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

Minutes of the November 28, 2012 meeting and public forum of the Council on Environmental Quality, held in Hearing Room 1C of the Legislative Office Building in Hartford.

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

Chair Barbara Wagner called the meeting to order at 9:08 AM, noting the presence of a quorum.

Chair Wagner asked if there were any additions or revisions to the minutes of the October 24, 2012 meeting. Hilding made a motion to accept the minutes as presented, which was seconded by Beach and approved unanimously. (Hall arrived soon after the vote).

Executive Director’s Report

Wagener reported that work on the annual report was progressing well, and staff is still on the accelerated schedule for publication.

Wagener said the consequences of Hurricane Sandy are not yet fully evaluated. He said it appears that much shoreline habitat has been rearranged; the consequences will not be fully apparent until next summer.

Wagener reported briefly on the Connecticut Bar Association’s Rule of Law Conference that he had attended earlier in the month, noting that the topic was inconsistency in administrative decisions. He said he would forward the summary when it is published.

He noted that the Connecticut Environmental Council had received a Dirty Dozen award from the Toxics Action Center, and he hoped that nobody confused that entity with the CEQ, given the superficial similarity in names.

Wagener said that the annual summit of the Connecticut League of Conservation Voters is scheduled for Thursday, December 6, 2012 and that he would be participating in a panel discussion on environmental issues for 2013.

Review of State Agency Actions

Wagener said the Environmental Impact Evaluation for the University of Connecticut’s (UConn) water supply alternatives has been completed and it would be placed on the December 19 agenda for discussion.

He said that he followed up with the office of University President Herbst at the request of the Council to ask if it should expect a formal response to its letter regarding the siting of UConn’s short term hazardous waste storage facility. He was asked to re-send the letter.

He had been told by staff at the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) that the agency is still researching the Council’s question of whether it agrees with the Council’s analysis that existing state regulations prohibit hydraulic fracturing.

Wagener reported on the question, raised by Sherman at the October 24 meeting, about the adoption of the 2012 energy conservation building code amendments and how that is addressed in the draft Comprehensive Energy Strategy. Wagener said that the strategy noted the legal mandate to adopt the 2012 amendments by mid-2013. The strategy also noted the importance of training local building inspectors, who do the bulk of enforcement. He said he also hoped to receive data on compliance.

Wagener reported that PA 12-152 requires DEEP to update the state’s “green plan” by the end of the year, and said it does not appear that DEEP will meet this deadline. Because the Council is required to advise DEEP on the plan, he proposed that staff draft recommendations to DEEP for consideration at the Council's December meeting. Members concurred.

Citizen Complaints

The Council received complaints in November concerning, among others, a slaughterhouse and invasive bamboo, and an interesting letter about litter, particularly cigarette butts, in state parks. His preliminary review of enforcement data for 2013 suggests that few arrests or summonses are issued for littering in parks; he would have more information in December.

2013 Meeting Schedule

Chair Wagener asked for a motion to approve the proposed meeting schedule for Council meetings in 2013. Beach made the motion which was seconded by Hall and approved unanimously.

Public Forum - Summary of Comments

Chair Wagner convened the forum at 9:30 AM and explained how such forums have helped the Council fulfill its statutory responsibility to analyze state environmental programs and recommend legislation to correct deficiencies. She reviewed some of the Council’s recommendations of prior years and the legislation that was adopted. She referred to the draft recommendations for 2013 that had been published. With regard to invasive species, she noted that the Council’s 2002 report on the subject still is current, as only minor improvements have been made in the state’s response to what is now perhaps the number one threat to Connecticut’s native habitats.

Chair Wagner called the speakers in the order in which they had signed up. The following is a brief summary of each speaker’s comments. A video of the entire forum can be viewed on CT-N (see link above). Written comments were also received; those are on file in the Council’s office.

Jeff Hallowell, Clear Stak LLC spoke in favor of the Council’s recommendation to reduce the health risk and annoyance created by outdoor woodburning furnaces (OWFs). He said that Connecticut’s neighboring states have adopted the federal new source performance standard (NSPS) of 1988. Connecticut is the only state allowing sale of older units that are more polluting than the new ones. All the other New England states plus New York and Pennsylvania use the NSPS standard as their own. An additional advantage to the NSPS is that it includes other biomass burning devices besides OWFs. It eliminates the need for DEEP to develop its own standard. He urged the Council to consider supporting immediate adoption of the 1988 federal standard and adoption of the new federal standard by 2016. The federal standard sets a maximum allowable emission that is close to that of wood stoves.

He pointed out a flaw in the way town bans on OWFs have been written. Old units are grandfathered, giving the owners an incentive to keep the old furnaces, which are more polluting than the new ones. He said the site should be grandfathered, not the furnace. He added that higher stack heights do not reduce pollution. The mandated height should be that which is recommended by the manufacturer. Adoption of the national standard eliminates the problem with expiration of the state standard. He said the setback requirement should be kept, but new cleaner units may eventually eliminate the need for it. In response to a question from Hall, he explained the differences in emissions between the old and newer units. In response to a question from Wagener, he said he was confident that the federal EPA would adopt new standards soon.

Eric Hammerling, Connecticut Forest and Park Association agreed with the Council’s recommendations on the “basics,” including conservation of open space and farmland. He urged the Council to also endorse retention of the Community Investment Act and other funding mechanisms to support those conservation programs. He said it is important to adequately fund the park system noting there are now only 74 full time personnel to maintain the state’s 107 parks, of which 15 are eligible to retire in 2013. He referenced a study by UConn that determined state parks add one billion dollars to the economy. It said the parks are responsible for 9,000 jobs and return dollars to the state at a ratio of 38 to one. He endorsed the Council’s suggestion that state-owned land, with natural resources deserving of preservation, be permanently preserved. He spoke in favor of expanded training for wetland commissioners. He also endorsed measures to increase penalties for illegal ATV use and for timber theft, but the difficulty is in enforcement. He said there are now only 48 environmental conservation police for the entire state, and contrasted that with a city such as Stamford that might have hundreds of officers. Half are eligible to retire in next two years. He discussed the recommendations of the state Vegetation Management Task Force which he chaired and which delivered its report recently. He asked the Council to consider the mandatory training of municipal tree wardens. About 60 percent avail themselves of the training available to them. He suggested funding for towns to maintain roadside forests at $100,000 per year for two years to develop a roadside forest plan. For comparison, utilities are outspending towns nearly six to one on roadside maintenance. He said the New England Trail, a national scenic trail, should receive some of the statutory protections enjoyed by the Appalachian Trail, though not eminent domain. He supported the proposed “conservation and reinvestment act”. There were numerous questions from members about the budget for state parks; in his answers, he pointed out that 85% of park staff are seasonal positions, rising to 97% on some days. Raising fees would lead to anger and frustration, he suggested, and dedicating revenue would be seen as taking money from the state’s general fund. The parks budget probably needs to be in the vicinity of 20 million dollars annually.

Susan Masino, Associate Professor, Trinity College addressed three concerns: 1) invasive species are expanding in areas where they had never been seen before, using the Farmington Valley Greenway as an example. It is imperative to eradicate them before they gain a foothold. 2) State parks require more funding. 3) Inadequate recycling in the state, especially at parks, events, apartments and schools. She said signage at state parks is inadequate; not enough is done to encourage park users to recycle. She offered suggestions for signage and enforcement.

Elaine LaBella, Connecticut Land Conservation Council (CLCC) Steering Committee said the purpose of the CLCC is to enhance land trusts’ capacity and sustainability. She summarized points already submitted in writing. The CLCC supports all the Council’s recommendations for the “basics,” especially with regard to the state’s 21 percent land conservation goal; to meet that goal, there is a need for adequate state funding and coordination with federal matching monies. She also noted the importance of maintaining the Community Investment Act. She said there is a need for an invasive plants coordinator in the state. There is also a need for staff within DEEP to improve the state’s Green Plan pursuant to PA 12-152. She spoke about the necessity for a mechanism to guarantee permanent preservation of state conservation lands, a point on which there were several questions.

Nancy Alderman, Environment and Human Health Inc. (EHHI) spoke of the need to consider the public health aspects of the environment. She spoke of 1) the dangers of wood smoke and the need to maintain the ability of municipalities to regulate or prohibit OWFs. She pointed out that the State of Washington’s emission limits are one-half of the proposed federal standard. 2) She said that holding the ground on the pesticide ban at schools grades K-8 is crucial, noting that the American Academy of Pediatrics recently adopted a position urging protection of children from pesticides. 3) She advocated sanctions for any pesticide company that sprays the wrong property by mistake. 4) She said there is a need to ban the importation of fracking waste into the state, as such wastes contain radioactive materials, and also bromide which can become toxic when combined with chlorine in a wastewater treatment plant.

Diana Lauricella, environmental consultant described here experiences with many organizations and 1) urged the Council to make clearer the links between the environment and human health, 2) described the need for metrics to measure what she perceives as overuse of licensed environmental professionals (LEPs). Scarce resources make the DEEP overly dependent on LEPs and environmental land use restrictions (ELURs) that leave sealed, contaminated materials in place. Decisions are made by LEPs before the public even knows about a case. This is a flawed strategy in coastal areas that are now recognized as increasingly subject to damage from coastal storms. Also there is an inherent conflict when the LEP is in the employ of the polluter.

She said there is a need for mandated training for wetlands commission members and also for planning and zoning commissioners, or at least for staff. Training should start with the basics such as geology and the water cycle. She wondered if certain funds could be withheld from towns that did not comply with training requirements. She said time is short, and the state has to address some of its shortcomings, such as recycling and zoning enforcement in coastal areas. Perhaps there could be town-by-town report cards. In response to a question from Sherman she said she had seen a submission by a LEP that omitted important information about a proposed project. Hilding pointed out the lack of penalties. Ms. Lauricella said that publicity regarding such LEPs would also be of value. There was discussion of alternative ways of funding and selecting LEPs to work on projects, such as a pool of funding from which an LEP would be hired.

Carol Hery, New England Trail Riders Association of CT Board Member offered examples of how the ATV users use their vehicles responsibly and legally. She said there is a need for locations where the vehicles can be used and where members could maintain the trails. Members of her organization try to be law-abiding.

Mary Rickel Pelletier, Park Watershed Inc. said that in this time of shrinking government DEEP appears to be shrinking faster than other agencies. There is an assumption that volunteer citizens will pick up the slack, but they can’t without guidance and support. She said it is critically important to expand green infrastructure projects and to eliminate invasive plants. State properties can be the demonstration sites for green infrastructure and good landscaping practices that can be adopted by citizens throughout the state.

Henry Talmage, Connecticut Farm Bureau Association agrees that it is important to maintain steady funding for farm preservation because farmers need to be able to plan years in advance. He agreed with the Council that the state should preserve state lands that have agricultural potential.

He said local jurisdiction over pesticide application should remain at the state level. The state has the expertise, towns do not. Town regulations could be chaotic for farmers who operate on leased land in different towns.

Energy is a big issue for agriculture, and will be bigger as greenhouse production grows. Connecticut can learn from European farms where many farms are net electricity producers. Anaerobic digestion allows methane generation without the loss of nutrients and allows re-use of the material for fertilizer. The key to making this technology viable in Connecticut is to get this technology classified as a Class I renewable energy source. He said that OWF technology should be improved, and added that adoption of high temperature wood burning technology in the state would benefit farmers and utilize an abundant Connecticut resource.

There was discussion of the pesticides questions. Brooks said that it is her understanding that any proposals to expand local jurisdiction over pesticides would maintain DEEP’s responsibility for the registration of those chemicals. She said the U.S. Supreme Court has found restrictions by local jurisdictions within a state to be allowable. Hilding asked if farms should have to notify neighbors about what pesticides are being used, as is required of lawn care providers. Mr. Talmage said that population exposure might be less near a farm, and that on a square-foot basis farms might be applying less than what is put on a lawn. Sherman asked what he sees as the role of organic farming in the future of Connecticut agriculture. Mr. Talmage answered that market forces could drive this and much is now coming in from out of state. He said this market is especially valuable for small farmers. Beach asked about the obstacles to anaerobic digesters, as there are functioning systems in Vermont and elsewhere. Mr. Talmage said that the laws intended to stimulate pilot projects have not worked; electricity from anaerobic digestion needs to be categorized as a Class I renewable so that revenue is adequate.

Chair Wagner observed that many Council members are very interested in these topics, and asked Mr. Talmage if he would be willing to attend a future Council meeting to discuss them at greater length. He agreed that he would.

Written Comments

Wagener summarized briefly the written submissions that the Council had received from groups and individuals who were unable to attend. He also said that he was expecting additional comments. When complete, he would forward all comments to the members.

Working Lands Alliance (comments distributed to members at meeting): supports capital funding for agricultural land and open space preservation and action on invasive plants.

Connecticut Association of Conservation and Inland Wetlands Commissions: Will send comments when its Board concludes its deliberations.

Dianna Ross, Inland Wetland Agent for Town of Branford is concerned about the understaffed DEEP wetlands program being burdened by additional responsibilities; offered other suggestions.

Richard Canavan of CME Associates: Local commissions need training on floodplain management and FEMA.

Peter Carter, Science Teacher: Wrote in detail about existing laws that are not adequate to protect various species of turtles and salamanders; advocates bigger fines for poaching; sees a need for more protection of critical habitats for endangered species.

David Bingham: recommends the Connecticut Redevelopment and Conservation Act, and included a flier describing it.

Tom Crider, Southbury Conservation Commission: wrote about the Southbury Training School land that is in need of permanent protection through legislation.

Marty Mador, Sierra Club Connecticut Chapter:  Several recommendations pertaining to pesticides, land conservation (with emphasis on protecting land already preserved), water conservation, importation of fracking wastes and others.

Chair Wagner thanked everyone who spoke or submitted written comments, and said that the Council would discuss them all at its next meeting. Hilding made a motion to adjourn that was seconded by Beach. The meeting was adjourned at 11:32 AM.