News about the UI Monopoles Project

Update March 26, 2024: Press Release

Town of Fairfield Files Appeal in Superior Court
Against Connecticut Siting Council Decision on Monopoles

Fairfield, CT, March 26, 2024--The Town of Fairfield has officially filed an appeal in Superior Court challenging the legality of the Connecticut Siting Council’s decision dated February 16, 2024, granting United Illuminating (UI) a Certificate of Environmental Compatibility and Public Need for the construction of overhead transmission lines along a new route to the north side of Metro-North train tracks, entitled the “Hannon-Morissette Alternative.” The appeal comes after months of Siting Council hearings where the Town and other impacted intervenors repeatedly raised concerns about UI’s plan to install massive monopoles on the south side of the Metro North train tracks and challenged whether there was any need at all for this project.

Throughout the proceedings in Docket 516, the Town argued that UI’s southern overhead design would have caused devastating impacts to the environment and precious religious, cultural, historic and scenic resources in the Town of Fairfield.  The Town’s arguments prevailed before the Siting Council, as not one Council member voted in favor of UI’s southern overhead design.  However, on February 16, the Council instead approved the Hannon-Morissette Alternative, 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, and even though UI stated that siting its transmission lines to the north was not viable.

The Town’s appeal raises two main arguments.  First, the Town argues 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.  Indeed, 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.  Second, the Town argues 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.  The Town was also denied its due process rights to contest the merits of the Hannon-Morissette Alternative, 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.

“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,” First Selectman William Gerber said.  “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.” 

He continued, “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.”

The Town of Fairfield remains steadfast in its commitment to protect the rights of its residents.

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You can read the appeal filed in the Court docket here. 



Update March 15, 2024:

In the past few weeks, there have been four separate bills introduced in the state legislature to make changes to the Connecticut Siting Council and approval of electric transmission lines, recognizing the dissatisfaction with the Council’s makeup, decision-making, utility application process, and inadequate resident notification. It is clear that the Council and the process needs significant revisions. Our legislators are raising these bills because they are taking the threats to our community seriously.

Three of the bills—two in the House and one in the Senate—have already held public hearings. Written and oral testimony has been provided on behalf of the Town by First Selectman Bill Gerber and his Chief of Staff as well as by the grassroots organizations fighting the monopoles in Fairfield.

A fourth bill, HB 5507: An Act Concerning State Agency and Court Proceedings Relating to Electric Transmission Lines, has been raised by the Judiciary committee, and will hold a public hearing on March 20 at 10 a.m. in the Legislative Office Building and via Zoom.

HB 5507 seeks to amend a statutory provision relating to the rights of parties and intervenors in proceedings before the Siting Council relating to the construction of electric transmission lines. Read HB 5507 here.

Here is where you can sign up to testify in person, by Zoom, or by written submission. The Town has engaged a lobbyist from the firm of Rome, Smith, Lutz & Kowalski who will be arranging for residents’ testimony. It is critically important for many citizens’ voices to be raised at the hearing, whether in person, providing oral testimony by ZOOM, or by written testimony submission. Registration to provide testimony closes on Tuesday, March 19 at 3 p.m.

HB 5359: An Act Concerning the Composition and Expertise of the Connecticut Siting Council:
A public hearing regarding HB 5359 was held in the Energy and Technology Committee on March 7.  This bill makes recommendations to improve the Siting Council, such as allowing the Council to employ independent consultants with expertise in electric transmission infrastructure and preventing any more than one commissioner from having any ties, past or present, to the utilities. Read HB 5359 here

SB 198: An Act Establishing Local Representation on the Connecticut Siting Council for Local Projects:
A public hearing regarding SB 198 was held in the Environment Committee on March 8. This Bill addresses the number of persons on the Connecticut Siting Council, and how they are appointed. Four are proposed to be ad hoc members, "three of whom shall be electors from the municipality in which the proposed facility is to be located and one of whom shall be an elector from a neighboring municipality likely to be most affected." It also defines that the Council must solicit written comments from a number of Departments and public authorities. Finally, it outlines exactly how property abutters and the general public should be notified of any new applicationsRead SB 198 here.

HB 5453: An Act Concerning the Membership and Processes of the Siting Council:
A public hearing regarding HB 5453 was held in the Government Administration and Elections Committee on March 13. The bill seeks to make changes to the membership of the CSC; require additional cost-benefit analysis and information concerning related projects for proposed facilities; require additional notifications to the owner of property; and make additional revisions to the process for granting applications for a certificate. Read HB 5453 here.

For more information, call or email any of your state delegation representatives:
State Representative Jennifer Leeper at 860-240-8585 or email her at Jennifer.Leeper@cga.ct.gov.
State Senator Tony Hwang at 860-240-8871 or email him at Tony.Hwang@cga.ct.gov
State Representative Cristin McCarthy-Vahey at 860-240-8585 or email her at Cristin.McCarthyVahey@cga.ct.gov
State Representative Sarah Keitt at 860-240-8585 or email her at Sarah.Keitt@cga.ct.gov


 
United Illuminating’s plan is to install more than 100 monopoles across seven miles.  This development has the potential to forever alter life in Fairfield, impacting our Town’s economy, environment, health, history, and charm.  Businesses, schools, community organizations, and private citizens are under threat of losing property rights to a foreign owned entity.  The clear-cutting of trees and vegetation will have a severe environmental impact and eradicate the visual and sound barriers currently protecting our community from its surrounding infrastructure.  Our historic town, known for its steeples and sailboats, could become a landscape of monopoles and thick electrical wires.  All of this is avoidable if UI simply buries the lines, a solution frequently employed all over the world, including in our neighboring communities. 

On Thursday, February 15, the Connecticut Siting Council voted to issue a Certificate to United Illuminating for the Hannon-Morrissette Alternative, which would move the monopoles from the south side of the railroad tracks to the north side in a “double circuit” design.  UI has acknowledged that there is no plan or design yet for this route. Watch a short Ch 12 video about the plan here.  You can find the brief decision here: 
D516_DO_preSecondMtg_final_a.pdf (ct.gov)

According to letters currently being distributed to homes north of the railroad tracks, United Illuminating has said the following:

"Over the next 12-24 months, UI will be working to obtain clarity in the following areas:

Engineering
  • Re-evaluating and measuring the physical constraints applicable to the design
  • Evaluating and designing the new alternative
  • Conducting due diligence surveys and geotechnical investigations
  • Creating and submitting for approval to the Connecticut Siting Council, the Development Management (D&M) Plan which will describe methods and manner of construction for the Project
Energy Land Management
  • Evaluating land management scope for new alternative design
  • Identifying the temporary Environmental & Permitting
  • Determining wetland impacts and potentially affected species to ensure their protection
  • Identifying historical and cultural resources
  • Working with state and federal agencies on required permitting
Outreach – Community and Municipal
  • Maintaining proactive and ongoing communication with all impacted stakeholders
  • Providing stakeholders with Outreach contact information for their questions or concerns
  • Maintaining a project website
  • Meetings with stakeholders and municipal leaders

The Town's position is that we still believe that undergrounding is the best solution, instead of a 19th century solution to a 21st century problem. Connecticut Siting Council’s decision will not split the Town by moving the poles to the north side of the tracks from the south side. The decision to approve the project was made without critical information necessary to the Town, including the number of permanent easements necessary, the number of poles, the poles’ heights, and other concerns. We continue to evaluate legal options and will keep you posted.


Update 2/16/24:


On Thursday, February 15, the Connecticut Siting Council voted to issue a Certificate to United Illuminating for the Hannon-Morrissette Alternative, which would move the monopoles from the south side of the railroad tracks to the north side in a “double circuit” design.  UI has acknowledged that there is no plan or design yet for this route. Four Council members voted in favor, one opposed, and two abstained.

This approval does a grave disservice to the Town and its residents. The Siting Council made a decision and voted with no information as to what the pole heights will be, where the poles will be located, and what the potential impacts will be. Since UI has not yet designed this alternative route, property owners to the north could be facing significant impacts on their properties without any due process rights.

The move to the north side was never suggested by any member of the grassroots organizations that have been actively working to fight this project. The Siting Council’s move from south to north cannot divide the Town in our unified opposition to this project. We continue to believe that undergrounding is the best option. We are discussing an appeal with the Town's legal team.

United Illuminating contacted the Town immediately after the meeting with this statement:

Now that the Connecticut Siting Council (CSC) has issued their draft decision and order, starting Monday, 2/19/24, UI staff will proactively be going door-to-door distributing Fairfield to Congress Project information updates to residents and businesses abutting the north side of the CTDOT tracks. Brief project informational sheets will be inserted into clear plastic bag door hangers to provide a status update of the Project based on the recent CSC decision.

UI will be spending the next several months redesigning and engineering the new approved route. Therefore, UI will not have any specific project information about pole locations, heights, or easements at this time. However, we are committed to providing the community with transparent and timely information as it becomes available. At which time new land surveys, Geotech borings, and due diligence efforts in the area become necessary, we will proactively alert the Town as well as all impacted residents and businesses.

UI representatives will display company ID badges and branded hard hats for easy identification."


How You Can Get Involved:

It is still very important to email Governor Lamont with your opposition to this project. You can email the governor here.

If you would like to remain up to date on all details of the proposed monopoles plan and be a critical part of the grass-roots opposition, please fill out a membership form for Empowering Fairfield here.