Moratorium Needed on Large Scale Solar Permitting
Moratorium Needed on Large Scale Solar Permitting Impacting Natural or Working Lands
The Rivers Alliance Board of Directors has asked the Commissioner of Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) Katie S. Dykes to issue a moratorium on permitting for large scale solar installations impacting natural or working lands.
Given the number of applications before the Siting Council, the Rivers Alliance board voted unanimously to support a moratorium until the Siting Council reviews the recommendations from the Governor’s Council on Climate Change (GC3) and, in coordination with DEEP, adopts new standards for review. We understand that PA 17-218 was enacted to protect prime farmland and core forests. It is evident, however, that we are still losing farm and forestland to solar development at an alarming rate. The GC3 working groups have identified critical ecosystem services provided by our natural and working lands that are not addressed by the legislation and are not being considered by DEEP or the Siting Council.”
Opportunity to participate: CT DEEP’s Integrated Water Quality Report
CT DEEP’s Integrated Water Quality Report
The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection has released the draft of the 2020 Integrated Water Quality Report. It is available for view on DEEP’s website and the public may comment on the report until June 19th.
Two important dates:
- Friday, June 5, 2020, 10:30 am-12:00 pm – Public information meeting via ZOOM (click here for info) Pre-registration is not necessary.
- Friday, June 19, 2020 – Comments due. Please see the public notice for information on how to submit comments.
What is this report and how does it fit into protecting water quality in Connecticut?
Put quite simply, this report has two purposes: (1) to report on the findings of water quality assessments and identify impaired water bodies (streams, rivers, lakes and ponds) and (2) to report on the plans that CT DEEP has developed to do something about impaired water bodies.
The report is fairly dense, so we recommend starting with the four-page fact sheet and ZOOMing in on the public information meeting on June 5th. As always, please feel free to reach out to us via email or by phone if you have any questions about the report. We’re still pouring through the details but hope to have our comments posted on our website by June 12th.
CT Water Quality Standards public comments due April 5
April 5 is the due date for comments on Connecticut’s Water Quality Standards (WQS)
Under the Clean Water Act, these standards are the basis for permitting and other programs protecting state waters. More at the CT WQS webpage. Your comments will be posted at the bottom of their Triennial Review webpage.
A couple other useful links:
- the Connecticut current regulations based on the water quality standards – these are what could get changed based on the Triennial Review,
- Water Quality Standards and Classifications Fact Sheet – good overview page, including brief descriptions of the Water Quality Classifications (Class AA, Class SB etc.)
Please submit your comments to DEEP.WQS@ct.gov on or before April 5, 2019.
The CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP or the Department) is requesting input from all interested parties on any aspect of the WQS that the public believes the Department should consider for potential revision, however they are particularly interested in comments on the following topics in the WQS. Here is what DEEP says about these revisions in italics on the left, with Rivers Alliance’s comments next to them on the right.
Topics under Consideration for Revision within the WQS Regulations
Updates to Numeric Water Quality Criteria
Since the WQS were last revised, EPA has updated recommendations for water quality criteria. The Department is currently reviewing the water quality recommendations from EPA and will either propose adoption of the federally recommended criteria or provide a reason for not doing so in accordance with section 304(a) of the federal Clean Water Act. These include updates to federal water quality criteria recommendations for toxics, bacteria and ammonia. Information about the current federal recommendations for water quality criteria can be found on the EPA web site at: https://www.epa.gov/wqc.
If a federally recommended criterion is stricter or more complete than the current standard, so it would protect Connecticut’s water better, by all means adopt it. Any of EPA’s recommendations that are less protective should not be adopted.
Revise the Low Flow Statistic Applicable to Fresh Waters
The 7Q10 flow is currently identified as the low flow condition in freshwater rivers and streams. The Department intends to recommend changing the low flow statistic for fresh waters from the 7Q10 flow to the Q99 flow. The Q99 flow represents the daily low flow rate that is expected to occur approximately 1% of the time. For daily stream flows, the Q99 flow is roughly equivalent to the 7Q10. The benefit of using the Q99 flow is that information on Q99 flows for waterbodies in Connecticut is easily accessible through the USGS StreamStats web site for all locations, not just those served by gaging stations.
Because the US Geological Survey Stream Stats is being used by more and more people every year, Rivers Alliance agrees with this change. But will DEEP use a river’s annual Q99, as in its power-point presentation, or seasonal or monthly Q99s (as used in the Streamflow Regulations)? We urge DEEP to use the Q99 for whatever time period will best protect that river.
Extended Disinfection Period
The current Water Quality Standards contain requirements for disinfection of treated sewage discharge to surface waters at section 22a-426-4(a)(9)(E) of the regulations. This section requires continuous disinfection for all sewage treatment plants located south of Interstate Highway I-95. Disinfection is currently required for all sewage treatment plants north of Interstate Highway I-95 from May 1 to October 1, unless an alternative schedule, including continuous disinfection, is approved to protect those using the waterbody. Based on public comments which identified contact recreational activities within Connecticut that occur outside the current disinfection period, the Department intends to propose an extension of the disinfection period for all sewage treatment plants located north of Highway I-95 to include the period from April 1 through November 1, unless an alternative schedule, including continuous disinfection, is approved to protect those using the waterbody.
Of course the disinfection period should extended. We want people to be safe on and in our rivers all the time.
“…unless an alternative schedule, including continuous disinfection, is approved to protect those using the waterbody.” Does this mean that people who use a river when effluent is not being disinfected should let DEEP know?
We hope however that non-chlorine disinfection will be required whenever possible.
Define Highest Attainable Use
Recent revisions to federal regulations pertaining to Water Quality Standards (40 CFR 131.3(m) and 131.10(g)) have included a new term, Highest Attainable Use. The Highest Attainable Use is evaluated during a study of how a waterbody is used and pertains to identifying the highest use level for a waterbody should environmental conditions permanently preclude certain uses of that resource. The Department is reviewing the recently revised federal regulations and anticipates proposing language to insure consistency with these federal requirements.
“…Highest Attainable Use is evaluated during a study of how a waterbody is used…”
This has the potential to eliminate improvement of polluted waterways. People stay away from rivers they know are polluted by unpermitted or permitted effluents. This means those rivers will not be used for any higher use during a study.
If Connecticut DEEP is mandated by the federal government to revise Highest Attainable Use to mean only what its use is now, maybe we need to address this at the federal level.
Water quality in a particular section of a waterbody maybe affected by activities in the upstream watershed which contribute pollutants to the waterbody that are then transported downstream, affecting water quality in that downstream portion of the waterbody. The Clean Water Act requires consideration of these impacts on downstream waters when addressing water quality concerns. The Department believes that this concept is currently included within the WQS but is reviewing federal recommendations and may propose changes to the regulations for clarification, as needed.
At first glance, this concept seems fine Of course pollution should not be allowed that would degrade downstream segments of that water body. But this concept should not be used to imply that a lowered standard for water quality can be used for an upstream segment where water quality is already degraded downstream.
Water Quality Classification Maps
The Department is evaluating the need to make changes in order to reconcile the water quality classification designation with shellfishing classification for specific water quality segments, as needed. Additionally, the Department expects to update ground water classification designations for consistency with Aquifer Protection Areas.
Yes. Aquifer Protection Areas should have the appropriate groundwater designation. But since some public water supply wells are immediately adjacent to, and the recharge area of, rivers, shouldn’t the upstream river segments also be classified as A or as having the goal of being A.
Shellfisheries are important to the state’s economy and require as much clean water as possible. All existing and potential shellfisheries should have an SA classification or a goal of SA.
General comment. Water-quality policy and related designations are unclear in some cases due to the loss of the slash-goal designations. For example, if there has been a successful shellfishery in a given location from 1950 to 2017, in SA water; but the fishery has closed, and the water is now of lower quality, can DEEP should be able to give the equivalent of SB/SA? If not, how can we promote high-quality, economically beneficial waters?
Recent PURA Dockets Regarding Change of Control of Water Companies in CT
In the last five years (2014-2018) the CT Public Utility Regulatory Administration (PURA) has considered 14 dockets involving change of control of public water supplies. 8 of these were acquisitions by Aquarion, 3 by CT Water Company.
18-12-32 [PURA and DPH Review of the Application of the Aquarion Water Company of Connecticut and Hillside Water Corporation for Aquarion Water Company of Connecticut to Acquire the Assets of Hillside Water Corporation]
Notice of Proceeding
18-11-01 [Joint Investigation by DPH and PURA of Miami Beach Water Company, Old Lyme, Connecticut] (possible acquisition by CT Water Co.)
Notice of Proceeding
18-08-34 [PURA and DPH Review of the Application of Aquarion Water Company of Connecticut and the Town of New Fairfield for Aquarion Water Company of Connecticut to Acquire the Assets of the Town of New Fairfield Municipal Water System]
18-07-10 [Application of SJW Group and Connecticut Water Service, Inc. for Approval of Change of Control]
The Public Utilities Regulatory Authority has concerns regarding … the failure of the applicants to consider and protect the public interest in entering into the proposed transaction. … As a result, the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority determines that the proposed transaction … does not offer sufficient meaningful, specific, or measurable public benefit, …. The Public Utilities Regulatory Authority hereby denies the joint application for change of control.
17-08-10 [PURA and DPH Review of the Application of the Aquarion Water Company of Connecticut and Arlington Homes, LLC, and Valleywood LLC for Aquarion Water Company of Connecticut to Acquire the Assets of the Arlington Acres and Pleasure Valley Systems]
Decision Jan 30, 2019
17-06-30 [Joint Application of Eversource Energy and Macquarie Utilities Inc. (Aquarion) for Approval of a Change of Control]
… In addition, the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority finds that the proposed transaction, along with the commitments made by the applicants during the course of the proceeding, is in the public interest.
Section D Public Interest. (pages 21 – 23 of 32): As part of the Authority’s overall statutory mandate, the public interest must be considered in a change of control proceeding. Specifically, Conn. Gen. Stat. §16-22 provides that the burden of proving that a “transfer of assets or franchise is in the public interest shall be on the public service company.”
The transaction will provide for local ownership of AWC-CT by an owner with long-standing regulated operations in Connecticut. Eversource is experienced in the Connecticut regulatory environment, understands the customer base and is engaged in supporting the needs of customers and communities throughout its service territory. Eversource has been recognized for energy efficiency programs and is a responsible environmental steward. On this basis alone, the Applicant’s view the public interest to be served by the transaction.
For these reasons, the Authority finds the transaction to be in the public interest as it provides benefits to AWC-CTs customers, employees and Connecticut. …
17-04-23 [PURA and DPH Joint Review of the Application of The Connecticut Water Company and The Westover Water Company for the Acquisition and Dissolution of The Westover Water Company ]
Decision Oct, 2018 (no public trust mentions found)
16-11-31 [Application of Connecticut Water Service, Inc. and the Avon Water Company for Approval of Change of Control]
The Authority … finds that the Applicants have demonstrated that this change of control is in the public interest.
16-07-09 [Application of Connecticut Water Service, Inc. and the Heritage Village Water Company for Approval of Change of Control]
Decision (no mention of public trust found)
16-04-22 [PURA and DPH Review of the Application of the Aquarion Water Company of Connecticut and the Southeastern Connecticut Water Authority for Aquarion Water Company of Connecticut to Acquire the Assets of the Southeastern Connecticut Water Authority Lantern Hill Division Water System]
15-08-24 [Joint Investigation of DPH and PURA Regarding Cedarhurst Association, Inc.’s Request to Cease Operations as a Water Company] (possible acquisition by Aquarion or Liberty Utilities)
14-12-21 [Joint Investigation of DPH and PURA Regarding REJA Acquisition Corp.’s Request to Cease Operations as a Water Company with Respect to the Rainbow Springs Water System in Middlefield, Connecticut] (Aquarion)
14-05-11 [PURA and DPH Joint Review of the Petition of Hickory Hills Corporation to Cease Operations as a Water Supply Company] (acquired by Aquarion)
14-04-22 [Joint Investigation of PURA and DPH Regarding Petition of Interlaken Water Company, Incorporated to Cease Operations as a Water Supply Company] (Aquarion)
13-12-02 [PURA and DPH Joint Review of Application of Torrington Water Company and the City of Torrington for Approval of Water System Purchase and Sale Agreement]
13-07-13 [Joint Application of the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority and the Department of Public Health for Approval of Application of Aquarion Water Company of Connecticut and the City of Derby for Aquarion Water Company of Connecticut to Acquire the Assets of the East Derby Waterworks]
13-02-04 [Joint Investigation of DPH and PURA Regarding the Indian Fields Homeowner’s Association Request to Cease Its Water System Operations] (Aquarion)
13-01-11 [Joint Review of PURA and DPH of the Application of Aquarion Water Company of Connecticut, West Service Corporation and REJA Acquisition Corp. for West Service Corporation and REJA Acquisition Corp. to Cease Operations and for Aquarion Water Company to Acquire the Assets of West Service Corporation and REJA Acquisition Corp.]
<h3>Other related dockets</h3>
18-12-01 [Application of Connecticut Water Service, Inc. and Heritage Village Water Company for Sale of Water Services to Towantic Energy]
17-04-12 [Application of New England Service Company for Approval Pursuant to Section 16-47 of the Connecticut General Statutes for an Increase in Allowed Shareholder Ownership]
16-08-43 [Environmental Study On a Change In Use Of New Britain Water Company Land]
16-03-27 [Application of the Aquarion Water Company of Connecticut for Approval to Sell Real Property in New Canaan, Connecticut]
16-01-33 [Application of the Aquarion Water Company for Approval to sell Real Property in Woodbury and Southbury Connecticut]
15-11-33 [PURA and DPH Joint Review of the Regulatory Process for Voluntary and Involuntary Water System Acquisitions]
15-09-32 [Application of the Connecticut Water Company to Sell Approximately 5.7 Acres of Real Property Located at 350 Enfield Street Enfield, Connecticut ]
15-03-13 [Application of the Connecticut Water Company for the Donation of Property Located on South Center Street,Windsor Locks, Connecticut]
14-08-06 [Request of the Avery-Dewing Corporation, The Hazardville Water Company and The Jewett City Water Company for a Ruling Pursuant to Connecticut General Statutes Sec. 16-47] (change in shareholder ownership)
13-08-13 [PURA Investigation of the Financial Capacity and System Viability of Small Water Companies ]
Watershed groups have a positive impact on local water quality, study finds
[Phys.org News article, October 12, 2018 by Chris Branam, Oregon State University]
Some exerpts (emphasis added):
“Economists have found that in the United States, watershed groups have had a positive impact on their local water quality.”
“The study is published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. This is the first empirical evidence that nonprofit organizations can provide public goods, said Christian Langpap, an Oregon State University economist and study co-author with Laura Grant, an assistant professor of economics at Claremont McKenna College.”
“The researchers’ analysis combined data on water quality and watershed groups for 2,150 watersheds in the continental United States … a nonprofit in a watershed was associated with reduced dissolved oxygen deficiency relative to… watershed(s) in which there were no groups”.
“Additionally, a $100,000 increase in total donations to nonprofits in a watershed, equivalent to a 10 percent increase to the average, also was associated with reduced dissolved oxygen deficiency. And a $100,000 increase in nonprofit expenditures, a 7 percent increase, was also associated with improved water quality.”
Naugy Suffers Again
The Naugatuck River can’t seem to catch a break. As if it wasn’t bad enough to get vaguely associated with Legionnaires Disease in December, and after a five million gallon sewage spill October 9, on Saturday, January 20, 4000 to 6000 gallons of hydraulic fluid spilled from a Somers Thin Strip in Waterbury, contaminating the factory grounds, pavement, soil and storm-water catch basins. Much of it reached the River. The Waterbury Fire Department put oil booms in the river, but most of the oil had already flowed downstream. CT DEEP took over cleanup of the river.
Other Naugatuck River Problems
According to DEEP’s Bypass and CSO Events Public Viewer there were 6 other sewage spills into the Naugatuck River in 2017 in addition to the big one described above. 2 of them occurred since the famous Oct 9 spill. During the massive rain storms Oct 29-30, from 100,001 to 500,000 gallons of sewage got into the river from an overflowing manhole at Waterbury’s treatment plant, and from 501 to 1000 gallons overflowed from a manhole on High Street in Naugatuck.
Earlier in 2017 from 1,001 to 5,000 gallons of raw sewage reached the river from a spill on Derby Avenue in Seymour September 9. The Waterbury treatment plant had a spill estimated to be anywhere from 500,001 to 1,000,000 gallons on April 16. A spill on Church Street in Naugatuck on February 7 spilled an unknown amount of sewage in the river. The Naugatuck’s bad year began on Jan 20, 2017 when 650 gallons of raw sewage was bypassed into the Naugatuck River from the City of Naugatuck’s treatment plant.
However, if there were any sewage spills in Beacon Falls in 2017, they would not show up on the list above because that system does not report electronically to DEEP. The other sewage treatment plants on the Naugatuck, in the cities of Derby, Naugatuck, Seymour, Shelton, Torrington, Thomaston, and Waterbury all report electronically.
Aquatic Pesticides: Who’s in Charge?
Every few years, problems or at least questions arise about the state’s permitting program for aquatic pesticides. When a person, or association, or town applies to the state for a permit to put pesticides into water, what rights, if any, do towns have to oppose, or alter, or oversee, or enforce permits?
Typically, an applicant wishes to eliminate troublesome plants or sometimes animals in a pond or lake. (Note that the term pesticide includes herbicides.) CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) has primary authority, but towns must be notified. Some towns believe they have broad authority through their Inland-Wetlands and Water Courses commissions to put conditions on permits for aquatic pesticide use and to oversee the implementation. Other towns feel that if an applicant has a DEEP permit, there is nothing significant they can do. Meanwhile, due to staff cuts, DEEP is rarely able to check the accuracy of applications (for example, whether or not there is a downstream outlet from the water body to be treated), or to verify that conditions in the permit are being met.
The issue of noncompliance with environmental permits extends well beyond the aquatic pesticides the program, and, in 2017, the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) has been doing research into the problem, preparatory to issuing a report. Permits for aquatic pesticides stand out as particularly troubling. This is a matter of considerable public concern because of the growing evidence that pesticides in general are more harmful than advertised.
Attorney Janet Brooks, a member of CEQ and former, longtime member of the Attorney General’s staff, addressed the issue of authorities in a column in Habitat in the summer of 2017 (Habitat is the newsletter of the Connecticut Association of Conservation and Inland Wetlands Commissions). In “Pesticides and the Wetlands Act” she emphasized the broad authorities of municipalities. A brief discussion among experts at the Rivers Alliance October network conference, clarified that the state and municipalities have “concurrent” or “parallel” authority over applications of aquatic pesticides. This isn’t much help to town officials who aren’t sure exactly what they can or cannot do.
Eventually, the issue may end up in the Attorney General’s office. Meanwhile, we’ll do our best to keep you posted.