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Environmental goals for Conn. in 2014

By Kelsey Sullivan
On April 17, 2014

Each year, the bipartisan nonprofit organization Connecticut League of Conservation Voters (CTLCV) releases a legislative briefing that describes the major environmental policy reforms that should be undertaken by representatives in Hartford. This year's briefing highlights ten critical environmental health issues - two of these are: the need to permanently protect Connecticut's open space and to end the state's moratorium on wind energy.
Connecticut has over 225,000 acres of forests, parks and open space that are classified as "conservation land," but unfortunately the protection of these fragile areas is not guaranteed. According to the (CTLCV), there is no official statute that requires permanent protection of state-owned open space. Through the Conveyance Act, the state has the right to sell these lands to other entities, possibly for purposes other than conservation. The CTLCV insists that this is a problem, as land swaps often occur "behind closed doors." The organization calls upon the state legislature to "develop and adhere to, transparent and consistent procedures for all future state conservation land transfers that must include appropriate and timely public notice for review and opportunity for comment." Bills related to this issue that are currently under consideration are SB 70 Permanent Protection of State Conservation Lands (referred to the Government Administrations and Elections Committee on April 9th) and HB 5370 Funding State Parks and Forests (referred to Appropriations on April 8th).
You may be surprised to know that it is currently illegal to construct a new wind turbine in Connecticut. The moratorium was put in place in 2011, admittedly for plausible reasons: the state wanted to first draft regulations that would ensure the protection of property rights and that turbines would be properly sited. Accordingly, the Siting Council held numerous public hearings and gathered testimony, culminating in a set of official recommendations which it forwarded to the Regulation Review Committee for adoption. At this point, however, the process stalled. The Regulation Review Committee has not worked to adopt the recommendations, and in fact has sent them back to the Siting Council four times over the past two years. According to a Boston Herald article earlier this year: "State Rep. Selim Noujaim, the House co-chairman of the Regulation Review Committee, said he doesn't know when regulations may be drafted and the moratorium lifted" and is quoted as saying: "Your guess is as good as mine." This is irresponsible neglect of an issue that could help to mitigate the state's contribution to climate change and advance its place in the clean energy market. Although wind power will never be a major source of energy generation for Connecticut (due to topography and our dense residential development), a stable energy portfolio for any state should include a variety of sources. The vice president of one energy company insisted that his wind projects would be "cost competitive, particularly when the price of natural gas spikes as it did during several cold spells this past winter. It proposes to generate 10 to 20 megawatts, enough to power 3,000 to 5,000 homes." This year, the state has until May 7th to adopt the Siting Council's proposed regulations.
 


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