Minutes of the January 26, 2022 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, William Warzecha, and Kip Kolesinskas.

ALSO IN ATTENDANCE: Peter Hearn (Executive Director), Paul Aresta (Environmental Analyst), Mason Trumble (Department of Energy and Environmental Protection – DEEP), Christopher Martin (DEEP), Tom Tyler (DEEP), and Matthew Pafford (Office of Policy and Management - OPM). Members of the public who spoke include: Jamie Longhi, Michael Nadeau, Bruce Bennet, Susan Masino, Margaret Miner, Debby Reelitz, David Galt, Frank Zitkus, Blake Levitt, and Mary Pelletier.

1. Call to Order: Establishment of a Quorum
At 9:30 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
Kalafa made a motion to approve the agenda; seconded by Charamut. The motion passed.

3. Approval of Minutes of December 15, 2021
Vidich made a motion to approve the draft minutes of December 15, 2021; seconded by Kolesinskas. Ainsworth noted that there was a suggestion to change “Stonington” to “North Stonington”. The motion to approve the revised draft minutes passed with Kalafa abstaining because he was not present at the previous meeting.

4. DEEP’s Policy on Tree Removal and Public Involvement
Ainsworth provided a summary of the enabling statute for the Council regarding the Council’s responsibility to investigate citizens' complaints and allegations of violations of environmental laws. He then introduced representatives from DEEP, including Mason Trumble, Deputy Commissioner for Environmental Conservation, who introduced Tom Tyler, Division Director of State Parks and Public Outreach, and Christopher Martin, Director of Forestry. Trumble presented information on the state’s initiative to identify and remove hazard trees. He added that DEEP takes public safety very seriously and that as of December 2021, approximately 18,000 hazard trees have been removed from DEEP-managed properties. Tyler spoke about DEEP’s policy of removing hazard trees and added that the location of the hazard trees relative to publicly accessible spaces is a consideration for removal. He added that no notice was provided for the removal of trees at Housatonic Meadows State Park (Park) because no notice was required; however, he acknowledged that more notice regarding DEEP’s intent to remove the identified hazard trees at the Park was warranted. Martin noted that in November 2021, a DEEP forester agreed with park personnel that certain trees marked to be removed at the Park were damaged by insects and weather conditions, and that some were also non-native, invasive trees. He added that some of the trees that were initially identified for removal were pruned instead and that a white oak near the entrance of the park was retained in the hope that it would survive and not be a hazard to park visitors.

Trumble noted that the riparian zone at the Park, where the large oaks have been removed, was reviewed by DEEP Fisheries and it was recommended that DEEP:

  • retain trees/root masses adjacent to the streambank to deflect lateral energy and provide structure for holding/supporting fishes;
  • consider installing engineered log structure from repurposed logs for habitat enhancement;
  • plant native trees;
  • install wildlife plantings to enhance riparian buffer and discourage unsustainable foot paths to the river; 
  • install sustainable access points to the river channel; and 
  • control invasive species.

Trumble noted that DEEP has learned from this experience. He added that while DEEP’s primary consideration is the safety of citizens that use the parks and forest land, process improvements, such as more internal communications within DEEPs various divisions is warranted. He reiterated that external communications, such as public notice, is also warranted when removing certain trees from DEEP properties. He stated that public input regarding the restoration of the Park is welcome. Ainsworth questioned whether there is an active program to replace the trees that are being removed at state parks. Tyler responded that, in the past, certain parks along the shore in the southern part of the state have been more engaged with the planting/replacement of trees. However, he noted that there will likely be an effort to restore the trees within the riparian corridor at the Park with native, appropriate trees for that location. There was also a general discussion of how best to address the possibility of erosion. Charamut said DEEP should consider all elements of the ecosystem and the potential impact on climate change when undertaking tree removal activities. Kolesinskas noted that his review of DEEP’s hazard tree survey made no distinction regarding the importance or uniqueness of the location of hazard trees, or the impact the trees’ removal would have on the landscape. He added that there should be information on the ecological significance of the trees and its impact on carbon sequestration and storage. Vidich noted his concern regarding the alteration of the riparian corridor and added that Connecticut does not have statewide laws to protect riparian corridors. He stated that he supports DEEP’s intention to consult with the various divisions within DEEP so that proposed “actions” are reviewed through a multi-disciplinary approach. Kalafa stated that he understands DEEP’s concerns regarding public safety, and he supports DEEP’s plan to improve communication with internal and external stakeholders. Ainsworth noted that liability is limited at certain public places that do not charge a fee and on private property as a result of an “act of God” where a tree or limb(s) causes damage to person(s) or property. Kolesinskas added that additional consideration of ecological impacts of tree removal could be undertaken by DEEP if the agency had sufficient resources and personnel.

Ainsworth invited members of the public to speak to this issue and requested that speakers introduce themselves. (For a transcription of the public comments, please use the link at the bottom/end of the minutes) The following members of the public (Jamie Longhi, Michael Nadeau, Bruce Bennet, Susan Masino, Margaret Miner, Debby Reelitz, David Galt, Frank Zitkus, Blake Levitt, and Mary Pelletier) spoke regarding one or more of the following issues:

  • the need to improve communication between DEEP and the public;
  • the need to review and revise DEEP’s processes for addressing trees and forest management in the state;
  • the enhancement of the Park with input from stakeholders;
  • the need for DEEP to focus on tree preservation rather than tree removal;
  • the use of arborists and properly trained personnel to identify and evaluate trees to determine their level of hazard;
  • the development of a restoration plan, including the riparian corridor, at the Park;
  • the development of an invasive species management plan, with provisions for ongoing maintenance;
  • the need for erosion and sedimentation controls, including bioengineered measures;
  • the elimination of incentives for biomass-fed electric generating facilities;
  • the need for a systemic change to forest management in the state;
  • consideration of all the ecological services provided by trees and the impact trees have on carbon sequestration and storage;
  • the need to revise the state’s forest management practices, to increase biodiversity in the state’s forests, and to make the state’s forests more resilient to pests and diseases;
  • the impact that tree removal might have on eagles and other wildlife near the Park;
  • the need for consultation with the Natural Diversity Data Base (NDDB); and 
  • the use of a “gradient system” whereby liability might be limited based on the location of the trees and the public’s acceptance of risk in those areas.

5. Citizen Comment Period
Written comments were received from Ann Zitkus. Time did not allow for reading, or summarizing them, so they are included at the bottom of these minutes.

6. Citizen Complaints and Inquiries Received 
Hearn reported that most of the citizen complaints and inquiries received since the last Council meeting were focused on DEEP’s tree removal at the Park. Hearn noted that there is an existing process for public notification of state actions that is identified in the Connecticut Environmental Policy Act (CEPA) and by regulations. He added that Connecticut General Statutes (CGS) Section 22a-1c stipulates that “actions which may significantly affect the environmental” would be subject to CEPA; however, he noted that “emergency measures undertaken in response to an immediate threat to public health or safety” is not included in actions that require scoping. 

Hearn stated that some state agencies have their own Environmental Classification Document (ECD) that identifies what types of actions could require scoping and some state agencies use a Generic ECD. He added that DEEP currently uses the Generic ECD, but might be in the process of updating to an agency-specific ECD. Hearn reviewed parts of Section 22a-1a-3 of the Regulations of Connecticut State Agencies regarding the determination of environmental significance, which includes an assessment of “direct and indirect” effects. Hearn noted that if state actions are subject to CEPA and go through the scoping process, members of the public can request a public hearing within ten days and comments will be accepted for a minimum of 30 days, respectively, following the initial publication of the notice. He added that the sponsoring agency must respond to the public comments received.

Hearn reviewed draft recommendations that the Council might want to submit to address DEEP’s policy on tree removal and public involvement, including:

  • submitting a letter to DEEP and OPM asserting that certain tree removal operations qualify as actions that “may significantly affect the environment in an adverse manner” and should be subject to the public scoping process of CEPA;
  • requesting that a restoration plan be developed for the camping and picnic areas at Housatonic Meadows State Park, that an estimate of the costs of restoration be developed, that a fund be created to which contributions may be made to finance the restoration and that a committee be established to oversee it;
  • requesting that DEEP review with the experts from the Housatonic Meadows Preservation Action (HMPA) group and others, the methodology used by the agency to designate hazard trees and adopt the most environmentally compatible approach; and
  • requesting that DEEP explain, explicitly, how carbon uptake and storage considerations are factored into tree removal plans and if, or how, mitigation for lost trees is implemented.

Kalafa suggested that the Council should also recommend that DEEP develop an agency-specific ECD that includes consideration for tree removal and forest management. Kolesinskas suggested that the proposed restoration plan for the Park include ongoing management and that the agency specific ECD include assessments of the cultural and locational significance of the property that could be affected. Vidich suggested that the restoration plan also include provisions for the riparian corridor along the Housatonic River. Vidich made a motion to adopt the recommendations noted above with the inclusion of the provisions for the agency specific ECD, and the addition of the ongoing maintenance and the riparian corridor for the restoration plan; seconded by Kalafa. The motion passed unanimously.

7.  Executive Director’s Report

  • Susan Merrow and Lee Dunbar
    Hearn reported that he received communications from Susan Merrow and Lee Dunbar. He added that Merrow wished everyone well and that Dunbar thanked the staff and Council members for their efforts to improve Connecticut’s environment.

  • Governor’s Executive Order 21-3
    Hearn reported that the Governor recently issued Executive Order 21-3 directing Connecticut executive branch state agencies to take significant actions within their authority to reduce carbon emissions. He added that the Executive Order included 23 actions for implementation, which were proposed by the Governor’s Council on Climate Change (GC3), that cut across state agencies and sectors, He deferred additional discussion of the actions noting that some would likely be addressed by the Council at future meetings.

  • Floodplain Regulation 
    Hearn reported that staff had a meeting with DEEP regarding state actions that might impact the floodplain. He added that no action is necessary and this item can be deferred until the next meeting.

  • 2022 Environmental Summit
    Hearn reported that the Connecticut League of Conservation Voters will be hosting the second day of their Environmental Summit on January 27 from 12:00 to 2:30 pm. He added that the first day of the Environmental Summit was on January 25.

8.  Staff Activities

  • Research on Invasive Species
    Hearn reported that the draft report on the management of invasive species is approximately 90 percent complete and that additional refinement is forthcoming. He reviewed the draft recommendations, which included the following:
    • Prioritize responses and publicize plans
      • Responses should be targeted to locations where new invasive species have appeared or where there is a high likelihood of  spread to other areas.  Management trade-offs need to be made clear.
      • Prioritize the reestablishment of the invasive species coordinator position and utilize existing state contracts with control companies to create a de facto rapid response to highest priority infestations.
    • Recommended Legislation
      • Allow locales to declare a species a nuisance to allow removal where an individual can’t or won’t.
      • Expand the legal definition of invasive plants to include reproduction by rhizomes.
    • Prioritize the control of invasive species at state sponsored construction and forestry projects.
    • Establish a repository for data on invasive species locations within the state.
    • Expand DEEP’s efforts in education and fundraising.

Hearn added that the recommendations for the re-establishment of the invasive species coordinator position will likely happen soon and there are already provisions for a rapid response team to address newly identified invasive species. Charamut stated that she supports the draft recommendations and suggested that the draft report include information on the role of non-governmental organizations, such as planning associations, in the identification and control of invasive species. Kolesinskas noted that he will provide Hearn with comments regarding the draft report. He suggested that the report also include information on various funding mechanisms for the control of invasive species, biosecurity measures that could be put in place to reduce the movement or introduction of invasive species, more information on the work of the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, and more information on the impact that climate change is having on the spread of invasive species. He added that there might be a geographic information system (GIS) project to report and identify the location of invasive species in the state. Ainsworth noted that the legislation for the control of running bamboo allows private property owners to seek relief and remedy damage caused by running bamboo from neighboring properties. 

  • 2021 Annual Report
    Aresta reviewed several charts that were developed for inclusion in the 2021 Annual Report, including: clamming/oystering beds, heating degree days (HDD) and cooling degree days (CDD), temperature, precipitation, good air, air pollutants, farmland preservation, residential photovoltaic (PV) systems, electricity conservation, registered electric vehicles, and Long Island Sound water temperature and water level.

9. State Agency Actions 

  • DEEP Online Wetlands Training Program
    Aresta reported that the comprehensive training program for inland wetland agency officials is now available as an online course. Aresta noted that the online wetlands training course was made available on January 10, 2022, and consists of eight modules. He added that the course is being hosted by the University of Connecticut’s Center for Land Use Education and Outreach and that he was able to access the training materials.

  • Release-based Remediation Working Group 
    Aresta reported that he and Hearn have been participating in the second phase topical subcommittee for LEP-implemented, risk-based alternative clean-up standards. He added that the subcommittee has met almost every week and the recent focus of discussion concerned possible opportunities to use the existing Remediation Standard Regulations (RSRs) to establish alternative risk-based, clean-up standards.

b. Connecticut Siting Council (CSC)

  • Petitions 1474, 1476, 1477, 1478
    Aresta reported that staff reviewed Petitions 1474, 1476, 1477, and 1478, which consisted of modifications to existing telecommunications facilities, and that no comments were recommended.

  • Petition 1443A 
    Aresta reported that staff reviewed Petition 1443A, which was an amended petition to Petition 1443. Aresta noted that Petition 1443 was neither approved or denied due to a tie vote at the CSC, and that the amended petition addressed many of the comments that the Council submitted for Petition 1443.  No comments are recommended.

  • Petition 1480 
    Aresta reported that staff reviewed a proposal for a new telecommunications facility that would consist of antennas and an equipment cabinet located on a wooden utility pole adjacent to Interstate 95. No comments are recommended.

10. Other Business 
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. Charamut made a motion to adjourn the meeting at 12:22 PM; seconded by Warzecha. 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).

"I have been attending multiple DEEP Forestry and Governor’s Council on Climate Change (GC3) Meetings.  The action plans being made do not adequately reflect the emphasis on Natural Climate Solutions strategies that distinguished climate scientists, ecologists, and more are urgently recommending.  Action plans should be based on the recognition that forests allowed to grow old will double the huge amount of carbon they are currently storing and will continue to increase the massive amounts of carbon they sequester as they age.  In addition, reserving forest to grow old increases their resiliency in the face of the climate crisis while providing critically needed habitat to preserve biodiversity.  Thus Connecticut should be reserving a large percentage of public forests so they can perform their greatest good to their maximum potential. 
A recommendation by Edward Faison, Senior Ecologist for Highstead Foundation, in his April 7, 2020, presentation to CT’s GC3 includes to:  “Set aside a lot more forest land as Unmanaged Reserves to store the most carbon (climate mitigation) and to create the most complex and diverse forests (climate adaptation); e.g., 50% of state, county, and municipal lands protected as reserves = 14-15% of CT’s total forest area.”  Ed Faison reports that Reserved or “Unmanaged” Forests: store more carbon and have: greater structural complexity; greater tree species diversity; greater density and diversity of forest birds; fewer invasive plant species; less risk of fire severity; than “Managed” Forests.  Yet, Connecticut ranks the last in the Northeast U.S. in Reserved Forests (public land protected from Management).

Of course, Reserved Forests still require knowledgeable caretakers.  Thus, forestry jobs could be shifted towards assessing the amounts of carbon being stored, controlling non-native invasive plants, reforesting and afforesting vacant land, and more. 

Another very important action would be to implement yearly Ecosystem Service Payments to private land owners based on the amount of carbon stored.  These payments would do much to slow or prevent deforestation as well as preserve coastal land and more.  Expecting municipalities to spearhead the buying of land in their towns for open space is not meeting Connecticut’s goal of 21% preserved land by 2023, much less 30% by 2030.  Other actions to implement include encouraging greater reuse / recycling of wood product and using “low-carbon concrete” in construction.  

Reserving forests to become old is also called “Proforestion.”  In summary, I quote from Intact Forests in the U.S.:  Proforestation Mitigates Climate Change and Serves the Greatest Good:  Proforestion “[…] is the only practical, rapid, economical, and effective means for atmospheric CDR [carbon dioxide reduction] among the multiple options that have been proposed because it removes more atmospheric carbon dioxide in the immediate future and continues to sequester it long-term. Proforestation will increase the diversity of many groups of organisms and provide numerous additional and important ecosystem services.”  Practicing proforestation and reserving large amounts of public forest to become old naturally is the most immediate and effective way we can help address both the climate and biodiversity crises and DEEP action plans should reflect this.  I appreciate your attention in this important matter. 

Ann Zitkus"

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