Minutes of the January 22, 2020 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, Alison Hilding, Alicea Charamut (by phone), Lee Dunbar, Kip Kolesinskas, Charles Vidich, 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 9:31 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 under “Other Business”: a draft letter to Governor Lamont regarding membership on the Connecticut Siting Council (CSC) and review of the proposed revisions to the regulations governing implementation of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Hilding made a motion to approve the agenda as revised; seconded by Ainsworth. The motion was approved unanimously.

3. Approval of Minutes of December 18, 2019

Hearn reviewed changes to the draft minutes of the December 18, 2019 meeting that had been suggested by Reiser. The minutes were approved by consensus.

4. Chair’s Report

Chair Merrow discussed the presentation that Hearn gave at the conference sponsored by the Connecticut League of Conservation Voters regarding the issue of fuel oil releases in the state. Chair Merrow also noted the information provided by Commissioner Dykes of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) at the event. Commissioner Dykes discussed the need for renewable energy to achieve the state’s goal for a 100 percent zero carbon electric sector by 2040. David Kalafa also mentioned that there may be resources available to conduct energy audits of state facilities and to undertake some energy efficiency improvements at those facilities.

5. Citizen Comment Period

There were no comments by citizens.

6. Citizen Complaints and Inquiries Received

Fallen Tree - Danbury

Hearn noted that he received a complaint from a citizen regarding a fallen tree in a waterbody in Danbury Connecticut. Hearn indicated that he informed the citizen that there may be inland wetland issues; however, the issue is under the jurisdiction of the local municipality.

Air Quality - Stamford

Hearn noted that he responded to an inquiry from Representative Michel regarding the status of the complaints associated with air quality resulting from construction and rock crushing operations in Stamford. Hearn noted that he has discussed the issue with DEEP staff. He was told he would be sent a history of the Notices of Violation (NOV) for operations in the Harbor Point area along with a log of complaints that had been received by DEEP.

Hilding questioned the status of the citizen complaint regarding possible soil contamination at various school properties in the Town of Fairfield. Hearn indicated he has been in communication with the citizen that brought the complaint to the Council. That person will be meeting this week with the Department of Public Health and town officials to obtain more information regarding the status of the potential contamination and remediation.

7. Report on Staff Activities

a. Report on presentations at CLCC and CTLCV

Hearn said that he presented at two events in January, including 1) the Connecticut Land Conservation Council (CLCC) conference, “Climate Primer for Land Trusts” and 2) the Connecticut League of Conservation Voters (CTLCV) Environmental Summit. Hearn said that at the CLCC meeting on January 9, 2020 he spoke about obstacles associated with installing renewable energy generation facilities on land trust lands. Dunbar indicated that occasionally land trusts are offered land that has limited ecological value and that some development on those parcels may be appropriate. Ainsworth noted that land trusts can acquire land in “fee”, which may have no restrictions for renewable energy development or by easement, which may include land use restrictions. Vidich noted that land use regulations could be employed to facilitate the development of renewable energy facilities. Chair Merrow expressed the concern that there could be a chilling effect on land donations if land trusts lose the public perception that they are about preservation.

Hearn also reported on his presentation at the CTLCV Environmental Summit on the Council’s recent special report, Fuel for Thought, at which he highlighted the issue of heating oil releases in the residential sector.

b. Updates on the shift to the new state website and on the Annual Report progress

Hearn reported that Council staff has been very busy updating content for the new website. Aresta reviewed the layout of the Council’s landing webpage and noted that Council staff has undertaken the following:

  • Reformatted numerous pages to correct alignment, spacing, and font issues;
  • Created links to pdf files for the Environmental Monitor Archives for 2016-2019;
  • Organized publications as separate webpages;
  • Coordinated with Connecticut Interactive to address format and procedure for state agencies to contribute to the Environmental Monitor on the new system;
  • Completed training on new campaign manager; and
  • Updated the interactive Annual report for 2018.

Aresta noted that one of the issues with the older Annual Reports is that they use Java Script to develop the interactive charts and the new website does not support Java. Hilding questioned whether there were outside resources available to assist with the website migration. Hearn indicated that Council staff is working with Connecticut Interactive, a private information technology (IT) company, but much of the work needs to be done by Council staff so that staff has the knowledge and experience to make updates to the website in the future.

c. Letter that was submitted regarding proposed disposal of Class II land in Seymour

Hearn stated that Council staff had submitted comments regarding the proposed disposition of 1.62 acres of improved Class II land and building in Seymour. Hearn indicated that the comments recommended that the Representative Policy Board for the South Central Connecticut Regional Water District inspect the condition of the fuel oil storage tank and/or supply line on the property and make sure those heating system components are compliant with applicable codes. The comments were also provided to the Drinking Water Section at the Connecticut Department of Public Health.

8. State Agency Actions

a. Connecticut Siting Council (CSC):

Petition #1310A – Aresta noted that the Council submitted comments regarding Petition 1310A (Quinebaug Solar) that focused on 1) vegetative management and the possible use of pollinator friendly plantings, 2) State-Listed species and the protection of potential breeding pools for the Eastern spadefoot toad, 3) appropriate buffers for inland wetlands and vernal pools, and 4) a request for more information about construction phasing. Aresta noted that he attended the field review and evidentiary hearing on January 14, 2020. Kolesinskas noted that more area on the proposed project sites could have been used for solar panels; however, the current owners will continue to operate a gravel mining operation on a portion of the project area. Aresta 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.

Petition 1090A – Aresta noted that Petition 1090A was submitted by Bloom Energy Corporation for the addition of another fuel cell facility on previously developed land at the Danbury Fair Mall. He said that Council staff has reviewed the Petition and no comments are recommended.

Petition 1392   – Aresta noted that Petition 1392 was submitted by Bloom Energy Corporation for a proposed 300-kilowatt fuel cell facility and associated equipment at the Town of Southington Water Treatment Plant. He said that Council staff has reviewed the Petition and no comments are recommended.

b. PURA Docket No. 18-12-25, draft comments for consideration

Hearn noted that the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) has re-opened Docket 18-12-25 and requested comments regarding the vegetative management (VM) practices for the electric distribution companies (EDCs). Hearn noted that the Council had submitted comments regarding United Illuminating’s (UI) VM practices in Docket 19-01-25 in July 2019. Based on citizen’s concerns that were brought before the Council in July and numerous comments submitted into the record for Docket 18-12-25, the Council has drafted additional comments. The draft comments recommend that PURA review the VM policies for the EDCs and if they are not in conformity with the intent of Connecticut General Statutes (CGS) Sec 16-234, they should be directed to adopt proper management practices. Dunbar stated that the draft comments are appropriate and that UI’s use of Targeted Risk Management (TRM) may be the result of limited VM practices in prior years based on residents’ concerns. It was the consensus of the Council members to submit the draft comments to PURA for Docket 18-12-25.

c. DEEP – Permit issued for Bokashi demonstration project in Torrington

Hearn mentioned that a two-year permit for a demonstration project has been issued for the proposed Bokashi facility in Torrington. Hearn noted that the DEEP permit does not address zoning issues, which is the town’s jurisdiction, but does include conditions that address some of the issues raised by the concerned citizen in Torrington, including a limit on the quantity of material that can be processed at the facility and best practices to minimize odor. Hearn noted that the permit for a demonstration project for the “beneficial use” of waste material is allowed in order to evaluate novel waste management methods.

9. Other Business

Hearn indicated that a new intern will working with the Council starting on January 30 for the spring semester. The new intern is a student at Trinity College and she will be asked to assess the economic costs and environmental conditions associated with climate change and the resulting rise in seawater levels for the 2019 Annual Report. Hilding suggested that the intern begin by collecting available information including impacts on wastewater infrastructure in coastal communities in Connecticut.

Hearn also noted that a former intern provided the Council with a National Geographic book in gratitude for the guidance and encouragement that she received during her internship.

Hearn referred to the draft of a letter to Governor Lamont to encourage him to refill two vacant positions on the Siting Council with candidates that have a sophisticated understanding of the biology and ecology of natural systems. Ainsworth commented on the makeup of the Siting Council and the importance of having environmental and ecological expertise on the Siting Council. Hilding suggested revising the draft letter by striking the last sentence of the first paragraph and moving the third paragraph up. Dunbar said the Council could offer assistance to the Governor in selecting potential candidates for the two vacant positions. Kalafa stated that the revised draft letter and the suggestion to offer assistance to the Governor was appropriate, adding that any more fundamental changes to the membership of the Siting Council would need to be done through legislative action. It was the consensus of the Council members to revise the draft letter as suggested by Hilding with the addition of a summary sentence at the conclusion.

Hearn indicated that Vidich had raised an issue regarding proposed changes to the regulations for implementation of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). He reported he reviewed the proposed changes in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) and that the Council may want to offer comments as appropriate. Hearn listed many of the proposed changes, including consideration of economic impacts in environmental reviews, and eliminating the consideration of long term and cumulative impacts for certain projects. He said the choice before the Council will be: whether to comment at all, whether to send a general comment regarding aspects of the proposed regulations that are of concern, or whether to develop a detailed point-by-point analysis of the changes. Dunbar said general comments regarding the proposed changes to NEPA are appropriate. Hilding and Kolesinskas suggested that the Council’s comments should be distributed to the State Attorney General, environmental advocates, and the press. Chair Merrow indicated that the Council can develop and distribute a press release for the Council’s NEPA comments prior to the deadline for the submission of comments. Charamut suggested that the Council’s draft letter stress the importance of an adequate public comment period in the NEPA process. Vidich indicated that many of the proposed changes were identified as the result of responses to the announcement of the proposed rulemaking. It was the consensus of the Council members to have Council staff draft comments regarding the proposed changes to the NEPA regulations and circulate them for consideration prior to the next Council meeting on February 26.

Having no further business, Chair Merrow asked for a motion to adjourn. Dunbar made a motion to adjourn; seconded by Vidich. The motion passed unanimously. The meeting adjourned at 11:44 A.M.