A video recording of this meeting and public forum can be viewed on the Connecticut Network (CT-N).

Minutes of the November 16, 2011 meeting and public forum of the Council on Environmental Quality, held in Hearing Room 1-C of the Legislative Office Building in Hartford.

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

Chair Barbara Wagner called the meeting to order at 9:05 AM, noting the presence of a quorum.

Approval of Minutes

Chair Wagner asked if there were any additions or revisions to the minutes of the October 19, 2011 meeting. VanCor made a motion to accept the minutes as presented, which was seconded by Sherman and approved unanimously.

Chair’s Report

Chair Wagner acknowledged the presence of Senator Ed Meyer, Chair of the General Assembly’s Environment Committee and thanked him for all he had done during the 2011 legislative session.

Executive Director’s Report

Wagener said a 5% budget reduction had been submitted to the Office of Policy and Management (OPM), as requested.

The General Assembly’s October special session on jobs produced a voluminous bill with several environmental elements, including a requirement for each agency is to identify redundant regulations, authorization of funding for “LEAN” consultants to assist agencies with streamlining processes, and funding for brownfield programs including funds to clean five state-owned brownfields in preparation for sale. Hall asked if the elimination of redundant regulations would be subject to the same hearing process as the adoption of new regulations. Wagener said he was fairly certain that they would have to go through the same rulemaking process as a new regulation.

Wagener reported that on October 21, 2011 he participated in a forum at the State Capitol sponsored by the Connecticut Business and Industry Association’s Environmental Policies Council, moderated by Deputy Commissioner Macky McCleary of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP). Discussion included a tiered approach to issuing permits and the role of Notices of violations in enforcement. DEEP intends to form working groups to follow up on some of the processes. Sherman asked if there was a suggestion to categorize the seriousness of violations by ranking environmental risk higher than paperwork errors; Wagener said it was discussed but not in detail.

Wagener summarized a November 14, 2011 meeting with environmental leaders and Curt Spalding, EPA Region 1 Administrator in which Mr. Spalding presented a frank analysis of the problems facing the region and the nation with regard to environmental initiatives.

Wagener reminded the Council that the annual conference of the Forest Research Council was coming up and it is co-sponsored by the Council. Brooks said she would be attending.

Wagener said Commissioner Daniel Esty has accepted the Council’s invitation to speak at its December 14 meeting.

Citizen Complaints

Wagener said that the letters to the persons who had inquired about the necessity of an Environmental Impact Evaluation (EIE) for the Glastonbury boat launch facility had been signed by Brooks, as both the Chair and the Executive Director had recused themselves from that case. They will be posted on the Council’s website as had been requested by the Council.

Review of State Agency Projects

Comments regarding the scoping notice for the proposed Villages at Ft. Shantok had been prepared by staff and would be sent to the Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD). The comments ask how a development of this nature, so far from any town or village centers, conforms to the DECD’s own principles of responsible growth as well as the state Conservation and Development Policies Plan.

With regard to the Mattabassett wastewater treatment project that was discussed at the October meeting, he said that he had done more research and would present a draft letter at the December meeting that would include recommendations for including planning consideration earlier in the Clean Water Fund application process. Sherman suggested that applicants should be required to demonstrate consistency with the state Conservation and Development Policies Plan, not just analyze or discuss it.

Brooks raised a concern that the reaction to tree damage during the last storm could be excessive and asked the Council to consider what its role in this will be. Wagener said that foresters from DEEP will make a presentation before the governor’s “two-storm” panel on Friday. He also said that five panels are reviewing the state’s policies. He said that in the past the Council was involved in decisions regarding trimming activities by utilities. Chair Wagner asked that this be followed closely.   Sherman asked if distributed generation is being suggested as a long-term solution. VanCor asked that native species plantings under transmission and distribution lines be added to next month’s agenda.

At 9:28, Fernandez moved to adjourn the meeting and move to the public forum. Second by Sherman. The regular meeting was adjourned, and a one-minute break was taken to prepare for the forum.

Public Forum - Summary of Comments

The following is a brief summary of each speaker’s comments. Some speakers also submitted written comments, which are on file in the Council’s office. There was also broader discussion of many points following questions from Council members. A video of the entire forum can be viewed on CT-N (see link above).

Ernest Grolimund, International Coalition Against Wood Burning Pollution: Endorsed the Council’s recommendation regarding a moratorium on outdoor wood furnaces until DEEP can draw up regulations. He spoke of the health danger posed by all wood burning appliances and the cumulative risk caused by their proliferation in areas like Connecticut. He showed dramatic photos of smoke from wood burning in New Zealand.

Tom Crider, Southbury Land Trust: Agreed with the Council’s recommendation that state-owned farmland and other state-owned land with natural resources that is not currently preserved should be. He used the Southbury Training School as an example of valuable state-owned land that is at potential risk of being lost, depending on the future use of the property. He distributed maps of the property and advocated priority attention to preservation of this property.

Douglas Schwartz: Spoke in opposition to the Haddam Land Swap, which he characterized as unconstitutional. He urged the Council to work in opposition to this land swap and any other similar future swaps.

Jay Crutcher, North Stamford Concerned Citizens for the Environment: Described the problem of analytical laboratories that cannot test to the state’s “action level” for many contaminants. Homeowners receiving results from these labs could receive reports indicating “not detectable” though the contamination levels for some substances were three times the state’s action level. He suggested this as an area in need of clarification and regulation. Also, statutes require labs to share results with local health directors, but the law often is ignored. Also, labs should be inspected more frequently, as labs have been known to conduct tests for which they were not certified.

Nancy Alderman, Environment and Human Health Inc. (EHHI): Spoke of the newly-reported dangers of wood smoke and the need to regulate outdoor wood-burning furnaces (OWFs). She described why the existing setback and height requirements are not adequate.  She said that she had been told by staff at the DEEP and the Attorney General’s office that DEEP is not allowed to place restrictions on OWFs beyond the setback requirements of the statute. She recommended the method used in Oregon and Washington, which is to regulate the emissions; this would eliminate the need for an outright ban while protecting the public health.

Chris Vandehoe, New England Trail Riders Association: Opposed the Council’s draft recommendations to improve enforcement through universal registration and including forfeiture as a potential penalty. He said the DEEP was required by statute to create designated trails for ATVs, but had yet to do so. He said there is already a requirement that ATVs be registered. Because there are so few places to ride, many Connecticut riders take their unregistered vehicles to other states where they can ride them legally; that is why many are not registered in Connecticut. He said that his organization is willing to work collaboratively with the Council and other groups to find a solution that will allow shared use of state trails.

Eric Hammerling, Connecticut Forest and Park Association: Supported all of the draft recommendations on land conservation. He said that ATVs cause the majority of trail damage and erosion that his organization’s volunteers have to deal with. One must be cautious about legislation on this topic, as bills could take unexpected turns. His organization supports the concept of stricter penalties for illegal tree cutting on private land, but urged the Council to consult with the DEEP Division of Forestry about unintended consequences. He wanted to add the problem of capacity of the DEEP to do its job, using as examples the fact that 99 staff people, including headquarters staff, must manage 107 parks. He also suggested a recommendation for improving consumption of Connecticut-grown products by allowing state agencies such as UConn to pay slightly more for them.

Jonathan Steinberg, State Representative from Westport: told the Council about data that was being developed through the Harbor Watch / River Watch program that showed decreasing wildlife in harbors and streams. This is evidence of the need for greater control of nonpoint source pollution. He suggested that Connecticut was backsliding on water quality. He said this is an appropriate area for Council investigation and recommendations. He expressed concern that staffing levels at DEEP need to be increased so that permitting will be timely and enforcement certain. He favors allowing municipalities to regulate pesticide use. Senator Ed Meyer, chair of the legislature’s Environment Committee, added that the report of the Council from a few years back on DEEP staffing and funding was very helpful to the legislature and that information from the Council on agency funding and pesticides would be helpful again. Senator Meyer added that the pesticide industry is hoping to repeal the prohibition on pesticides on school grounds.

Alison Hilding, a resident of Storrs made three points: 1) The 50,000 gallon-per-day threshold for triggering DEEP review of an application for a public well is unnecessarily high; other states use a lower threshold. 2) There is a need for strong sanctions when professionals submit applications with erroneous or misleading data. Currently, if the error is found, they risk only a rejection of the application and have a chance to revise and resubmit. A strong deterrent like license loss or suspension is more appropriate. 3) She agreed with the Council recommendation that some state-owned farmland and open space land should be preserved, and recommended for consideration a parcel near Pink Ravine in Mansfield and land along the Fenton River as examples.

Georgette Yaindl, Bike Walk Connecticut: Described some of the problems associated with the environmental reviews required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Connecticut Environmental Policy Act (CEPA). She advocated a “shelf life” for environmental impact evaluations prepared under CEPA. There is a need to watchdog transportation projects that do not go through federal environmental review. Mitigation should be considered as early as the scoping process, not only after a review agency comments on the impacts. Regarding ATVs, the problems extend to other motorized vehicles such as mopeds and others with two-stroke engines, which are a source of noise and air pollution even in urban areas. Her organization wants to see a greater state commitment to for hiking and biking projects; the one percent in the complete streets law is inadequate. The DOT reported that 1.6 percent was spent on bike-ped projects, but a close inspection of the projects raises questions. She echoed Hammerling’s support (above) for state procurement policies that would allow more purchases of locally produced products and foodstuffs.

Margaret Miner, Rivers Alliance of Connecticut: Said that Representative Steinberg (above) said what she intended to say. Also, the issue of contaminated ground water remains very important, as individual well owners are on their own. She said the proposed changes to DEEP’s remediation programs must look at all the issues carefully. She said she is concerned that CEPA regulations are not being closely adhered to, citing the Glastonbury boat launch grant as an example. She added to the earlier comments of others regarding the threat posed by pesticide contamination.

Martin Mador, Sierra Club Connecticut Chapter: Said that the state does a good job managing its lands, but the Haddam land swap was an exception. He said the Council should work with those who are interested in keeping this from happening again. He agreed with the Council’s recommendation on land preservation. He supported allowing towns to impose stricter standards than the state standards for lawn pesticides. He advocated greater product stewardship, with mattresses to be addressed this year. He identified dependence on property taxes as an unfortunate influence on municipal land use policies, and saw the property tax as an environmental problem. He advocated regional cooperation through the regional Councils of Government to create efficiencies where appropriate. He referred to detailed comments, submitted prior to the forum, that the Sierra Club and numerous other organizations submitted to the DEEP regarding the pending report on transforming remediation programs. He also advocated mercury thermometer take-back programs, regulation of OWFs, and building infrastructure for electric vehicles. Also, he supported a vigorous and well-funded DEEP, with a close look at how well it is doing its jobs.

Amy Paterson, Connecticut Land Conservation Council (CLCC): Agreed with the Council that there should be an up-to-date accounting of preserved land but said it should be voluntary at the start but comprehensive eventually. She described the role of the CLCC, which is an umbrella organization of land trusts, conservation commissions, and other conservation organizations. The CLCC provides capacity-building, grant funding, and advocacy. She said the state’s Open Space Advisory Board should be given a greater role in the state’s land conservation programs, including land conveyances. She meets with land trusts continually, and said that in her discussions with land trusts the single most important thing she hears is that state grant funding for acquisitions is essential. There used to be two grant rounds per year, now there is one or none. Both the Community Investment Act and bond funds are important sources of grant money, and need to be protected and made available.

Mary Pelletier, a resident of Hartford, where she serves on the Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission and is Director of the Park River Watershed Revitalization Initiative, spoke of the need to incorporate open space planning and green infrastructure into urban design. The recent problem with pervious concrete on the Capitol grounds shows that it is a new technology to Connecticut, but it is not new to the rest of the country. Connecticut’s infrastructure and planning standards are outdated.

Wagener briefly summarized written comments from individuals or organizations that were unable to speak at the forum:

The Connecticut Association of Directors of Health wrote to support the Council’s recommendation for a moratorium on OWFs until DEEP adopts regulations that establish maximum emission levels.

The Groton Open Space Association supported increased use of pervious surfaces in construction and greater restrictions on impervious surfaces. They support the Council’s wetlands training regulations and the increased sanctions for illegal tree cutting.

The Avalonia Land Trust expressed concern about a potential conflict between the law that removes liability for landowners who open their land for public recreation and the federal Americans with Disabilities Act. They opposed the counting of open space for utility right of ways towards a developer’s open space set aside requirements.

Dan McCarthy of Niantic wrote about the need for stricter controls on OWFs.

David Brown of EHHI wrote about the need for better controls on OWFs, saying the current statutes are not supported by science.

Andrea and Bruce Fitzgerald of Woodbury wrote about problems with OWFs and would like to see enforcement of existing laws.

Chair Wagner thanked all speakers for their excellent remarks, and said that everyone would be kept posted on the Council’s recommendations, which would be discussed at the Council’s December 14, 2011 meeting. She adjourned the forum at 11:45 AM.