Minutes of the December 15, 2021 meeting of the Council on Environmental Quality (Council) held in compliance with Governor Lamont’s Executive Order 7B

MEMBERS PRESENT: Keith Ainsworth (Acting Chair), Matt Reiser, Alicea Charamut, Charles Vidich, William Warzecha, and Kip Kolesinskas.

ALSO IN ATTENDANCE: Peter Hearn (Executive Director), Paul Aresta (Environmental Analyst), and Matthew Pafford (Office of Policy and Management - OPM). Members of the public include: Michael Nadeau, Theresa Patterson, and Harry White.

1. Call to Order: Establishment of a Quorum

At 9:37 AM, Ainsworth called the meeting to order. Ainsworth took attendance and confirmed that there was a quorum of Council members present. He noted that the virtual meeting was being recorded and that there would be an opportunity for members of the public to speak during a “Public Comment” period.

2. Approval of Agenda

Vidich made a motion to approve the agenda; seconded by Reiser. The motion passed

3. Approval of Minutes of November 17, 2021

Vidich made a motion to approve the draft minutes of November 17, 2021; seconded by Charamut. The motion to approve the draft minutes passed with Warzecha abstaining because he was not present at the previous meeting.

4. Citizen Comment Period

Ainsworth asked if there were any members of the public who wished to speak. Michael Nadeau stated that he was concerned about the removal of trees at Housatonic Meadows State Park (HMSP). Nadeau added that he is an arborist and believes that many of the trees that have been proposed to be removed at HMSP are healthy and need not be removed. He added that the removal of the mature trees could lead to erosion, reduce habitat for birds and insects, and are counter to state goals for the capture and storage of carbon. He believes that the criteria used by the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) to determine if the trees are a hazard are not appropriate and that he and a group of concerned residents identified significantly fewer trees (approximately thirty-five) that should be removed for safety reasons. He also believes that the value of the lumber might be a determining factor in the decision to remove the trees at HMSP. Charamut noted that the forestry division and the state parks division in DEEP need to coordinate better so that their actions support statewide goals with respect to forest protection and carbon retention.

Theresa Patterson stated that she is also concerned about the removal of trees at HMSP. She believes that the removal created a hazard. With the trees gone, there is no barrier before a steep drop off to the river. She believes that more trees are being removed than is necessary to ensure public safety. Ainsworth asked if there was group of citizens that has been organized to support the HMSP and voice their concerns to DEEP. Nadeau stated that an ad-hoc group has formed called Housatonic Meadows Preservation Action.

Harry White stated that he believes the removal of some trees in other state parks was unnecessary too. He added that each tree should be assessed individually and documented before the tree is removed to avoid disrupting the ecology. 

Ainsworth reminded the citizens that the Council is an advisory body that can investigate allegations of environmental problems. He encouraged people to submit comments and evidence to the Council. Vidich noted that trees along a riparian corridor help stabilize the soil and stream bank and thereby reduce pollution and maintain water quality. He added that it would be helpful to have one or more representatives from DEEP meet with the Council to explain the short and long-term policies for vegetative management at state parks and forests. Kolesinskas questioned whether the concerned citizens have coordinated with the Connecticut Forest and Park Association. He added that there might be a need for different vegetative management strategies for forests and state parks and questioned whether there was advance notice of the removal of the trees.

5. Citizen Complaints and Inquiries Received

a. New - Hearn reported that he received several complaints and inquiries since the last Council meeting, including:

  • An inquiry from a resident of South Windsor who was concerned about the development of a warehouse on a wooded parcel near some residential dwellings, and the negative impacts associated with increased traffic and noise. Hearn added that the property, which is zoned commercial/industrial, is partly wooded and has some wetlands. He said that the proposal to develop the parcel will require local Planning and Zoning and Wetland Commissions’ approval and that there is no state issue involved.
  • A request for a copy of an Environmental Impact Evaluation (EIE) from 2006. Hearn said that the Council does not retain EIEs for other state agencies, but the notice that was published in Environmental Monitor listed various locations where the EIE was made available for inspection.
  • A thank you for the Council’s efforts supporting legislation to halt running bamboo.
  • A request for information about how to obtain use of surplus state property. Hearn said that he informed the citizen about the process for the disposal of surplus land and that the property had been offered to the local municipality, which should be contacted about it.
  • A request to be on a DEEP list of resources. Hearn reported that he referred the citizen to the Air Bureau at DEEP that addresses air quality and its associated health effects.
  • An inquiry regarding whether an EIE or scoping notice was required for the replacement of Bridge at Rt. 154 over the Back River in Old Saybrook. Hearn said that the Department of Transportation (DOT) reported that the proposed replacement of that bridge met its categorical exclusion criteria and consequently neither a scoping notice nor an EIE was required. He added that he told the citizen whom to contact at the DOT to obtain the categorical exclusion documentation.
  • A report of an environmental assessment going on in connection with New Haven Airport.
  • A request for information about ridgeline development prohibitions. Hearn informed the citizen that the Town of Kent has a ridgeline protection ordinance and suggested he seek information from the town directly.
  • A complaint regarding bonfires on Fenton River at the University of Connecticut (UConn). Hearn reached out to a representative of UConn’s environmental planning office who said he would pass along the complaint to the appropriate University authorities to investigate.
  • A request for assistance on tree cutting at HMSP. Ainsworth noted that this item was discussed earlier in the Council’s meeting.

    Ainsworth introduced a newly appointed Council member, William Warzecha. Warzecha discussed his previous expertise and experience. He noted that he worked at DEEP and was responsible for the enforcement of the regulations regarding water protection. He indicated that he has worked as a sanitarian for a health district before working for the remediation division at DEEP. He added that in his retirement, he has begun to work for the Town of North Stonington in the development of a water protection plan and he is a board member for the Norwich Public Utilities.

6.  Executive Director’s Report

  • Council Vacancies
    Hearn reported that he reached out to four individuals that might be good candidates to serve as a Council member. One of the candidates indicated that she did not have time to participate on the Council but thanked the Council for its consideration. Hearn added that the President of a local University also declined the opportunity to serve as a Council member but suggested that someone from the University’s faculty might be available. Other candidates that were identified and contacted have not yet responded.

  • State of the Birds
    Hearn reported that the American Bird Conservancy indicated a few years ago that approximately three billion birds had been lost since 1970. He added that every year the Connecticut Audubon provides a report titled State of the Birds, which is an update on the status of Connecticut’s birds. The report indicated that there will likely be little progress on bird conservation without progress on climate change, and the report also identified individual species that are on the decline in Connecticut.

  • Department of Administrative Services (DAS) scoping for solar projects
    Hearn reported that the DAS recently submitted scoping notices for the development of multiple solar energy facilities on state lands.

  • Governor’s Council on Climate Change (GC3) and environmental justice
    Hearn reported that the GC3 Equity and Environmental Justice Working Group released for review and comment its Connecticut Community-Level Climate Change Resiliency Assessment & Prioritization Plan (Plan). The Plan was developed with assistance from the Yale School of Public Health and is intended as a guidance document and a resource for assessing community-specific vulnerabilities to current and future climate change threats. The Plan also provides suggestions on organizations and people who can help to identify physical/infrastructure vulnerabilities and to identify the populations that are most vulnerable to climate change in the local community.

7.  Staff Activities

  • Research on Invasive Species
    Hearn noted that staff is still collecting information regarding the status of invasive species in Connecticut. Hearn said that staff has recently received a report on the revenue and some of the expenses for the Connecticut Lakes, Rivers and Ponds Preservation Account (Account). He indicated that some of the funds were provided as grants to control invasives, to conduct research on invasives, and to educate the public on controlling invasive species. He reviewed the law (Public Act 19-190) that detailed the activities that were eligible for funding from the Account.

  • 2021 Annual Report
    Aresta reviewed several charts that were developed for inclusion in the 2021 Annual Report: climate changers, emissions from transportation and industry, driving, impervious cover and water quality. Vidich questioned how the impervious cover and impaired streams chart was developed. Aresta explained the methodology used to analyze the data and develop the chart. He said that an explanation of the methodology would be included in the 2021 Annual Report. Aresta added that the charts for hypoxia, lobster, osprey, and Asian tiger mosquitoes have also been updated. Aresta indicated that staff would provide additional charts, as data becomes available, at upcoming Council meetings in January, February, and March 2022 for inclusion in the 2021 Annual Report. Vidich made a motion to approve the graphs that were presented for inclusion in the 2021 Annual Report; seconded by Warzecha. The motion passed with Kolesinskas abstaining because he was unable to hear the presentation.

8. State Agency Actions


  • New Online Forms for Voluntary Remediation Reports
    Hearn reported that DEEP has added new interactive online forms to its website, including a form that is used by licensed environmental professionals (LEPs) for verification of contaminated or previously contaminated sites. Hearn added that the availability of online forms was a goal identified by DEEP’s Commissioner, Katie Dykes, in the 20BY20 Initiative.

  • Grants for New Beverage Container Redemption Centers 
    Hearn reported that DEEP has established a grant program for beverage container redemption centers and noted that the grants are limited to $150,000 per redemption center; may be used for infrastructure, technology and costs associated with the establishment of a beverage container redemption center and for initial operational expenses; applicants  must  have  a business registered within Connecticut; municipalities and Councils of Government (COGs) can apply; preference for the grants will be given to locally-owned, minority-owned, and/or women-owned businesses; and the grants are intended for new redemption  centers in urban centers and environmental justice communities, but DEEP would consider funding existing redemption centers.

  • DEEP Online Wetlands Training Program
    Hearn reported that the comprehensive training program for inland wetland agency officials is still not available as an online course. Hearn noted that he checked the archived training materials on DEEP’s website and discovered that 1) the link for Segment 1 does not lead to any content and 2) the training materials that are online are out of date. Hearn indicated that staff at DEEP indicated that any updates to the reporting form for municipal actions would need to wait until the training materials became available online, which should be before the end of the year (2021). Charamut commented that the online training materials do not provide the ability to track who has taken the courses nor is there a testing method to confirm if the trainees understood the training materials.

  • Release-based Remediation Working Group 
    Hearn reported that the second phase topical subcommittees have been developed and the participants of those subcommittees met earlier this week. The subcommittees include:
    • modification of clean-up standards for lower-risk tiers;
    • LEP-implemented, risk-based alternative clean-up standards; and
    • clean-up completion documentation, verifications, and audit frequency and time frames.

    He added that Aresta will be participating on the LEP-implemented, risk-based alternative clean-up standards subcommittee, and that no representatives from the Council are currently assigned to the other two subcommittees.

b. Connecticut Siting Council (CSC)

  • Petition 1471
    Aresta reported that staff reviewed a proposal for a 55-foot extension to a 104-foot telecommunications facility in Willington. Aresta added that the main impact might be visual; however, the proposed extension of the tower would only increase year-round visibility by approximately .2 percent within the 8,000-acre study area. He added that there would be some locations along a designated scenic road that could have seasonal views of the proposed tower extension. No comments are recommended.

  • Petition 1472 
    Aresta reported that staff reviewed a proposal for a 1.5-megawatt solar photovoltaic electric generating facility that would be in Milford. He added that the proposed facility would be located on the roof of an existing building and that no adverse impacts to environmental resources are anticipated. No comments are recommended.

  • Petition 1473 
    Aresta reported that staff reviewed a proposal for the expansion of an existing telecommunications facility compound in Milford. He added that the Petitioner would also attach their antennas at the 83-foot level of the existing 120-foot monopole tower. No comments are recommended.

    Ainsworth suggested submitting comments to the Siting Council expressing the Council’s support for rooftop or structure-supported solar facilities. Vidich made a motion to submit to the Siting Council comments expressing the Council’s support for rooftop or structure-supported solar facilities; seconded by Kolesinskas. Charamut asked why staff was reluctant to submit comments in favor of the proposal in Petition 1472. Hearn responded that 1) submitting laudatory comments about favorable aspects of one project could be unfair to other projects that might have equally favorable aspects and that the comments could be construed as an endorsement of the project. 2) adoption of this approach for all projects with salutary aspects could substantially add to the workload of the staff, with little tangible benefit, and 3) that comments submitted in support of a project might be regrettable if some adverse environmental impact is discovered during the regulatory proceedings. Vidich and Kolesinskas reiterated their support for submitting comments and suggested having the comments express broad support for the type of application rather than commenting on a specific proposal. Charamut also suggested submitting comments to DEEP to encourage more applications on rooftops and to make sure commercial buildings are built “solar-ready”. The motion passed.

    Vidich also questioned if the viewshed analysis for Petition 1471 included any other towns besides Willington, if the area designated as blue to the north of the existing tower was a lake, and if the proposed tower extension would be visible from UConn. Aresta and Ainsworth replied that the viewshed analysis included both Mansfield and Willington; that the parcel designated as blue located north of the existing tower might be open space; and that it is unclear if the tower would be visible from UConn since the tower is approximately two miles north of the main campus.

9. Other Business

Ainsworth asked what action should be taken regarding DEEP’s vegetative management policy at state parks and state forests. Charamut suggested that the Council should request information from DEEP on their vegetation management policies and the consistency of those policies with the state’s goals related to carbon capture and carbon sequestration. Kolesinskas indicated that he would need more information on the management plans for state properties managed by DEEP. Vidich indicated that he believes it would be useful to have DEEP staff attend a future Council meeting to discuss DEEP’s vegetative management practices, especially for vegetation along the state’s riparian corridors. Hearn provided a summary of his discussion with DEEP staff and indicated that DEEP is very concerned about public safety and liability associated with unsafe trees that have been identified at HMSP. Hearn added that DEEP needs to do more to educate and inform the public about the need to remove certain trees in state parks. Ainsworth discussed Recreational Use Immunity, which covers land trusts, municipalities and utilities, and could limit the liability for the state’s recreational areas. Vidich made a motion to invite DEEP to an upcoming meeting and asked if they could provide information to the community regarding their plans for vegetative management at HMSP; seconded by Kolesinskas. The motion passed.

Ainsworth asked if there were any other items for discussion by Council members or the public. Hearing none, Ainsworth asked for a motion to adjourn. Vidich made a motion to adjourn the meeting at 11:53 AM; seconded by Charamut. The motion passed.

Pursuant to Executive Order 7B, a recording and transcript1  of this meeting is available by email request of the Council (email to; peter.hearn@ct.gov).

1 (Passcode: buz6Tw==)