Minutes of the March 25, 2015 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, Michael Klemens, Karl Wagener (Executive Director), Peter Hearn (Environmental Analyst)

At 9:31 AM, Chair Merrow noted that a quorum was present and convened the meeting.

Chair Merrow asked that the agenda be considered and approved. Dunbar made a motion to approve the agenda that was seconded by Hall and unanimously approved.

Chair Merrow asked for a motion to approve the minutes of the February 25, 2015 meeting. Dunbar moved approval, Brooks seconded, and all voted in favor except Klemens who abstained because of absence at the meeting.

Chair’s Report

Chair Merrow reported that she had been quite busy answering questions from reporters regarding the proposal to move the Council out of the executive branch and place it in the Office of Legislative Management (OLM). She said that she and Karl Wagener had attended three legislative hearings at which she presented testimony regarding the proposal.

Citizen Comment Period

Chair Merrow recognized Mr. Mike Papa, a Stamford resident and owner of Artscape Organic Care LLC. Mr. Papa said he practices ecological landscaping and came to speak of the need to educate the public about best practices for dealing with wastewater and for maintaining their properties. He said that industry is not doing the job and promotes intensive use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. He said industry will change if the public demands it. He said that the storm water program in Connecticut does not require public education but that Massachusetts does have an education program that touches on control methods that are environmentally sound. He said in his business people are skeptical that ecologically sound techniques will do a better job than synthetic chemicals until they see the results. He left the Council with brochures on soils and the differing capabilities of each type to clean water. Chair Merrow thanked Mr. Papa very much for coming to the Council with his concerns and information.

Highlights ofEnvironmental Quality in Connecticut

Wagener presented a PowerPoint review of the highlights of the Council’s annual report, focusing especially on the changes approved at the February meeting and some new data that arrived since that meeting.

Wagener said that he met with Commissioner Klee of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), who had read the entire report and who asked many insightful questions.

There was considerable discussion of the data showing frequency of warm-water and cold-water species in Long Island Sound. Members also discussed the chart illustrating the rapid growth in residential solar panel installations; Hall and Hilding expressed concern that there is not yet in place a plan to recycle or reuse solar panels when they reach the end of their lifetime. Hall said that because it is a government subsidized product, part of the subsidy incentive should be to accommodate these products at the end of their life. Both Dunbar and Klemens pointed out that the chart does not convey the small portion of the state’s overall energy mix that solar generates.

There also was considerable discussion of the new To Get Back on Track page. Members discussed the obstacles that have prevented meeting specific goals for an online registry of preserved lands. Chair Merrow and Dunbar noted that without such tracking the proportion of local and town preservation cannot be established and proximity to the overall preservation goal cannot be known. Hall observed that the data discussed previously on the strong role that of impervious surfaces in a stream’s ecological health could be used in planning land preservation.

Discussion followed on the turtle and bat populations, which are in decline, and the piping plovers which are recovering. Klemens said that the species in decline are those threatened with degradation of their habitat, especially when the habitat spans many landscapes. Wagener concluded by saying that the difference between the indicators with good trends and those with negative trends is the steadiness of regulatory and financial commitments.

Executive Director’s Report

Wagener said that the annual report had been submitted to Governor Dannel P. Malloy. He said that there was press coverage of the report; links were emailed to the members. He said that some stories combined the annual report with the news of the proposal to merge the Council into the OLM.

There was further discussion of the proposed budget and merger. Hall and Hilding made the case that Council’s broad, as opposed to case-specific, research was not aligned with other research functions at the legislature. Hall added that the Council has a public education role that is not similar to OLM’s mission.

Wagener said that, as directed by the Council, he testified on the need for greater transparency in settling encroachments on state park and forest land. He reported that the General Assembly’s Environment Committee had approved unanimously a new version of the bill; it would require DEEP to consult with the Attorney General before signing a consent order with an encroaching party.

He said the proposed reduction in the budget for state parks has drawn a lot of attention. He said the Environment Committee passed a bill that would create a contribution of five dollars on automobile registrations, which people could opt out of. The revenue would go to a fund that would help sustain state park operations.

The plan to sweep the funds from the Community Investment Account was met with much opposition from land conservation groups. Also attracting strong opposition was a land conveyance bill that proposed transfer pieces of at least four state conservation lands to municipalities or businesses.

Wagener said he and Chair Merrow attended a meeting organized by Representative Matt Lesser regarding turtle conservation. Representatives of DEEP at the meeting said they would look into ways current regulations could be improved.

Wagener said that at the January meeting, cancelled due to weather, a representative from DEEP had been invited to speak about public participation and its new docket management website. He said that DEEP is available for the April 22 meeting. However, three members reported that they would be out of town. The Chair asked staff to see if a better date could be found for the April meeting.

Citizen Complaints

Chair Merrow asked Mr. Greg Walwer of Archaeological Consulting Services to explain what had brought him to the Council. Mr. Walwer said he is an archaeologist who is concerned about the lack of regulation over potential archaeological sites, especially with regard to stormwater permits. He identified two specific problems: some applicants do not comply with the requirements of Appendix G of the Stormwater General Permit for construction activities to assess cultural resources, and the information was not available online. He said that DEEP had added a check-off box to its general permit for stormwater management on which the applicant would confirm that there are no site conditions indicating the need for historic or archaeological investigation. He showed three cases where applicants had said there were no historic resources on or near the sites but historic maps clearly indicated that such an assertion was untrue. He reported that there are no sanctions in such cases and that there is a need for legislation that would allow for the “freezing” of the permits. Many questions followed. There was considerable discussion of the role of the State Historic Preservation Officer and the contrasts between permit reviews and environmental reviews conducted pursuant to the National and Connecticut Environmental Policy Acts. Mr. Walwer said that the information was not put on DEEP’s website where the public could check its veracity despite a requirement to do so. Neil Williams, an Environmental Analyst in DEEP’s stormwater section, was in the audience and was invited to speak. Mr. Williams said that for projects that cross town boundaries or are sponsored by state or federal agencies, the documents associated with the permit are put onto the DEEP website for review by the public. However, most stormwater general permit registrations are subject to local approvals and those are not on the DEEP website. Klemens saw a parallel between the cases raised by Mr. Walwer and the inadequate reviews for natural resources in permit reviews. Brooks said the general permit is not like an individual permit in which might require a hearing with evidence and public input; it is more like a filing in which representations are made and review is cursory. Hilding said there should be sanctions in cases where representations on such documents are fraudulent. Members discussed the role and authority of the State Historic Preservation Officer. Chair Merrow thanked Mr. Walwer very much for bringing this matter to the Council’s attention, and suggested that he explain the problem to his state senator. The Council asked staff to frame the problem for future Council work and discussion.

Dunbar noted two common themes in the complaints and concerns brought to the Council: inadequate environmental reviews and DEEP"s difficulties in utilizing data through information technology; both are likely due to chronic understaffing.

Review of State Agency Actions

Hearn reported that the required to investigate the source of groundwater contamination in Tylerville had requested an extension of time from, and that DEEP had not yet responded to the request.


Klemens made a motion to adjourn that was seconded by Dunbar. The meeting was adjourned at 12:09 PM.