Borough decides against symbolic vote

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Several people, most of them opposed to a power plant being planned for Oxford, sit at a meeting in Naugatuck Town Hall Monday. The Board of Mayor and Burgesses discussed the plant during the meeting but did not vote for or against it. –REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN
Several people, most of them opposed to a power plant being planned for Oxford, sit at a meeting in Naugatuck Town Hall Monday. The Board of Mayor and Burgesses discussed the plant during the meeting but did not vote for or against it. –REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

NAUGATUCK — More than 60 people who oppose a proposed 805-wegawatt dual-fueled power plant in Oxford urged Naugatuck officials to join their crusade Monday night at Town Hall.

They held signs proclaiming their disapproval of the plant outside the government building on Church Street, and flooded the seating area at a special Board of Mayor and Burgesses meeting held inside to discuss the plant.

The board opposed a motion by Burgess Alexander Olbrys, who wanted the board to take a symbolic vote against the plant on the grounds that it contradicted a pledge the board took in the fall to support the environment.

His motion failed 7-2; only he and Burgess Rocky Vitale voted for it.

The vote does not mean the board supports the project. Rather, several of those who voted against Olbrys’ motion said they don’t believe the motion had any significance since the decision on whether the plant will be built is not up to them — it’s up to the Connecticut Siting Council.

The Siting Council last week wrapped up the final days of testimony after several hours over the past few months hearing testimony from all sides about the project, which is being proposed by Massachusetts-based Competitive Power Ventures.

The Siting Council is expected to vote in May.

The council allows anyone who may be impacted by a proposal to file intervenor status, which allows them to testify before the council and question the applicant.

Naugatuck is one of several intervening parties.

“The borough has spent a significant amount of money to be an intervenor to go through the process that the state of Connecticut has deemed most appropriate when a proposal like this comes before it,” Mayor Robert Mezzo said. “I don’t believe a symbolic vote by this board will support that effort.”

Chester Cornacchia, an intervenor representing the Westover Hills subdivision where he lives in Naugatuck, said pollutants emitted from the plant will harm the air and water quality in Naugatuck and have negative impacts on people, particularly those who have asthma.

“This particular plant is going to sit at 990 feet,” he said. “It’s going to be one of the largest and one of the tallest power plants in the state of Connecticut. … The average elevation is 207 feet in Naugatuck. When you have days that are stagnant and there is no wind, we’re going to be engulfed in whatever is coming out of there at the rate of 588 tons per year.”

Braith Kelly Jr., senior vice president for external affairs at CPV, countered by saying the plant is within state and federal environmental guidelines.

“EPA’s regulations state they are required under the Clean Air Act to regulate emissions from plants like this to protect the most vulnerable of our society — asthma patients, people with respiratory issues, infants,” he said. “We are not allowed to, at any level, exceed that. … It’s not legal and there’s no way to work around that … If we exceed that level, we will have made a billion dollar investment in nothing. The plant will be closed. We cannot operate if the plant is closed.”