New Milford files another petition against Candlewood Solar project
NEW MILFORD — The town has filed a petition urging the Connecticut Siting Council to deny the development and management plan for the Candlewood Solar project.
The plan is the last item the Siting Council, which approved the overall project in 2017, has to decide on before construction can begin.
“To safeguard our town, we must take every step possible to mitigate the harm this project would cause,” Mayor Pete Bass said in a news release.
The solar project will be built and managed by Ameresco Inc. It would generate about 20 megawatts of power that will feed into the New England power grid via the Rocky River substation.
The town and environmental groups have also challenged the stormwater management plan, which is now before the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
DEEP is reviewing the petition from New Milford and several environmental groups that asks the state require Candlewood Solar to apply for an individual permit instead of the general permit being reviewed now. This change would require stricter vetting.
The Siting Council has 60 days to make a decision on the development and management plan, which was submitted on Jan. 28, said Melanie A. Bachman, the Siting Council’s executive director.
The town’s petition argues the plan doesn’t control erosion, sediment or stormwater runoff and it conflicts with other parts of the Siting Council’s 2017 decision, such as a “sufficient decommissioning plan” to restore the forest when the solar project is done, according to the news release.
New Milford is also asking that the Siting Council extend its 60 day deadline so a hearing or other proceedings can be scheduled.
Both the development and management plan and the stormwater management plan are being reviewed by Milone and MacBroom, a Cheshire-based a civil engineering and landscape architecture firm, for the town.
Milone and MacBroom call the development and management plan “inadequate” and site several concerns in an affidavit submitted with the petition.
“The affidavit calls the stormwater drainage analysis ‘fundamentally flawed,’ and says the phasing plan for construction ‘is simplistic and does not adequately address the potential erosion and sedimentation that should be anticipated from the clearing of 83.4 acres on a steep hillside,’” according to the news release.
The project has been controversial because about 80 acres of forest, including 54 acres of core forest, would be clear cut on Candlewood Mountain to install the 60,000 solar panels. Property owners worry clearcutting a section of the mountain could disrupt the rural nature and hurt property values. The mountain is also used for outdoor recreation, such as hiking. The project site is also adjacent to an airport and pilots worry the panels could create a glare.
Advocates of the project say the clean energy is needed and it would generate revenue for the town.
A large part of the debate centers on whether it’s better to have green energy or protect green space.
“The clear-cutting of mature forest, destruction of wildlife habitats and significant overall environmental harm are not acceptable tradeoffs for the creation of renewable energy that would go to out-of-state consumers, not Connecticut utility customers,” Bass said.
The proposal was accepted as part a tri-state effort to get clean energy projects. Massachusetts and Rhode Island selected it, but Connecticut passed because officials believed the projected power prices were too high. It’s common for states to accept projects in other states.
The town already opposed the project before the Siting Council and several groups and people are appealing its approval in state Superior Court. The town has also removed the tax incentives for the project, which were approved by the previous administration.