Minutes of the September 21, 2011 meeting of the Council on Environmental Quality, held in the Holcombe Conference Room, 5th Floor, 79 Elm St., Hartford.

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

Chair Wagner called the meeting to order at 9:10 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 July 27 meeting. (A vote on this had been postponed at the August 24th meeting.) No additions or revisions were offered. Brooks made a motion to accept the minutes, which was seconded by Beach and approved. Hall abstained, having been absent at that meeting.

Chair Wagner asked if there were any additions or revisions to the minutes of the August 24 meeting. There being none, Brooks made a motion to approve which was seconded by Sherman and approved unanimously.

Executive Director's Report

Wagener said that all agencies had received from the Office of Policy and Management (OPM) a directive to prepare a budget option with reductions totaling five percent. He said that the non-personnel costs of the Council amount to less than five percent of the Council’s budget and that he will communicate with the OPM about ways the requirement might be fulfilled.

Wagener introduced Christopher Goudarzy, a law student at the University of Massachusetts, who will be serving as an intern for the semester, and said he will be assisting with the analysis of the state’s potable water programs and related matters.

Wagener said that staff had been participating in the Remediation Evaluation and Transformation workgroup meetings; recommendations of the workgroups will be finished by the end of the month. The DEEP has a deadline for submitting final recommendations to the legislature by mid-December. A discussion followed based on members’ own experiences with remediation, including several problems: some sites have pollution that survives for decades, clean-up can be unaffordable, weak enforcement leads to little incentive to remediate, there is no approval of milestones on the way to total site remediation, and there is a need for a simplified remediation process for all sites. Chair Wagner said that since the remediation program is under examination now, this is the time to draft some specific recommendations regarding potable water programs; others concurred.

Wagener said another remediation-related issue is that the state’s reduction in appropriations for the underground storage tank program has prompted a letter from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to the DEEP. EPA is requesting a plan from DEEP to address the fund’s deficiencies or face possible loss of federal approval of the fund. Wagener explained that the fund has only $250,000 appropriated for each of the next two years and there are $14,000,000 in claims that have been approved for reimbursement with over $70,000,000 in claims that have not yet been reviewed. The funding for the program comes from a tax on gross receipts from the petroleum industry, but last year most of those revenues have been diverted to the state’s general fund. Hearn attended a meeting sponsored by the DEEP to get input.

Wagener updated the Council on the State Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP) and said that the advisory board on which he served had completed its work. This plan is required to be submitted to the Department of Interior every 5 years for the state to be eligible to receive funding under certain federal grant programs. He said that the plan has been completed and hopefully will be signed by Governor Dannel Malloy and submitted to the federal government at the end of the month.

Review of State Agency Actions

Brief review of “Economic Regulation of Business”, an article in the Fall 2011 issue of The Connecticut EconomyWagener reported on the press coverage of an article, “Economic Regulation of Business: Market Safeguard or Development Straightjacket?” in the journal The Connecticut Economy. He distributed his own analysis of the article and expressed concern that news headlines would convey, erroneously, the idea that the journal article concluded that Connecticut’s economic growth was being hampered by environmental regulation, whereas the article did not address environmental regulation. In particular, Wagener said that the article’s brief and questionable reference to a strong state (vs. local) role in land-use planning and numerous endangered species laws could mislead people. Sherman said that in this bad economic climate the opponents of environmental protection will attribute the economic conditions to overregulation, and that the real story has not been told. Members agreed that a letter should be sent to the editor of the journal. Chair Wagner said the news media that reported on the article should also receive a clarification. There was consensus on these points. Discussion continued on factors that businesses find to be impediments to growth and prosperity.

Cell Tower Updates – Wagener reported on two applications on which the Council had submitted comments to the Connecticut Siting Council (CSC) months ago. A motion to reconsider had been filed by the applicant regarding the proposed tower in Hartland, and that motion was approved. The tower that had been proposed for Cobble Mountain in Canaan was denied.

Citizen Complaints

Discussion of selected topics from the July public forum held in Mansfield

Wagener said that staff had made considerable progress in reviewing and researching the issues raised at the July public forum in Mansfield. Members reviewed the table distributed by staff, and discussed several of the issues, including

  • The decline of ruffed grouse: Wagener said this could be an interesting case study to help determine if the state is able to successfully address declining species. After discussion, members asked staff to invite an appropriate person, perhaps from the Ruffed Grouse Society or the DEEP or both, to a future meeting.

  • Endangered species and biotic resources: Members discussed the possibility of a roundtable to discuss deficiencies in existing statutes, but decided to wait for the outcome of legal opinions that might be pending. There was some discussion of the suggestion of developing a predictive model of biotic resources.

  • Create a data base or dynamic registry of all preserved lands: Members agreed to make this a high priority.

  • Clean Water Fund: Members agreed that his has been a high priority recommendation of the Council every year, and will continue to be.

  • Vigilance on protection and enhancement of air and water as energy issues take center stage: The Council will be vigilant.

  • Adequacy of the water supply at the University of Connecticut (UConn) at Storrs, UConn population projections, and related disputes: Wagener said that UCONN is producing an environmental impact evaluation (EIE) for the new water sources it is considering and will need to apply to the Department of Public Utility Control for approval of its choices. A discussion followed on the many historical and current issues that affect the quality and quantity of water for UCONN. It was decided that invitations to a representative from UCONN and from the DEEP’s water resources section would be of value. Brooks said the concept of water conservation as a latent supply is important in the UCONN area, and the Council should determine if maximum efforts are being made before new sources are tapped.

  • Schools should be built on previously-developed sites, not greenfields, and they should follow EPA guidelines for schools: Wagener said that staff had looked into the first of these, but was not finished. He said that although it had been stated at the Forum that site remediation costs are not eligible for state funding of school construction, staff has learned that the state will allow up to 25% of the construction grant to be used for that purpose. It was agreed that research and discussion would continue on these points.

  • State construction should be on brownfields rather than greenfields. Wagener distributed data indicating that most state construction funds, aside from municipal school construction grants, are spent in locations where there is little flexibility in choosing a location. These include improvements to existing sewer plants, and to transportation facilities such as airports, rail lines and highways. Only 6 of the 42 state projects that were subject to the Connecticut Environmental Policy Act (CEPA) were of types that would allow for locational discretion. Beach pointed out that expansions at large educational institutions also can involve choices regarding building on unused land or revitalizing existing built areas. Beach left to attend to another commitment. Sherman said there is unfortunately no value assigned to the economic benefit of greenfields when decisions are made to build on greenfields rather than to reuse existing structures. Chair Wagner said that some of the recent flooding in Connecticut and Vermont provides examples of what happens when watersheds are developed and the water retention capacity of the land is lost. It was agreed that discussion would continue on these points.
  • Making Connecticut attractive to younger people by offering better outdoor recreational opportunities: Members said this was a challenging prospect. Wagener said that language about mountain biking and other activities had been included in the SCORP, but he doubted that the SCORP would have much influence.

  • Accountability of professionals who sign erroneous documents that are submitted with permit applications: Hearn said that the DEEP’s examination of remediation activities will include an examination of the role of Licensed Environmental Professionals. The question of sanctions for professionals who may misrepresent the facts at a remediation site will be considered. Members also discussed what should become of any permit that is issued based on faulty information from a licensed professional.
  • Education credits for pesticide applicators for studying organic pest control methods at schools: Members asked staff to get more information.

Members agreed that all other issues not listed above will be addressed at future meetings.

Due to time constraints, the indicator of the month discussion was postponed to a future meeting.

Brooks asked if there could be a discussion of Council plans for the next few months. Specifically, she wanted to know if the Council should hold a forum where individuals and groups could present their priorities for future legislation, similar to the forum held at the Legislative Office Building in November 2010. Members agreed that November would be a good time for such a forum, and asked staff to set it up. Members also agreed that they would need to review a draft of potential recommendations at the October meeting.

The meeting was adjourned at noon.