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Bill regulating wind turbines squeaks through second committee

Rep. Vickie Nardello’s controversial bill to regulate the siting of wind turbines, squeaked through the legislature’s Planning and Development Committee Monday by just one vote.

Sen. Len Fasano, R-North Haven, said he voted against the bill because there’s no time period cited for how long it will take to write the regulations the legislation seeks to implement.

If passed in its present form the legislation will ultimately kill a proposal for a wind farm in Prospect, where Nardello lives, and Colebrook.

Rep. Elaine O’Brien, D-Suffield, said she’s concerned this legislation will kill the two BNE Energy projects currently going through the current regulatory process. However, O’Brien passed and did not vote on the bill. She was joined by Rep. Mae Flexer, D-Danielson, who also took a pass on voting on the bill which passed 9 to 8.

Rep. Roland Lemar, D-New Haven, said he recognizes the benefits of setting some guidelines, but is concerned what this legislation says about renewable energy. He said he will support the bill out of committee, but hopes it’s modified before it gets to the floor.

Rep. Bill Aman, R-South Windsor, said he wonders what kind of message this legislation sends to the business community. He said regardless of how you feel about the legislation it seems to say the rules for how you conduct business in the state can change at any moment.

He said it’s legislation like this that encourages business to go to other states.

Rep. Noreen Kokoruda, R-Madison, said she sits on the Energy and Technology Committee, where they’ve heard Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Daniel Esty say many times that it’s not good to create winners and losers, which this bill does. She said all of her constituents are talking about alternative energy sources and this bill is a step backwards for the state.

Nardello, who was on her way from the Capitol to a renewable energy conference Monday afternoon, said it’s impossible to have deadlines for regulations. She said normally they take 18 months to write. She said the bill is still a work in progress before walking away.

However, officials from BNE Energy told the legislature in February that if the regulations were written in six months the projects in Prospect and Colebrook would have to be scrapped after the state invested $1 million in them.

John LaMontagne of Prospect who lives within 800 feet of the proposed wind turbine testified in February that his family supports renewable energy and are in favor of wind power where appropriate, but the “two five-hundred foot tall structures with turbines on them are too big, too large, too loud, too close.”

He said he doesn’t care if the state already invested money in the project. He said if he bought his child a toy and later found out it was unsafe he’d take the toy away from the child, instead of allowing the child to play with it.

Gregory Zupkus, president and CEO of BNE Energy, told the committee that the two wind turbines in Prospect could generate about 25 percent of the towns power and the six in Colebrook will generate four times the towns demand.

He said as a resident of Prospect he’s familiar with the site where the two wind turbines will sit. He said it’s 68 acres and abuts water property land on the other side.

The bill now goes to the House for consideration.