Fairwindct Inc. v. Connecticut Siting Council
The Connecticut Siting Council did not exceed its authority to regulate facilities that use "fuel," which is defined as "any other resource yielding energy," when it issued declaratory rulings on noise pollution at proposed wind farms. In 2010, BNE Energy Inc. applied to the Connecticut Siting Council and requested a declaratory ruling that no certificate of environmental compatibility was required to construct one 4.8-megawatt wind renewable generating facility, with three wind turbines, known as Wind Colebrook South, on 79 acres, and one with three wind turbines, known as Wind Colebrook North, on 124 acres. The Connecticut Siting Council found that there were approximately 28 residential properties within 2,000 feet of the proposed turbines, as well as properties owned by a sportsmen's gun club and a nature conservancy. Each wind farm is expected to generate about 12,614 megawatt hours of energy per year. Each turbine will include a tower, a hub located about 328 feet high, where the blades connect to the turbine, a nacelle that contains the gearbox and generator, and blades. Models project that the turbines will produce maximum noise emissions of 47 to 49 decibels, which meets environmental protection criteria. Although some birds and bats are likely to suffer injuries, long-term effects on wildlife are considered to be minimal. BNE provided a wood turtle protection plan. The Connecticut Siting Council issued a declaratory ruling that the wind farms would not have substantial adverse environmental effects, and Fairwindct Inc. and individuals appealed. The plaintiffs qualified for environmental standing. Connecticut General Statutes §16a-17 broadly defines "fuel" as "any other resource yielding energy," and the court rejected the plaintiffs' argument that the Connecticut Siting Council exceeded its authority to regulate facilities that use "fuel." The plaintiffs failed to prove that members of the Connecticut Siting Council failed to fairly consider the evidence presented, pre-determined the facts, or were biased. The plaintiffs received adequate opportunities to obtain and to present evidence, and the denial of requests for continuances did not constitute an abuse of discretion. Substantial evidence in the record supported the decision to measure noise pollution at residences, as opposed to property lines. The court dismissed the plaintiffs' appeals.