HARTFORD – The state’s de facto moratorium on power-generating wind turbine projects will continue amid increasing pressure from the Malloy administration and some environmentalists to end it.
The legislature’s Regulation Review Committee remained unable Nov. 26 to break an impasse that has held up proposed regulations for siting wind turbines for two years.
The 14-member, bipartisan committee voted to permit the Connecticut Siting Council to withdraw its recommended regulations. The committee’s co-chairs will now meet with council leaders to try to satisfy outstanding concerns and issues.
Gov. Dannel Malloy expressed frustration that the wind turbine regulations have not been approved after five tries.
“I think people have wrestled with this issue. I am not being critical at this moment. People have to have their discussions, but, you know, the regulatory process in Connecticut is convoluted, takes a lot of time even with respect to technologies that have existed over long periods of time. I just hope we will eventually adopt appropriate regulations,” he told reporters.
Some supporters of wind power suspect that a small faction on the Regulation Review Committee is trying to block passage of regulations to keep power-generating turbines from being built.
“I think there were quite a few members of the committee who were ready to vote for them this time,” said Chris Phelps, campaign director for Environment Connecticut.
The committee must approve all state agency regulations to assure that they comply with the intent of the legislature and existing laws and regulations.
After five failed tries, Phelps believes that several members of the committee are trying to stymie the wind power regulations because the rules were defeated in the legislature two years ago.
“At this point, there is no other explanation for it,” he said.
There were not enough votes on the committee Nov. 26 to approve the proposed regulations, said state Rep. Selim Noujaim (R-75), the panel’s House chairman.
He said there remain many lingering questions and outstanding concerns that the Connecticut Siting Council has failed to satisfactorily answer.
The Waterbury lawmaker said this is why he and state Sen. Andres Ayala (D-23), the committee’s other co-chairman, will be meeting with council leaders to try to reach a resolution.
Phelps said he suspects Noujaim and other committee members opposed to wind power are going to try to insert “poison pill” provisions into the regulations that will prevent power-generating turbines from being located and built anywhere in the state.
A 2011 law directed the council to adopt rules to govern the siting of power-generating wind turbines. It was a response to turbine projects that had been proposed in Prospect and Colebrook.
The legislature mandated that the proposed regulations consider tower height and setbacks from neighboring properties, flicker, ice throw, blade shear, noise and effects on natural resources.
It said the council may set different requirements for projects of different sizes. Additionally, the council may require a turbine be decommissioned at the end of its useful life.
The Malloy administration is keen to get regulations enacted.
“I think we should have regulations. Windmills exist,” Malloy said.
In advance of the meeting Nov. 26, representatives from the governor’s office had lobbied lawmakers on the Regulation Review Committee to finally approve the proposed regulations.
“The governor’s office was really pushing to get a vote on it,” Noujaim said
He said he was not going to vote to approve the same set of regulations that he and other members had voted to reject without prejudice in September. He also questioned why the administration waited until just before the meeting to reach out to committee members.
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