Perhaps to be no more than a memory, cherished only in books, a picturesque, bucolic Connecticut town gone with the wind.
Currently, Connecticut has no regulations for the siting of wind energy power plants and without them we are an easy target for the wind industry to market their wares. Furthermore, our Siting Council has an approval rating of 97percent regardless of public outcries. Who are the Connecticut Siting Council and what are they charged to do?
The Connecticut Siting Council was first established in 1972 to oversee the power facilities and transmission lines in the State of Connecticut. In 1981, they were given the added power of siting hazardous waste facilities. Since then, they’ve been given authority over other infrastructure including telecommunication sites.
To quote the Council’s responsibilities from their own website:
“The Council is responsible for:
1) balancing the need for adequate and reliable public utility services at the lowest reasonable cost to consumers with the need to protect the environment and ecology of the state and to minimize damage to scenic, historic, and recreational values;
2) providing environmental standards for the location, design, construction, and operation of public utility facilities that are at least as stringent as federal environmental standards and that are sufficient to assure the welfare and protection of the people of Connecticut;
3) encouraging research to develop new and improved methods of generating, storing, and transmitting electricity and fuel and of transmitting and receiving television and telecommunications signals with minimal damage to the environment;
4) promoting the sharing of telecommunications towers in order to avoid their unnecessary proliferation; and
5) requiring annual forecasts of the demand for electricity together with the planning for facilities needed to supply the predicted demand.”
Of the first two responsibilities I’d like to highlight the following statements:
Decisions made by the council need to protect the environment and ecology of the state and to minimize damage to scenic, historic, and recreational values.
That these decisions will provide environmental standards for the location, design, construction, and operation of public utility facilities that are at least as stringent as federal environmental standards and that are sufficient to assure the welfare and protection of the people of Connecticut.
The residents of Connecticut demand that this Council live up to their responsibilities and safeguard not only residents but our unspoiled environment. Not just for the proposed wind projects in the towns of Prospect and Colebrook, but in every town that will be targeted for industrial wind energy plants by companies like BNE Energy Inc. The Connecticut Siting Council needs to ask critical questions and do its homework to establish regulations regarding the siting of these facilities or we are going to find ourselves in a situation we will not be able to control. Connecticut has the opportunity to learn from the mistakes made in neighboring states like Massachusetts and New York where Big Wind swooped in and wooed them with offers of money for leasing or purchasing land. Along with the offers of hard cash, there were promises of wind energy reducing electric bills, and decreasing property taxes. The wind industry will gallantly take the lead on the path to independence on foreign oil, all while reducing greenhouse gases. They will have you believe their industry is a win-win for everyone.
In Connecticut, we do not have thousands of acres available to site these plants in areas where they will have minimal impact on residents or the environment. We are a densely populated state with marginal wind capacity. Promoters of industrial wind facilities propose their facilities be sited in residentially zoned areas and make promises there will be no significant noise, flicker or vibration to annoy residents. They assure us there is no immediate danger of lightning strikes, ice being thrown, or tower crashes. There is no affect on wildlife; not many bats or birds will be killed by the spinning of these massive turbines. They promise the least amount of damage possible will be done to precious wetlands. In effect, all the concerns will outweigh the public need for renewable clean wind energy. Proponents tell to realize we might have give up our New England scenic beauty because we have to save our planet and stop the wars in the Middle East with wind energy. Do we believe these promises or are we intelligent enough to realize this industry is take advantage of massive tax breaks and incentives which in essence allows them to make big money with little to no personal investment risk?
To those proponents, to the wind industry itself, please take the following challenge: Find us someone, anyone, who lives within one mile of 500 foot wind turbines that will tell us our concerns are without merit. Find us someone who will tell us the wind turbines were good for their neighborhoods and towns. Someone who will assure us our property taxes and electric bills will drop, that our homes will be just as pleasant to live in, that we’ll sleep well at night. Just find us one. Is that impossible because those who’ve leased property have a gag order attached to their contracts? Is it impossible because those who are able talk wouldn’t wish the misfortune of wind turbines near homes on their worst enemy?
The wind industry relies on the Machiavellian tactic of divide and conquer in their approach to developing their energy facilities in residential areas. Neighbors who have been friends for years become enemies. The proposal to place industrial wind turbines in the towns of Prospect and Colebrook are proof of that. And it won’t stop there, Big Wind has its greedy eye on Connecticut and if we are not careful they will lead our Siting Council to believe economic development trumps resource protection.
Is wind energy able to meet future energy demands more effectively, or is it simply a concept that is full of hot air and a way for investors to make a quick buck? As my father used to say, “You don’t get nothing for nothing”. That saying never rang so true. Once Connecticut lets Big Wind in, our lives will change forever and there is not a thing we will be able to do about it.
I know I stand with many who hope this drama doesn’t end with an approval any wind projects without the educated development of informed regulations. Anything less is simple statement by the Council to the concerned residents of Connecticut,
“Frankly, dear residents, we don’t give a damn.”
Alan and Shannon White
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