Minutes of the June 26, 2019 meeting of the Council on Environmental Quality held in the Holcombe Room on the fifth floor of 79 Elm Street in Hartford.

MEMBERS PRESENT: Susan Merrow (Chair), David Kalafa, Lee Dunbar, Alison Hilding, Kip Kolesinskas, Keith Ainsworth, Alicea Charamut, and Matthew Reiser.

ALSO IN ATTENDANCE: Peter Hearn (Executive Director), Paul Aresta (Environmental Analyst), Tom Doyle (CT DOT), Eric Weiner, Susan Miller, and Charles Button.

At 9:32 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 asking if there are any additions or modifications to the agenda. Ainsworth made a motion to approve the agenda as written; seconded by Kalafa. The motion was approved unanimously.

3. Approval of Minutes of May 22, 2019

Reiser made a motion to approve the draft meeting minutes of May 22, 2019, with the addition of a missing period in one sentence. This was seconded by Dunbar. The motion was approved.

4. Chair’s Report

Chair Merrow noted the passing of Richard Roy, former legislator and Co-Chair of the Environment Committee at the Connecticut General Assembly, and acknowledged his contributions to the development of laws to protect the environment and reduce distracted driving.

Chair Merrow also noted that the State’s Water Plan was adopted in the legislative session that just concluded. Charamut added that supporters had been working for adoption of a State Water Plan for four years. She said it was passed in the last 15 minutes of the session. Ainsworth said that some people are still opposed to the principle that water is a public trust.

5. Citizen Comment Period

Chair Merrow noted that three individuals were present who wished to make comments. Eric Weiner, Susan Miller, and Charles Button noted that they lived, or planned to live, in Windsor, near the Farmington River. They spoke of their concerns regarding a release of approximately 50,000 gallons of firefighting foam from Bradley International Airport that contains PFAS chemicals. They expressed the opinion that information and communication regarding the discharge of the firefighting foam, as well as DEEP’s response to the release was inadequate. There was general discussion regarding the potential toxicity of the chemicals discharged, testing protocols, remediation efforts, and public advisories associated with recreation on the Farmington River. Reiser indicated that testing for chemical concentrations is typically undertaken by the entity responsible for the release. Dunbar said that would be useful to know what proportion of the spilled chemical is composed of PFAS. Charamut said that PFAS is ubiquitous in the environment. She said this is the second spill of this type in three years. Reiser said that an assessment of the baseline pollution in the Farmington River would be useful. He said that if there is no established minimum acceptable environmental concentration, determining whether clean-up is sufficient becomes problematic. Hilding asked about protocols for containment and cleanup. Reiser said there are response protocols and that training in them is required, as is notice to affected towns.

The speakers requested that the Council assist with communicating with DEEP and other state agencies, as appropriate. Chair Merrow indicated that the Council will gather more information regarding the chemical release and contact the appropriate person at DEEP on behalf of the speakers. Hearn requested that any information regarding the chemical release be provided to him and he will distribute to the Council members as appropriate.

6. Communications

a. Annual Report – responses

Hearn reviewed the efforts by Council staff to distribute the 2018 Annual Report, including the Governor, legislators, eAlert subscribers, environmental leaders, land trusts, press contacts and regional planning agencies. Hearn noted a few positive comments that were received regarding the 2018 Annual Report. Hearn also reviewed statistics regarding website traffic on the Council’s website for the week following the release of the 2018 Annual report. 

b. Overview of communication strategy for 2019 - 2020

Hearn reviewed the communications strategy for the Council for the upcoming year. He said that the assessment of the Council’s communications strategy involved:

·       Assessing current communication efforts with respect to goals;

·       Determining the target audience and past effectiveness of the Council’s existing communication efforts;

·       Evaluating existing and possible new communication methods, including social media; and

·       Identifying options to accomplish the Council’s communication goals for 2019 - 2020.

Hearn reviewed more statistics regarding website traffic on the Council’s website. Hearn also noted that while social media can be an effective tool for communication, maintaining social media accounts on behalf of the Council may be difficult given the existing staff resources and state policies regarding social media. Hilding suggested that the Council staff disseminate information on specific topics that may be timely and of interest to the public through existing and potentially new channels. Chair Merrow noted that the Council should also continue to provide legislators with factual, unbiased information regarding the environment because they are a critical audience. Hearn noted that Council staff will continue to assess opportunities to achieve the Council’s communication goals.

Due to possible time constraints, Chair Merrow suggested going to agenda item 9 next.

9. State Agency Actions - review of solar energy siting proposals since PA17-218

Aresta provided an update on activities regarding the siting and review of solar projects in Connecticut following the release of the Council’s Special Report on “Energy Sprawl in Connecticut” that examined “Why Farmland and Forests are Being Developed for Electricity Production”. Aresta noted that in 2017, Public Act No. 17-218 was enacted (6 months after CEQ publication) that required:

·       the DEEP to consider the environmental impacts to prime farmland and core forests and the reuse of sites with limited development opportunities such as brownfields and landfills during their energy procurement processes; and

·       the Connecticut Siting Council (CSC) to explicitly consider the impacts to prime farmland and forestland in their evaluation of applicable solar projects.

Aresta noted that the RFP released by the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) on July 31, 2018, for zero carbon electricity generating resources encouraged the reuse and redevelopment of existing sites, including landfills and brownfields and identified assessment criteria that included impacts on environmental quality and natural resources such as prime farmland and core forests. Aresta also highlighted CSC decisions regarding Petitions for Declaratory Rulings for solar projects over the last five years. Kolesinskas said the information is very useful and it should be looked at again at the end of the year. Hearn said there is anecdotal evidence that the focus for large solar energy sitings is shifting away from open space.

7. Citizen Complaints & Inquiries Received

Hearn noted that the Council received four complaints/inquiries since the last meeting as follows:

·       A prospective homebuyer inquired regarding the water quality along a section of the Quinebaug River. Hearn indicated that he supplied the person with the DEEP’s Integrated Water Quality Report to Congress, prepared Pursuant to Clean Water Act Sections 305(b) and 303(d), which contained the requested information.

·       A Freedom of Information request was received for a permit application from a farm that wished to establish a fermentation plant (Bokashi process) to produce a soil enhancement from manure and whey. He directed the person who requested the permit details to the person at DEEP who could provide the requested information.

·       A complaint was received about potentially harmful dust being generated by construction activities associated with the redevelopment of a brownfield site in Stamford. Hearn indicated that he received the complaint yesterday and will be collecting information and contacting the appropriate person/department at DEEP.

·       An inquiry was received about the possible application of herbicides by the Connecticut Department of Transportation (DOT) along the roadway adjacent to an existing public reservoir. Hearn said he contacted DOT and was provided with DOT’s policy regarding the application of chemicals near a reservoir. Hearn noted that he would follow up with the complainant regarding the DOT’s chemical application policy.

8. Report on Staff Activities

Hearn noted that since the last Council meeting, Council staff completed and released the 2018 Annual Report, developed a letter in support of the Blue Plan and provided the letter to the Commissioner of DEEP, and calculated travel expenses associated with attendance at Council meetings for Council members that requested reimbursement. Hearn requested that Council members review their contact information and note any changes or additions as appropriate.

10. Other Business

Hearn reviewed a list of laws that passed during the 2019 regular legislative session and noted key provisions of those laws. There was general discussion regarding the legislation that passed.

Having no further business, Chair Merrow asked for a motion to adjourn. Kalafa made a motion to adjourn; seconded by Dunbar. The motion passed unanimously. The meeting adjourned at 12:30 PM.