Wind would give state new en­ergy source

The News-Times - - FROM THE FRONT PAGE - By Mark Pazniokas

The state House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives voted over­whelm­ingly Tues­day for a bi­par­ti­san mea­sure that pro­po­nents say would make Con­necti­cut a re­li­able cus­tomer of elec­tric­ity pro­duced by off­shore wind tur­bines, pro­vid­ing a foun­da­tion for a re­new­able-en­ergy source that could one day match the out­put of the ag­ing Mill­stone nu­clear power sta­tion.

The vote came less than a week af­ter a bit­terly par­ti­san overnight fight over a $15 min­i­mum wage, un­der­scor­ing that re­new­able en­ergy is one of the is­sues that can unite Democrats and Repub­li­cans in an era of po­lar­ized pol­i­tics. Polling shows a ma­jor­ity of vot­ers in both par­ties sup­port re­new­ables, and law­mak­ers say that is es­pe­cially true in New Eng­land.

The bill passed on a vote of 134-10 by the House and was sent to the Se­nate. It is sup­ported by the ad­min­is­tra­tion of Gov. Ned La­mont, which has sup­ported in­vest­ments in­tended to make the port of New Lon­don a ma­jor stag­ing area for the hun­dreds of tur­bines ex­pected to rise from the fed­er­ally con­trolled seabed off the coast of south­ern New Eng­land.

Con­necti­cut has lagged be­hind its neigh­bors in com­mit­ting to wind, but en­ergy de­vel­op­ers showed con­fi­dence in a re­gional grow­ing mar­ket for wind power as they bid a record $405 mil­lion in De­cem­ber for fed­er­ally ad­min­is­tered leases in the ocean wa­ters east of Block Is­land and south of Martha’s Vine­yard and Nan­tucket.

“This leg­is­la­tion sends an un­mis­tak­able sig­nal that Con­necti­cut is poised for his­toric in­vest­ment in off­shore wind,” said Katie Dykes, the com­mis­sioner of the De­part­ment of En­ergy and En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion. “I ap­plaud the leg­is­la­ture’s sup­port for this bill, and here at DEEP we are look­ing for­ward to im­ple­ment­ing this pol­icy once it secures fi­nal pas­sage.”

If passed and signed into law as ex­pected, Dykes would be re­quired within 14 days to be­gin the pro­cess of so­lic­it­ing bids from wind power prod­ucts for as much as 2,000 me­gawatts, the out­put of Mill­stone. But the mea­sure also rec­og­nizes the cur­rent lim­its of wind: It sets a goal of 2030 to reach that mile­stone.

“This is an op­por­tu­nity that we can­not squan­der, and the grow­ing, uni­fied mo­men­tum be­hind this bill shows just how im­por­tant this is to Con­necti­cut,” La­mont said.

Rep. David Ar­conti, D-Dan­bury, the co-chair of the En­ergy and Tech­nol­ogy Com­mit­tee, said the un­usual 14-day di­rec­tive was in­cluded to en­sure that the state acts be­fore a fed­eral tax credit ex­pires at the end of the year.

“We’re not sure if it will be be re­newed, so we want our state to be able to take ad­van­tage of the fed­eral tax credit on off­shore wind and get the best price pos­si­ble,” Ar­conti said in a brief­ing con­ducted with the rank­ing Repub­li­cans on the com­mit­tee, Sen. Paul Formica, of East Lyme, and Rep. Charles Fer­raro, of West Haven.

Mill­stone’s two re­ac­tors are li­censed to op­er­ate un­til 2035 and 2045, with the possibilit­y of ex­ten­sions. But Mill­stone’s owner, Do­min­ion, has re­peat­edly raised ques­tions about the plant’s abil­ity to con­tinue to com­pete in a mar­ket driven by cheaper nat­u­ral gas. The loss of Mill­stone, by far the sin­gle largest source of car­bon­free elec­tric­ity in south­ern New Eng­land, would set back the state’s ef­forts to meet its goals for re­duc­ing green­house emis­sions.

Law­mak­ers skirted the is­sue of cli­mate change dur­ing a brief de­bate, in­stead fo­cus­ing on the need to em­brace what ap­pears to be a fast-ma­tur­ing seg­ment of the power in­dus­try. While Con­necti­cut has changed its en­ergy pro­cure­ment rules to sta­bi­lize the prof­itabil­ity of Mill­stone, the nu­clear plant is only a bridge to the fu­ture, Formica said.

“It’s im­por­tant that we don’t get caught in 2030, should Mill­stone de­cide to go down,” Fer­raro said. “We don’t want to get caught hav­ing to re­place with­out a plan.”

The bill re­quires the state to de­velop prac­tices for min­i­miz­ing the im­pact to wildlife and com­mer­cial fish­eries, with bid­ders re­quired to of­fer mit­i­ga­tion plans. Bid­ders would be re­quired to pay the pre­vail­ing wage on the projects.

Ten Repub­li­cans voted no, but nearly five times as many sup­ported pas­sage

Rep. Mary Mushin­sky, D-Walling­ford, an en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist who is the long­est-serv­ing mem­ber of the House, said the vote re­flects that there gen­er­ally is a prag­matic and non-par­ti­san ap­proach to re­new­able en­ergy in the north­east and es­pe­cially in Con­necti­cut, which sits at the end of nat­u­ral gas pipe­lines and hy­dro-elec­tric trans­mis­sion lines, and where elec­tric­ity is ex­pen­sive.

The de­bate in Wash­ing­ton D.C. is more fo­cused on the off-shore drilling of oil, not the pro­mo­tion of off-shore wind, Mushin­sky said.

Formica said the En­ergy and Tech­nol­ogy Com­mit­tee gen­er­ally has been non-par­ti­san, both un­der its pre­vi­ous co-chairs, for­mer Rep. Lon­nie Reed and for­mer Sen. Paul Doyle, and now un­der Ar­conti and Sen. Norm Needle­man, D-Es­sex.

“En­ergy and elec­tric­ity is not a par­ti­san is­sue,” Formica said. “We have to do what­ever we can to make sure the peo­ple of the state of Con­necti­cut have what they need to op­er­ate their busi­nesses and their homes and to move for­ward to the next gen­er­a­tion of en­ergy, which we know has got to in­clude some re­new­ables, given the prob­lems we’ve had with trans­mis­sions to get hy­dro down from Quebec and and to get gas in from Penn­syl­va­nia.

“This is some­thing we can take con­trol of.”

House Mi­nor­ity Leader Themis Klar­ides, R-Derby, said the Gen­eral Assem­bly still can work on bi­par­ti­san mea­sures, even on the heels of a bit­ter fight over rais­ing the min­i­mum wage.

“There will be things we agree on and other things we don’t agree on,” Klar­ides said. “If you’re go­ing to try to com­pare us to Wash­ing­ton, we would pre­fer to never be com­pared. As dys­func­tional the mo­ments we may have here, down there they can’t even speak to each other, which I think is sad.”

File photo

The state House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives voted in fa­vor of a mea­sure that would make Con­necti­cut a re­li­able cus­tomer of elec­tric­ity pro­duced by off­shore wind tur­bines.

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