Minutes of the September 26, 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, Alison Hilding, Richard Sherman, Karl Wagener (Executive Director), Peter Hearn (Environmental Analyst).

At 9:02 AM, Chair Wagner noted the presence of a quorum and called the meeting to order.

Chair Wagner asked for a motion to approve the August 22, 2012 minutes as drafted. Fernandez so motioned and Hall seconded. The motion was approved, with Brooks abstaining because of her absence at the August meeting. Hilding and Sherman had not yet arrived, so did not vote.

Executive Director’s Report

Wagener reported that he submitted the five percent reduction option budget that was requested by the Office of Policy and Management (OPM) of all agencies. He said that a five percent reduction could not be achieved without reducing the personnel budget.

He has attended meetings of the Recreational and Natural Heritage, Open Space and Watershed Land Acquisition Review Board that is communicating with the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) on the recommendations for the forthcoming “Green Plan”.

He met with staff of the General Assembly’s Program Review and Investigations Committee that has been researching the value of the state’s farmland preservation efforts. He said there was a public hearing the previous day which he monitored online. The hearing and the committee members’ conversations lead him to believe the committee is favorably disposed to the preservation program. Hall asked what accounted for the drop in acquired acres in the mid-nineties. Wagener said that in recent years acquisition efforts have been quite good and the slowdown she referred to was a consequence of lack of funds for the effort, he was fairly certain. He said the Community Investment Act provided an important source of regular funds and the Working Lands Alliance advocated successfully for lump sum funding for farmland preservations, which has improved the process.

Wagener said that next week the Governor will announce a comprehensive energy strategy. Emphasis on use of efficiency and cleaner fuels is anticipated. He said that the Connecticut League of Conservation Voters has published an excellent report on transportation; Patrick Shortell of that organization was in the audience and made copies available to members.

Wagener said the letter to Governor Malloy regarding the status of remediation in Tylerville and the delays that are inherent in remediation activities had been sent on the 18th. Chair Wagner, Hall and Brooks said the Council should continue to be available to provide information to the legislature, which will be considering the problem in the next session.

Review of State Agency Actions


Stamford Transportation Center Parking and Transit Oriented Development, Environmental Impact Evaluation (EIE) – Wagener said that staff recommended no comments on this EIE, as it addressed the likely impacts adequately. He added that the project, which is being conducted pursuant to a public-private partnership, is locally controversial because few details are available at this point in the process.

Connecticut’s response to invasive species – Wagener introduced Bill Hyatt and Penelope Sharp, who had come to address the following questions that were sent to them prior to the meeting: 1) How severe is the threat from invasive species? 2) Is the state’s response adequate, or even effective? 3) If the state had money to put into the battle against invasives, what should it do first? 4) Should the state be taking an entirely different approach? Bill Hyatt is the Chief of the Bureau of Natural Resources at DEEP and also the Chair of the Invasive Plants Council (IPC). Penelope Sharp is an environmental consultant and the Co-Chair of the Connecticut Invasive Plants Working Group (CIPWG).

Mr. Hyatt began by saying that, nationally, the threat posed by invasive species to the natural environment is second only to habitat loss. In Connecticut, he said, the threat is major but more subtle and gradual, and it is growing. He said that the legislative authority of the IPC is limited to recommendations about plants that are invasive in a “minimally managed” environment; this excludes plants that may be considered weeds on lawns or in agriculture. In response to a question from Brooks, he said that the IPC has not listed running bamboo as an invasive species because that is beyond the IPC’s legislative criteria. However, because of the property damage that it can cause, the IPC is considering offering a recommendation to the General Assembly regarding its status.

Mr. Hyatt said the state’s response has been effective in what it has done, but it is not adequate in relation to the scale of the problem. He described the state’s approach as having four components: prevention, detection, response, and eradication/management. The variety of threats requires the involvement of multiple bureaus, agencies, and private groups. Within DEEP, the divisions of forestry, wildlife, boating, Long Island Sound, and the lakes program have responsibilities for components of the strategy. The Department of Agriculture plays a role in policing pet stores. The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station researches solutions, conducts lake monitoring, and educates the public.  The Connecticut Institute of Water Resources at the University of Connecticut (UConn) has created and published the draft state management plan for aquatic invasives; a similar plan is needed for terrestrial invasives.

With regard to whether the response has been effective, Bureau Chief Hyatt said that many of the problems identified in the Council’s 2002 report on invasives, Great Infestations, still exist. There have been successes worth noting. The Zebra Mussel had been contained in East Twin Lake for over a decade and the snakehead fish was eradicated in the state. Water chestnut’s presence has been greatly reduced, though not yet eliminated. He cited some missed opportunities. Failure to follow up on initial eradication work and the inability to access private property thwarted efforts to contain Hydrilla and mile-a-minute. Other threats loom. There is a campaign to stifle the spread of the Emerald Ash Borer and the Asian Longhorned Beetle by informing users of firewood not to transport it from one part of the state to another or between states.

He addressed the question of where he would spend additional money by noting that education is a very important component of a successful control program; it can lead to quicker identification and more effective eradication. A program would not have to be located inside DEEP. There is a need for a full time person to conduct field work and for a seasonal assistant to help. Another need is for a full time person to coordinate efforts to eliminate aquatic nuisances. He said that more inspections at boat launches would help, as would more outreach to pet shops. Funding to assist lake associations to eradicate milfoil and fanwort is needed too.

As to whether the state’s approach needs to be reconsidered, he said the multi-pronged strategy being used is effective. For some species a regional approach is needed. He said that authority to enter private property to eradicate virulent threats might be needed in the future. Something to be aware of is the potential threat from the introduction of plants that are being encouraged for the production of bio-fuels, and that could become problems in the natural environment.

Ms. Sharp described the membership and history of the CIPWG, an ad hoc organization founded in 15 years ago. She invited all to the CIPWG’s biennial conference on October 25. She said the CIPWG has a lot of information about Connecticut’s invasive and potentially invasive plants on its website. CIPWG tries to educate individuals, towns and government agencies to the threat and how to cope with it. She said she agreed with all Mr. Hyatt had said. Invasives are a great threat to the state’s ecology. She believes more attention needs to be paid to the relatively pristine areas where invasives are just getting a foothold.

With regard to the threat to Connecticut, she said that she believes the problem is worse since the Council’s 2002 report. Bittersweet, barberry and euonymus pose an increasing threat to biodiversity. She said the State’s response is not adequate due to the immensity of the problem, but it is effective where implemented. She agreed with Mr. Hyatt’s assessment of the programs in need of additional funds. A different approach she recommends is the concentration of the most resources in areas where invasives have not yet gained a foothold.

Chair Wagner pointed out that there is an economic cost to ignoring invasives if they detract from swimming and fishing experiences. Hilding asked what ways are used to inform towns about controlling invasives. Mr. Hyatt said there was a workshop for towns last year and another is being planned. Hall suggested an incentive for invasive removal at the time of a property transfer as a strategy. On the broader question of labeling non-native species as invasive, Sherman pointed out that earthworms were not present in much of North America until introduced by Europeans and asked for a distinction between the terms “non-native” and “invasive.” Mr. Hyatt said that many non-native species such as brown trout and largemouth bass have been an economic boon, and said he prefers the term nuisance species to invasive species. When defined that way it is clearer that the focus is on elimination of species with the greatest negative impact. Ms. Sharp said that climate warming will make Connecticut even more hospitable for species like kudzu that have been deterred by the winters.

Beach said his town had been successful with requesting developers to remove invasive species as part of the plan for their developments. Wagener asked if some areas of the state were so infested with invasives, as has been reported by observant citizens, that eradication would have to be considered impossible; both guests said that is probably the case. Mr. Hyatt recounted when, in 2009, his Department had been appropriated $500,000 to disburse to towns for invasive project, requests were for ten times that amount.

Chair Wagner thanked the guests for providing a thorough briefing and said the Council will consider what it has learned and continue discussion at the next meeting.

UConn’s Hazardous Waste Storage Facility, Tech Park, and Related Issues – Wagener said he checked with UConn regarding the relationship between the old Environmental Impact Evaluation (EIE) that was done for the north campus master plan and the new master plan for a Tech Park and the site selection for a hazardous waste storage area. He said he was told by staff at UCONN that new development will be in conformance with the prior federal EIS and state EIE, and that comparative evaluations were still required if specific projects deviated significantly from the plan. He said that the university expects to have sufficient information in October to convene a meeting of the hazardous waste siting advisory committee.

Hydraulic Fracturing in Connecticut? – Wagener referred to the memo on this topic that had been distributed prior to the meeting. In response to some of the questions that arose from the August meeting, he said that federal law does not preempt state law on this matter. He said that in states that did not opt for primacy under the federal Clean Drinking Water Act, federal law applies, and hydraulic fracturing is explicitly excluded from the definition of hydraulic fracturing in those states. When the federal Safe Drinking Water Act was adopted, states could choose to administer the program. Those that chose to administer it could adopt their own regulations, provided that the regulations met the minimum standards of the federal law. Connecticut adopted regulations that prohibit most classes of underground injection wells, including those which are used to inject fluids for the enhanced recovery of natural gas. He noted that Vermont, which adopted a prohibition through legislation, did not have the regulatory prohibition that Connecticut and six other states have.

After considerable discussion of the regulations and their potential applicability and enforcement, the Council decided by consensus to write to DEEP to ask if the Department regarded the regulation as a prohibition of hydraulic fracturing that could be enforced. Meanwhile, staff would look further at the related issues of water export and waste disposal.

Citizen Complaints

Transfer of state lands – Wagener said he heard from citizens who were surprised that the 72-acre Cedarcrest Hospital property was offered by the state for private development. Normally, surplus property would be offered to the town first, and there would be public notice. Wagener said that during the October 2011 special legislative session on jobs that a provision was passed to require the Department of Economic and Community Development to offer priority state-owned brownfields for sale notwithstanding existing surplus property laws. The entire property was offered for sale, though Wagener noted that earlier legislation requires ten acres of the property to be studied for setting aside as permanent open space, creating a possible conflict. No action was requested at this time.

Comments on the State Conservation and Development Policies Plan

Wagener referred to the draft comments that had been distributed prior to the meeting. Brooks recused herself and left the table because of a potential conflict of interest.

Discussion followed. Hilding insisted that the mapping of key potable water supply resources is essential to any plan of development.

Chair Wagner asked those in the audience who wished to speak to introduce themselves. Pat Suprenant, a Storrs resident, came to the table to express her concern about extensions of sewer and water service, as these extensions can radically transform a region. She said that Storrs has a reservoir and water supply that meets current needs and can accommodate reasonable growth. She is concerned that efforts to meet the water demands of UConn by bringing in water from other areas will provide incentives for private development on parcels that otherwise would not be developed intensively. She was concerned that the Council’s draft comments regarding intensive and extensive development could have negative consequences.

Brooks spoke as a citizen, not in her capacity as a Council member. She said she wished to speak to growth management principle #5 in the plan. The specific guidance statements for implementation of the principles that were in the existing plan were removed from the new plan. She said that the Department of Public Health (DPH) and town officials had referred to those for guidance in making determinations about development in drinking water supply watersheds. Also, because the plan ultimately is approved by the General Assembly, those guidance statements carried weight if a town had to defend a decision; their elimination could be viewed by the courts as a deliberate decision that they were no longer to be considered relevant.

Wagener said that some of the guidance statements were removed if they were redundant of state laws and regulations. Sherman and Fernandez suggested adding a recommendation that guidance statements of the sort described by Brooks be restored where they are not redundant of other state laws or regulations; other members agreed. Also, members agreed to add language to the comments to recommend more explicit reference in the plan to the state’s statutory goals for land conservation and the state greenway plan and officially designated greenways, and to re-word the section on sewer and water extensions to avoid the unintended negative outcomes discussed.

Chair Wagner asked for a motion to approve the comments as drafted with the addition of the items described above. Sherman made the motion which was seconded by Hilding and approved by all (except Brooks, who did not vote).

Preliminary Discussion of Recommendations for Legislation

Chair Wagner referred to the draft that had been distributed by email prior to the meeting.

After discussion it was decided to retain, with modifications, previous recommendations regarding training for wetlands agents, potable water program consolidation and funding, ATV use, and better public notice of cell tower applications. There would be future discussion of additional recommendations regarding energy policy and control of invasive species. Chair Wagner said the list will be the first item on the October 24 meeting agenda. Wagener reported that the public forum on the draft recommendations had been scheduled for November 28 in a hearing room of the Legislative Office Building.

Hall made a motion to adjourn, which was seconded by Sherman. The meeting was adjourned at 12:07 PM.