CEQ: June 20, 2018
Minutes

 

Minutes of the June 20, 2018 meeting of the Council on Environmental Quality held in the Holcombe Room on the fifth floor of 79 Elm Street in Hartford.

 

MEMBERS PRESENT: Susan Merrow (Chair), Janet Brooks, Alicea Charamut, Lee Dunbar, Karyl Lee Hall (by phone), Alison Hilding, Kip Kolesinskas, Matt Reiser, Charles Vidich

ALSO IN ATTENDANCE: Karl Wagener (Executive Director,) Peter Hearn (Environmental Analyst)

At 9:31 AM, Chair Merrow convened the meeting, noting a quorum.

Chair Merrow asked to move the Executive Director’s report to the end of the meeting. Charamut moved to approve the agenda with that change, which was seconded by Dunbar and approved unanimously.

Prior to the meeting some members of the Council had pointed out some corrections needed in the draft minutes of the May 23, 2018 meeting. Hearn read the changes. Chair Merrow asked for a motion to approve the revised draft minutes. This was made by Dunbar, seconded by Vidich and approved by all, with Hall abstaining since she had not been present at that meeting.

Chair’s Report

Chair Merrow thanked the staff for the hard work getting out the Council’s annual report and noted the good amount of press it generated, especially about its documentation of the spread of the Asian tiger mosquito. 

Citizen Comment Period

Chair Merrow said that Mr. Bob Panko, Vice President of Friends of Pachaug Forest had come to the meeting to update the Council on developments with regard to the proposal to site the new State Police firearms training facility. Mr. Panko introduced Mr. Ryan Snide, President of the Friends of Pachaug Forest, who had accompanied him. Mr. Panko asked that the Council continue to “watchdog” the proposal. He spoke of his concern that requests from citizens and municipal officials to the Department of Administrative Services (DAS) to hold more than one scoping meeting were ignored. He said that at the scoping meeting, the only alternatives offered were different configurations of the range on the proposed site, and that no alternative sites were presented. There was not a “no build” option either. He added that he does not believe the project to be in compliance with the state’s Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD).

In response to a question from Brooks, he said he has received no official communication from the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) nor the state Department of Agriculture (DOA) concerning the project’s possible impacts on the Pachaug State Forest, or the prime agricultural soils that will be lost there. He expressed concern that noise from the range will be disruptive of the quiet that residents expect and that brought many to the area to live. He said that the noise tests, which were conducted on June 13th, could be heard at a distance of four miles from the site. Chair Merrow said that, by state regulation, the noise level at the property boundary will be the sound level that will be determinative. Both Hilding and Kolesinskas said that noise of that type would also be disruptive to wildlife. Mr. Panko said the forest thinning that is a consequence of the Gypsy Moth infestation will make site noise more apparent, and the wildlife that would move n would be affected. He said that when he last appeared before the Council he had suggested an indoor range as a viable alternative to the Griswold proposal, and the Council asked if there were and examples which he could cite. He said he had come with a number of examples, which included a new range in New Haven that received a grant from the state. He distributed handouts with details on it, and several others, from around the country.

Chair Merrow asked Wagener to explain how the process from scoping to environmental impact evaluation (EIE) is supposed to proceed. Wagener said that the EIE must address any questions and comments brought forth during the scoping period. He said the Council will review the EIE for that, and for any other deficiencies. Dunbar, Hall and Brooks expressed concerns about the use of a private consultant to receive public comments on behalf of a state agency. Brooks said the applicability of the Freedom of Information Act (FOI) in such situations needs to be clarified. Dunbar suggested that the Council should inquire to assure DAS is faithfully adhering to the CEPA (Connecticut Environmental Protection Act) process. Staff was asked to request the contract and relevant correspondence between DAS and the consultant regarding the scoping process and decisions regarding the scoping meetings.

Vidich asked Mr. Panko about the proximity of adjoining towns and whether the elected officials of those towns had been informed of the scoping meeting. Mr. Panko reported that the elected officials were in attendance.

Wagener said the proposed new CEPA regulations address the use of consultants, but they are not in effect. He said the Council received an additional complaint about the adequacy of the scoping analysis, specifically the lack of alternatives presented, from another individual, and read it.  Chair Merrow thanked Mr. Panko for coming to the meeting and informing the Council. She then asked if there was anyone else present in the audience who came to speak about an item not on the agenda. There was no one.

Review of State Agency Actions

North Stonington Photovoltaic Facility — Wagener said the Council had reviewed a petition for a solar photovoltaic installation in North Stonington. It is among the proposals that were selected by DEEP before July 1 2017 and therefore is not subject to review by DEEP and the DOA for impacts to core forest or prime agricultural soils under the 2017 law. No comments were recommended.

Franklin Sewer and Water Main Extension – Wagener said that DEEP has submitted the “record of decision” (ROD) for this project to the Office of Policy and Management (OPM). The DEEP grant is only for sewers. He said the project was planned and approved before a CEPA analysis had been done. It was approved by referendum and bond money was allocated for it. He said it is an example of a failure in the CEPA process, which requires that CEPA be initiated early enough to affect the outcome of a plan. It is unfortunate that the analysis attempted to show that the project is consistent with the state POCD, when in fact it falls short in many aspects. He said the POCD requires reliance on the capacity of the land for septic needs and water supply and that infrastructure investment be directed to areas where it already exists. He said the project does neither. Also, the contention that creating a dense area in town for development will prevent sprawl development and thereby preserve farmland is not supported by evidence. He said the Council should recommend to OPM that if the project is to go forward then the agriculture-related mitigation efforts mentioned in the ROD should be required.

Vidich said a critical policy change would be to require all state grants be subject to a CEPA review prior to funds being allocated for the infrastructure. Wagener noted that the Council had made such a recommendation in its comments on the draft revised CEPA regulations earlier in the year.

There was consensus that the Franklin project did not conform to the state’s POCD and the process is contrary to the spirit of CEPA. Discussion followed and revisions were suggested to the draft comments that Wagener had sent to the members prior to the meeting. It was agreed that the comments would be sent with the approved changes. Chair Merrow said the relationship between state grants and the CEPA process is a topic worthy of future consideration by the Council. Kolesinskas agreed, saying there is a need to change how land use planning is now conducted. Vidich also concurred.

At the end of this discussion Hall had to end her phone connection, due to another obligation.

Glastonbury Riverfront Park and Invasive Species – Wagener said that this is an example of where DEEP had both financial control and regulatory control of a project and failed consistently to identify invasive Hydrilla and to mandate its eradication. He said he intended to prepare a letter to the Commissioner using this case to illustrate how DEEP is unprepared or unable to address the threat of invasive plants itself and has failed to require others to when it has the authority to do so.

Others

Wagener said that the City of New Britain is holding a public meeting on June 26 at 7:00 PM. Charamut said it will be preceded at 6:00 PM by a technical response from Lenard Engineering (LEI) to the Water Planning Council’s (WPC) review of the LEI environmental report on the proposed New Britain reservoir expansion. Council members asked that staff send members a copy of the rebuttal and a subsequent critique of the LEI rebuttal that was sent to the Council. Two members of the Council said they planned to attend the public meeting.

Wagener said that Attorney Zagorsky had sent an email to the WPC objecting to the planned meeting as being beyond the scope and spirit of the law that required an environmental study of the proposed New Britain reservoir. After discussion of the email, the Council determined it is beyond its authority in Public Act 16-61 (d) to formulate an opinion as to whether the City of New Britain may hold a public meeting, other than the mandated hearing, and under what conditions it may do so.

With regard to the trap rock ridges that featured prominently in the discussions of the New Britain reservoir proposal, Brooks reported on a new book, Traprock Landscapes of New England. The author recommends designation of these areas as a national “Natural Heritage Corridor” to assist in their preservation.

Citizen Complaints

Wagener reported on a complaint regarding the proposed extension of the runway at Tweed New Haven Airport, which staff investigated and will watch for future developments.

Wagener asked Hearn to report on the complaint regarding the Cricket Valley Energy plant. Hearn said it is under construction in Dover N.Y., only about three miles from the Connecticut border. DEEP had been notified, as required by the Clean Air Act, but has no veto authority. The plant will be required to offset every ton of emissions with 1.15 tons of pollution credits acquired from other plants. The rational is that there will be a net decrease in total pollution. He said Connecticut DEEP has used the same methodology when permitting similar plants in Connecticut. He said the environmental analysis for the Dover facility predicts that stack height will prevent the border towns from receiving the bulk of the pollution, which it predicts will be widely dispersed.

Executive Director’s Report

Wagener said that at the last meeting the Council asked staff to be sure that there is no prohibition for the Council to post information of its website regarding the proposed state referendum to add a constitutional amendment that will establish controls on legislative conveyances of state conservation lands out of state ownership. He said that Hearn had spoken to staff at the State Elections Enforcement Commission and was assured that the restriction applied only to municipal referenda. The Council requested that opinion be obtained in writing.

Wagener said that a PDF of the Annual Report is now available online. He said that there had been very good press coverage of the annual report. Most articles emphasized the invasive mosquito threat.

Wagener said Governor Malloy issued an executive order directing the WPC to implement the State Water Plan, and affirming that water is, by state law, a public trust. Some members asked to be sent a copy of that order.

He reminded the Council that it now appears that funding for the Council is secure since it is to be funded out of the Passport for Parks program which is a non-lapsing and non-appropriated fund. He said the exact method by which the funds are to be allocated has yet to be determined.

He said that with this development, which secures the future of the Council, he has determined it is time to retire and consequently this will be his last Council meeting. Chair Merrow spoke briefly of the contribution he has made to the environment. She said that one need only look at the statute books on environmental law in Connecticut to see his vast record of achievement. The Council rose and applauded.

Chair Merrow said that the Council must discuss a succession plan. Charamut made a motion to move to executive session that was seconded by Dunbar.

Upon close of the executive session, at 11:53 PM, Dunbar made a motion to resume the regular meeting. It was seconded by Vidich.  Lee Dunbar made the motion that “the Council make a recommendation to Governor Malloy that Peter Hearn be appointed as Executive Director on July first”. This motion was seconded by Charles Vidich and approved by all.

Dunbar then introduced a second motion that “the Chair and the Executive Director take whatever feasible and prudent steps are necessary to fill the Environmental Analyst position that is being vacated by Peter Hearn”. This motion was seconded by Janet Brooks and approved by all.

 

General discussion and reminiscence followed on all of Wagener’s accomplishments. Wagener said how much he appreciated the opportunity to work with the Council members and how proud he was of their work.

 

With there being no further business, Merrow asked for a motion to adjourn, which was made by Vidich and seconded by Hilding. Meeting adjourned at 12:04 PM.



Content Last Modified on 7/25/2018 4:50:43 PM