Siting Council proposes new wind regulations

A year and a half after a West Hartford-based startup made its pitch to build the first commercial wind farms in Connecticut, the state is inching closer to establishing regulations for such projects.

The Connecticut Siting Council, which has sole jurisdiction over renewable energy projects that propose to generate more than 1 megawatt of power, has drafted a set of regulations for wind turbines.

The regulations are an outgrowth of reviewing two applications from BNE Energy, Inc., which proposed installing two wind turbines in Prospect and six in Colebrook.

The council rejected the Prospect application in May 2011, citing the visual impact the turbines would have on residential neighborhoods.

In June 2011, however, the council approved two separate projects in Colebrook, with three turbines at each site. The council did not find the same visual impact as it had in Prospect.

Those approvals, however, are facing an appeal from a group of concerned Colebrook citizens called FairwindCT. That appeal is pending in New Britain Superior Court. BNE is also still in the process of getting a detailed design and management plan approved by the council.

State law requires the council to develop regulations for wind turbines.

The council has a copy of its draft regulations available on its website, www.ct.gov/csc. The council has since taken the next step of publishing a notice of intent to adopt wind regulations in the Connecticut Law Journal.

The public now has the opportunity to submit requests to the council for a hearing. The deadline is May 15.

Two Prospect residents have already submitted requests. Another said he intends to, as does FairwindCT.

The proposed regulations are meant to address issues such as setback distances, shadow flicker, decommissioning of turbines, requirements for projects of different sizes, ice throw, blade throw, noise and impact on natural resources.

Two Prospect residents, Timothy Reilly and Vin Ricci, said their main concern is setback. They said the regulations call for the distance from the turbine to adjacent property lines to be just 1.1 times the height of the turbine.

BNE’s proposed height was 492 feet in Prospect, meaning a turbine could be 550 feet away from an adjacent property line.

“It is an absolute joke and a travesty and an insult to democracy in Connecticut,” Reilly said. “We have given them evidence from experts, testimony from witnesses who live in the presence of these turbines from Iowa out to Maine and Cape Cod and it’s all clear. When you put these things too close to home, problems occur, health problems, mainly.”

Reilly was president of Save Prospect Corp., a group that opposed BNE’s proposal in Prospect.

Nicholas Harding, a lawyer in Hartford representing FairwindCT, outlines in a draft memo a list of criticisms that tackle nearly every aspect of the regulations.

“These regulations are not protective of humans, wildlife and the few remaining rural resources of the state,” Harding states. “The Siting Council has chosen to facilitate the siting of wind turbines without an adequate margin of safety for the protection of natural or historic resources. No hilltop and no ridgeline in Connecticut is safe.”

Siting Council Staff Attorney Melanie Bachman said if the council receives 15 requests, it will schedule a hearing, although that may not be necessary.

“Even if they don’t (get 15 requests), because this is such a controversial matter, in their discretion, they can hold a public hearing without having that many requests,” she said.

Bachman said the council likely will not a set a hearing date until its June 7 meeting. The council will consider the input it receives and then decide whether to make any changes.

Changes and modifications will have to be made available to the public for 30 days before they can be submitted to the legislative regulation review committee, which has the final say, Bachman said.

Before they go to the committee, they must be reviewed by the attorney general to make sure the regulations do not conflict with the state constitution or any state law, she said.

Overall, the council has 180 days from the day the intent notice was published in the Connecticut Law Journal, which was May 1, to submit the regulations to the regulation review committee.

The committee can also hold its own hearing, Bachman said. The committee has 65 days to reject, approve, or send back the regulations to the Siting Council for modification.

If the council fails to act within those 65 days, the regulations are deemed approved.

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