NEW BRITAIN – The message from the public Tuesday was clear: the Connecticut Siting Council needs to extensively revise its proposed wind turbine regulations before they become law.
In over one hour, 14 people addressed the council during an afternoon hearing at council headquarters. Eight of them were either from Prospect or Colebrook, where a West Hartford company proposed in both towns the first commercial wind turbines in the state.
That company is BNE Energy Inc. and the council rejected its proposal for two turbines in Prospect but approved two projects with three turbines each in Colebrook. Those approvals, however, are facing an appeal in New Britain Superior Court from a group of Colebrook residents called FairwindCT.
Speakers at the hearing said they support the establishment of wind turbine regulations but the council’s proposal is not strong enough. Their most common complaint was about setback – the proposed regulations call for the distance from the turbine to adjacent property lines to be 1.1 times the height of the turbine. BNE’s proposed turbine height is 492 feet, meaning a turbine could be just 550 feet away from an adjacent property line.
“There’s nothing in the regulations as proposed that can stop someone from putting these things right in the middle of your neighborhood,” Calvin Goodwin of Prospect said before the hearing while standing outside with neighbors holding protest signs.
“The 1.1 is a joke,” concurred Fred Bonyai, also of Prospect. “This is crazy – 550 feet.”
FairwindCT President Joyce Hemingson said the council “obviously did not listen” to residents and experts who have testified about the potential harms of locating a turbine close to people’s homes. She said the proximity of turbines to homes is the key to other problems, such as noise, ice throws and shadow flicker.
During the hearing, Hemingson said in one instance the regulations would allow a turbine blade to be nine feet from an abutter’s property line and 14 feet away in another.
“The council would not site cell towers that close to a property line but has shown that they would site a moving blade long enough to sweep almost two acres with each rotation that close to property lines,” she said.
Not everyone is opposed to the regulations as written. Lee Hoffman, a lawyer in Hartford, submitted a letter in his “personal capacity” and wrote that the council “has carefully considered the potential environmental, health and safety impacts that may be associated with such projects and addressed them appropriately. Indeed, it would appear that if anything, the Siting Council has been cautious in its approach to such issues.”
BNE Energy co-founder Paul Corey submitted a letter and spoke at the hearing. He said the proposed regulations would “certainly be challenging for developers like us” but are “fair and reasonable.”
He wrote the regulations “provide clear guidance to developers but also allow some flexibility for the council to evaluate projects on a case-by-case basis to determine whether a project is in the public interest.”
Linda Roberts, the council’s executive director, said the council will review all of the comments and decide whether the proposed regulations need to be revised before sending them to the legislative review committee.
The council has until Nov. 1 to submit them to the committee. The committee then has 65 days to either reject, approve or send back the regulations to the council for modification. If it fails to act within those 65 days, the regulations are deemed approved.