Fairfield Files Appeal Against CT Siting Council's UI Monopole Plan

FAIRFIELD, CT — Last month, United Illuminating received Connecticut Siting Council approval for its controversial monopole proposal along the north side of the Metro-North train tracks in Fairfield, and this week, the town officially filed an appeal challenging that decision.

In the February decision, the Siting Council granted the “Hannon-Morissette Alternative,” which grants UI a Certificate of Environmental Compatibility and Public Need for the construction of overhead transmission lines along the new route, instead of on the south side of the tracks. The south side, between the tracks and the Post Road, was roundly opposed by Fairfield residents and businesses for its potentially adverse impact on the town.

The Hannon-Morrissette Alternative proposal would place dozens of tall monopoles, many possibly over 100 feet tall, to carry high-voltage power lines through parts of town and Bridgeport.

Find out what's happening in Fairfieldwith free, real-time updates from Patch.

Fairfield’s appeal, filed in Superior Court, challenges the legality of the Siting Council’s decision. The appeal comes after months of Siting Council hearings where town officials and other impacted intervenors repeatedly raised concerns about UI’s plan to install the massive monopoles, and challenged whether there was any need at all for the project.

“We believe that the Siting Council has failed to meet its obligation to satisfy the requirement to balance the alleged public need with the environmental impact, and has done a disservice to our residents,” said Fairfield First Selectman Bill Gerber in a statement to Patch. “There was never any prior notice to any of the abutting property owners to the north of the Metro-North Railroad tracks that UI may be constructing new transmission lines to the north, nor did UI provide any evidence of the impacts of this route, including whether property owners may now be facing permanent easements. This is a blatant due process violation.”

Find out what's happening in Fairfieldwith free, real-time updates from Patch.

Gerber added, “We are committed to fight for the rights of our community. Ratepayers as well as residents have a right to understand and weigh in on the impacts of potentially having new giant monopoles erected in their backyards.”

UI has said the project is needed to harden the system in case of a catastrophic event, make it more resilient to climate change, and meet increasing future power needs, and in a statement to Patch, Sarah Wall Fliotsos, UI spokesperson, reiterated those sentiments. She also said that the utility company is focusing on the design phase of the project.

“The basis of the appeal is regarding the [Connecticut Siting Council]’s decision on the Fairfield to Congress project,” Fliotsos said. “While the legal process is still unfolding, we remain focused on designing a project that fulfills our commitment to deliver safe and reliable power in the form of replacing aged infrastructure, fortifying the grid for increasing electrification demands and allowing for much-needed upgrades to the CTDOT rail corridor. At each step of the process, we will work to advance the benefits and value to the community while minimizing costs borne by New England ratepayers and mitigating adverse impacts on the community and environment.”

Town officials argued that UI’s initial plan along the south side of the tracks “would have caused devastating impacts to the environment and precious religious, cultural, historic and scenic resources in the Town of Fairfield.”

Click Here: st george illawarra dragons jersey

The Siting Council essentially agreed with the town, as not one Council member voted in favor of UI’s southern overhead design.

But instead, the Council approved the Hannon-Morissette Alternative, which town officials said would place a double-circuit overhead route to the north side of the tracks. The Council approved this route even though UI never presented a design for that option. Additionally, UI even stated that siting its transmission lines to the north was not viable.

According to Gerber, Fairfield’s appeal raises two main arguments, first that the Siting Council
violated its statutory obligation to balance the supposed need for the project with the
environmental impact of a route to the north of the railroad tracks. UI never submitted
any evidence of impacts on the properties abutting the north of the tracks, thereby making it
impossible for the Council to engage in this required balancing, Gerber said.

Second, town officials argue that the Siting Council violated due process as none of the abutters on the north side of the railroad tracks had any notice of the Hannon-Morissette Alternative, and therefore were deprived of the ability to exercise their right to participate in the hearing and contest this potential route.

Fairfield was also denied its due process rights to contest the merits of the Hannon-Morissette
Alternative, Gerber said, as UI never presented a design for this route to the Council.

The town asks the court to render a judgment vacating the Council’s decision.

“Because UI never submitted a design of the Hannon-Morissette Alternative, the Town has no
information as to what the pole heights will be, where they will be located, and what the
potential impact will be to property owners on the north side of the tracks, including whether UI
would require permanent easements over private and Town-owned property,” according to Gerber, adding that the town remains steadfast in its commitment to protect the rights of its residents.

Get more local news delivered straight to your inbox. Sign up for free Patch newsletters and alerts.