Minutes of the October 27, 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, David Kalafa, Kip Kolesinskas, and Lee Dunbar.


ALSO IN ATTENDANCE: Peter Hearn (Executive Director), Paul Aresta (Environmental Analyst), Margaret Miner, and Matthew Pafford (Office of Policy and Management - OPM). 


1. Call to Order: Establishment of a Quorum
At 9:31 AM, Ainsworth called the meeting to order. Ainsworth took attendance and confirmed that there was a quorum of Council members present.

2. Approval of Agenda
Ainsworth asked if there were any suggested changes to the agenda. Hearing none, he asked for a motion to approve the agenda as presented. Vidich made a motion to approve the agenda; seconded by Charamut. The motion passed.

3. Approval of Minutes of September 22, 2021
Charamut made a motion to approve the draft minutes of September 22, 2021; seconded by Vidich. Hearn noted that a Council member suggested some minor changes regarding capitalization and punctuation. The motion to approve the draft minutes with the minor corrections passed.

4. Chair’s Report
Ainsworth noted that Dunbar’s tenure on the Council has expired, but he will continue to provide information and guidance, based on his availability, until a new Council member is appointed. Ainsworth added that the three vacancies on the Council might become an issue for the purposes of establishing a quorum and for taking actions on specific environmental topics. He encouraged people to share the information regarding the Council’s vacancies to people that might be interested in serving. Kolesinskas asked if Dunbar could continue to serve as a Council member until a replacement for him is appointed. Ainsworth noted that any decision that is rendered based on a majority vote that includes Dunbar’s vote would be invalid. Dunbar noted that he has enjoyed serving on the Council for the last eight years and it is best if a new member is appointed to serve on the Council. Charamut offered to provide assistance in identifying candidates for membership on the Council. Ainsworth also suggested that people interested in serving on the Council can notify Hearn or reach out directly to the central committees of the state’s political parties, which maintain lists of people willing to serve on councils and committees.

5. Citizen Comment Period
Ainsworth asked if there were any members of the public who wished to speak. Margaret Miner noted that the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) gave notice that it has  modified and issued the General Permit to Discharge from Subsurface Disposal Systems (General Permit). The renewed and revised General Permit will continue to authorize discharges that are already eligible for coverage and will now include modifications that authorize domestic sewage discharges to more locations/applications. Ainsworth noted that the projects that are subject to the General Permit are typically larger than single family, residential subsurface disposal systems. He added that these larger systems are usually engineered and require a higher level of maintenance compared to residential systems. Hearn reported that the Council completed a study and report in 2014 (Testing the Effluent: Some Systems Pass, Some Don't, and Some Won't Say) that assessed the reporting and performance of 41 alternate treatment systems (ATS) in 2011 and 2012. Kolesinskas noted that prime farmland is often the target for development because the soils usually allow for easier development compared to sites with poor soils and/or bedrock. Dunbar added that the State does not have the personnel or resources to inspect all the ATS in the State on a regular basis and that the ATS allow for development on sites that would have previously been restricted based on geology. Vidich noted that there is a statewide effort to reduce or eliminate the lot size restrictions for properties, even where they would need a subsurface wastewater treatment system.


6. Citizen Complaints and Inquiries Received

a. New

  • Hearn said that he received a complaint from a resident in the town of Scotland who is adjacent to a state road and reported that road drainage and deicer mixture are damaging trees on his property. He said that Aresta contacted the Connecticut Department of Transportation Region 2 Transportation Maintenance Director who ordered an inspection and indicated that a curb would be extended down the road to an existing drainage structure. Hearn added that this action should address the resident’s concerns.
  • Hearn indicated that he received a request for all materials related to the Connecticut State Police Firearms facility in Simsbury, pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Hearn indicated that he provided a table with links to specific issues of the Environmental Monitor, meeting minutes, and the 2018 Annual Report. He added that he also provided four letters that were sent by the Council regarding the State Police Firearms facility.

7. Executive Director’s Report

  • Connecticut Environmental Policy Act (CEPA) & Environmental Monitor Notices
    Hearn reminded the Council that the Connecticut Green Bank (CGB) had investigated the possibility of  developing notices for publication in the Environmental Monitor related to the development of renewable energy projects. Connecticut General Statutes (CGS) Section 22a-1b requires that the sponsoring agency “(4) assures that any third party responsible for conducting any activity that is the subject of such evaluation is not a party to such contract.” To avoid any possible appearance of impropriety, the Department of Administrative Services (DAS) would be developing the notices for the Environmental Monitor regarding the renewable energy projects and DAS would be receiving all comments from the scoping rather than CGB. He added that Aresta provided training to a representative of DAS on the use of Sitecore to develop notices for the Environmental Monitor.
  • Hearn reported that DEEP submitted a Scoping Notice to be published in the Environmental Monitor regarding the proposed Ox Brook Flood Control Master Plan in Bridgeport that initially identified a consultant as the primary contact for comments. Hearn stated that he informed DEEP that there were certain deficiencies in the draft Scoping Notice and that Section 22a-1a-2 of the Connecticut Environmental policy Act (CEPA) regulations specify that the party doing the environmental review cannot have a financial interest in the outcome. Consequently, DEEP revised the Scoping Notice and agreed that it will receive all comments from the scoping process and will be the FOIA contact for the public, not the consultant.

  • Siting Council Communications Regarding Wording in Comments
    Hearn reported that, at the request of the Council, he sent Siting Council Executive Director Bachman a letter that the Council would be adding to its comments on projects the “qualifier” that the lack of comments does not imply endorsement of a project or the lack of any concerns. He noted that even if the Council does not provide specific comments regarding a proposed project, there is a general awareness by applicants, petitioners and their representatives of what is contained within the totality of comments that are sent to the Siting Council. He added that he has observed that the project proponents who file applications and petitions with the Siting Council do appear to follow closely the comments made by other submitting entities prior to their own submissions. There was general discussion regarding the specific text of the “qualifier” language. It was suggested that the following sentence would be included in the ”qualifier” for comments sent to the Siting Council:
    “The absence of comment(s) by this Council about any Petition or Application, or any aspects thereof, may not be interpreted as an endorsement of a proposed projec

  • Research on Invasive Plants
    Hearn reminded the Council that staff has undertaken some research regarding the progress made controlling invasive plants in the State since the Council’s report in 2002 (Great Infestations). Hearn added that Council staff is awaiting the financial data for the Connecticut Lakes, Rivers & Ponds Preservation Account from DEEP and that is expected soon. He reiterated that the Council’s staff will be interviewing concerned/knowledgeable individuals/entities about invasive plants in the state with the goal of developing a status update report with recommendations for action.

8. Staff Activities

  • Wetlands Training and Data Reporting
    Hearn noted that since 2013, the comprehensive training program for inland wetland agency officials has largely been offered as an online course. While the materials from past training program workshops and the more recent continuing education workshops have been posted on the DEEP’s web site, the online training materials were removed from DEEP’s website (October 2020) to transition to being hosted by the University of Connecticut Center for Land Use Education and Research (CLEAR). He reported that DEEP claimed that the Municipal Inland Wetlands Agency Comprehensive Training Program would be online by mid to late October and that to date, the education and training program is not available. He added that the training materials would be hosted by CLEAR, as is the current Aquifer Protection Course.

    Hearn noted that provisions of the CGS and the Regulations of Connecticut State Agencies (RCSA) require that inland wetlands agencies complete the Statewide Inland Wetlands & Watercourses Activity Reporting Form for each action taken by such agency. Currently, the municipal “Activity Reporting Forms” are mailed to DEEP, and the data is manually transferred to a database. Hearn reported that when staff questioned why the reporting form was not available online, DEEP indicated that current staffing levels and its full portfolio of projects already prioritized by senior DEEP management, updating the municipal “Activity Reporting Form” to allow for online submission cannot be currently undertaken. Hearn reminded the Council that the current wetlands database is incomplete and that the number of municipalities providing reporting forms to DEEP each year has been declining. Dunbar questioned how DEEP management views wetland regulation and what other projects are more important than preserving wetlands, which are vitally important for ecological and climate reasons. Kolesinskas suggested that the wetland training program should also include an “in person” training component.

    Hearn stated that Council staff investigated mechanisms for the provision of wetland reporting data that could be used by municipalities and DEEP to increase efficiency and participation by municipalities. He added that Council staff assessed the possibility of using Excel worksheets; a PDF fillable form, based on the current reporting form; and an online form using Microsoft forms. He added that there might be other options as well. Charamut noted that the Town of Bolton is combining the Inland Wetlands Commission with the Planning and Zoning Commissions and that most, if not all, of the Wetland Commission members will not be retained. Hearn reported that in 2008 the Council assessed the impacts to inland wetlands resulting from actions undertaken by a combined P&Z/Wetland Commission versus a Wetland Commission and determined that the area of wetlands impacted per decision was greater for a combined P&Z/Wetland Commission. Kalafa noted that the information technology (IT) professionals at DEEP are more focused on enterprise applications and both he and Dunbar agreed that it is necessary to engage and involve someone in the IT department to assist with project specific applications.


9. State Agency Actions


  • Underground Storage Tanks (UST) Regulations
    Hearn reported that DEEP is revising the regulations for USTs due to changes enacted by Congress in the UST Compliance Act. He added that DEEP’s revisions are in the final stages and the proposed revisions will not apply to USTs at residences of 4 or less units or USTs installed prior to DEEP’s last rulemaking in 2012 but will require new testing procedures and frequency that conform to manufacturers’ recommendations.

  • Release-Based Remediation Workgroup’s Ad Hoc Team for Releases on Residential Properties 
    Hearn reported that the Release-Based Remediation Workgroup met yesterday and the reports for the Ad Hoc subcommittees were reviewed. He stated that the Ad Hoc subcommittee that he participated on regarding releases on residential properties had the following recommendations:

    • no lessening of health or safety standards;
    • more attention of preventing releases, including 1) identifying the extent of the risk from USTs and incentivizing removals, and 2) incentivizing prevention with regular inspections;
    • lessening the burden to homeowners who experience a spill, including 1) providing educational materials for the homeowner to know who to contact and how to respond to a spill, 2) making financial assistance available to incentivize reporting and clean-ups, and 3) lessening the administrative burden of reporting and closing spills at residences; and
    • lessening of reportable quantities for releases that are not fuel oil is not warranted.


    Hearn also reported that he responded to a survey from the DEEP Commissioner regarding the summary reports from the Release-Based Remediation Workgroup. He reviewed some of the responses to the survey, including the need for more information on the discovery of historic releases and mechanisms that would enable the public or others to become aware that a release occurred. He added that the concept of most concern involved an “acceptable” range for background concentrations of certain pollutants and stated that the provision is not logical because background concentrations vary and what is truly background in one area could be an indicator of a larger problem that has occurred at another location.


b. Connecticut Siting Council (CSC)


Docket 506
Aresta reported that staff reviewed a proposal for a 150-foot monopole tower to be located in Middletown and developed comments for the Siting Council’s consideration, which were distributed in advance of the meeting to Council members. He added that the draft comments address the need for more information to determine the potential impact the proposed tower could have on environmental resources. Ainsworth questioned if the applicant considered removing the existing 180-foot lattice tower if the proposed monopole tower is approved. Aresta noted that he would add that recommendation to the Council’s draft comments.


Petition 1466
Aresta reported that staff reviewed a proposal for a 2.5-megawatt solar photovoltaic facility to be located in Orange and developed comments for the Siting Council’s consideration, which were distributed in advance of the meeting to Council members. He noted that the draft comments address the continued agricultural use of the proposed site, protection of wetlands and vernal pools, and wildlife. Kolesinskas and Vidich questioned the rationale for the 14-foot width between the solar arrays that would be used for crop production. Kolesinskas also questioned if there was a water plan for the proposed agricultural co-use and if there is confirmation in the filing that the United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service was committed to assisting with the proposed agricultural co-use plan. Aresta responded that the draft comments can be revised to recommend that more information be provided.


It was the consensus of the Council members to revise the draft comments for both Docket 506 and Petition 1466 and provide the revised comments to the Siting Council.

Hearn asked if it was the consensus of the Council members if a letter should be developed and submitted to DEEP requesting that DEEP assess the possibility of using electronic submission of the “Activity Reporting Form” to enhance municipal participation and to increase efficiency of the process. All the Council members present agreed.


10. Other Business
Vidich asked if there were other Council members whose term was close to ending. Hearn responded that the terms for Charamut and Kolesinskas were due to end in 2023. Dunbar asked what the process would be for interested candidates to be appointed to the Council. Ainsworth noted that the interested individuals could contact the appointing authority (Governor or the President Pro Tempore) and/or they could contact Hearn to express their interest. 


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 11:26 AM; seconded by Kalafa. 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: Jzd1+P0K)