Minutes of the December 18, 2019 meeting of the Council on Environmental Quality (Council) held in the Holcombe Room on the fifth floor of 79 Elm Street in Hartford.

MEMBERS PRESENT: Susan Merrow (Chair), Keith Ainsworth, David Kalafa (joined the meeting in progress), Alison Hilding (by phone), Alicea Charamut, Kip Kolesinskas, and Matthew Reiser

ALSO IN ATTENDANCE: Peter Hearn (Executive Director), Paul Aresta (Environmental Analyst), and Matthew Pafford (OPM).

Call to Order: Establishment of a Quorum

At 9:42 AM, Chair Merrow convened the meeting and noted that there was a quorum of Council members present.

2. Approval of Agenda

Chair Merrow began the meeting by requesting that two new items be added to the agenda: Connecticut Siting Council (CSC) Petition 1310A and Petition 1391. These items would be discussed under “State Agency Actions”. Ainsworth made a motion to approve the agenda as revised; seconded by Kolesinskas. The motion was approved unanimously.

3. Approval of Minutes of November 20, 2019

Hearn reviewed changes to the draft minutes of the November 20, 2019 meeting that had been suggested by Reiser. Charamut made a motion to approve the revised minutes of November 20, 2019; seconded by Ainsworth. The motion was approved unanimously.

4. Chair’s Report

Chair Merrow noted that the Rivers Alliance of Connecticut and the Connecticut League of Conservation Voters co-sponsored an event on December 15 to recognize the many contributions of Margaret Miner, who has been a lifelong advocate for Connecticut's waters. (One hundred and thirty people attended.)

Chair Merrow also reported that Charles Vidich has recently published a book, H2 Woe, about the long running water supply issues at the University of Connecticut.

5. Citizen Comment Period

There were no comments by citizens.

6. Citizen Complaints and Inquiries Received

Rock Crushing - Stamford

Hearn noted that he received a complaint regarding a rock crushing operation in north Stamford. Some aspects of the complaint appear to be subject to local ordinance. However, depending on the size of the rock crusher and the run time of the equipment, the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) could have some jurisdiction.

Hearn added that a review by Council staff of DEEP’s records indicates that there has been no update to the Notice of Violation for the operations in the Harbor Point area of Stamford. He stated he would inquire of the environmental analyst at DEEP who issued the Notice of Violation to learn its status.

Proposed Bokashi Facility in Torrington

Hearn mentioned that he recently received documentation from a resident in Torrington who is concerned about the proposed Bokashi facility in Torrington. Hearn noted that he will review the materials. If it appears that the proposal contravenes the State’s Environmental Justice Law, he will convey that information to the appropriate personnel at DEEP.

Chair Merrow noted that she had received a call from an environmental reporter who was inquiring about solid waste management in the State of Connecticut. Kolesinskas said disposal is a national problem. Reiser noted that most of the construction and demolition (C&D) materials in Connecticut are transported by rail to states in the mid-west for burial. Chair Merrow noted that source reduction is one of the key strategies for waste management in Connecticut.

7. Report on Staff Activities

  • Residential Heating Fuel Oil Report

    Hearn said that the report, which focuses on the past releases of heating fuel oil at residential properties in Connecticut and on recommendations to minimize the number and quantity of fuel oil released to the environment in the future, was released on Monday, December 16. Hearn noted that the Hartford Courant published a story about it and that WNPR had also reported on it.

    Hearn explained the issues regarding liability insurance coverage for heating oil releases at residential properties and reviewed the correspondence that he had exchanged with the Connecticut Department of Insurance. Hearn noted that the Department of Insurance informed him that most homeowners’ policies have a provision for $50,000 for third party liability (off premises) and $10,000 for cleaning up heating oil releases (on and/or off premises). Ainsworth and Reiser noted that the $10,000 limit in most insurance policies would likely be insufficient to remediate a significant heating oil release. Ainsworth noted that, in his experience, remediating a significant release of heating oil on a residential property could cost more than the market value of the property.

    Hearn noted that the press release, and specifically, the quote provided by Chair Merrow, indicated that the Council is supportive of clean energy; however, if residents choose to continue to use heating oil they should take proactive measures to reduce the likelihood of a release.

  • Continuing conversations with the Office of Policy and Management (OPM) and DEEP on the new CEPA regulations

    Hearn noted that Council staff continues to coordinate with both OPM and DEEP, and has refined the draft tracking worksheet of notices required by the new CEPA regulations. Aresta reviewed the refined tracking sheet and noted the inclusion of a column to help State agencies monitor the timeframe for post-scoping notices or notices for additional time. The “deadline” columns on the spread sheet adjust automatically when submissions are made. Aresta indicated that the tracking sheet has information on notices published in the Environmental Monitor from 2016 to present. Aresta also noted that Council staff is coordinating in the refinement of the Environmental Review Checklist (ERC). Matt Pafford clarified that the ERC is a document that is developed by DEEP but would be used by all State agencies.

  • Connecticut Land Conservation Council presentation

    Hearn noted that he will present at a Connecticut Land Conservation Council meeting on January 9, 2020 about considerations for solar photovoltaic facility siting on land trust lands. Kolesinskas noted that there may be provisions to allow some land trust properties to be developed and that land trusts may be looking for opportunities for mixed use of certain properties. Hearn noted that there are environmental issues associated with the development of marginal agricultural land, including erosion on steep slopes. There was also general discussion regarding the use of bio-digesters on agricultural land.

  • Review of new website

    Hearn reviewed the elements and layout of the Council’s landing webpage and the Environmental Monitor webpage, including the navigation. Hearn noted that both he and Aresta have been working with Connecticut Interactive to migrate the existing Council website to the new format for State websites. Hearn also noted that Council staff recently completed the training to migrate to the new website. He indicated that the immediate concern involves the continued access for State agencies wanting to post notices to the Environmental Monitor. Hearn reviewed the schedule for the website migration and reported that the new Council website should be completed by the end of January 2020.

8. State Agency Actions

a. Consideration of Comments for Connecticut Siting Council (CSC):

Petition #1388 - Hearn indicated that Council staff reviewed this Petition for the proposed expansion of an existing telecommunications facility in Old Lyme. Council staff were initially concerned about the proposed project because the Natural Diversity Database (NDDB) buffer area intersected the proposed site. However, after consulting with NDDB staff, it was determined that the State listed species was present in the waters of the nearby lake and not near the tower site. Consequently, no comments were submitted to the Siting Council regarding Petition 1388.

Petition #1310 - Hearn indicated Petition 1310 (Quinebaug Solar) was initially denied without prejudice by the Siting Council because the original petition failed to include sufficient information for the Siting Council to conclude the proposed project would not have a substantial adverse environmental effect. Hearn noted that the proposed revised project would develop 227 acres of the 599 acre site, which is comprised of 30 individual parcels, with solar photovoltaic panels and associated equipment. Hearn indicated that Council staff is still reviewing the Petition materials and may have draft comments for the Council to review before submittal to the Siting Council.

Petition 1391 – Hearn noted that Petition 1391 involves the proposed installation of a fuel cell facility on an existing commercial property in the City of Norwalk. He said that Council staff has reviewed the Petition and no comments are recommended.

9. Other Business

Hearn noted that Council staff has received notifications that filings have been submitted to the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) regarding United Illuminating’s vegetative management practices. Hearn indicated that he would continue to monitor the PURA docket and that if the docket is reopened, Council staff would develop comments for the Council’s review.

Hearn also noted that the proposed sewer expansion project in Coventry has been cancelled by DEEP, and consistent with the revised CEPA regulations, DEEP must file a Post-Scoping Notice in the Environmental Monitor. Kalafa noted that DEEP has historically had concerns about being the sponsoring agency for sewer expansion projects that were primarily for economic development. He suggested that the Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) may be an appropriate sponsoring agency for sewer expansion projects that are for economic development.

Kolesinskas questioned whether there were opportunities for the Council to engage in the Governor’s Council on Climate Change (GC3). Hearn noted that the Council has not been invited to participate and that the Council typically provides input during the public comment period and this process supports the Council’s objectivity and impartiality.

Hearn indicated that the Council has been asked to participate in an Environmental Summit that will be hosted at Trinity College on January 15 to discuss the recently released report on residential fuel oil releases.

Having no further business, Chair Merrow asked for a motion to adjourn. Charamut made a motion to adjourn; seconded by Ainsworth. The motion passed unanimously. The meeting adjourned at 11:23 A.M.