Council on Environmental Quality Meeting Minutes

Minutes of the August 24, 2022 meeting of the Council on Environmental Quality (Council) held in compliance with Public Act 22-3.

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

ALSO IN ATTENDANCE: Paul Aresta (Executive Director), Lisette Stone (Department of Public Health (DPH)), and Bruce Wittchen (Office of Policy and Management (OPM)). Members of the public that spoke: Bruce Bennett and Margaret Miner.

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

2. Approval of Agenda
Ainsworth suggested adding Connecticut Siting Council (CSC) Petition 1537 to the agenda. Reiser made a motion to approve the revised agenda with the addition of Petition 1537; seconded by Vidich. The motion was approved unanimously.

3. Approval of Minutes of July 27, 2022
Vidich made a motion to approve the draft minutes of July 27, 2022; seconded by Warzecha. The motion was approved unanimously.

4. Citizen Comment Period
  • Bruce Bennet expressed concern regarding the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection's (DEEP) final Hazard Tree Mitigation Policy (Policy). He added that he was disappointed that the Policy only directed consultation with an arborist if the hazard tree is designated as a “Heritage" tree.  He reviewed other provisions of the Policy that he believes are inconsistent with the enabling legislation.
  • Margaret Miner noted that she provided comment to the Council via email and expressed concerns regarding a recent Appellate Court ruling that limits the review of reasonable and prudent alternatives for proposed actions that could impact inland wetlands. Ainsworth identified it as the Purnell decision and suggested that this is an important loss to the efficacy of the Inland Wetlands & Watercourses Act and that there should be a legislative remedy that reinstates the requirement for the duty of applicants to present and the wetlands commission to consider feasible and prudent alternatives for any proposed action impacting wetlands if there is any public hearing and not just when the regulatory agency makes a finding of significant impact.

5. Citizen Complaints and Inquiries Received

  • Aresta reported that the Department of Public Health (DPH) acknowledged that they will be holding a public scoping meeting for the Grupes Reservoir Dam Project and that would be an opportunity for interested stakeholders to submit comments for that proposed project.

  • Aresta reported that he contacted the DPH regarding the water quality issues at the former Southeast School in Mansfield. He added that the DPH is aware of the lead action level exceedance and has issued a notice to the school the week of July 25. The DPH reported that:
  1. the Southeast School was closed in late June, power was shut off to the school, and the school is scheduled for demolition by September 2022; and
  2. the new Southeast School will be ready in November 2022 and the water system will be required to be tested right before the school is ready to open..

Aresta added that DPH representatives and the certified water operator for the school attended the Mansfield town council meeting on Monday, August 8th and answered questions from council members. He noted that he will follow up with the DPH regarding the water testing and results for the new Southeast School water supply in mid to late October to confirm the water issue has been corrected. Ainsworth commented that the water supply should be tested well in advance of the school opening so that they have time to remedy any water quality issues.

  • Aresta reported that a resident complained that her dogs became ill after swimming at Killingly Pond State Park in Killingly. Aresta referred the matter to DEEP and they responded to the resident that it could be cyanobacteria, but it is difficult to determine definitively because of the nature of cyanobacteria moving around in the water. DEEP indicated that they will reach out to the Northeast District Department of Health to see if they have had any reports of cyanobacteria in the water bodies at the park.

  • Aresta reported that he received an inquiry from a group of students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) regarding the controversy regarding Connecticut Siting Council (CSC) Docket 492 (Gravel Pit solar facility in East Windsor). He added that he provided the Council’s comments for Docket 492, a link to the Annual Report, and a link to the Council’s 2017 Report, Energy Sprawl in Connecticut.
  • Aresta reported that he received a letter from Bruce Bennett regarding DEEP’s Hazard Tree Mitigation Policy. He asked Council members to contact him if anyone would like a copy of the letter and he will provide it.

6. Executive Director’s Report

  • Aresta reported that he collected and analyzed data for lobsters and daily vehicle miles travelled (DVMT)  for 2021. He added that fewer lobsters were harvested from Connecticut waters in 2021 than in 2020 and the quantity of lobsters harvested in 2021 was considerably lower than the peak in the 1990s. He added that the DVMT per capita values for 2021 was at the lowest level in the last ten years and was likely the result of alternative work and school arrangements resulting from the COVID pandemic. Vidich agreed that the lower values for DVMT per capita is likely the result of measures to address the COVID pandemic. Kolesinskas suggested that a notation be included in the annual report to indicate that the indicator data were likely impacted by the COVID pandemic.

  • Aresta stated that he reviewed the revised Record of Decision (ROD) for the Naugatuck Valley Regional Wastewater Study Environmental Impact Evaluation (EIE) and he noted that no comments are recommended. He added that the Council had questioned why DEEP had not contacted the Natural Diversity Data Base (NDDB) for the proposed project. DEEP subsequently requested and received a determination from the NDDB and Fisheries Division regarding mitigation strategies for state-listed species and fisheries resources that might be in the project area. He added that DEEP published a revised ROD with new attachments and that the Council’s previous comments have been addressed.

  • Aresta noted that a question that often comes up is "when should state agencies and project proponents undertake a site-specific survey when the NDDB maps do not indicate the presence of any state-listed species". Ainsworth noted that the NDDB is often being used in lieu of actually doing a site-specific survey even though the NDDB only contains records of reported state-listed species. Kolesinskas noted that some criteria could be developed to provide guidance on where and when to undertake a site-specific survey for state listed species. Ainsworth noted that the timeframe to undertake a site-specific survey is critical and that the Council could examine how state agencies address this issue. Warzecha and Vidich suggested that the Council investigate if other states, such as in New York, have criteria for when and where to do a site-specific survey for state listed species.

  • Aresta noted that the Environmental Analyst position for the Council has been posted on the State’s employment website and that applications will be received until August 24. He added that he will inquire about next steps for hiring an Environmental Analyst with the human resources representative from DEEP. 

    Aresta added that according to DAS, approximately 30 percent of all positions at DEEP are vacant. There was general discussion regarding why inquiries to DEEP and other state agencies are not being addressed in a timely manner, and whether it was due to the higher-than-normal employee vacancy rate for state agencies and/or the fact that people are primarily working remotely.

  • Aresta reported that he provided training to five staff members of the Department of Economic and Community Development on how to develop notices for the Environmental Monitor.

  • Aresta reported that, as requested, a representative of the Water Planning Council was asked to meet with the Council to discuss the status of water conservation strategies that are identified in the State Water Plan. Martin Heft, the Undersecretary of OPM, (Chairman of the Interagency Drought Workgroup), is scheduled to attend the Council’s meeting on September 28 to discuss water conservation measures because of the drought. Aresta added that he reviewed the State Water Plan and highlighted areas of the Plan that address water conservation. Aresta suggested that if Council members had specific questions for Martin Heft, they are encouraged to forward the questions to him, and he will provide them to Martin Heft in advance of the meeting.

  • Aresta reported that DEEP will be having technical sessions for the development of the 2022 Comprehensive Energy Strategy and he provided information on the proposed dates for the technical meetings. Charamut noted that there has been no action by DEEP on the Sustainable, Transparent and Efficient Practices (STEPs) for Solar Development process. Kolesinskas suggested that the Council inquire about the status of the STEPs process.

At 10:23 AM, Ainsworth paused the meeting for a break and resumed the meeting at 10:28 AM.

7. State Agency Actions 


  • Hazard Tree Mitigation Policy (Policy) – Aresta reported that Council staff reviewed the final Policy and highlighted the revisions to the draft Policy, including the addition of provisions for arborists with Tree Risk Assessment Qualification from the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA TRAQ Credential) to perform tree risk assessments for Heritage trees; supporting staff participation in the Tree Warden School; addition/clarification of Heritage tree criteria; and clarification that the public is always able to provide input and comments concerning Heritage trees via email. Aresta also summarized 1) other changes that were incorporated into the final Policy, and 2) certain recommendations that were identified by the Council but were not addressed in the final Policy.

  • Intent to Modify the General Permit for the Discharge of Stormwater and Dewatering Wastewaters from Construction Activities (General Permit) – Aresta reported that DEEP intends to issue a limited modification to the General Permit to allow construction activities within one hundred (100) feet of cold-water stream habitats if the proposed action has been authorized by the Commissioner through other state permitting mechanisms and/or in coordination with the DEEP Fisheries Division. Charamut questioned when the notice to modify the General Permit was posted and if it was distributed by email. Aresta responded that he was unsure if the notice was emailed to stakeholders, and he confirmed that the notice was posted on DEEP’s Public Notices website as well as being published in newspapers in the state. He added that DEEP is seeking public comment on the tentative decision to modify the construction General Permit by September 17, 2022. Charamut and Kolesinskas commented on DEEP’s ability to respond to requests for a determination by the Fisheries Division.

b. Connecticut Siting Council (CSC)

  • Petition 1533 (fuel cell, Colchester) - Aresta reviewed the proposal by ReNew Developers, LLC for an approximately 5-megawatt (MW) fuel cell facility and associated equipment on a 0.69-acre site.  He added that the proposed site is a remediated brownfield that previously housed an automotive salvage yard. He noted that draft comments have been developed that address protection of wildlife and wetland resources.

  • Petition 1534 (energy, Groton) - Aresta reviewed the proposal by Groton Utilities to modify the existing Buddington Substation. He added that there is an NDDB buffer area that traverses the existing site and portions of the existing substation are within a 100-year floodzone. Further, there would be the demolition of existing structures and possible removal of soil associated with the construction of new concrete foundations for the new equipment. He noted that comments have been developed that address the provision of the referenced best management practices (BMPs), clarification for the protection of wildlife resources, and the testing and proper disposal or reuse of excavated materials from the existing site.

  • Petition 1535 (energy, Ledyard-Stonington) - Aresta reviewed the proposal by Eversource Energy to replace structures and reconductor approximately 12.8 miles of its existing No. 1280 115-kilovolt (kV) electric transmission line between Ledyard and Stonington. He noted that comments have been developed that address the provision of the referenced BMPs; the testing and proper disposal of excavated soils; protection of wildlife wetlands, vernal pools, and water resources; invasive species control; and inspections. 

    Vidich made a motion to approve the comments for Petitions 1533, 1534, and 1535; seconded by Warzecha. The motion was approved unanimously.

  • Docket 511 (telecom, Stratford) - Aresta reviewed the proposal by Barrett Outdoor Communications, Inc. to construct a new 135-foot monopole tower within an approximately 4.4-acre parcel located at 200 East Main Street (between I 95 South and Metro north) in Stratford. No comments are recommended at this time.

  • Docket 512 (telecom, Brookfield) - Aresta reviewed the proposal by Homeland Towers and ATT to construct a new 165-foot monopole tower located on an approximately 4-acre parcel at 60 Vale Road in Brookfield. No comments are recommended at this time.

  • Petition 1536 (telecom, East Haven) - Aresta reviewed the proposal by T-Mobile to install a new generator on a proposed 9’x 4’ concrete pad immediately adjacent to the monopole. No comments are recommended at this time.

  • Petition 1537 (telecom, Danbury) - Aresta reviewed the proposal by T-Mobile to extend the height of the existing antenna support structure and false chimney by 5-feet to a total height of approximately 45 feet above ground level. No comments are recommended at this time.

8. Other Business

Vidich departed the meeting at 10:45 AM prior to the discussion of Other Business.

Ainsworth asked if there were any other items for discussion by Council members. 

Reiser questioned if the Council will go back to meeting in person for future Council meetings. There was general discussion regarding attending Council meetings in person, including the convenience and ease of participating remotely, the savings of time and fuel by not having to drive into DEEP’s offices in Hartford, and the value of personal interaction during the in-person meetings. It was suggested that the Council can meet in person a few times a year and allow for individuals to participate remotely, if needed. Reiser made a motion to meet quarterly in person with remote capabilities; seconded by Warzecha. The motion was approved with Ainsworth voting no. Reiser and Ainsworth suggested that the in-person/hybrid meetings will be held the last month in each quarter.

Lisette Stone suggested that a survey to gauge communications between state agencies and constituents could provide information to better address constituent needs. There was general discussion regarding the value and methodology for conducting such a survey. It was suggested that the survey could be developed by state agencies or non-governmental organizations to obtain quantitative data on “customer” satisfaction.

Charamut noted that the proposed modifications to the stormwater General Permit for construction activities had unintentionally eliminated the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) use of the General Permit for certain bridge and maintenance projects and the General Permit needed to be modified because of conflicts with DOT’s permitting processes. 

Reiser made a motion to adjourn the meeting at 11:27 AM; seconded by Warzecha. The motion was approved unanimously.

A recording of this meeting is available here1 and by email request of the Council (email to: (Disclaimer: The transcript associated with the meeting recording is computer-generated and may contain typos that have not been edited.)

1  Passcode: uczK*V!8