Council on Environmental Quality Meeting Minutes

Minutes of the October 26, 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) and Bruce Wittchen (Office of Policy and Management (OPM). Members of the public that spoke: Diane Hoffman, Shirley McCarthy, and Barbara Yeager.

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

2. Approval of Agenda
Ainsworth asked if there were any changes to the proposed agenda. Warzecha made a motion to approve the agenda; seconded by Vidich. The motion was approved unanimously.

Charamut joined the meeting at 9:35 AM.

3. Approval of Minutes of September 28, 2022
Vidich made a motion to approve the draft minutes of September 28, 2022; seconded by Warzecha. The motion was approved unanimously.

4. Chair’s Report (vacancies on the Council)
Ainsworth noted that there are still vacancies on the Council and that it is the Council’s responsibility to find members for the Council. He asked that if Council members had any recommendations for viable candidates to serve as Council members that they should forward the information to Aresta.

5. Citizen Comment Period

  • Diane Hoffman expressed interest in the Vegetation Management Working Group (VMWG) that will be addressed during the Executive Director’s report.
  • Dr. Shirley McCarthy discussed the health benefits of trees, including the reduction of stress. McCarthy added that trees also provide necessary habitat for wildlife.
  • Barbara Yeager commented on the proposed removal of trees by Eversource near the electric distribution lines in Madison. Yeager added that Eversource is proposing to remove trees in wetlands and those within 100 feet of the electric distribution lines, including trees that appear to be healthy. Yeager also expressed concern regarding the replanting of trees and the lack of information available to the public regarding the enhanced tree removal policy.

6. Citizen Complaints and Inquiries Received

  • Aresta reported that he received an inquiry about employment opportunities with the Council. He responded by providing information on employment opportunities with the state.

  • Aresta reported that he received a complaint about indoor air quality and the presence of mold in a multi-family building in Groton. He referred the resident to the Department of Public Health (DPH) for more information and indicated that DPH and/or the local health department would be appropriate agencies to address the concerns.

  • Aresta reported that he received an inquiry regarding the status of the remediation of the O-Z Gedney property in Plymouth. He added that he contacted the northwestern district supervisor for the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s (DEEP) Remediation Division, provided the contact information for the resident, and requested assistance in responding to the inquiry. Aresta noted that a representative of the Remediation Division contacted the resident on October 25 and provided some of the information that was requested.

  • Aresta reported that he received a complaint about the proposed removal of trees on town-owned property in Sherman. He noted that the statute which the resident referenced pertained to encroachments on open space land and not the removal of trees on town-owned land. He added that he provided the contact information for the Land Acquisition/Management Unit at DEEP for the resident to confirm if the open space was acquired with state grant funds and if so, to confirm if there was a conservation requirement for the property.

  • Aresta reported that he received a complaint about the expansion of the Tweed-New Haven Airport. He indicated that he researched the matter and discovered that an Environmental Assessment, which is a requirement of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), is due shortly and that there will be an opportunity to review the information and provide comments, if warranted.

  • Aresta reported that he received an inquiry regarding the transfer of state-owned property. He provided the resident with information regarding 1) the General Statutes that apply to the requirements for the transfer of state-owned land, and 2) links to webpages that summarize the land transfer process.

  • Aresta reported that he received an inquiry from a resident of Madison regarding the proposed removal of trees and vegetation management along electric distribution lines in the town. He added that Barbara Yeager discussed the concerns during the Citizen Comment Period earlier in this meeting.

  • Aresta reported that he received an email from two members of the Housatonic Meadows Preservation Action (HMPA) group with details on the status of the Housatonic Meadows State Park (HMSP) Remediation plan. He summarized the restoration actions at the HMSP and noted that the second phase would be completed in the spring or fall of 2023.

  • Aresta reported that he also received information from a resident on the health benefits of trees, which he will provide to Council members.

7. Executive Director’s Report

  • Aresta summarized the status of the hiring process for the Environmental Analyst position. He noted that if any Council member would like to participate in the in-person interview process, please let him know after the meeting.

  • Aresta reported that the complete data on the number of days in Connecticut in which ozone exceeded the standard of 70 parts per billion (ppb) was recently released. He added that the number of days in exceedance of the standard increased from 21 in 2021 to 23 in 2022 but was less than the 10-year average of 24. Aresta also reviewed data on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from large stationary facilities. He also presented a tentative schedule for the release of the 2022 Annual Report, including a proposed publication date on or about May 5. Kolesinskas supported the proposed schedule and noted that there should be enough time for the newly hired staff to be trained and contribute. Vidich added that it would be better to issue the Annual Report well before or just after Earth Day. Charamut added that other organizations use the Council’s Annual Report to highlight specific environmental factors that are important to them. It was the consensus of the Council members to follow the proposed schedule for the release of the 2022 Annual Report in early May 2023.

  • Aresta reviewed a draft schedule for Council meeting dates and publication dates for the Environmental Monitor. He added that the third meeting of each quarter will be an in-person/remote hybrid meeting. He also noted that the Environmental Monitor publication date for July 4 has been moved to July 3 due to the holiday and that this is consistent with previous actions by the Council when a publication date falls on a holiday.  

    Vidich made a motion to approve the proposed meeting schedule for 2023; seconded by Reiser. The motion was approved unanimously.

  • Aresta reviewed a draft list of legislative priorities and noted that at the previous meeting, the Council discussed the fact that the state will not meet its goal of 21 percent conserved land by 2024; that there is currently an exemption for some solar proposals filed with the Connecticut Siting Council; and there continues to be a high number of releases of home heating oil. He noted that he did not include an annual acquisition rate for the preservation of land. He added that there were two other recommendations for legislative priorities this year, including 1) protection from invasive species, and 2) revisions to DEEP’s tree hazard policy. Warzecha noted that it was important to provide education/training to fuel oil delivery drivers. Kolesinskas suggested that the Council could check with land conservation organizations in the state regarding a realistic annual acquisition rate for land preservation. He added that the Council should recommend additional resources for more staff at DEEP for the protection of wetlands. Vidich and Charamut also expressed support for more resources for DEEP for the protection of wetlands. Ainsworth suggested adding a recommendation for the refinement of an existing statute (7-131n) to require the replacement of parks and open space if a municipality “takes” a park for a different use. Vidich noted that the planning process for the acquisition of land throughout the state needs to be addressed. 

    Vidich made a motion to approve the draft legislative priorities for 2023 with the inclusion of 1) more education/training for heating fuel delivery drivers, more resources for wetlands protection at DEEP, and refinement of Connecticut General Statutes (CGS) 7-131n; seconded by Kalafa. The motion was approved unanimously.

  • Aresta reported that the letter of support for the budget request for the Water Planning Council (WPC)  and the recommendation to incorporate more efficient water efficiency standards was provided to the Chairman of the WPC and the Secretary of OPM, as suggested. He added that the letter of support was also sent, by the Chairman of the WPC, to Lori Matthieu at DPH and Graham Stevens at DEEP. He added that the letters regarding the Sustainable, Transparent and Efficient Practices (STEPs) for Solar Development process was sent to DEEP and the letter supporting the formation of the VMWG was sent to the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA). While there has been no feedback from DEEP regarding the STEPs process, the staff at PURA provided the draft membership, structure, and tasks for the VMWG.

  • Aresta summarized the proposal to PURA for the VMWG membership and procedures for public participation. Aresta reviewed some of the topics that will be addressed by the VMWG. Vidich noted the importance of analyzing the costs and benefits of undergrounding the utilities’ infrastructure and suggested that the topic should be a priority of the VMWG.

  • Aresta reported that the WPC has endorsed the formation of the Conservation Pricing and Rate Recovery Analysis Workgroup, which is charged with developing a report that identifies the various regulatory and operational barriers that prevent water utilities from taking advantage of conservation pricing and setting rates that would stabilize revenues while a year-round conservation ethic. The Workgroup will develop a report that is meant to build on the workshop hosted by the Alliance for Water Efficiency, which is anticipated to take seven months. Aresta added that Charamut is assisting with the organization of the Workgroup.

  • Aresta stated that there was a notice published in the most recent Environmental Monitor for the proposed transfer of an approximately 25-acre parcel located at 125 Waterford Parkway North in Waterford. He summarized the known environmental resources on the site and added that a draft letter has been developed recommending that DEEP assess the property in Waterford for land preservation or for the Department of Transportation (DOT) to include restrictions on the transfer of the property to protect sensitive environmental resources. Kalafa questioned the reason for and the terms of the proposed land transfer. Ainsworth and Kolesinskas noted the importance of the habitat on the parcel proposed for transfer. Aresta responded that, based on the notice in the Environmental Monitor, the recipient of the land transfer is unknown, the property will be sold to the highest bidder, the DOT indicated that it does not need the property for transportation purposes, and there are no proposed restrictions on the future use of the parcel. There was general discussion regarding the process for the disposition of state land. 

    Kalafa made a motion to approve the comments regarding the land transfer in Waterford; seconded by Vidich. The motion was approved unanimously.

  • Aresta reported that it has been suggested that the land transfer notice could benefit from minor revisions to provide greater clarity for the reader. He added that per statute the land transfer notice and other notices are on forms “approved by the Council”, and he was seeking authorization to make minor revisions as necessary to the forms for the Environmental Monitor.

    Vidich made a motion to authorize the Executive Director to modify and clarify forms for the Environmental Monitor; seconded by Kalafa. The motion was approved unanimously. 

Ainsworth noted that the Council would take a five minute break at 11:01 AM. The Council meeting resumed at 11:06 AM.

8. State Agency Actions 


  • Release-Based Remediation Program Working Group - update
    Aresta reported that on October 11, the Working Group met and DEEP discussed integrating a Significant Environmental Hazard-like framework into the new release-based program. The Working Group also discussed establishing two new subcommittees: 1) Cumulative Risk and Risk-Based Alternative Approaches; and 2) Role and Qualifications of Non-LEP Environmental Professionals.

  • 2022 Comprehensive Energy Strategy (CES)
    Aresta reported that there will be two additional technical sessions for the 2022 CES: 1) electric, active demand response on November 3, and 2) alternative fuels on November 4. Aresta added that the alternative fuels topic might include electricity and potentially hydrogen. He indicated that he would provide the notice of the new technical sessions to Council members following the meeting.

b. Connecticut Siting Council (CSC)

  • Petition 1541 (solar, North Haven)
    Aresta noted that he reviewed a proposal for a 1.625-MW ground-mounted solar PV system located at 122 Mill Road in North Haven. He added that comments have been drafted with recommendations for the protection of wildlife; use of best development practices in the critical terrestrial habitat (CTH) of the identified vernal pool on the property; and protection of agricultural soils and consideration of agricultural co-use activities on the proposed site. Vidich suggested revising the comments to allow for wildlife movement while ensuring security of the proposed facility. Kolesinskas expressed his support for the recommendation for agricultural co-use of the proposed site.

    Vidich made a motion to send the revised comments for Petition 1541 to the CSC; seconded by Kolesinskas. The motion was approved unanimously.

  • Petition 1542 (telecom, Stamford)
    Aresta noted that he reviewed a proposal by AT&T to install an approximately 50-foot-tall utility pole with antennas and an equipment cabinet in the public right-of-way. The proposed facility is not expected to adversely impact environmental resources. No comments are recommended.

c. University of Connecticut (UConn)

  • Environmental Impact Evaluation (EIE) for Mansfield Apartments Redevelopment Project
    Aresta noted that he reviewed the EIE for the proposed redevelopment of the existing 270-bed apartment complex known as Mansfield Apartments at UConn. He added that the project would involve the replacement of the existing buildings with a new student residential complex consisting of approximately 450,000 gross square feet (SF) and approximately 900 beds and additional site improvements. He noted that most of the redevelopment project would be within the existing developed footprint on the site. No comments are recommended.

9. Other Business 

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

Vidich questioned if Kalafa contacted OPM regarding the existing vacancies on the Council. Kalafa responded that he did contact OPM and OPM stated that they are not involved in the Governor’s appointments to committees. He and Vidich added that the Council members could recommend individuals to serve on the Council and that members of the public could also volunteer to be appointed to the Council. Ainsworth noted that there are no formal qualifications for a person to serve on the Council, but it would be beneficial if the individuals had some expertise in environmental matters.

Vidich made a motion to adjourn the meeting at 11:26 AM; seconded by Kalafa. The motion was approved unanimously.

A recording of this meeting is available hereand 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.)