storage on state property, Hartford – Wagener referred to the letter from the West End Civic Association that had been distributed previously. He noted that the land in question was above the Park River, and he had received correspondence from staff of the Park River Watershed Revitalization Initiative. Hearn reported that he had attended a field meeting at a location behind the University of Connecticut Law School where neighbors reported filling and dumping. Representatives from the university’s environmental office, the law school, the Department of Public Works, and the DEP attended along with the concerned citizen who raised the complaint. At the meeting it was established that the dumping was illegal, and not the result of any state activity. The law school agreed to remove the illegally deposited material. Law School Assistant Dean Ann Crawford was in the audience and answered questions from the Council; she described measures that would be put in place to discourage further dumping, and said that she did not want to close the area to people walking. Because the state agencies that attended were accepting responsibility and working to improve the situation, the Council decided no further immediate action was needed, but decided to follow the situation, and discussed the benefits of a plan for the area.

Wind power facilities – Sherman said he would recuse himself from this discussion. Wagener said the Council had received communications about proposals for wind generation facilities in Prospect, Colebrook and Canaan, and had been copied on a letter from an organization proposing a moratorium until standards are developed. There was considerable discussion, and the Council asked staff to report back on several items including other states’ regulation of wind turbines and relevant legislation. Members suggested some states they believed would be worth looking at.

Mandyck arrived.

Contamination in Haddam (Tylerville) – Wagener reported that the Sibley Company received an extension from the court to respond to the DEP complaint and met the new deadline. He said that the Phase II Assessment of the Tylerville area had not yet begun; the DEP was working on a draft scope of study.

Discussion of the Indicator of the Month and annual report topics was postponed.

Other Business

Before adjourning, Chair Wagener read a statement acknowledging Wagener’s 25 years of service as executive director and the many contributions he has made.

There being no further business, the meeting adjourned at 11:28 AM.