Wind farm foes rally at siting council office


PROSPECT — A local group opposed to a West Hartford company’s proposal to build two wind turbines off New Haven Road assembled Thursday afternoon outside the Connecticut Siting Council’s New Britain headquarters to demand some answers.

About 60 residents attended the rally to demand to know why the siting council failed to substantially mention any findings based on testimony that Save Prospect Corp. filed, said Tim Reilly, Save Prospect president.

“Our facts aren’t in there,” Reilly said. “We are quite concerned about that.”

The siting council on April 18 reviewed a draft of findings on the project by BNE Energy Inc. to install two 1.6-megawatt wind turbines on a 67.5-acre parcel at 178 New Haven Road. The company also is proposing to install six turbines in Colebrook. That petition is pending.

A decision on the Prospect project is not expected until May 12, but the findings presented at last week’s council meeting clearly steer toward an approval. The council is set to meet at 11 a.m. Monday for more discussion. The deadline for a decision is May 16.

If the Prospect project is passed, it would be the first commercial wind project to be approved in the state.

The siting council released a draft report of 213 findings of fact. They were based mostly on testimony filed by BNE, and the draft included findings on “shadow flicker,” or the effect of the sun shining through the spinning blades, ice throw, bird kill, capacity and noise.

Only six of the 213 findings in the report could be attributed to Save Prospect.

Thursday was the last day for parties and intervenors to submit any corrections to the council’s draft, according to a letter by Linda Roberts, the council’s executive director.

Reilly said Save Prospect filed a response Thursday to the council’s draft report, and its own proposed draft findings.

Save Prospect tackled each of the council’s findings. Among the comments were that it disputes the facts or characterization, no final plans or “competent evidence” support the findings or the facts are irrelevant. The group’s proposed findings total 134.

The group in general wants the council to include its pre-filed testimony and evidence in the findings, Reilly said. It mainly wants setbacks, audible noise and infrasound listed, he said. The group’s noise expert described infrasound as an inaudible sound that creates a “pulsing sensation in humans” and causes vibrations at great distances, Reilly said.

The council’s findings state that projected noise from the turbine complies with the state Department of Environmental Protection criteria. Save Prospect disputes that, saying it won’t comply at the property lines.

Nicholas J. Harding, an attorney who represents FairWindCT, a group opposed to the project in Colebrook, said he is preparing a response to the council’s report. He declined to comment at this point as the proposal for Colebrook is pending, but said he can’t understand why the council omitted their experts in the findings.

Duby McDowell, a BNE spokeswoman, said the company issued the following comment Thursday: “We have confidence in the process, and think it’s served the state well on lots of other projects.”

Save Prospect has been working with legislators to get a bill passed that would draft regulations for locating power-generating wind turbines.

On Tuesday, the Appropriations Committee approved legislation that requires the siting council to draft those regulations. The next stop for final consideration was the House and Senate. The bill is listed on the House’s “go list,” which is a list of bills that are ready for action on a particular session day and could be called.

Reilly said he was incensed to learn that it was blocked by wind lobbyists Wednesday. He said there was a threat of a filibuster if the bill was called, and it never was called.

A spokesman for Speaker of the House Christopher Donovan said if the bill is on the “go list,” it will be deliberated, but legislators probably ran out of time since the session ended early. He said it is not uncommon that not all items on the list are discussed in a particular session. He said there are no problems with the bill that would prevent it from being discussed. Although the schedule has not yet been set, he said the House will probably meet again Tuesday or Wednesday.

The bill would have to be passed and signed by Gov. Dannel Malloy by May 12, before the Siting Council makes a decision on BNE’s petition.

“I do know that there is significant opposition to the bill within the chamber,” state Rep. Greene (R-Beacon Falls) said. “It’s one of these issues that could go either way.”

Greene said the bill is not a partisan issue and that there are legislators both for and against it on both sides of the aisle.

Greene said he’s heard from a number of different organizations both for and against the bill, including Prospect residents both for and against the wind turbine project in their town, wind energy lobbyists, and members of the Siting Council.

“Obviously, lobbyists are talking to you from both sides of the perspective,” Greene said.

He said his primary concern was not making a decision on the placement of wind projects but not enacting legislation that would go above and beyond regulations for any other type of energy, including nuclear facilities. He said the legislature shouldn’t change the game in the middle of it, especially when they want to claim that Connecticut is open for business.

According to Greene, the bill is not dead and is still on the House calendar for discussion.

Rep. Vickie O. Nardello (D-Prospect) and Sen. Joan Hartley (D-Waterbury), co-sponsors of the legislation, couldn’t be reached for comment as of this post.

Laraine Weschler contributed to this report.