State House votes to regulate siting of wind turbines


HARTFORD — The House voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to regulate the siting of power-generating wind turbines in Connecticut.

Some Republican members voiced concerns that the bill would impose a de facto moratorium on wind farms because the legislation sets no deadlines for adopting regulations.

The legislation requires the Connecticut Siting Council to develop regulations in consultation with the departments of Public Utility Control and Environmental Protection.

Additionally, the legislature’s Regulation Review Committee must approve the regulations that the three agencies propose.

Rep. Vickie O. Nardello, D-Prospect, the House chairwoman of the Energy and Technology Committee, said she does not want to see a moratorium on commercial wind turbine projects.

She said she expects the siting council, the DEP and the DPUC will take from six months to 18 months to draft regulations.

Daniel C. Esty, the DEP commissioner, said he expects the regulations will take from six months to a year to adopt. Kevin DelGobbo, chairman of the DPUC, said that seems a reasonable timeframe based on past experience.

However, Rep. Arthur J. O’Neill, R-Southbury, said sometimes years pass before regulations are enacted. He is a former chairman of the Regulations Review Committee, and he remains a member of the panel.

“I guess I share concern without any bad intent on anyone’s part or failure of anyone to do try to do their best this could take a fairly long time before those regulations get at least as far as the Regulations Review Committee, which then has to make decisions about whether they carry out the intent of the legislation that is before us today,” he said.

Nardello said she will push the three agencies as the House chairwoman of the energy committee.

“I will personally be looking to moving the siting council to producing these regulations as quickly as possible,” she said.

Rep. John B. Rigby, R-Winsted, said the regulations will benefit both developers and people who live near sites where developers want to erect wind turbines. All will know how proposals will be evaluated and what procedures must be followed, he said.

The House’s 132-6 vote sends the regulation bill to the Senate for final action in the legislature.

Currently, there are no specific rules regarding where turbines can be located, how they operate, or what happens after they reach the end of their useful lives.

The energy committee introduced the bill in response to turbine projects that have been proposed in Prospect and Colebrook.

Earlier this month, the Connecticut Siting Council refused to grant BNE Energy Inc. of West Hartford permission to erect two 492-foot-tall, 1.6-megawatt wind turbines in Prospect. The council is expected to rule next month on BNE Energy’s request to put six turbines in Colebrook.

Nardello said the legislation will not affect any projects that are pending before the proposed law takes effect on July 1.

The legislation lays out several factors that the siting council, the DEP and the DPUC must consider in drafting regulations. They include setbacks, including tower height and distance from neighboring properties, flicker, ice throw, blade shear, noise and effects on natural resources.

Also, the siting council may require a turbine be decommissioned at the end of its useful life. It will also continue to permit the council to adopt regulations that set different requirements for projects of different sizes.

Nardello said the legislation only requires the siting council to consider these criteria. It does not mandate that the regulations incorporate each one.

Some opponents of the bill said the legislature should not dictate how the siting council does its job.