Minutes of the June 27, 2012 meeting of the Council on Environmental Quality, held in the Holcombe Conference Room on the 5th floor of 79 Elm Street, Hartford.

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

At 9:07 AM Howard Beach, acting as Chair in the absence of Chair Barbara Wagner, who was out of the country, called the meeting to order and noted the presence of a quorum.

Acting Chair Beach asked for a motion to approve the May 23, 2012 minutes. Sherman offered a correction, noting that Jean DeSmet, who spoke at that meeting, is a resident of Windham, not Mansfield. Sherman made a motion to approve the minutes as corrected. The motion was seconded by Brooks and approved unanimously.

Chair’s Report

Acting Chair Beach reported that Alison Hilding had been appointed to the Council by Senator Donald Williams. Members welcomed her and introduced themselves. Sherman said he had worked with Hilding on many projects and was sure she will have much to contribute. Hilding said she had the greatest respect and admiration for the work of the Council and was looking forward to participating.

Executive Director’s Report

Wagener introduced the Council’s summer intern, Avery Yoshimine, a senior at the University of Connecticut (UConn). He said she would report later on projects she has been working on.

He said the Annual Report was delivered to Governor Malloy on June 8 and had received considerable press coverage. He said that a selection of news articles was handed out prior to the meeting, including a long editorial from Sunday’s Hartford Courant.

Wagener said he was invited to meet with Commissioner Esty and his staff tomorrow to discuss the annual report.

Wagener said there were a few legislative actions to note, in addition to the outcomes discussed at previous meetings, including Governor Malloy’s signing of the open space bill, SB 347.

Wagener said that staff did not create a one page summary of the annual report for this year. He said that web statistics for last year showed that only a handful of readers viewed the one-page summary. The vast majority went directly to the full report, where they could read whatever pages they were interested in. Wagener said the report includes the section Bottom Line, which is a summary. He suggested that a separate summary is redundant. Members agreed. Wagener also distributed a chart of web traffic for June that showed the largest spike when the report was released and secondary peaks on days when the Environmental Monitor was published.

Review of State Agency Actions

Proposed Renewal of the Title V Operating Permit for South Meadow Station, Hartford – Wagener referred to the memo distributed prior to the meeting. He said that there had been communication between staff of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) and the applicant, the Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority (CRRA), regarding the recommendations that had been made by the Council regarding the draft permit. As a consequence of those communications, CRRA had agreed to some amendments to the permit, including 1) a switch to ultra low sulfur fuel, 2) a requirement to perform an opacity test every time the facility operates, 3) a requirement to have staff trained and certified to conduct opacity tests, and 4) a requirement to conduct stack tests of particulate emissions after 5 years or 168 hours of operation, per unit, whichever comes first. Wagener added that CRRA already had purchased 90,000 gallons of ultra low-sulfur jet fuel.

Much discussion ensued. Observing that a Title V permit is a summary of all the air quality regulations that apply to a facility, the permit renewal is not a good process for discussing the policy decisions that would affect the need for the facility in the future. A discussion followed on strategies to reduce the level of pollution from this and similar facilities. Hall suggested inviting people from DEEP’s air division to address the broader regulatory structure that affects all such facilities; other members agreed. Sherman said that when Commissioner Esty spoke to the Council he presented a vision of an improved environment through better regulation of energy, and said that the continued operation of the facility flies in the face of such a vision. Sherman also discussed the potential for photovoltaic production to meet peak demand. Brooks said that additional state legislation might be needed to reduce pollution from peaking power plants. Hall, Hilding and Sherman discussed the importance of the location of this plant in an urban location. Sherman pointed out that ISO New England is paying CRRA millions of ratepayers’ dollars annually to keep this facility operational.

Wagener and members discussed the state air quality regulation that allows facilities to emit more pollution when they burn dirtier fuel, which Wagener called a backward incentive.

Hall made a motion to withdraw the Council’s request for a hearing with the understanding that the improvements agreed to by CRRA and DEEP, listed above, would be included in the permit. Second by Brooks. Sherman offered a friendly amendment to the motion, accepted by Hall, to add that the Council would state the lessons learned from this process and continue to work on the issue of excessive pollution from peaking facilities. There was considerable discussion of the motion. Brooks made the point that the Title V process includes no authority to impose new pollution standards, and said the job of the Council is to point out systematic deficiencies, which it has done in this case. She suggested that the stated improvements are the most the Council can expect. Fernandez said that, on the broader issue, it is important for the Council to make a distinction between gas turbines in general and these antiquated units that are a problem because of their age and their fuel. The Council agreed to ask DEEP to a meeting to learn more about the underlying regulations that in turn affect Title V permits. The amended motion was approved unanimously, with Hilding abstaining for the reason that she had not been on the Council during previous discussions of this issue.

Hilding asked how this would be communicated to DEEP. Wagener suggested that staff would be informed of the motion, and that a letter could be sent to the Commissioner regarding the broader energy and environmental policies. The Council asked staff to invite DEEP to an upcoming meeting.

Joe Wasserman of the Connecticut Coalition for Environmental Justice (CCEJ) asked to speak from the audience. He said the CCEJ has requested a public hearing on CRRA’s trash-to-energy plant in Hartford. The hearing is set for Thursday, August 2 at 6:15 PM at 79 Elm St. in Hartford. Members discussed this briefly.

Updates on Recent Actions

Wagener noted that, following the May 23 meeting, a letter had been sent to University of Connecticut President Susan Herbst regarding the environmental review for the siting of the hazardous waste storage facility. No response had yet been received. The advisory committee for the siting had its first meeting, and intern Avery Yoshimine attended as an observer. Yoshimine reported that the facility is now referred to as the Mass Accumulation Area or MAA. She said that Richard Miller, Director of the Office of Environmental Policy at UConn, reviewed the history that has kept the facility at its current location. The advisory committee is to advise on the pros and cons of alternative locations and the current location. The next meeting will include a discussion of siting criteria for such a facility. Sherman said what happened to the original alternative locations and the process by which they were lost needs to be considered. Members discussed the role of the master plans for campus and the north campus. Members agreed to follow the process.

Yoshimine also attended the scoping meeting for the Environmental Impact Evaluation (EIE) to explore additional water sources for the UConn campus in Storrs. She reported that there were two modifications to the original scoping notice. One was for a possible relocation of a wellfield. The other was to allow consideration of a water supply pipeline from the Metropolitan District Commission (MDC). Hilding discussed some of the history of UConn’s search for new water supplies. Sherman raised the question of restrictions on interbasin transfers. Beach and Brooks said the permit process for interbasin transfers can be demanding, with consideration of all impacts and alternatives required. Beach added that diversions of this magnitude can have negative environmental effects in the source waters. By consensus, the Council directed staff to submit brief scoping comments to emphasize the importance of analyzing indirect impacts at both ends of the project (the source basin and eastern Connecticut), and also to make sure the source of public funds, if any, are identified as well as their relationship to environmental priorities.

Siting Council Consultation re: Telecommunications Tower in Branford or East Haven – Wagener said that the proposed telecommunications tower in either Branford or East Haven would have considerable visibility from the waters of Long Island Sound. He noted that the Council some time ago had requested the Siting Council to require applicants to include photo simulations of how towers would appear when seen from water bodies, and the Siting Council agreed; this application included such simulations. Hall asked, without regard to the specific circumstances of this application, how a determination is made regarding the visual impact on water bodies, and is the cumulative impact of multiple towers ever considered? Hearn explained the height above the surrounding vegetation is often the criterion used by CEQ staff to determine intrusiveness. He said that in the past the Council had requested the Siting Council to consider the cumulative visual effect of multiple towers and could do so again. Wagener added that staff proposes comments if there will be impacts on a state-owned resource or a resource of statewide significance, which the public-trust waters of Long Island Sound are. Hearn said that with regard to this application, the State Historic Preservation Office stated that there would be no adverse visual impact if the height of the tower is restricted. He added that the applicant included stealth design options in its discussion of the proposal. Sherman said it would be appropriate to remind the Siting Council of the importance of minimizing the collective impact of these facilities. By consensus, the Council directed staff to submit comments on the application to reiterate the importance of considering visual impacts from the Sound and cumulative impacts. Hall abstained from consideration of this application because of her residency in one of the towns being considered as a possible site.

Other Actions – Wagener asked Yoshimine to report on her research regarding the state agencies that promote bicycle and pedestrian trails, as a follow-up to questions raised at the May 23 meeting. She described the Greenways Council, explaining that one of its roles is to match state funds to groups interested in maintaining or expanding greenways. She said that to be designated an official greenway, the trail must connect to a network of trails. She also explained that the Department of Transportation has responsibility for the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Board and the statewide plan. There was discussion of the level of grant funding. Yoshimine said that she would distribute her memo, which included many links, by email. Members thanked Yoshimine for her report.

Members agreed to postpone remaining items on the agenda. Hall made a motion to adjourn, which was seconded by Brooks. The meeting was adjourned at 11:37 AM.