Minutes of the October 19, 2011 meeting of the Council on Environmental Quality, held in the Russell Conference Room, 3rd Floor, 79 Elm St., Hartford.

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

In the absence of Chair Barbara Wagner, Howard Beach, as acting chair, called the meeting to order at 9:09 AM, noting the presence of a quorum.

Approval of Minutes

Beach asked if there were any additions or revisions to the minutes of the September 21, 2011 meeting. No additions or revisions were offered. Hall made a motion to accept the minutes, which was seconded by Brooks and approved. VanCor abstained, having been absent at that meeting.

Executive Director's Report

Wagener said that the Office of Policy and Management (OPM) had sent a directive to all agencies to prepare budgets for 2013 with a five percent reduction from their current 2012 budgets. He said he would submit a reduction proposal with a combination of cuts in personal services and other expenses.

Wagener reported that the memo he had prepared for Council members in response to the article “Economic Regulation of Business: Market Safeguard or Development Straightjacket?” in the fall issue of The Connecticut Economy had received some press coverage, and that he had been invited to submit an article to that journal. He also said that he had been invited to appear on a panel, sponsored by the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, at the Capitol on Friday. Sherman said that national studies have shown the impact of environmental regulation on jobs is horizontal; some jobs are lost but others are created. He said that some business groups oppose regulation in good times and bad, but there is no evidence that environmental regulation is responsible for the current economic downturn in the state, or that eliminating regulations would reverse the situation.

Wagener said that arrangements had been confirmed to hold a public forum in the Legislative Office Building on November 16 to hear from the public about the Council’s legislative agenda.

Wagener said that the need for a central registry for preserved land in the state was part of the Council’s legislative agenda of last year. He reported that the National Conservation Easement Database (NCED) is now collecting information on easements. He said that the registry has links on its website to other registries for conservation lands owned in fee, though those registries have less Connecticut coverage. Hall said that the definition of preserved land is important in compiling such data. Beach agreed saying that in many towns all the town-owned property appears as open space on various maps. Wagener said that the NCED website allows someone to upload GIS data that identifies the preserved parcel, or to draw the map online with tools the site provides. He said that the database, operated by a consortium of nonprofit organizations, could be a model or foundation for a voluntary registry effort in Connecticut.

Review of State Agency Actions

Mattabassett Wastewater Treatment Plant Upgrade, Record of Decision

Wagener summarized the Council’s previous comments on the Environmental Impact Evaluation (EIE) for this project. The Council had at that time observed that it had never before seen an EIE for a sewer expansion project that failed to consider the secondary impacts of an expanded sewer service area. Wagner said he met with DEEP staff who were aware of the oversight; they had raised the issue of secondary impacts with the four municipalities that will be part of the project. DEEP urged removal from the sewer service area those properties identified in the State Plan of Conservation and Development as conservation areas, and three of the four municipalities reached agreement with DEEP staff. Cromwell, on the other hand, declined to remove an active farm from the sewer service area and also declined to seek an amendment to the state plan. Normally, Wagener explained, a state-funded project would be reviewed by the Office of Policy and Management (OPM) for consistency with the plan and agriculture-related statutes (CGS Section 22-6) prior to the project’s appearance on the Bond Commission’s agenda. However, because the Clean Water Fund allocations are made in lump sums, a specific plan such as the subject one might not get reviewed by OPM. Members noted that agencies nonetheless are required to be consistent with the plan when disbursing state grants. The Council by consensus authorized Wagener to express the Council’s view, when consulted by OPM, that it is not in concurrence with this Record of Decision if the grant will not be consistent with the state plan. The Council also asked staff to research the statute that requires agencies to be consistent with the plan to determine if there might be deficiencies in the implementation process, and to prepare draft letters for consideration at a future meeting.

Siting Council Requests for Comments – Wagener reported on two applications on which the Siting Council had solicited comments. No comments were recommended by staff.

Glastonbury Boat Launch Facility and Compliance with the Connecticut Environmental Policy Act (CEPA) – Members discussed the October 4, 2011 letter from the DEEP’s Legal Director responding to the Council’s May 10, 2011 letter regarding the applicability of CEPA to the state grant for a proposed boat launch facility in Glastonbury. Wagener reminded members that both he and the chair had recused themselves from this matter. After discussion, members agreed that they remained unpersuaded by the DEEP’s arguments, but they decided not to continue the debate because it was clear that the DEEP did not intend to prepare an EIE. The Council asked staff to prepare a letter to the complainants explaining the Council’s conclusions, and to put the letter on its website. Sherman suggested that the decisions by agencies such as this one and the Mattabassett sewer plant expansion (see above) should be referenced in the annual reports as troubling trends; members concurred.

Citizen Complaints

Wagener updated the Council regarding complaints regarding facilities in South Windsor and Middletown, which were being researched and monitored by staff.

Wagener gave a partial update on the contamination in Tylerville. He reported that the State Bond Commission had approved 2.1 million dollars for the construction of laterals and for well closures in Tylerville earlier in the year, but the funds were not being accepted by the town because the amount is not enough to effect a solution. The town had also been approved for nearly one million in additional state assistance for the project, but is still approximately two million dollars short of what is needed to provide a permanent source of potable water to the residents of Tylerville. He also reported that the company that had been ordered to investigate its property had submitted a report to the DEEP.

Brooks inquired of the status of the Remediation Evaluation and Transformation Workgroup Meetings that staff had been participating in. Wagener said that each workgroup had completed a report for the DEEP, and a final report will be produced by the DEEP. It is expected that the DEEP report will incorporate at least some of the recommendations of the workgroups. He said the reports are available on line. There appears to be a consensus that the existing multiplicity of programs, with different entry points, deadlines and exit points is more complicated than necessary, and a single program for remediation of contaminated sites is preferred.

Draft Recommendations for Legislation

Members discussed in detail the draft list of recommendations for legislation that had been distributed in advance. They also agreed to add recommendations regarding all-terrain vehicles, outdoor woodburning furnaces, telecommunications tower siting and consolidation of state potable water programs.

There was some discussion of energy issues. Wagener said that so much of last year’s energy bill had yet to be fully implemented that he did not foresee major legislation in 2012. Hall and Beach asked that the status of energy initiatives be raised when Commissioner Esty attends a Council meeting. Beach commented on the large role that the revised state building code will have on efficiency; Sherman concurred and suggested that the state building official be invited to a future meeting to discuss the important role of building codes in energy conservation.

Wagener said that the public will be invited to comment on the Council’s draft recommendations and to suggest their own at the November 16 public forum. It will be in the Legislative Office Building and will begin at 9:00 or 9:30 AM.

There being no further business, Beach asked for a motion to adjourn. Hall made the motion which was seconded by Clark; the meeting was adjourned at 11:54 AM.