A proposal to build Connecticut’s first wind farm in the state’s Northwest Corner has been blowing around for several years. Now an appeal brought by a citizens’ group that opposes the project will be heard by the state Supreme Court in coming months.
The key question is whether the Connecticut Siting Council had jurisdiction when it approved the wind turbine electric generation project. Since 2010, West Hartford-based BNE Energy Inc. has been pressing forward with plans to establish the commercial wind farm in the Litchfield County town of Colebrook.
Six 1.6-megawatt turbines on two neighboring sites on Flagg Hill Road and Rock Hall Road would produce enough electricity to power nearly 4,000 homes in Colebrook, Norfolk and Winsted, said attorney Paul Corey, a former energy lawyer at Brown Rudnick. He has plodded through myriad government approvals and regulatory obstacles in an attempt to see the plan to fruition.
Along the way, the plan has been met with strong opposition. A group called FairwindCT, and property owners Michael and Stella Somers and Susan Wagner, have said they are concerned the turbines will harm health, wildlife and property values.
By state law, any facility that produces more than one megawatt of energy falls under the jurisdiction of the Siting Council, rather than the municipality where the project would be built.
"People in Colebrook are worried," said Steven E. Byrne, an attorney with Byrne & Byrne in Farmington who advised the town of Colebrook when Corey requested a permit for the research tower. "It’s a scenic area and that’s a great asset. Do you want to be looking at these wind turbines?"
After the Siting Council granted approvals, the FairwindCT group appealed to the Superior Court in New Britain. Superior Court Judge Henry S. Cohn upheld the Siting Council’s decision last year. Because the legal issues to be decided could have implications for future wind projects in the state, the parties agreed it would be best to go right to the Supreme Court.
"Getting a decision from the Supreme Court will save time for everyone," said Nicolas J. Harding, a lawyer with Reid and Riege in Hartford, who submitted the Supreme Court brief on behalf of FairwindCT. "What we’ve argued all along is that the Siting Council doesn’t have jurisdiction over wind projects."
The Siting Council is being represented by the State Attorney General’s Office, which has not yet filed a response to Harding’s brief in court. Corey said he is confident that his project will be permitted to continue. "We did everything that had to be done," he said. "I’m confident the Superior Court decision will be affirmed."•