Council on Environmental Quality Meeting Minutes

Minutes of the February 22, 2023 meeting of the Council on Environmental Quality (Council) held in compliance with Public Act 22-3. 

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

ALSO IN ATTENDANCE: Paul Aresta (Executive Director), Bruce Wittchen (Office of Policy and Management – OPM), and Rebecca Dahl (OPM). Member of the public that spoke: Katharine Morris, Chris Ozyck, and Margaret Miner.

1. Call to Order: Establishment of a Quorum
At 9:30 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 January 25, 2023
Vidich made a motion to approve the draft minutes of January 25, 2023; seconded by Reiser. The motion was approved unanimously.

3. Chair’s Report
Ainsworth noted that the letter that was sent to the Governor informing him that there were two vacancies on the Council was also provided to the State Central Committee. Ainsworth added that there has been interest to serve on the Council. Ainsworth also noted that the joint favorable (JF) deadline for proposed legislation is coming soon. 

4. Citizen Comment Period

  • Katharine Morris commented on concerns regarding the location of the new Bassick School in Bridgeport, including the proposed school’s location in a floodzone and proximity to several sources of air pollution. There was general discussion by Council members regarding the proposed location of the Bassick School, the impact of climate change, and consideration of environmental justice issues. Aresta and Kalafa commented that the reason why the proposed project was not subject to the scoping requirements of the Connecticut Environmental Policy Act was because the state agency’s involvement in the project was “ministerial in nature”.

  • Margaret Miner commented on the proposed Bassick School and noted that the project is complicated and involves multiple jurisdictions.

  • Chris Ozyck commented on waste management and recommended that each municipality develop a waste management plan.

5. Citizen Complaints and Inquiries Received

  • Aresta reported that he received a request to include more environmental information in the land transfer notice. He added that he responded to the citizen that he would review the existing notice template and compare it to the information that is required in the Government Administration and Elections (GAE) Committee’s land conveyance application and supplemental questionnaire.

  • Aresta reported that he received a request for a copy of a letter from Karl Wagener to the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) that addressed the Record of Decision for the Environmental Impact Evaluation (EIE) for the Four Corners Sewer Project in Mansfield. He added that he received follow-up calls requesting the appropriate contact at DEEP that can ensure that the approved diversion permit requirements are being met and that the provisions of the EIE are complied with.

  • Aresta reported that he received a few emails regarding the proposed Bassick School in Bridgeport. He added that the citizens noted their concerns regarding the location of the proposed school in a floodzone and the proximity of the proposed school to sources of air pollution.

6. Executive Director’s Report

  • Aresta reported that the Council staff position has been approved as an Environmental Analyst 1 and the employment notice was posted and will remain open through February 24. He added that he welcomes Council member participation/assistance with the interview process.

  • Aresta reported that Vegetation Management Working Group, which was established by the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) to address vegetation management issues related to the electric distribution companies, will meet on March 9.

  • Ainsworth noted that a representative from the Environment Committee asked if the Council could provide information on how municipalities are using the funds generated by the surcharge on miniature alcohol beverage containers (nips). Ainsworth added that Aresta reached out to a representative sample of municipalities and was able to provide helpful information to the Environment Committee. Aresta reviewed the provisions of Public Act 21-58, Section 10 that stipulates how the funds generated by the surcharge on miniature alcohol beverage containers can be used and summarized the results of the sample survey.

  • Aresta summarized the data he obtained for the Annual Report, including electric conservation, water quality, land preservation, installed solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity, piping plover, solid waste diversion, and water temperatures of Long Island Sound.

7. State Agency Actions 

  • Release-Based Remediation Program – update
    Aresta noted that DEEP held a meeting of the Release-Based Remediation Working Group on February 14 and he provided a summary of the draft concept papers developed by subcommittees 9 and 10.

  • Connecticut Guidelines for Soil Erosion and Sediment Control and the Connecticut Stormwater Quality Manual - Aresta noted that DEEP and the Connecticut Council on Soil and Water Conservation collaborated with certain participants to update the Connecticut Guidelines for Soil Erosion and Sediment Control and the Connecticut Stormwater Quality Manual. He added that there will be an informational webinar on the draft documents on February 22, 2023 and that comments on the draft documents are due March 1, 2023.

  • Connecticut Materials Management Strategy (CMMS) Amendment – Aresta noted that DEEP has prepared an update to the CMMS to address the state’s solid waste capacity deficit to manage in-state solid waste. He added that DEEP estimates that the capacity deficit is approximately 860,000 tons per year. He also noted that the three main strategies identified in the CMMS Amendment that DEEP hopes will address the capacity deficit is an extended producer responsibility (EPR) program for packaging, organic materials composting/processing, and other source reduction efforts and new source reduction and processing facilities.

b. Connecticut Siting Council (CSC)

  • Petition 1558 (solar, Ellington) – No comments recommended at this time
    Aresta noted that he reviewed a proposal to construct and operate a 4-megawatt (MW) solar PV facility in Ellington. He reviewed the environmental characteristics of the proposed site. He added that the Connecticut Department of Agriculture issued a determination that the proposed project would not have a material affect on the status of the prime farmland soils, contingent on the implementation of an agricultural impact mitigation plan. Aresta reviewed the components of the proposed agricultural impact mitigation plan for the proposed project.

  • Petition 1559 (telecom, Danbury) - No comments recommended at this time
    Aresta noted that he reviewed a proposal to modify an existing telecommunications facility at 41 Padanaram Road in Danbury. Aresta noted that the Petitioner is proposing to 1) replace an existing 80-ft tall tower with a new 145-foot-tall steel monopole, 2) move the tower 84 feet, and 3) establish a new compound for the equipment. He reviewed the environmental characteristics of the proposed site.

Ainsworth left the meeting at 10:48 and Charamut served as the Acting Chair for the remainder of the meeting.

c. Legislature

  • Aresta noted that the Environment Committee will hold a public hearing on Monday, February 27 and that the Council might want to provide comments on one or more proposed bills on the public hearing agenda. Charamut reviewed some of the provisions of proposed House Bill 5616 (An Act Improving Standards for Inland Wetland Commission Authority Membership and Enforcement).

8. Other Business 

Charamut asked if there were any other items for discussion by Council members. Vidich commented on a proposed development in Ashford that could impact a privately-owned water supply watershed and suggested that the legislature should examine this issue.

Warzecha made a motion to adjourn the meeting at 11:02 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.)

1 Passcode: wCU*f4Jp