Even as a developer awaits a state decision on its plans for commercial wind farms in Colebrook and Prospect, there’s a debate in the state Capitol over whether to create new regulations for wind farms, and whether the Colebrook and Prospect plans would have to adhere to those rules.
The situation is creating confusion, as new rules could take up to 18 months to write.
Lawmakers who want stricter regulations – including both leaders of the legislature’s energy and technology committee – on Wednesday offered a compromise that would allow the developer to skirt the regulations as long as it adhered to a new set of overall guidelines.
That would mean BNE Energy Inc. of West Hartford, which is seeking approval for the hotly debated wind farms from the Connecticut Siting Council, would not face a delay as it waited for state regulations – a delay that could cost the company federal aid.
The amended bill is yet another twist in the controversy over commercial wind farms in the state. Citizens groups opposed to the wind farms have targeted the siting council in the wake of the sudden resignation by Daniel Caruso, the council’s chairman, after Caruso had a conversation with a lawyer for opponents in Prospect.
Members of the council are prohibited from discussing pending applications outside council meetings.
His resignation prompted FairWind CT Inc., a Colebrook citizens group, to request that the siting council declare a “mistrial” and abandon its evaluation of the Prospect application. The council rejected the request. But opponents say the incident has raised doubts about the council’s integrity and impartiality.
“I’m just hopeful that was the only ex-parte communication, but we don’t know,” Tim Reilly, president of Save Prospect said this week.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy nominated Robert “Robin” Stein, the chief of Stamford’s land use bureau for 15 years, to replace Caruso and lead the siting council.
“His walking in at the tail end of things certainly isn’t the best situation,” Reilly said.
The nine-member siting council was created by the state legislature in 1972 and has sole authority to approve sites for electricity-generating facilities ranging from nuclear power plants to trash-to-energy projects and wind farms
The deadline is nearing even as the legislature debates regulations – which the siting council says are not needed. Under state law, a decision on the Prospect commercial wind farm application is due May 16; decisions on Colebrook South and Colebrook North are due June 4 and 11.
The uncertainty over regulations has caused BNE’s principals, Greg Zupkus and Paul Corey, to ponder how the company should proceed if the siting council approves their applications.
To be eligible for federal wind farm subsidies, BNE must have a certain percentage of the Prospect and Colebrook projects underway by the end of the year. And the bill’s passage could put those payments in jeopardy, Corey said.
“The policy of the state is to have Class I renewable energy – 20 percent by 2020 – and that’s why we’re here today implementing that policy. If this passes, it doesn’t instill a lot of confidence in other developers and businesses,” Corey said.
Even the compromise plan, calling for BNE to adhere to broad guidelines rather than full regulations, would take a few months. That is reasonable considering the size of the wind generators, said Rep. Vickie Nardello, D-Prospect, co-chairwoman of the energy committee.
“We need to have a regulatory framework for these wind developments,” Nardello said. “These are 500-foot industrial wind turbines as tall as CityPlace in Hartford.”
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