Council on Environmental Quality Meeting Minutes

Minutes of the September 28, 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), Bruce Wittchen (Office of Policy and Management (OPM), Martin Heft (OPM) and Joana Wozniak-Brown (OPM)). Members of the public that spoke: Shirley McCarthy, Diane Hoffman, Laurie Heiss, and Eric Hammerling.

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. Reiser made a motion to approve the agenda; seconded by Vidich. The motion was approved unanimously.

3. Approval of Minutes of August 24, 2022
Ainsworth noted that there was a suggestion to revise the draft meeting minutes to note that Vidich departed the meeting at 10:45 AM prior to the discussion of Other Business. Vidich made a motion to approve the revised draft minutes of August 24, 2022; seconded by Warzecha. The motion was approved unanimously.

4. Martin Heft, Undersecretary of the Office of Policy and Management, Water Planning Council
Ainsworth introduced Martin Heft who presented information about the Water Planning Council, the State Water Plan, the Interagency Drought Workgroup, the drought plan, and water conservation. Vidich reviewed a table of water efficiency standards for several states, including Connecticut. Charamut recognized Heft’s efforts to implement recommendations regarding the state’s drought response. Charamut added that a state grant was used to develop specific recommendations for water efficiency standards; however, those recommendations were not fully implemented. Kolesinskas noted other measures that could be implemented to protect and conserve water resources in the state. Heft noted that OPM is engaged in various planning efforts and has recently hired a Climate Policy Development Coordinator (Joanna Wozniak-Brown). Kalafa questioned if the Water Planning Council had hired a Water Planning Chief to coordinate the implementation of the recommendations and strategies in the State Water Plan. Heft responded that the Water Planning Council recently submitted a request for funding to update the State Water Plan and to provide funding for the Water Planning Chief and other staff support. There was general discussion regarding water resources in the state and the criteria that is used to determine the drought stage, which are identified in the State Water Plan. Charamut made a motion to send a letter from the Council to the Chairman of the Water Planning Council and the Secretary of OPM in support of the Water Planning Council’s request for financial resources, including funding for a Water Planning Chief; seconded by Kalafa. The motion was approved unanimously.

5. Citizen Comment Period

  • Diane Hoffman commented on the vegetation management practices/policies of the electric distribution companies (EDCs). Hoffman added that Eversource has expanded the area for vegetation management around the distribution power lines, which would require the removal of more vegetation than the current standard.
  • Shirley McCarthy noted that there were many benefits for public health, public safety and wildlife from trees. McCarthy questioned the source of the data for Eversource’s claim that vegetation was responsible for 90 percent of electric supply disruptions.
  • Joanna Wozniak-Brown noted the responsibilities of the position of Climate Policy Development Coordinator at OPM and suggested that Council members could contact the office ( for information or assistance.
  • Laurie Heiss also commented on vegetation management practices/policies of Eversource in the Town of Redding. Heiss added that trees provide for carbon sequestration and carbon capture and questioned why critical distributions lines could not be installed underground.
  • Eric Hammerling commented on Eversource’s proposal to significantly expand its enhanced tree removal efforts, under the banner of resiliency, to include the removal of healthy trees outside of the Utility Protection Zone (UPZ). He added that this new policy would include any tree that could potentially fall and impact the electrical infrastructure at any time in the next twenty years. Hammerling added that the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) is reconvening a state vegetation management task force to provide technical input on vegetation management by the EDCs. Hammerling requested that the Council monitor PURA docket proceedings and potentially comment, as appropriate, on potential policies that may lead to solutions, such as replanting/replacing trees.

Ainsworth and Kolesinskas expressed their support for tree replanting. Kolesinskas added that there should be attention focused on: locations where installing electric infrastructure underground is more cost-effective in the long term, appropriate land use planning, and convening the vegetation management task force as soon as possible.

At 11:08 AM, Ainsworth paused the meeting for a break and resumed the meeting at 11:13 AM.

6. Citizen Complaints and Inquiries Received

  • Aresta reported that the Council received a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for building records and water service information for a specific property in Greenwich. He responded that the Council did not maintain such records and provided contact information for the Town of Greenwich and the local water service company.

  • Aresta reported that he received a complaint from a resident of Trumbull that was concerned about the safety and public health issues related to an abandoned pool. Aresta notified the resident that the Town of Trumbull has a blight ordinance and a process to address such properties. He informed the resident that the local health department would be responsible for public health issues associated with an abandoned pool on the property. The resident was grateful for the response and information.

  • Aresta reported that he received a call regarding the possible sighting of Spotted Lanternfly in Litchfield County. Aresta suggested that the resident could contact the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station (CAES) by email, as required on the CAES website, to report the insects. The resident was unable or unwilling to email the CAES and asked Aresta to email the CAES with the residents contact information.

  • Aresta reported that he received a call from a representative from the Connecticut League of Conservation Voters to inquire about speaking during an upcoming Council meeting regarding wildlife issues. Aresta responded that the Council meetings always have a Citizen Comment Period for citizens to speak to the Council.

  • Aresta reported that he received a few emails from a citizen concerned about vegetation management practices of the EDCs. He added that he reviewed the final decision for the docket that was referenced in the Citizen Comment Period, and specifically the activities of the Vegetative Management Working Group. Kalafa made a motion to send a letter to PURA requesting that the members of the Vegetation Management Working Group be appointed as soon as possible, if that task has not yet been completed; seconded by Charamut. The motion was approved unanimously.

7. Executive Director’s Report

  • Aresta noted that the Environmental Analyst position for the Council was posted on the State’s employment website and that 56 applications were received. He added that he and the representative from the Human Resources Department developed ten follow-up questions to get more information in order to refine the applicant pool and forty applicants responded to those questions. Aresta indicated that he will be reviewing the responses gathered to narrow the selection to approximately ten applicants.

  • Aresta contacted DEEP regarding the status of the “Green Plan” and that DEEP staff indicated that efforts to update the Green Plan started about a month ago. He added that DEEP is developing a schedule for the effort and stated that they are “looking forward to seeking feedback and input on the Plan from CEQ and our other internal and external partners and stakeholders”.  DEEP intends to update their open space webpages to include information regarding revisions to the Green Plan.

  • Aresta reported that he is beginning to develop recommendations for the 2023 legislative session that will address the siting of solar facilities on agriculture and core forest, heating oil spills, invasive species, and open space preservation. He reviewed the data for open space and farmland preservation, solar facility development, and heating oil releases. There was general discussion of solar facility development in the state. Vidich suggested that there are significant opportunities for solar development on residential structures and he added that there should be incentives to develop solar facilities on land that is not forested or used for agriculture.

  • Aresta stated that the Council received a notice/press release regarding the proposed bridge replacement project for the Forge Hill Road Bridge in Voluntown. Aresta added that he investigated the location of the bridge and determined that the proposed project has the potential to impact fisheries resources, state-listed species, and inland wetlands. Aresta noted that he developed a draft letter that recommends that the bridge design team/construction company consult with DEEP’s Fisheries Division, Natural Diversity Database (NDDB) and the Voluntown Inland Wetland Commission to minimize potential adverse impacts. The draft letter was distributed to all Council members and posted.

Vidich made a motion to submit the comments regarding the Forge Hill Road Bridge to the Voluntown First Selectman; second by Warzecha. The motion was approved unanimously.

  • Aresta reported that he was notified on September 8 that the FOIA request from early July for DEEP was withdrawn on August 22. He added that he and DEEP contacted the requester to clarify if the withdrawal also applies to the Council and other agencies. Aresta noted that the attorney at DEEP recommended that the Council notify the requester that it is the Council’s understanding that the withdrawal of the FOIA request also applies to the Council, which he did.

  • Aresta noted that the Department of Public Health (DPH) held a public scoping meeting for the Grupes Dam project on September 19. He added that several people spoke regarding the potential impacts of the project on environmental resources proximate to the Grupes Dam. The public comment period for the proposed action was also extended to September 26. The DPH will issue a Post-Scoping Notice at some point indicating whether the project requires the preparation of an Environmental Impact Evaluation (EIE) or not and that decision will be posted in the Environmental Monitor.

  • Aresta stated that he reviewed the revised Record of Decision (ROD) for the Mirror Lake Improvements Project at the University of Connecticut, and he noted that no comments are recommended. He added that the revised Record of Decision contained new information about public notice requirements.

8. State Agency Actions 


  • 2022 Procurement Plan Update
    Aresta noted that DEEP released an update to the clean energy procurement plan. He added that DEEP had executed eight grid-scale renewable energy procurements; however, 170 megawatts (MWs) of solar and land-based wind selected by DEEP have been terminated. DEEP stated that in the second half of 2022, DEEP will undertake a number of actions to increase the capacity for clean energy, including but not limited to:
    • initiating a procurement for solar to replace the capacity that was terminated;
    • identifying the best use cases for grid-connected front of the meter energy storage and procuring energy storage capacity; and
    • initiating an RFI for anaerobic digestors to support the state’s solid waste goals.
  • Sustainable, Transparent and Efficient Practices (STEPs) for Solar Development process
    Aresta inquired to DEEP about the status of the STEPs process. He added that stakeholder comments regarding the STEPs process were due in July 2021. He reported that DEEP’s tentative plan is to reach back out to targeted stakeholder groups, based on the topic, for their feedback and then share that feedback with the broader audience; however, no schedule to re-engage with stakeholders is available at this time. Furthermore, there is a question of whether the procurement of additional solar resources noted in the 2022 Procurement Plan Update will be influenced by the STEPs process given DEEP’s intent to procure more resources in the second half of 2022.

Ainsworth noted that at 11:48 Warzecha left the meeting and noted that there was still a quorum. Kolesinskas made a motion that the Council should send a letter to DEEP recommending that re-engagement with stakeholders in the STEPs process should happen before DEEP begins the procurement of additional clean energy resources; seconded by Vidich. The motion was approved unanimously.

b. Connecticut Siting Council (CSC)

  • Petition 1539 (telecom, Durham) - Aresta reviewed a proposal by AT&T to install three (3) small cell facilities on new utility poles at three locations throughout the Durham Fair Grounds. Aresta added that the site appears to be within a NDDB buffer area; however, there is no evidence of consultation with the NDDB. Aresta noted that draft comments have been developed and distributed that recommends that the Petitioner consult with NDDB or confirm that the proposed locations are not within the NDDB area.
  • Petition 1540 (fuel cell, Bristol) – Aresta reviewed a proposal by ReNew Developers, LLC to build a 4-MW fuel cell facility that will be used to power an on-site data center on a property located at 234 Riverside Avenue in Bristol. The Site is a remediated brownfield, which formerly housed an auto sales and service business. The wetlands on the proposed site would be approximately 43 feet from the fenced compound. The Petitioner also proposes to temporarily store excavated material between the proposed facility and the wetlands. Aresta noted that draft comments have been developed and distributed that recommend measures for the protection of wetland resources, and requirements for inspection/education.

    Vidich made a motion to send the comments for Petitions 1539 and 1540 to the CSC; seconded by Kolesinskas. The motion was approved unanimously.

  • Petition 1538 (telecom, Lyme) - Aresta reviewed a proposal by New Cingular Wireless PCS LLC (“AT&T”) to install a new cannister antenna approximately two feet in height on the cupola on the Town Hall at 480 Hamburg Road in Lyme. The proposed telecommunications equipment would be located within the building. The proposed site is not within an NDDB buffer area and there would be no ground disturbance. No comments are recommended.

9. Other Business 

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

Vidich commented on the two vacancies on the Council. Kalafa added that qualified members of the public that are interested in serving on the Council should notify the Governor’s office. Vidich added that two current members are scheduled to leave the Council after their full terms expire in 2023. Ainsworth commented on the number of appointments that need to be filled on various boards and commissions in the state. Kalafa agreed to call Martin Heft to let OPM know that the Council has two vacancies that are appointments of the Governor. 

Charamut made a motion to adjourn the meeting at 12:09 AM; seconded by Vidich. 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.)

Passcode: PJ7!uCZq