Council on Environmental Quality Meeting Minutes

 Minutes of the December 14, 2022 meeting of the Council on Environmental Quality (Council). 

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

ALSO IN ATTENDANCE: Paul Aresta (Executive Director), Rebecca Dahl (Office of Policy and Management (OPM)), and Linda Brunza (Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP)). Member of the public that spoke: Chris Kelly and John Olin.

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 Minutes of November 16, 2022
Ainsworth noted that a date in the draft minutes of November 16, 2022 has been corrected from October 16 to October 26. Charamut made a motion to approve the revised draft minutes of November 16, 2022; seconded by Reiser. The motion was approved unanimously.

3. Chair’s Report (vacancies on the Council)
Ainsworth noted that there are still vacancies on the Council, and he added that he will try to recruit new members. 

Ainsworth noted that the Citizen Comment Period usually follows the Chair’s Report; however, in order to ensure a quorum for items that need to be voted on, he will move the Citizen Comment Period to later in the meeting.

5. Citizen Complaints and Inquiries Received

  • Aresta reported that he received an inquiry regarding the applicability of the Connecticut Environmental Policy Act (CEPA) for a school construction project. He added that he contacted the Department of Administrative Services (DAS) and they responded that such projects are not state ”actions” that require “scoping” because DAS’ role in this case is “ministerial in nature”, consistent with the provisions of Connecticut General Statutes (CGS) Section 22a-1c.

  • Aresta reported that he received a complaint regarding the issuance of a permit, by the Department of Energy and Environmental (DEEP), to the Department of Transportation (DOT) for the proposed replacement of a bridge over the Back River in Old Saybrook. He noted that he reviewed DEEP’s Proposed Final Decision and the Final Decision, and DOT’s Environmental Review Form and Categorical Exclusion Determination Checklist to confirm that the proposed action was not subject to scoping under CEPA. Charamut noted that the Council can review the decision-making process by DEEP to confirm that citizen concerns are appropriately considered.

  • Aresta reported that he received an inquiry regarding DEEP’s online permitting information for pesticide applicators. He responded by providing the citizen with links to the requested information on DEEP’s website.

  • Aresta reported that he received a complaint/inquiry from resident of the town of Portland that a neighbor had removed vegetation and was filling and grading in wetland areas. He responded to the complainant and provided information regarding a citizen’s role in the municipal wetland regulation process and contact information for a staff person in DEEP’s wetlands program.

  • Aresta reported that he received an inquiry regarding support for expanding the provisions of CGS Section 22a-41(b) for public hearings to allow for the analysis of feasible and prudent alternatives in wetland proceedings. Ainsworth noted that the current language, as interpreted by the Appellate Court, restricts the requirement for an analysis of feasible and prudent alternatives to only those matters for which a public hearing is called by the agency for a “significant activity”, not necessarily because of public interest.

    Charamut made a motion for the Council to support legislation that expand the provisions for public hearings by wetland agencies for the consideration of prudent and feasible alternatives; seconded by Warzecha. The motion passed unanimously.

Year-end status update on pending complaints and inquiries

  • Connecticut Siting Council Docket 509 – Aresta reported that citizens had expressed concern regarding the development of a telecommunications tower in New Canaan, the subject of Connecticut Siting Council (CSC) Docket 509, and that the Council submitted two letters to the CSC for Docket 509. He added that on December 8, 2022, the CSC approved the construction of a “tree” monopole tower with many conditions that largely address the comments submitted by the Council.

  • Grupes Reservoir Dam Safety Project – Aresta reported that citizens had expressed concern regarding certain repairs to the Grupes Reservoir Dam in New Canaan related to potential impacts on inland wetlands and land trust property. The Department of Public Health (DPH) issued a scoping notice for the proposed action on July 5 and then a revised scoping notice to announce a public scoping meeting, which was held on September 19. He added that the DPH has not yet published another notice for the proposed action.

  • Inquiry regarding drinking water quality at Southeast School in Mansfield - Aresta reported that a citizen in Mansfield had expressed concern regarding the quality of the drinking water at the Southeast Elementary School in Mansfield. He added that the DPH recently indicated that the construction of the new school is not completed, and they are working with the town regarding water testing for the new school prior to the opening.

  • Complaint about the expansion of the Tweed-New Haven Airport – Aresta reported that he had received a complaint regarding the proposed expansion of the Tweed Airport in New Haven. He added that an Environmental Assessment (EA) is currently being reviewed and the target for a public release of the EA might be in the first quarter of 2023. He noted that when it is released, the Council can review the EA and issue comments, if appropriate.

  • Complaint about vegetation management by the electric distribution companies (EDCs) – Aresta reported that citizens had complained about the removal of trees by the EDCs along the distribution lines in several towns. He added that a Vegetation Management Working Group (VMWG) has been approved to examine several issues related to vegetation management and it is anticipated that the VMWG might hold an introductory meeting before the end of the year.

6. Executive Director’s Report

  • Environmental Analyst position update – Aresta indicated that the first interviews for the Environmental Analyst position have been completed and that he anticipates the position will be filled by the end of February.

  • Annual Report data - Aresta reported that he received data for Asian tiger mosquitoes that indicates that the Asian tiger mosquito population was lower in 2022 than in 2021 and it was also lower than the 10-yr average. He added that he also received data for the area and duration of hypoxia in Long Island Sound for the summer of 2022. He noted that the area of hypoxia (dissolved oxygen less than 3 mg/l) decreased in 2022 from 2021 data and was less than the 10-year average; however, the duration of hypoxic conditions increased in 2022 from 2021 data and was greater than the 10-year average. Aresta noted that CGS Section 22a-12(a)(5) calls for the Council to include in its annual report “a program for remedying the deficiencies of existing programs and activities, together with recommendations for legislation”.

  • Poverty Road Bridge replacement, Southbury – Aresta reported that the Council received a Press Release from the Town of Southbury announcing that the Poverty Road Bridge across the Pomperaug River will be replaced. He added that a review of environmental data indicated that the proposed project site is within an NDDB buffer area and fisheries resource area. He noted that comments have been developed recommending that the Town and/or the design firm consult with 1) DEEP’s Fisheries and NDDB to minimize impacts to fisheries and state listed species, and 2) the town’s Inland Wetland Department to ensure that the proposed project is compliant with applicable inland wetland regulations. Kolesinskas noted that there was a riverbank restoration project located south of the bridge and that the Town should contact the United States Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) – Connecticut to make sure the bridge design does not put additional stress on the downstream riverbank.

    Kolesinskas made a motion to submit the revised comments to the First Selectman for the town of Southbury; seconded by Charamut. The motion passed unanimously.

  • DEEP’s land acquisition policy – Aresta reported that comments regarding the proposed land transfer in North Canaan were submitted to the DOT, OPM, and DEEP. He added that the Council requested a copy of DEEP‘s policy regarding land transfers of state-owned property and DEEP responded that the agency is guided by a number of different plans when deciding on which properties to preserve, including the  “Green Plan”. Aresta noted that he reviewed the “Green Plan”, and it does generally identify priority lands for open space acquisition and includes statements about working with other state agencies to preserve state-owned land and for DEEP to be opportunistic to acquire land of high conservation value.

  • Bottle Bill Revision – Aresta reported that on November 29, 2022, Governor Lamont signed into law House Bill 6001 (Public Act 22-1), which includes a provision to allow retailers to continue selling off their existing inventory of applicable beverage containers without being in violation of the changes that are scheduled to go into effect on January 1, 2023.

  • 2023 Legislative session – Aresta noted that the 2023 legislative session is scheduled to convene on January 4. There was discussion regarding the process for the review and submittal of written comments/testimony for legislation that is introduced in the 2023 legislative session.

Ainsworth noted that the Council would take a five-minute break at 10:24 AM. The Council meeting resumed at 10:29 AM.

7. State Agency Actions 
a. Department of Energy and Environmental Protection

  • Release-Based Remediation Program Working Group - update 
    Aresta reported that on December 13, the Working Group met and there was a report from Subcommittee 9 (Cumulative Risk and Risk-based Alternative Approaches) and Subcommittee 10 (Role and Qualifications of non-LEP professionals) regarding their activities. Aresta added that there was also a presentation by DEEP on potential changes to the Remediation Standard Regulations (RSR) to provide greater clarification of the existing regulations.

  • Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) Action Plan – update
    Aresta reported that DEEP and DPH hosted a status update on the PFAS Action Plan on December 8 at the Legislative Office Building. He summarized the information presented by members of the task force that developed the Action Plan. There was general discussion regarding testing by state agencies for PFAS. Charamut noted that the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station (CAES) was present at the meeting, and they indicated that they are analyzing soil samples for PFAS contamination.

  • Governor’s Council on Climate Change (GC3) – update 
    Aresta reported that DEEP hosted a status update on December 6 regarding the activities of the GC3 over the last six months. He summarized the information presented by many of the GC3 members. He added that the public comment portion of the meeting largely focused on residents opposed to the proposed expansion of the Tweed Airport in New Haven.

b. Connecticut Siting Council

  • Petition 1549 (energy, Bridgeport - Weston) - Comments recommended
    Aresta reported that he reviewed a proposal from Eversource to replace conductors, copperweld shield wire, and support structures across approximately 9.4 miles of the 115-kV transmission lines from Weston to Bridgeport. He added that comments have been developed that address the provision of referenced documents; protection of wetlands, vernal pools, wildlife, and water resources; management of invasive species, soils, and vegetation; and inspections. Kolesinskas and Vidich noted the potential environmental impacts of the proposed project. Vidich suggested revising the comments to include a restriction on the use of pesticides/herbicides and utilization of mechanical methods for vegetation management within the Aquifer Protection Area.

  • Petition 1552 (telecom, Ridgefield) - Comments recommended
    Aresta reported that he reviewed a proposal from Crown Castle and Verizon to replace an existing 100-foot-tall flagpole telecommunications facility at 845 Ethan Allen Highway in Ridgefield with a 110-foot-tall monopole tower and other site modifications. He noted that comments have been developed that address visibility, protection of wetland resources, and the compensatory flood storage area. Vidich noted that the proposed monopole tower with externally mounted antennas would have a significant visual impact and suggested removing the phrase in the draft comments that reference a height limit for a new “flagpole” tower.

  • Petition 1553 (fuel cell, Hartford) -  Comments recommended
    Aresta reported that he reviewed a proposal from Allen Place FC, LLC (APFC) to install a 250-kilowatt ("kW") fuel cell combined heat and power generating facility at 159 Allen Place in Hartford, which is part of Trinity College. He noted that a noise analysis was not included in the Petition materials and there might be residents nearby; therefore, the draft comments recommend the Petitioner confirm that the proposed facility would be compliant with applicable noise standards.

    Charamut made a motion to send the revised and recommended comments for Petitions 1549, 1552, and 1553 to the CSC; seconded by Reiser. The motion was passed unanimously.

  • Petition 1550
    Aresta reported that he reviewed a proposal from Verogy to construct a 1.5-megawatt (MW) roof-mounted solar photovoltaic electric generating facility at the Fed Ex Distribution Center at 49 FedEx Drive in Middletown and he summarized the environmental conditions at the proposed site.

  • Petition 1551
    Aresta reported that he reviewed a proposal from C-Tec Solar, LLC to build a 1.3 MW solar facility on a 43.30-acre property, which was the New Britain landfill, located on Deming Road in Berlin and he summarized the environmental conditions at the proposed site. 

    There was discussion regarding the provision of comments to the CSC in support of solar projects that utilize brownfields and previously developed impervious areas rather than undeveloped areas. Charamut made a motion for the Council to provide comments in support of the proposed solar installations for Petition 1550 and Petition 1551; seconded by Vidich. The motion was passed unanimously.

4. Citizen Comment Period

Chris Kelly commented on the inquiry, which was discussed previously, regarding the CEPA process and the construction of a new school in the city of Bridgeport. He added that CGS Section 10-291 has provisions for the DAS to approve the location of a new school and that the DAS’ role in the proposed project might not be “ministerial in nature” and might be subject to CEPA.

8. Other Business 

Charamut noted that there is an agreement between the Metropolitan District (MDC) and the Army Corps of Engineers regarding a 10-billion-gallon drinking water source. She noted that the MDC filed a Petition for Declaratory Ruling (Petition) with the DPH regarding the applicability of the abandonment statute for the potential drinking water source. Charamut also noted that public participation in the Petition proceeding has been limited to intervenors and other approved entities. Ainsworth commented that the DPH might have restricted information regarding the drinking water source because of security concerns. Charamut suggested that the Council provide comments to the DPH regarding the lack of public access to certain proceedings. 

Vidich made a motion for the Council to provide comments to DPH that, in the absence of any statutory restriction regarding the release of the information to the public, the DPH should provide greater public access to proceedings that involve a significant public trust resource; seconded by Charamut. The motion passed unanimously. 

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

Vidich noted that he was contacted by a person that was interested in being appointed to the Council. Ainsworth suggested that the person contact Aresta. 

John Olin introduced himself and commented on the Council’s role.

Vidich made a motion to adjourn the meeting at 11:36 AM; seconded by Charamut. 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: c3t2+QL%