HARTFORD—A hearing was held on a proposed one-year moratorium on the placement of wind towers in the state last week in Hartford, after plans by a local startup company to install 400-foot-tall turbines in Colebrook and the New Haven County town of Prospect have been criticized by residents concerned about how they would impact the area’s businesses and residential areas.
Introduced by State Rep. Vickie Nardello (D-Prospect) and State Sen. Joan Hartley (D-Waterbury), who both represent Prospect, the moratorium has been criticized by both BNE Energy, the West Hartford company proposing the turbines, and several local environmental groups. The moratorium is intended to allow the legislature time to develop regulations for wind turbines in the state, for which there are currently none.
Ms. Nardello and Ms. Hartley could not be reached for comment this week.
Christopher Phelps, the executive director of environmental advocacy group Environment Connecticut, said the moratorium would send the wrong message to companies like BNE. Along with the Connecticut Fund for the Environment and Environment Northeast, who also spoke at the hearing last Thursday, Mr. Phelps said that his group was opposed to the moratorium.
“One of the core reasons we oppose a moratorium is it would send a chilling message to the wind industry, that Connecticut is not open for business,” he said. “One thing, bottom line for us that we can all agree on is that it ought not be harder to build a wind tower project in Connecticut than a large fossil fuel power plant.”
Mr. Phelps added that Environment Connecticut believed that statewide regulations on the placement of wind farms could be inappropriate.
“Potentially, [regulations] could be unworkable for these types of questions, as noise impacts and setback requirements can be, to some extent, site-specific, and what might be an appropriate amount of setback for one project might not be the same for another,” he said. “That’s another challenge; there’s some elements to these decisions that aren’t appropriate for a rigid regulatory process. You balance that against the fact that you don’t want a lack of standards as well.”
State Rep. John Rigby (R-Colebrook) said Wednesday that his constituents seemed divided “50-50” for and against the bill. “I want to see what the final product is before I support for or against [the bill],” he said.
Mr. Rigby’s chief concern was that on its present schedule, the Connecticut Siting Council—a quasi-government organization which oversees the placement of all power infrastructure in the state of Connecticut—will render a decision on the turbines before the bill will have a chance to leave committee by the March 24 deadline and be voted on by the House.
“Folks I have spoken to familiar with the issue assure me that the [siting council] has been given all the data necessary to render a decision specific to wind turbine setbacks and appropriate locations for a wind turbine farm,” he said. “But it’s essential that the public be able to enter the process, and the public hearing is going to be critical and present their evidence and documentation.”
State Sen. Kevin Witkos (R-Canton), who also represents Colebrook, stated that while many of his concerns had been addressed at the hearing Thursday, he still believed that the siting council should be required to take into account the turbine manufacturer’s recommendations for setbacks. Mr. Witkos added that he introduced a bill requiring the siting council to do just this in 2009, but it died in committee.
General Electric, which manufactures BNE’s proposed wind turbines, will not sell the turbines to a customer that wants to put it somewhere that goes against the company’s own recommendations—but Mr. Witkos said that this did not go far enough.
“While GE may not do it, some other company may just go for it,” he said.
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