HARTFORD – The two-pronged opposition to BNE Energy’s proposed wind farms in Colebrook and Prospect took a step forward due to developments in Prospect.
A pair of bills authored by State Rep. Vickie Nardello and State Sen. Joan Hartley are scheduled to be brought before the General Assembly’s Energy and Technology Committee for hearings Thursday, Feb. 3. One bill calls for a moratorium on the siting of wind projects until regulations are adopted, and a second bill would limit the location of generation facilities.
The first bill simply states that effective immediately, the Connecticut Siting Council, and state departments of Public Utility Control and Environmental Protection are to adopt regulations regarding wind turbines, as well as suspending any ongoing applications until regulations are adopted.
Ms. Nardello, who represents the 89th District, as well as Ms. Hartley, the 15th District senator, both represent Prospect, where BNE Energy has proposed one wind farm similar to the two set to straddle Route 44 in Colebrook.
Save Prospect, a nonprofit group fighting a proposed wind farm in Prospect, contacted its representatives to ask for the moratorium. During a Jan. 6 Connecticut Siting Council meeting, FairwindCT’s attorney, Emily Gianquinto, said that she was looking toward how events played out in Prospect to see what the Colebrook projects could expect; BNE Energy filed the paperwork in Prospect in time for the Jan. 6 hearing, but Colebrook’s application arrived after the deadline and was heard Jan. 20.
The second piece of proposed legislation – H.B. No. 6250 – bars the Connecticut Siting Council from approving projects that are “proposed to be installed on land near a school, as defined in section 10-154a, a day care center, as defined in section 19a-79a, a place of worship, or a private residence that the facility will not be less than seven hundred fifty feet from such school, day care center, place of worship, or residence unless the council finds that there are no technically, legally, environmentally and economically feasible alternative sites within the municipality that are more than seven hundred fifty feet from such school, day care center, place of worship, or residence.”
BNE Energy has asserted that the proposed windmills in Colebrook will have appropriate setbacks and are more than 800 feet away from any existing house. Nevertheless, several families who live near the proposed sites or plan to move to land adjacent to the sites have applied for, and been granted, party status in the proceedings. The Connecticut Siting Council has jurisdiction over both the Colebrook and Prospect proposals because the windmills are capable of generating over one megawatt each.
H.B. No. 6250 also calls for the council to take into consideration recommended safety standards, neighborhood concerns and the state of technology when considering applications. One of the other new clauses opens the door for the state’s Attorney General to bring civil action if it is proven that a party “intentionally omitted or misrepresented a material fact in the course of a council proceeding.”
The bill also strikes a clause in its entirety that states “a public need for an energy facility exists if such facility is necessary for the reliability of the electric power supply of the state.” One of the points BNE Energy has emphasized is the generating capacity of the proposed wind farms; according to BNE Energy’s estimates, the six turbines will generate quadruple the amount of Colebrook’s energy demands.
All of the above changes take effect July 1, 2011 if passed. The bill also calls for the immediate enactment of other changes, such as several new additions to the required documentation in filings before the council. The bill will call for applicants to consult with towns affected by their proposals within 60 days after filing their applications to the council. This clause already exists, but the bill also calls for applicants to forward a map “indicating the area of need” to towns, as well as allowing recommendations from the towns in question to applicants. The Connecticut Siting Council will be allowed to consider these alternative sites.
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