Minutes of the March 26, 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 Brooks, Lee Dunbar, Karyl Lee Hall, Alison Hilding, James O’Donnell, Richard Sherman, Karl Wagener (Executive Director), Peter Hearn (Environmental Analyst).

GUEST: William Dornbos, Connecticut Director, Environment Northeast


At 9:33 AM, Chair Merrow called the meeting to order, noting that a quorum was present. She said she would like to add an item to the agenda, proposing the addition of “9.d., Siting Council consultation re: proposed telecommunications tower in Ridgefield.” Brooks motioned to approve the agenda with the change, which was seconded by Hall and approved unanimously.

Chair Merrow asked if there were any additions or modifications to the minutes of the February 26, 2014 Council meeting. There were none. Hilding made a motion to approve them, which was seconded by Brooks and approved unanimously with Hall and Sherman abstaining because they had not been present at that meeting. O’Donnell had not yet arrived.

Chair’s Report

Chair Merrow noted that deficiencies in enforcement of the state’s pesticide regulations had received much attention in the Hartford Courant. It described a situation similar to what the Council reported in its recent report on Alternative Treatment Systems, Testing the Effluent: Some Systems Pass, Some Don't, and Some Won't Say. She suggested that this persistent theme should be discussed in the Council’s annual report.

Executive Director’s Report

Wagener said that he had been busy since the last Council meeting with many meetings on legislation. He had sent to the Council summaries of several bills that were reported favorably out of the Environment Committee and that were related to Council recommendations. He briefly summarized each in numerical order.

Bill 66, An Act Concerning Outdoor Wood-Burning Furnaces (OWF), will preserve the state’s existing siting restrictions on OWFs when the federal emission regulations take effect, and all OWFs will be limited to burning untreated wood.

Bill 70, An Act Concerning the Grant of Property Interests in Property Held by the Departments of Agriculture and Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) and the Establishment of a Public Use and Benefit Land Registry, would require a proposed conveyance by one of these agencies to be submitted to the General Assembly’s Environment Committee, which could hold a hearing and a vote on it. It authorizes DEEP to designate its lands for “public use and benefit”. It requires that DEEP create a registry of such lands online that will include data sheets listing their principal attributes. It allows conservation restrictions on properties that are purchased at a discounted price. Discussion followed on the adequacy of these protections and the added protection that would be afforded if a constitutional amendment were adopted to protect these lands.

Bill 72, An Act Concerning Liability for The Growing of Running Bamboo, establishes a 40-foot setback requirement for bamboo plantings and deems escaped bamboo to be a nuisance.

Bill 312, An Act Concerning a Long Island Sound Resource and Use Inventory and a Long Island Sound Blue Plan, authorizes the mapping of resources and planning for Long Island Sound’s present and anticipated uses. O’Donnell and Hall expressed concern that, absent funding for the Bill, private interests could dominate the planning process.

Bill 446, An Act Establishing an Aquatic Invasive Species Management Grant and Prevention Education Program, authorizes DEEP to provide grants to study, eradicate and educate about aquatic invasive species and to respond itself to new infestations.

Bill 5308, one of two bills on fracking that were approved, establishes a moratorium until DEEP adopts regulations on the transport, storage and disposal of fracking waste. The other bill, 237, prohibits the storage and disposal of those wastes.

Bill 5424, An Act Concerning the Responsibilities of the Water Planning Council, requires the Water Planning Council to develop a draft state-wide water plan by January 1, 2017 for submission to the General Assembly by January 1, 2018.

Wagener added that another bill of interest, 27, would change the name of the Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority to the Materials Innovation and Recycling Authority and would mandate an update to the statewide solid waste management plan to include a new goal for diversion or recycling of 60% of the state’s waste stream. Another bill, on which the Council did not testify, authorizes towns to adopt ordinances governing ATV use that includes a confiscation provision for repeat offenders, which the Council has been recommending for years. He said Bill 5049 would repeal many statutes and regulations deemed obsolete; only a relative few concerned the environment. There was brief discussion of the annual land conveyance bill, 5550, which includes conveyances of two DEEP properties. One would transfer a property to a town that had already been leasing it for years. The other involved a property that contained restrictions in its deed regarding how it could be used; Chair Merrow said she believed that the parties were in discussion on how to honor those restrictions.

Connecticut’s Low-Carbon Energy Future

Chair Merrow introduced William Dornbos, Connecticut Director of Environment Northeast. Mr. Dornbos introduced the topic by explaining that Environment Northeast (ENE) was created in 1999 to focus on climate issues. Using a series of illustrations he described the goals for greenhouse gas emission reductions and strategies to achieve the goals.

He showed that a switch to natural gas as the dominant fuel for electricity generation had achieved a significant reduction in greenhouse gasses. O’Donnell said these calculations should include gasses generated in production and in the leakage from the supply system. Other Council members asked specifics about what methane sources were included in the analyses and the geographic sources for the natural gas delivered to the northeast. In answering those questions Mr. Dornbos made the point that the distribution system for natural gas was reaching capacity in the northeast. The alternatives facing policy makers are to expand supply lines and other infrastructure for this non-renewable resource or to encourage a switch to greater use of electricity for domestic needs and for transportation. He showed how such a switch could achieve a 50 to 75 percent reduction in greenhouse gasses. Hall pointed out that there is a capital cost to this shift. He responded that one of the key components of ENE’s plan was modernization of the electric grid. Mr. Dornbos also discussed strategies for modern electric heat in our buildings. Sherman supported the statement that new electric heat pump technologies have advanced greatly and can be used in this area, and also commented on the programs such as Solarize CT to create demand for photovoltaics.

A discussion followed on how a switch to more electric dependency would affect the summer brownouts or induce winter brownouts. Mr. Dornbos said timed rates can alleviate this problem, to a degree. Hall and Hilding commented on distributed generation and homes as “micro utilities.” Mr. Dornbos spoke about a demonstration project in Rhode Island that is testing this concept as an alternative to upgrading a substation. Dunbar said that educating the public about the technology and the options they have to employ it is very important and has to be done in an effective way for people who are not already knowledgeable. O’Donnell said that history has shown financial incentives are the most effective way to achieve changes in behavior. Sherman added that the conservation requirements of the model building code are not yet in effect in the state and they need to be.

Chair Merrow thanked Mr. Dornbos for his excellent and thought-provoking presentation and analysis. She asked if he is available to speak to other groups and he said he would, gladly.

Review of State Agency Actions

Draft of revised generic Environmental Classification Document (ECD) – staff update – Wagener reported that the Office of Policy and Management (OPM) convened a meeting of state agencies interested in the proposed revisions to the state’s ECD. OPM proposed that the information required to be furnished at a public scoping meeting be included in the first scoping notice for the project. Wagener said that those details would need to be available anyway within 10 days from the publication of the notice should there be a request from the public for a public meeting. Including them in the notice of scoping should not create delay or additional work at the sponsoring agency. Wagener noted that the Connecticut Environmental Policy Act (CEPA) requires scoping notices to be submitted for publication on a form approved by the Council. After discussion, the Council directed staff to communicate to OPM expressing its intent to make those proposed changes to the form, whether the ECD is modified or not.

Wagener said another requirement discussed at the meeting was for all agencies involved in a project to be identified in the scoping notice, to prevent a situation where one agency releases a scoping notice for a project on which another agency is working on a separate track, as has happened recently.

Brief updates from staff on other projects – Wagener referred the Council to the memo he had circulated prior to the meeting on DEEP’s recent report regarding outdated regulations. He said that DEEP appears to have responded to four of the Council’s five recommendations for regulation reform, including the ‘rules of practice” by which public hearings are conducted. The Council asked that this be monitored and that a representative from DEEP be invited to discuss proposed revisions at the appropriate time.

Wagener said the one Council recommendation not addressed by DEEP was the revision to CEPA regulations. Sherman said a representative from the agency should be invited to explain the reasons for the delay; members agreed unanimously.

Siting Council consultation re: proposed telecommunications tower in New Milford – The Council discussed the draft comments which had been circulated prior to the meeting. Dunbar was concerned that the draft letter did not ask for a specific action regarding the proposed tower. Hearn said that the comments were drafted to call the Siting Council’s attention to the broader necessity to require visual simulations from scenic areas such as the Appalachian Trail, and to adopt a standard consideration of alternatives for stealth construction in this region which has been designated by the state legislature and the National Park Service as a “national heritage area.” Dunbar motioned to approve the comments. This was seconded by Hall and approved by the Council.

Siting Council consultation re: proposed telecommunications tower in Ridgefield – Wagener explained that comments on this docket are due at the Siting Council before the next scheduled monthly meeting. He said the proposed tower would be partially visible form a state boat launch, and asked Hearn to describe other issues associated with it. Hearn said this application is an example of a trend in applications to fail to be specific about the number of residences that will have views of the planned tower. He observed that in years past residences had been identified by address or, at a minimum, the number of residences that would have seasonal views or year-round views was totaled. In this application, though, the areas that would have a view or the tower were shaded on an enclosed map but no total was given. He estimated that the tower would be seen by forty houses. He said that specificity in this regard would assist the Siting Council in making siting decisions in congested areas. It was the consensus of the Council that comments expressing this concern be sent.

Citizen Complaints

Wagener reported on a detailed complaint about the weakness of agencies’ analysis of energy consumption in environmental impact evaluation when alternatives are being evaluated. He said that CEPA regulations require analysis of energy expenditures in environmental impact evaluations, but they are vague and make no mention of including the embodied energy, including the energy used in materials and installation. He suggested that the Council could recommend to DEEP that it improve this section of the CEPA regulations when those are amended. As a DEEP representative was to be invited to an upcoming meeting to discuss those regulations (see above), members agreed that the energy topic could be raised at the same time

Discussion of Annual Report Indicators

Wagener said that about one third of the data needed for the report has been assembled. He said that a publication date in May appears realistic. Members agreed to spend most of the April meeting reviewing the indicators and report. He asked Hearn to discuss the Council’s prior decision to show only the ten most recent years’ data in the indicators, rather than 30 or so years of data. Hearn used slides of one indicator to show the very different impression that eliminating early years can create. He said that many of the charts had been redone to show only the most recent 10 historical data points. He said that if the starting point shows an atypical spike or dip, it will be necessary to add or subtract an interval so not to create a false impression on the chart. A discussion of various display options followed. Chair Merrow asked staff to send charts and text to the Council during the coming weeks as they are completed. Wagener added that he is still looking for title suggestions for the “non-human biota” section.

There being no additional business, Chair Merrow asked for a motion to adjourn. The meeting ended at 12:05 PM following an adjournment motion by Sherman that was seconded by Dunbar and supported unanimously.