The vice chairman of the Connecticut Siting Council recused himself Wednesday from any further participation in upcoming deliberations over putting an industrial wind farm in Colebrook, saying he is a member of the local land conservancy.
Colin Tait said he was immediately removing himself from participating in the decision, in a letter to the council’s chairman Robert Stein.
Tait, a Norfolk resident, revealed that he is a member of the Colebrook Land Conservancy, a citizens group that formed in 1986 to preserve the area’s rural character. Although the conservancy is not a legal party in the controversial project, the group has publicly opposed the Colebrook wind farm project “by making an unsworn statement during the public comment session held in Colebrook and by writing letters to the Siting Council and the Department of Environmental Protection,” Tait wrote.
“I believe that I have conducted myself impartially … thus far, but, to avoid even the appearance of impropriety, I am recusing myself effective immediately,” wrote Tait, who has served on the council since 1981.
In response, BNE Energy Inc., a West Hartford wind developer of the proposed Colebrook and Prospect wind farms, filed a motion requesting that Tait also recuse himself from a separate proposal to put two wind turbines in Prospect.
“Vice Chairman Tait never disclosed that he was a member of the conservancy until today,” Paul Corey, BNE’s chairman said Wednesday. “We’re just looking for a fair decision.”
BNE said Tait’s membership is a direct conflict of interest in both projects. BNE noted that the conservancy’s secretary, Joyce Hemingson, is also president of FairWindCt, a Colebrook citizens opposition group that is a legal participant in the Colebrook and Prospect proceedings.
“Mr. Tait should have recused himself in all … proceedings immediately upon [FairWindCt] becoming a party in the proceedings,” the filing said.
Corey said the council is scheduled to make a determination on the Prospect project on Thursday.
It was not clear how the nine-member council would be affected by Tait’s action. The siting council’s executive director, Linda Roberts, was not available for comment Wednesday.
Hemingson, the president of FairWindCt, said she was sorry to see Tait, a law professor, recuse himself from the Colebrook decision. “That’s too bad. He seemed to carry himself impartially. I don’t know him personally.”
Hemingson said she checked with the conservancy and was told that Tait had not paid this year’s dues, which were due in April. “Obviously he paid them last year before [BNE] filed its petitions.”
Wednesday’s events marked another twist in the hotly debated controversy over the siting of, potentially, the state’s first commercial wind farms.
Daniel Caruso, the council’s former chairman, resigned last month from the council after Caruso had a conversation with a lawyer representing Prospect wind farm opponents in Prospect. Members of the council are prohibited from discussing pending applications outside council meetings.
Stein, the chief of Stamford’s land use bureau for 15 years, was appointed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy to replace Caruso.
The 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.
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