Minutes of the November 15, 2017 meeting of the Council on Environmental Quality, held in the Ensign Room on the fifth floor of 79 Elm Street in Hartford.

PRESENT: Susan Merrow (Chair), Janet Brooks, Alicea Charamut, Lee Dunbar, Karyl Lee Hall, Alison Hilding, Kip Kolesinskas, Charles Vidich, Karl Wagener (Executive Director), Peter Hearn (Environmental Analyst).

At 9:31 AM, Chair Merrow convened the meeting, noting a quorum. She asked if there were any changes to the agenda. There was none. Hilding made a motion to approve the agenda as posted. The motion was seconded by Vidich and approved by all present.

Chair Merrow asked if there were any modifications to the minutes of the October 18, 2017 meeting. Hilding and Vidich noted that in the last paragraph of the second page “though” was typed when “through” was intended. Hilding suggested a rewording of the second sentence in the second paragraph to read something like “Hilding said that even at low levels recurrent exposure might pose a chronic risk to humans.” All agreed to the corrections and a motion to approve the corrected minutes was made by Dunbar, seconded by Vidich and approved unanimously.

Chair’s Report

Chair Merrow reported that the Council was funded in the recently adopted budget and recalled the months of uncertainty that preceded it. She again acknowledged the important role of the public in expressing its support for the Council, and said Wagener would provide additional details on the Council’s funding.

Citizens' Comments

Alan Paskewitz of Newington spoke. He said he is a member of the Newington Conservation Commission. He asked if it is true that spraying of pesticides along railroad lines is exempt from notice requirements. Wagener replied that, though true in the past, the law was changed this year, effective October 1. Wagener said this would be discussed later in the meeting. Mr. Paskewitz also asked about recent efforts by California to restrict glyphosate-containing pesticide products. Brooks recollected that DEEP had proposed canceling the registration for two pesticides some years ago, based on information developed by the Connecticut Agricultural Experimentation Station (CAES), and that DEEP was unsuccessful because it could not meet the specificity regarding proof of risk that is required by state law. Merrow thanked Mr. Paskewitz for bringing these question to the Council, and said the Council would look into them.

Executive Director’s Report

In response to a question from Brooks, Wagener said that the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority had not been separated from DEEP in the final budget. Hall asked if the 90-day maximum time limit of permit issuance applied to all permits. He said it was a limited list but noted that it included application of aquatic pesticides. 

Wagener provided the Council with an update on the budget. He reported that the Council is fully funded in the current fiscal year from the general fund. For the following fiscal year it is to be funded by the revenues from the “passport to the parks,” which he explained.

Referring back to Mr. Paskewitz’s question, Wagener said a new law governs pesticide spraying along rail lines. It requires prior notice to the municipalities for posting on their websites, in newspapers, and to the state’s Department of Transportation (DOT). It also requires a vegetation management plan be devised by the railroad. It was agreed to add this to the Council’s December agenda for further discussion and possible action.

Wagener called attention to the Connecticut Siting Council’s memo to developers of proposed solar farms. It laid out the requirements of the recent law which requires documentation from DEEP or the state’s Department of Agriculture that the project will not adversely affect core forests or prime agricultural soils, respectively.

He said he had attended a DOT-sponsored meeting of various agency commissioners and staff on how to make the CEPA (Connecticut Environmental Policy Act) process more efficient. He said that because many DOT projects are federally funded they go through a NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) process instead of CEPA, but lately more have been CEPA-only. Hall asked what provoked the meeting at this particular time. Wagener said he believes it was some delays in the reviews of some of DOT’s proposals. He said that he spoke about the need for the state’s Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD) to be integral to the CEPA planning process, and not merely a final review to check the plan against the POCD.

Discussion of Draft Report on Pesticide Enforcement

Wagener said that the suggestions from the last meeting were incorporated into the revised draft report, which was sent to the members prior to the meeting. He said that staff had explored the additional lines of research that were recommended.

He reviewed changes in the report’s recommendations. The recommendation regarding funding of the Pesticide Management Program (PMP) was revised to recommend use of revenues from existing fees. The recommendation to work with towns on aquatic pesticide applications was dropped. He said that he was not sure how municipalities could be assigned additional responsibilities. After reviewing the delegation statutes and the uncertainties, Brooks suggested that this complex topic be taken up separate from the report. Members agreed.

Vidich and others suggested some editorial changes, including additional footnotes. Wagener agreed and said it would require noting multiple sources. Vidich said that because integrated pest management is included in the report’s recommendations, it deserves more discussion in the body of the report. Wagener said that could be added along with other approaches to reducing pesticide use. Vidich said the recommendation regarding “closing loopholes” could benefit from more discussion in the body, as would the recommendation regarding the source of funding.

Discussion followed on the wording of the final sentence in recommendation 1. The final wording agreed to was “the Council recommends establishing a special fund for receiving and expending pesticide revenue".

It was decided to drop the draft recommendation regarding adjustment of fees to reflect the environmental burden of a product.

Kolesinskas suggested the use of “pesticide residues” rather than “pesticides” on page 6 might be more accurate. Furthermore, the term “agricultural land” includes much pasture on which no pesticides are used; the report should distinguish between pasture and cropland. He said that if the discussion of pesticide alternatives is expanded, the work of CAES and the NEMO program at the University of Connecticut should be included.

In response to Dunbar’s analysis of the context and genesis of the report, all agreed that it should be clearly stated at the beginning of the report that the pesticides program is being examined as an example of declining enforcement activity at DEEP, as documented in the Council’s annual report, and that this is the first of what will be additional reports on enforcement and compliance.

Dunbar made a motion to approve the report with the revisions as discussed, subject to final approval of the wording changes by the Chair. Vidich seconded and the motion was approved unanimously.

Discussion of the State Water Plan Final Draft Report

Wagener summarized the comments that had been received from the public by the Water Planning Council regarding the Draft State Water Plan.

He said the Council’s revised draft comments that had been sent to members prior to the meeting incorporated the changes that had been discussed at the October meeting. Discussion of the new draft continued.

Vidich said that analysis of the carrying capacity of basins needs to be included in any meaningful plan for water allocation and use. After considerable discussion, members agreed to add such a recommendation.

Vidich said there is a need for the various state plans to be arranged hierarchically, recognizing that the POCD is not just one more plan among equals in a fragmented planning framework. This concept was added.

There was considerable discussion of what the comments should recommend regarding balance and the “triple bottom line” approach; the draft comments were amended to reflect the need to explain that environmental values cannot be compromised.

Charamut added that the comments should also address the need of utilities to coordinate with the Water Utility Coordinating Committee (WUCC) and the Water Planning Council (WPC). Dunbar said there is a lack of balance in the draft plan, since drinking water sources are protected, but water for important ecological areas aren’t given the same consideration. Kolesinskas added that economic analysis will usually emphasize the short term at the expense of the long term good; the plans does not address time. All of these concepts were added.

At this point Brooks had to leave for a prior obligation.

Suggestions were made to improve wording and clarify meanings throughout the draft comments. Kolesinskas clarified some of the agricultural language, and then had to leave for another appointment. Vidich made a motion to approve the comments with the revisions as discussed, subject to final approval of the wording changes by the Chair. Charamut seconded the motion and it was approved unanimously.

Review of State Agency Actions

Application for permit for the retention of stone in the Connecticut River – Using slides, Wagener showed the location of the riprap that had been installed in the Connecticut River at the Glastonbury boathouse. The installation of thousands of tons of rock was allowed by an emergency authorization from DEEP to halt the subsidence that appeared subsequent to the boathouse construction; now DEEP was soliciting comment on the town’s application for a permanent permit. Hilding made two suggestions for minor revisions to the wording in the proposed comments that had been distributed to members prior to the meeting. Vidich moved to approve the comments with the changes discussed. The motion was seconded by Dunbar and approved unanimously.

Siting Council Solicitation for comments on a proposed solar facility in Somers and a fuel-cell facility in Middletown – Wagener said staff recommended no comments regarding either.

After discussing possible changes to the meeting schedule for 2018, members agreed to schedule the meetings for the same dates and times as in 2017.

There being no additional business, Vidich offered a motion to adjourn, which was seconded by Dunbar. Adjournment was at 12:15PM.