Minutes of the December 17, 2014 meeting of the Council on Environmental Quality, held in the Holcombe Conference Room on the fifth floor of 79 Elm Street in Hartford.

PRESENT: Susan Merrow (Chair), Janet P. Brooks, Lee Dunbar, Karyl Lee Hall, Alison Hilding, Karl Wagener (Executive Director), Peter Hearn (Environmental Analyst), Jonathan Bauer (Intern)

At 9:46 AM, Chair Merrow called the meeting to order, noting that a quorum was present.

Chair Merrow asked for a motion to approve the meeting agenda. Dunbar made the motion which was seconded by Hilding and approved unanimously.

Chair Merrow asked if there were any additions or modifications to the minutes of the November 18, 2014 Council meeting. No changes were suggested. Brooks moved approval of the minutes. Second by Hall. The motion was approved. Dunbar abstained because he had not been present at that meeting.

Chair’s Report

Chair Merrow reported that she, Wagener and Bauer had attended the Conservation Summit that had been sponsored by the Connecticut League of Conservation Voters in Hartford on December 10th. Commissioner Rob Klee of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) spoke of the priorities of DEEP for 2015, including energy initiatives. Wagener said a copy of those priorities had been e-mailed to the members prior to the meeting.   

She announced that CEQ’s intern, Jonathan Bauer, had been accepted as an intern at the Council on Environmental Quality in Washington D.C. Jonathan thanked the Council for the opportunity to intern with the Council, saying the experience was invaluable. He added that he did not believe the position in Washington would have been possible without the experience he received here.

Chair Merrow noted that there were no members of the public present to offer comments at the meeting. Hilding noted that a large number of persons turned out for the meeting on municipal storm water permits in the auditorium next door. She asked how it had been publicized, since she and others had only recently learned of it. Dunbar said this particular permit was generating controversy because of the perceived cost of compliance. He said that many municipalities have yet to come into compliance with the requirements of the previous permit. Merrow said the issue is one to keep an eye on since a “one size fits all” approach to the permit might not be best for all the state’s towns. Dunbar said that if the Council needs more information there are staff at DEEP who could provide a briefing. Members agreed that a briefing could be useful.

Executive Director’s Report

Wagener said that he and Hearn had met with staff from DEEP to discuss the Council’s compliance indicator in the annual report. DEEP staff said that field inspections were diminishing in importance relative to other methods of detecting noncompliance, such as review of self-monitoring reports. Spikes in Notices of Violations (NOVs) often are attributable to new federal regulations or requirements that result in enforcement visits during the introductory phase. Wagener reported that DEEP staff said the spikes seen in enforcement usually are the consequence of enhanced focus on specific sectors, and not an increase in violations. Hall made the point that if businesses do not change their behavior prior to an inspection, the violation rate seen in those spikes perhaps can be assumed to indeed be the rate for that category of business or activity. She said that all regulations must be treated with gravity, as they are what prevent environmental and health catastrophes; if a regulation does not serve such purpose it should be discarded. Dunbar said that if federal mandates are driving the enforcement focus in the state, that fact should be shown in the annual report, especially if resources at DEEP are being diverted from some high risk areas to meet federal priorities. In response to a question from Hilding, Wagener said that other than in the case of highway speeding, he had not seen any studies correlating enforcement efforts with behavior changes.

Approval of 2015 Meeting Schedule

Hall made a motion to approve the draft schedule as presented. Second by Brooks. Approved unanimously.

Citizen Complaints

Wagener asked Hearn to review the status of remediation efforts in Tylerville. Hearn said that the Licensed Environmental Professional (LEP) for the Sibley Company had submitted a “scope of work” for the investigation at the site. DEEP staff had not fully reviewed the submittal when contacted but assured him that even though the project was an “LEP lead” investigation, DEEP retains the right to determine if it is adequate to the needs of the site.

In response to a question, Wagener added that for a brief time the Sibley Company had provided water to the residences affected by the ground water pollution in the area. This responsibility was assumed by the state until 2013, when funding was eliminated for the program. In 2014, limited funding of $110,000 was restored for potable water statewide. This money has not been spent but DEEP staff expect it to be spent before the end of the fiscal year.

Review of State Agency Actions

Wagener said that in response to a citizen’s question about the construction of the new road at UConn’s north campus, he requested copies of the monthly reports from the permittee which were required by inland wetlands permit. He learned that the reports had not been received by DEEP. He added that the conservation easements required by the permit had not been executed either. Wagener said that the results of this inquiry has led him to begin checking to see what other permitted projects are not being monitored by DEEP for compliance.

Wagener said that the Council had received requests for comments from the Connecticut Siting Council (CSC) for proposed cell towers in Farmington and Manchester. Staff was not recommending comments at this time. The CSC also solicited agency comments on the proposed Towantic electric generating facility in Oxford. Comments from agencies were requested by January 8. 2015. The hearing is scheduled for January 15. He said that the solicitation had just been received on Monday, and staff had not had time to review the application to make recommendations to the Council. He said that the matter could be discussed at the Council meeting in January and comments still could be submitted to the CSC at that time to be part of the hearing record.

He said staff asked DEEP about the missed deadline for the “sewage right-to-know” law that required information on sewage spills to be posted on the DEEP site. Though the statutory deadline had passed, the system is not expected to be ready for two more years.

Discussion of Recommendations for Legislation

Chair Merrow referred to the summary of the comments that had been received from the public regarding the Council’s draft recommendations for legislation and which had been distributed to members prior to the meeting. She noted that the full text of all comments had also been distributed to members in advance of the meeting. She asked members to evaluate each suggestion as to whether it should result in changes to the current draft recommendations, be put on a “watch list” for further investigation and research, or parked for no action at this time.

To be included in the Council’s final list for action in 2015, Chair Merrow suggested, recommendations should meet the following criteria:

·         demonstrably a good idea that will improve the environment,

·         the Council is confident that it knows the pros, cons and consequences,

·         Council the best body to bring it forward,

·         there is realistic expectations of success in 2015,

·         its inclusion leaves a manageable number of realistic recommendations.

Members agreed. Chair Merrow added that all recommendations must address a problem that can and should be solved with legislation; some of the suggestions from the public were great ideas but would not involve legislation to move forward.

Each suggestion for legislation that was sent to the Council was included in a slide presentation prepared by staff, and was discussed in detail. Many that were not included in this year’s recommendations were added to a “watch list” for further analysis and possible future Council action. A few were matters of federal jurisdiction and therefore could not be included.

Below are the Council’s draft recommendations for legislation modified to include changes and additions agreed upon by the Council at the meeting. The substantive additions and modifications to the original draft are in italics. The language below is approximate; the Council authorized the Chair to approve the final order, wording and formatting.



Maintain the current capital budget for the Clean Water Fund, which provides funds to municipalities to eliminate the overflows of raw sewage that pollute rivers and close beaches on Long Island Sound and to reduce the nitrogen discharges that lead to hypoxia (low oxygen) in the Sound, and simultaneously creates thousands of jobs annually.

  • Reduce the number of violations of environmental laws
    • Every year, the staff-depleted Department of Energy and Environmental Protection must cite hundreds of service businesses (such as gas stations, convenience stores, landscapers and medical offices) for failure to register, conduct required tests and/or maintain proper records. This type of violation should be deterred by authorizing DEEP to establish establishing automatic penalties, which would allow DEEP to focus enforcement resources on higher environmental priorities.
    • For permitted facilities that fail to submit required monitoring reports, shorten the time period between permit renewals (to five years from ten years for non-reporting alternative sewage treatment facilities, for example).

  • Land Preservation
    • Maintain the current capital budget for farmland preservation; preserve 2,000 acres each year.
    • Authorize sufficient capital funds (estimated to be $20 million) each year to enable the state and matching-grant recipients to acquire, in fee or easement, at least 8,000 acres of priority conservation lands annually, and appropriate sufficient operating funds to enable DEEP to fulfill this goal.
    • Amend the state constitution to preserve state-owned conservation lands in perpetuity.
    • Develop a “Blue Plan” for guiding scientifically the management of the submerged lands of Long Island Sound.


The following recommendations arose from special Council reports and investigations of citizen complaints.

·         Move the state water plan forward with an adequate appropriation.

·         Improve training for municipal inland wetlands agencies. Training is available online at no or low cost to each municipality, but some municipalities still do not have one member or staff person (the minimum required by statute) who has completed training. To begin, require municipal wetlands agencies to disclose their training status, and require DEEP to gather information from municipalities (as part of their required reports) regarding their training status.

·         Appropriate sufficient funds to allow all state parks to open in 2015 with enough staff to manage the physical properties and the destructive behaviors of some visitors. Adopt the recommendations of the General Assembly’s Program Review and Investigations Committee that would enable DEEP to increase revenues (from rentals, for example) for use directly in the parks.

·         Appropriate sufficient funds to mount an effective defense against the largest ecological threat to Connecticut’s native habitats: invasive species.

o   Require an appropriate agency (the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, DEEP, Agriculture, UConn, or all four) to prepare a plan for rapid detection and eradication of newly discovered terrestrial invasive species (to complement the existing state plan for aquatic invasive species).


In addition, many recommendations were put on the watch list for further research and possible action in 2015. The Council directed staff to respond to each commenter to explain the decisions regarding his/her suggestions.

Upon conclusion of the discussion, Chair Merrow summarized the recommendations, noting that some were still worded quite broadly and would have to be refined if and when legislation were to advance. There was unanimous agreement that the modifications as read were correct.

Discussion of the annual report was postponed to the January meeting. Hilding made a motion to adjourn, seconded by Dunbar. The meeting adjourned at 12:25PM.