Dozens of Trumbull residents wearing red and white “Fragile: Handle with Care” stickers boarded a bus and traveled to the State Capitol yesterday to testify before a legislative committee in favor of legislation that would change the way the Connecticut Siting Council makes decisions about where they will allow the construction of potentially dangerous power generators.
The Trumbull residents, part of the Preserve Nichols group, joined Representatives T.R. Rowe (R-Trumbull) Tony Hwang (R-Fairfield/Trumbull) and state Senator Anthony Musto (D-Trumbull) and in advocating before the General Assembly’s Energy & Technology Committee for greater public input, public hearing processes and greater consideration of other factors—like safety, proximity to schools and residences and historic designations—in Siting Council procedures.The legislation stems from neighborhood concerns about a proposal to place a 3.4 megawatt, natural gas-fueled electric generation plant in a highly residential neighborhood in the Nichols portion of Trumbull. The plant would be within close proximity to a high school and, under current rules, the Siting Council is only required to consider environmental impact in its decisions. Additionally, the council is not required to hold public hearings in effected communities.
“The prospect of this type of hybrid fuel cell system has caused great concern throughout our community,” Representative Rowe testified. “Our opposition has grown not based upon the typical ‘not in my backyard’ mentality but rather because of the profound safety concerns arising from what is unknown, untested technology—a natural gas-based, hybrid type of fuel cell.”
“This legislation language to consider public safety as it relates to fuel cell power plants is very important to the community I represent,” Representative Hwang said, “but equally important to the many other residential communities throughout Connecticut confronted with the increased cost and need for energy use, particularly as we weigh the balance between energy production facilities like natural gas hybrid fuel cell power plants versus residential quality-of-life and public safety.”
“This measure would ensure that the people of Connecticut have their voices heard before an important decision is made, such as the siting of a power plant in a residential area,” said Senator Musto. “We live in a time where we have the technology and resources to run the most transparent and participatory democracy in the world, and we need to do everything we can to ensure that we realize that potential. Giving people a chance to speak about a proposal that affects their town, neighborhood and family is a welcome and overdue change.”
The legislation—Senate Bill 461, An Act Concerning Siting Council Proceedings and Decisions—now awaits action from the Energy & Technology Committee. If approved, it will next move to the Senate for consideration.
The 2010 regular legislative session adjourns on May 5.