A refusal by a key rule-setting committee to adopt regulations allowing wind farms leaves Connecticut as the only state in region to prohibit the booming source of clean energy.
The decision not to act on wind-turbine regulations proposed by the Connecticut Siting Council drew the ire of environmentalists and raised concerns that wind farm developers will miss out on federal energy tax credits due to expire Dec. 31, which are considered essential to building wind farms.
“A handful of legislators decided once again to prevent Connecticut from reaping the benefits of clean, renewable, home-grown wind energy,” said Environment Connecticut Campaign Director Chris Phelps.
“In 2012, wind energy was the single largest source of new electric generation added nationwide. Yet, Connecticut has been sitting on the sidelines. It’s time for Governor (Dannel P.) Malloy and the Legislature to end the obstructionism of this handful of anti-wind power legislators by repealing the wind power ban,” Phelps said.
Wind power is gaining steam across the nation – and all of the New England states, except Connecticut, allow wind farms. The federal Energy Department estimates that 43 percent of new power facilities use wind to produce clean electricity.
The state Legislature’s Regulation Review Committee this past week sent the proposed rules back to the siting council to work out concerns from property rights advocates and others over how and where to locate wind farms.
A sticking point is a proposed waiver of formal hearings for certain applications before the siting council, which has the power to approve utility projects such as cellphone towers and electrical infrastructure. Opponents also want developers to post bonds to ensure that wind farm owners cannot abandon turbines and leave them rusting in a community.
A proposal by BNE Energy Inc. of West Hartford to build three, 492 foot-high wind turbines in Colebrook has been met by opposition from neighbors who do not want the huge structures near their homes.
Jim Finley, executive director of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, said his organization asked the siting council to withdraw its proposed regulations so a compromise can be reached. He said some of CCM’s member towns and cities want the regulations to force developers to post bonds to indemnify host communities and to require a plan to decommission closed facilities.
“We will work with the siting council and let the Legislature judge what’s reasonable. We just want to make sure they are regulated reasonably. The next step is to sit down with the siting council and deal with some of the concerns,” Finely said.
State Sen. Bob Duff, D-Norwalk, and a member of the regulations review committee, said wind power in Connecticut is being held hostage by a coalition of special interest groups.
“It’s easier to site a nuclear power plant in Connecticut than a wind turbine. That should give everyone a reason to pause. We have allowed special interest groups to delay and delay adoption of the regulations. It’s embarrassing,” Duff said.
“Refusing to vote on the wind regulations is a missed opportunity for Connecticut,” said Lauren Savidge, staff attorney and energy specialist for the Connecticut Fund for the Environment. “While states across the country are building wind turbines, Connecticut is missing out on federal credits and a growing market for safe, clean, profitable wind power.”
State Rep. Terrie Wood, R-Darien, who serves on the regulations review committee, said she was disappointed the siting council did not alter the proposed rules after committee members offered suggestions in September.
“I support the idea of renewable energy sources and wind turbines are a good aspect,” Wood said.” But the regulations need to be addressed. I could not sign off on the waivers. That’s crazy. The other piece is decommissioning.”
“I hope a compromise is reached. I think it’s something we need to move forward with,” Wood said.
Dennis Schain, a spokesman for the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, said regulators believe a compromise will be reached.
“We are hopeful that the siting council, interested parties and the Regulations Review Committee will soon reach agreement on balanced regulations that allow for wind energy projects in our state,” Schain said.
“While care must be taken to protect the rights of property owners and the resources of our state in siting wind turbines, wind energy can play a role in building Connecticut’s renewable energy future.”
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