HARTFORD—Two proposed bills scheduled to be introduced on the floor of the Connecticut General Assembly on Thursday (Feb. 3) could bring a company’s push to install large wind turbines in Litchfield County to a halt.
BNE Energy, Inc., a West Hartford-based startup, has proposed wind turbines in three towns—in Colebrook and in the New Haven County town of Prospect—stirring both interest and controversy in the region.
A third plan for commercial wind turbines, located in East Canaan, involves two plots of land—one owned by Freund’s Farm Market and Bakery, and one located behind the Lone Oaks Campground—and is being considered by the town’s Planning and Zoning Commission.
Neighbors of the Colebrook sites—including the Rock Hall Luxe Lodging bed-and-breakfast, whose owners claim the sight and sound of the turbines would destroy the viability of their business—have organized a citizens group called FairWindCT. Its purpose is to impose a moratorium on approvals for such projects. Similarly, a group of concerned citizens in Prospect has launched the nonprofit group Save Prospect, hoping to prevent the towers’ construction.
Currently, Connecticut has no regulations on the books regarding the construction of wind turbines, and no commercial towers presently exist in the state, unlike the rest of of New England. The Connecticut Siting Council, which oversees the construction of all telecommunication equipment in the state, is nonetheless the governing authority over wind turbines.
The first of the two bills, brought forward by State Rep. Vickie Orsini Nardello, (D-Prospect) and State Sen. Joan V. Hartley (D-Waterbury), whose districts both include Prospect—would “require the Siting Council to adopt regulations for wind turbine projects and put a moratorium on any applications until such regulations are adopted.”
The second bill, No. 6250, would make changes to the Connecticut Siting Council’s procedures, including those related to the siting of certain facilities. Specifically, the bill proposes to bar the siting council—which has come under criticism in the past for being dismissive for residents’ concerns—from approving any towers proposed within 750 feet of a school, day care center, place of worship, or private residence “unless there are no technically, legally, environmentally and economically feasible alternative sites within the municipality.”
The bill also calls for the council to consider recommended safety standards, and resident concerns as well as giving Connecticut’s Attorney General the authority to bring civil action against an applicant if the applicant intentionally misrepresents facts. It also removes a clause that would bring a “Certificate of Public Need” to a proposed facility if it is considered necessary for keeping the state’s electrical supply stable.
Patty McQueen, a representative for BNE Energy, said Wednesday that the company disagreed with the idea of a moratorium, noting that the siting council is already required to undertake a rigorous exam of any application brought before it.
“The [council] already has significant regulations, and they are very specifically looking at the neighborhood and all of the issues that have been raised here,” said Ms. McQueen.
Ms. McQueen added that BNE planned to bring in experts and supporters of the wind projects to the public hearing to testify on the company’s behalf, and that the company believed the moratorium was designed to kill their projects, rather than improve them.
“It’s a business-killing, project-killing bill,” she said. “We would like to go to the Siting Council, where you can get a fair hearing on the merits of the project, rather than be killed by the moratorium.”
Ms. Nardello and Ms. Hartley could not be reached for comment this week.
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