Minutes of the July 25, 2012 meeting of the Council on Environmental Quality, held in the Holcombe Conference Room on the 5th floor of 79 Elm Street, Hartford.

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

At 9:05 AM, Chair Wagner noted the presence of a quorum and called the meeting to order.

Chair Wagner asked for a motion to approve the June 27, 2012 minutes as drafted. Brooks so motioned and Fernandez seconded. The motion was approved unanimously, with Chair Wagner abstaining because of her absence at that meeting.

Executive Director’s Report

Wagener reported he met with Daniel Esty, Commissioner of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), after the June meeting, to discuss the Council’s annual report. It was attended by some of the Commissioner’s senior staff. Wagener said he thought the discussion was very useful.

Wagener said that Governor Malloy presided at a ceremonial signing of the open space bill (SB 347) at the Sessions Woods Wildlife Management Area on July 19. This event was to acknowledge the importance of the law and to recognize some of the organizations that had pushed for it. Wagener said that Tom Baptist of Audubon Connecticut spoke and credited the Council for its role.

Wagener said he attended the meeting last week of the Natural Heritage, Open Space and Watershed Land Acquisition Review Board. He noted that this board had not met recently or frequently and, as the Council heard at previous meetings, many of the Board’s statutory responsibilities are not being fulfilled. Margaret Miner and other advocates are interested in seeing it fulfill its intended role as an advisory body to DEEP for broad open space planning issues. He said that he also spoke with Diana Atwood-Johnson, who is the Chair of the Board. The Board has no separate staff and depends on DEEP staff for its information. He said DEEP appears receptive to having the Board play a greater role in land conservation planning.

Wagener said he submitted two administrative reports in July. The first was for the Digest of Administrative Reports, a summary of all state agencies’ actions for the prior fiscal year. The second was a response to a request by the Governor for each state agency to describe what it did to promote and affect change in government. Wagener said he described improvements the Council has made in Connecticut Environmental Policy Act (CEPA) procedures, the Council’s advocacy of improved training for wetlands commissioners, the Council’s recommendation to consolidate potable water programs under a single authority, and the important role of the Council in the improved land conservation strategies and tactics contained in the open space bill signed by the Governor. Hall, Brooks and Sherman discussed how the Council’s role in resolving citizen complaints and improving certain Siting Council procedures could be included in future reports.

Wagener said he wanted to update the Council on another issue from a prior meeting: adoption of energy efficiency building codes. He passed around a map that indicated each state’s status with regard to adoption of energy efficiency building codes, printed from the website of the Building Codes Assistance Project. Connecticut is among those in the “second tier,” with only Maryland having adopted the very latest code. He said the 2009 International Energy Conservation code became effective in Connecticut in October 2011.

Review of State Agency Actions


New Terminal B Passenger Facility and Associated Improvements at Bradley International Airport, Windsor Locks – Environmental Impact Evaluation (EIE) – Wagener noted that there has been much discussion in the press about whether there is a demand for expansion at the airport. He said that normally an analysis of the need for a project would be included in the staff’s comments on an EIE. Such comments were not included because the planned improvements would be mostly on previously developed property. Some elements would yield environmental improvements. The EIE indicates that construction will occur only when it is needed. This fact makes the EIE a potentially valuable planning tool and avoids the incremental approach to environmental analysis that the Council has discouraged in other cases. He said the draft comments, sent to the Council prior to the meeting, call attention to the use of old data sources for the wildlife analysis. Beach said that some of the problems inherent in using Breeding Bird Atlas data also apply to use of the Natural Diversity Database; neither is a substitute for a site survey. The comments also recommend that the procedures required for underground tanks to prevent unnoticed loss of product be applied to above-ground storage tanks that have underground distribution systems. Hall said the draft letter is excellent. The Council agreed it should be sent as written.

Updates on Recent Actions

Renewal of the Title V Operating Permit for South Meadow Station, HartfordWagener reported that DEEP had finalized the Title V permit renewal with the draft provisions that were presented to the Council previously. The federal Environmental Protection Agency is expected to concur.

Wagener said that when he met with Commissioner Esty, he mentioned the DEEP regulations which allow plants that burn dirtier fuels to emit higher levels of particulates than plants that burn cleaner fuels. The Commissioner indicated that this could perhaps be amended. Wagener said the Commissioner agreed that peak power plants present a problem, and there is a need to shave peak demand in the state. Hall said that the peak plants are tied into the electric grid and demand shaving will have to occur throughout the region. If region-wide demand cannot be reduced, then lowering the pollution allowed at these plants remains an important part of the solution. Sherman suggested inviting experts to a Council meeting to learn what other states are doing to deal with peak demand and to learn what other alternatives have been proposed for Connecticut. Hall said there may be models to emulate in Europe as well. Brooks would like to see data about the other peak plants in CT, and would like to see the demand figures for this summer. Sherman said the accessibility of the data will be an indication of how closely DEEP is examining this issue. Wagener said staff would work on getting the data.

Chair Wagner asked Wagener to characterize the concessions that were made by the applicant in the revised Title V permit. Wagener said that some meaningful concessions were achieved, citing the opacity monitoring as an example.

There was discussion of the nature of the fuel being burned at the facility.

Sherman, addressing the long-term phase-out of fossil fuels in general, noted that previous calculations of the relative costs of renewable energy and fossil sources have underestimated the rise in fossil fuel costs.

Chair Wagner asked if the organization that came to the Council played a role in the Title V decision. Wagener said the Coalition for Environmental Justice is focused now on the trash-to-energy plant at the same site. They requested an informational hearing for the Title V permit renewal for that plant, as Joe Wasserman of that organization had reported at the June Council meeting. Wagener said that the Mayor of Hartford has raised concerns about the facility, including the substantial truck traffic that is generated by the plant. Wagener said the Coalition would like to see fewer boilers and more recycling. The Council encouraged staff to attend the hearing.

University of Connecticut Hazardous Waste Storage Facility – Wagener said that intern Avery Yoshimine has been attending the meetings of the advisory committee for this project. Yoshimine provided the schedule of future meetings and what would be accomplished at each. She said a “wiki” page has been set up that has all of the documents presented to the committee. She will send the link to Wagener for dissemination to the Council. She said the draft EIE will begin in the autumn. Sherman expressed concern that the process would repeat what happened last time, when some eligible sites were precluded because of their suitability for other uses. He said securing and safeguarding this waste should be one of the highest priorities for the campus. Yoshimine said all the sites being examined appear to be free of any claim for alternative uses.

Indicator of the Month: Inland Wetlands

Wagener referred to a memo distributed prior to the meeting, which describes the measures that have been used in the annual report to show the loss and creation of wetlands in the state. He reviewed the problems with the data. After considerable discussion, the Council agreed to discontinue the use of the “wetlands created” data because of its flaws and uncertainties.

Brooks addressed the “wetlands loss per average permit” indicator, and wondered how effectively the indicator controls for spikes and dips in the economy. Beach said the number of permits may not actually drop much in bad times; what changes is the size of the average project. He suggested using a comparison of the dollar value of projects among different years as a better way to account for economic trends. Wagener said he would investigate the availability of that information. Also, Wagener said, staff would look at using a more restricted set of the categories of construction activities reported by towns. Discussion turned to the need to have the wetlands reporting form, and other DEEP forms, designed to be submitted online. Hall and Brooks offered examples of agencies that did a good job of this. Wagener said that moving transactions to the internet was reported to be a priority of the commissioner and the administration, but that he did not know where wetlands reporting might rank on the list of priorities. Members agreed that the indicator should be improved to the extent data are available.

Proposed New Indicator: Asthma Trends – Progress Report

Wagener said that when the Council looked at this topic a few years ago, the available data for asthma in Connecticut spanned too few years to be useful. He had asked Yoshimine to investigate what is available now. He said that daily hospital admissions due to asthma are counted and recorded, and staff is seeking that data. In response to questions from the Council, Yoshimine said that there is definitely a correlation between asthma morbidity and air pollution. She said that the rate of asthma is higher in Connecticut than in the rest of the country. Beach said that is true for the entire northeast and could be due to higher levels of air pollution in the region. Hall said that, in addition to hospital admissions, the prevalence of asthma will be a useful measure, and that hospitalization data could be skewed if new drugs or better delivery eliminates the need for hospitalization. Yoshimine said prevalence is being examined as well. Brooks cautioned that the measure chosen should try to exclude factors that may induce asthma but are not related to outdoor air pollution, such as indoor pollutants and other triggers. Chair Wagner said seasonal correlations should be investigated. Yoshimine agreed and said the data collected thus far is insufficient. Beach suggested utilizing data from the air pollution monitors around the state to narrow the indicator to specific geographic areas. Wagener said that staff would report further next month.

Citizen Complaints

Contamination in Tylerville – Hearn said that this month marks the third anniversary of Lisa Wadge’s appearance before the council to report on the contamination problem in Tylerville. When she last attended a Council meeting to discuss the issue, she noted that the three-year anniversary was approaching and remediation had yet to be initiated at any property. Hearn said this appeared about to change because of a consent agreement that had been reached between DEEP and Mercury Fuel, owner of a gas station in Tylerville. The agreement requires Mercury Fuel to investigate soil and groundwater pollution at the site, develop and implement a remediation plan, and provide continual monitoring of the site to gauge progress. Hearn was optimistic that this would occur. Discussion turned to the reasons for remediation delays. Hearn said the recent LEAN analyses at DEEP had identified many of the inefficiencies that the Council had uncovered, and that steps reportedly being implemented to address them. He said the Council has seen examples where switching consultants has delayed site investigations; members said that a mechanism to remove the financial incentives to delay would be useful. The capacity of DEEP and the Attorney General’s Office to manage a high volume of enforcement actions was also discussed as a possible constraint. Brooks left for another appointment during this discussion.

Wagener mentioned that DEEP had examined many related issues in a remediation transformation effort that was to lead to recommendations for new legislation in the last legislative session. That deadline was extended by the legislature and a report is expected from DEEP for the next legislative session. Chair Wagner asked how to move forward on this problem. The Council decided that the examples of slow response in Tylerville, ranging from ten to thirty years, warranted a letter to the Governor to underscore the importance of removing roadblocks to remediation. Wagener said he would draft such a letter for Council review.

Wagener said a related topic made the news this month when results of tests of residential wells in Stamford were released. The tests showed an alarming number of household well had unacceptable levels of pesticides. Wagener said tests for these chemicals are not routinely done and can be expensive; discussion ensued, and members agreed that staff should continue to monitor the Stamford case.

Invasive species and public health – Wagener said this item had been place on the agenda before it was announced last Friday that the Emerald Ash Borer has been discovered in the Naugatuck Valley. Some discussion of that invader ensued. Wagener then explained that the item was on the agenda because of complaints about other species and the state’s response. One is bamboo, which grows very quickly and is used often as natural fencing. He learned that it is not classified as an invasive because it is uncertain that it actually will act as an invasive in the wild. It is being reviewed by the Invasive Plants Council. The other complaint was broader, and concerned the absence of effective efforts to remove invasive plants like Bittersweet, Barberry and Japanese Knotweed on state lands and roadsides. The complainant said the law prohibiting pesticides on school grounds exacerbates the problem. Wagener said that staff at DEEP and other agencies know that these plants are a problem, but their capacity to respond is limited to newly-invading plant species of highest priority. Even for those, Wagener said, available resources are minimal, and they often rely on teams of dedicated volunteers to take such actions as removing plants manually. Such a response by the state is disproportionately small in relation to the magnitude of the ecological and economic damage that certain plant species will probably cause. Considerable discussion ensued. Chair Wagner suggested, and members agreed, that representatives of the appropriate Councils and agencies should be invited to a future meeting to discuss this point.

Chair Wagner adjourned the meeting at 11:32 AM.