A bad decision by a half-empty oversight board
The Killingly Energy Center is a power plant that will use fracked gas piped in on an expanded branch of the Algonquin pipeline, if all the permits are approved. It is proposed for a distressed town in Northeastern Connecticut near several schools, on a river that feeds drinking water to towns and cities all the way to the Sound.
The plant will be sited in the Quinebaug-Shetucket National Heritage Corridor, also known as the Last Green Valley, because it is the last area on the Eastern seaboard to be dark at night when viewed from space. We should value this environmental treasure but current pollution levels from an existing gas plant and other polluters mean the new plant will have to purchase offsets to allow them to add more pollution to Killingly’s air.
Gov. Ned Lamont and DEEP have received thousands of calls and letters opposing this plant, and protests and rallies have continued for months. Another rally is scheduled for Feb. 5 at the State Capitol. Opponents have argued that Connecticut does not need any more electricity capacity and that the emissions from this plant will make it difficult to meet Connecticut’s mandated goals of greenhouse gas reductions. Residents throughout the region are concerned about the impacts to public health and environment. Windham County already has the highest rates of asthma among children in the state.
The CT Siting Council (CSC; Council) is the state board responsible for the disastrous decision to approve the new gas plant in Killingly proposed by NTE. It had been denied by the CSC on May 11, 2017, when the Council was fully appointed. This past June 6, 2019, the project application was approved by an understaffed CSC with three vacancies. The result, the gas plant was approved by only four (4) members of a Council with only six (6) sitting members, instead of a full board of nine (9). Only five members voted (the vote was four yes, one no and one absent).
Why was this project approved when there were three vacancies on the CSC? Would the outcome have been different if the Council had been fully appointed? Did the tiny group voting have all viewpoints represented? I doubt it. But the result is that four people, one a former United Illuminating manager and another a past employee of ExxonMobil, determined the fate of children in the five schools, including a daycare, located near the proposed plant!
Governor Lamont must prioritize appointments to important policy boards like CSC and PURA which make decisions impacting our energy future and carefully vet candidates to assure that his appointees support Connecticut’s energy goals, including our mandated commitments to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050, as well as the Governor’s own even more ambitious Executive Order standards of reductions of 80% by 2040.
Susan Eastwood is the Chair of the Ashford Clean Energy Task Force.
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