Minutes of the March 22, 2017 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 (by phone), Alicea Charamut, Lee Dunbar, Karyl Lee Hall, Alison Hilding, Charles Vidich (by phone), Karl Wagener (Executive Director), Peter Hearn (Environmental Analyst).

At 9:35 AM, Chair Merrow convened the meeting, noting a quorum. Charamut offered a motion to approve the agenda, seconded by Dunbar and approved by all.

Chair Merrow asked if there were any revisions to the minutes of February 22, 2017. There were none. Charamut made a motion to approve which was seconded by Dunbar and approved by all.

Chair’s Report

Chair Merrow said she had testified before the Committee on Government Administration and Elections (GAE) as well as the Appropriations Subcommittee on Conservation and Development on behalf of the Council. She said that she was impressed by the scores of individuals and organizations that offered testimony in support of retaining a fully-funded Council. She noted that among those who appeared in person was Mr. Paul Zagorsky, who had appeared before the Council in connection with the New Britain water supply environmental study. She said she is very appreciative of the strong support of all those individuals and organizations that appeared or sent testimony.

She said that Governor Dannel P. Malloy and Commissioner of Energy and Environmental Protection Rob Klee would be holding a news conference later in the morning to draw attention to the potential adverse effects of proposed funding cuts in the federal budget.

Executive Director’s Report

Wagener added to Chair Merrow’s observations. He said over 100 pieces of testimony were submitted to the GAE Committee on the relevant bill, the majority in support of retaining the Council. He said that some of the people who testified in person waited hours to give their testimony. He said that the Committee’s deadline to vote on the bill is March 29.

He said that the GAE Committee unanimously approved the resolution supporting a constitutional amendment to protect state lands from being conveyed without a hearing.

Wagener said the deadline for the Appropriations Committee to report out a budget is April 27.

The bill on siting of solar facilities was approved by the Environment Committee without amendment. The Council reviewed and discussed each section of the bill. Wagener said he is looking for direction from the Council as to what input would be recommended for the bill, should the Council be asked to provide any. Discussion followed and consensus emerged. Chair Merrow summarized the discussion saying the Council’s advice would be to support the strongest language that can pass to create incentives to site the facilities on appropriate sites, with the minimum being the Council’s original recommendations.

Wagener distributed a notice from Simsbury resident Susan Masino regarding a regional forum on land stewardship.

Citizen Complaints

Wagener outlined two complicated complaints that had come to the Council and asked Hearn to elaborate on the research that had gone into them. Hearn explained the inquiries he had made about allegations that polluted soil had been handled inappropriately in connection with a property in Newington. The extensive research into the question was inconclusive and he said the best determination would be made by actually testing the soil at the site.

Hearn recounted complaints from Middletown regarding an industrial operation that appeared to be operating without state permits and in violation of local zoning and wetlands ordinances. He said the site had been visited by a representative of DEEP and the operation complied with the changes needed to prevent it from being a solid waste facility, which would require a permit.

Review of State Agency Actions

Wagener summarized an application before the Connecticut Siting Council (CSC) for a cellular communications tower that would be visible form the trails and scenic overlooks of West Rock Ridge State Park. He said that the CSC had solicited agency comments and suggested that comments requesting further analysis of the visual impacts from those sites, which have regional significance, would be appropriate. The Council concurred. 

Discussion of Annual Report Topics

Discussion began with review of each indicator. Wagener noted that Vidich had sent in comments that will be incorporated into the text of the report.

Charamut suggested including a more through discussion of temperature in the section on hypoxia in Long Island Sound, to better educate the public to the relationship between the two. Dunbar suggested a reference to the sewage load from Massachusetts and north that are not abated to the degree that Connecticut’s sewage effluent is treated. Hilding suggested a re-write of the turtle page to clarify which are endangered and which aren’t. Dunbar asked if the population trend for the state’s only non-endangered bat could be included. Vidich said the ecological role of bats should be included also. Charamut requested that the caption for the photo she provided of a dry stream bed explain that it was a consequence of both drought and withdrawals. Dunbar suggested that the three points made in “Progress and Problems” be enumerated at the beginning of the narration. He suggested a distinction be made between weather and climate. He also asked for greater emphasis on the effect of land use on water quality. Vidich added that stream belts should be discussed too. Hilding pointed out a few typos and places where more exact language is appropriate. Charamut said that the contribution of pollution from other states to Connecticut’s pollution should be added. There were numerous suggestions for improvement.

Members discussed the best approach for the “at a glance” page, settling on the previous format but agreeing to possibly adding a new chart format.

Chair Merrow asked for a motion on the annual report. Hall made a motion to approve the report subject to the changes discussed and subject to final approval of the Chair. Hilding seconded the motion which was approved unanimously.

Discussion turned to when and how to release the report. After discussion of possible dates, it was decided to keep all dates open and to release it before the next scheduled regular Council meeting, if possible.

Other Business

Charamut announced that today is International Water Day. It would be marked by an informational session at the Legislative Office Building and she invited everyone to attend.

There be no further business, Chair Merrow asked for a motion to adjourn. Dunbar made a motion to adjourn which was seconded by Charamut and unanimously approved. The meeting was adjourned at 12:03 PM.