A group of Prospect residents dedicated to defeating two, proposed commercial wind turbines in town has claimed that a loan given to BNE Energy for the project was approved under false pretenses.
The group is now calling on Attorney General George Jepsen to investigate the matter.
Save Prospect Corp. President Tim Reilly filed a letter to Jepsen April 21 alleging that BNE Energy of West Hartford misrepresented the project when applying for pre-development loans from the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund (CCEF).
“It’s just one more example of how flawed the application and petition are by BNE Energy and how the entire process comes into question,” Reilly said.
According to the letter, Save Prospect Corp. claims BNE overstated the generating capacity possible at the proposed Prospect site.
BNE received $500,000 in loans from CCEF for the project in Prospect. However, applications for a project that will produce less than 5 megawatts of wind power, as in the case of Wind Prospect, are limited to a maximum of $250,000 in loans, according to the letter.
Reilly said BNE did not follow the rules established by CCEF to obtain loans.
In their original application to CCEF, BNE proposed building six 1.6 megawatt wind turbines in Prospect, the letter states. BNE only proposed two turbines in its application to the Siting Council, which has the sole authority to determine whether or not to allow the turbines on the site.
The site was never suitable to hold six turbines, the letter contends. The letter calls BNE’s claims of the generating capacity of the Wind Prospect project “grossly exaggerated and patently unsupportable.”
Reilly said, according to Save Prospect’s research, a minimum of $250,000 needs to be refunded to CCEF immediately.
He said BNE’s application was at least inaccurate and possibly fraudulent.
“We think it’s a poor investment for the Clean Energy Fund,” Reilly said.
Vice President of the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund John Olsen, who had not seen the letter prior to being interviewed, said as far as he knows BNE has met all the conditions of the loan.
“From the fund’s stand point, I’ve not been told they’ve not met all the conditions the funds been looking for,” Olsen said. “I think I would have been alerted if there was some form of deviation.”
Olsen said he understands the concerns and fears of those opposed to the project but felt the actions of Save Prospect Corp. are meant to slow down the project and kill it.
Olsen said the process with BNE started three years ago and was all done in public meetings. He said CCEF meets in public and anyone with concerns is invited to attend and speak.
Reilly said Save Prospect Corp.’s position is that BNE is in default of the loan, and that the Connecticut ratepayers’ investment in alternative energy charges must be returned to the fund for viable projects.
CCEF’s money comes from a surcharge on utility bills and is used to fund renewable energy projects.
“These are ratepayer funds and they have to be protected,” Reilly said.
In the letter, Reilly also states that BNE failed to inform Connecticut Innovations, Inc. (CI), the administrator of the loan, or CCEF of changes to its plans.
“We have been advised that Mr. Hedman (CCEF’s acting president) first learned of the change in BNE’s plans from six turbines to two turbines when he saw BNE’s petition for approval of the site, filed with the Connecticut Siting Council in November 2010. None of the documents provided to us by CCEF reflect that BNE ever informed CCEF directly of this dramatic change,” the letter states.
In the letter, Save Prospect urges Jepsen to immediately investigate CI on how they dealt with the loan and take remedial action if the loan is found to be based on misrepresentations of fact. The letter also demands public disclosure of relevant documents, the group felt was inappropriately deemed confidential.
Although CCEF is now aware of the change in BNE’s plans, it has not taken any action concerning the loan, Reilly wrote in the letter.
“Indeed, there appears to be a general expectation that nothing can be or will be done and that BNE will be back seeking additional state and federal financial assistance in order to pursue Wind Prospect to completion” the letter states.
Reilly said he hoped the Attorney General could obtain access to confidential information Save Prospect was not able to read.
“We’re hoping that the Attorney General will dig a little deeper than we’ve been able to,” Reilly said. “We want to understand the process and find out how fair it’s been.”
Susan E. Kinsman, director of communications for the Attorney General’s Office, confirmed the office received the letter, but couldn’t comment about the merits of the case or whether the office plans to investigate.
Kinsman said the matter has been referred to the Auditors of Public Accounts for their review, as state statute dictates, who will report their findings and any recommendations to the Attorney General.
“Upon receiving such a report, the Attorney General shall make such investigation as the Attorney General deems proper regarding such report and any other information that may be reasonably derived from such report,” the statue states.