New Laws Protecting Children

Connecticut Legislation re: transmission lines

Date: Thu, 8 Jun 2006 15:12:17 -0400

SEE: http://www.cga.ct.gov/2004/jfr/h/2004HB-05418-R00ET-JFR.htm

New Laws Protecting Children

H.B. 5418 An Act Concerning Electric Transmission Line Siting Criteria

The law spearheaded by concerned citizens of Woodbridge, acknowledges for the first time the potential health risks of electric magnetic fields ( EMF) caused by electric transmission lines. The bill requires the State Siting Council to establish a buffer zone that protects health and safety when issuing permits for new transmission lines. New sitings of transmission lines must consider residential areas, private and public schools, licensed day care centers and youth camps, and public playgrounds adjacent to the overhead portions of the line. In a sweeping change, the law establishes a presumption that transmission lines of this capacity should be buried underground.

Law Makers Were Listening


Power line changes passed in House and Senate
Terri Miles, Editor
May 19, 2004

State lawmakers have passed a bill to protect residents in municipalities most affected by the proposed Norwalk-to-Middletown power line upgrade.

The state Senate unanimously approved the bill on May 5, two days after it passed in the House of Representatives, 144-5.

State Sen. Win Smith Jr., (R-Milford) applauded the legislation, which requires new high-voltage power lines to be buried underground.

Smith and State Sen. Len Fasano (R-North Haven, Wallingford) became lead advocates for the legislation after Connecticut Light & Power and United Illuminating electric companies announced plans to upgrade a 69-mile stretch of power lines from Middletown to Norwalk.

The power companies said they had to upgrade the power lines to handle increased demand. At public hearings in communities all along the route, residents and municipal leaders asked the company representatives to put the power lines underground, rather than overhead as the current power lines run.

United Illuminating Communications Manager, Marcia Wellman said she has been working on the proposal since its inception.

"We certainly understand the legislative scrutiny that this project is receiving," she said. "It's the largest transmission project in more than 30 years. Legislators have to listen to their constituents, and its going to present us with some challenges on the Middletown to Norwalk project."

Smith said the legislation, which he co-authored, addresses the possible negative health consequences of overhead power lines.

"This is a victory for David over Goliath," said Smith. "The power companies hit us with everything but the kitchen sink, including radio attack ads. In the end, we got a unanimous vote out on this. This sends a strong message to the Siting Council and the power companies: bury the lines!

"My constituents, understandably, do not want to find out many years from now that their fears about the harmful effects of overhead transmission lines were well-founded," he said. "If the utility companies believe that they cannot bury the power lines in a particular place along the route, then it is up to them to prove it. Otherwise, this legislation forces them to do the right thing, the responsible thing, and bury the lines.

"No one disputes the need for this project," said Smith. "We all need electricity. We all use electricity. None of us wants to do without electricity. But that power must not come at the expense of our health, or the health of our children. I am proud to have played a part in getting this legislation passed."

State Sen. Joseph Crisco (D-Woodbridge) said everyone in the Amity delegation recognized the need to take any and all precautions to protect the health of their constituents, especially the children.

"I was impressed with the relentless effort of the 'Save The Children' group in Woodbridge," Crisco said. "I know my colleagues in the legislature will continue to do whatever is necessary to ensure that these lines are buried."

State Rep. Themis Klarides (R-Derby, Woodbridge) called the bill an enormous victory.

"The state will now take into account the potentially severe effects of EMF [electro-magnetic fields, which power lines emit]," she said, "This measure represents a strong stand in defense of people's health and safety."

Fasano also saw the bill's passage as "a victory for the people in all the impacted towns."

"Nearly everyone who spoke to me about this legislation expressed concern over the health consequences of the electromagnetic fields," said Fasano. "Nobody knows for sure the long-term impact EMFs could have on our public health.

"That's why we included language requiring lines near schools, day-care facilities, and playgrounds to be placed underground unless [the power companies] can prove it's safe not to," he said. "The [burden] is now on them, which is how it should be."

Wellman said the Siting Council has to determine what a "safe distance" is and where buffer zones should go between power lines and facilities where children are present.

"It will be challenging, because the existing right-of-way, which has been in existence for decades, crosses areas in which communities have built up around," she said. "Communities have put schools, subdivisions, playgrounds and parks near the lines."

About HB 5418

State Rep. James Amann (D-Milford), who is the Democratic House Majority Leader, explained that the bill addresses the concerns many residents have expressed regarding high-voltage power lines traveling over residential areas, schools, daycare facilities and playgrounds.

"I believe that those concerns and fears will be alleviated because of this bill and the safeguards that it provides," Amann said. "When the lines come into contact with these areas they will be buried, and if they cannot be buried, they will have to be a certain distance from those facilities.

"The bill accomplishes our goal - it protects the kids," he said.

Wellman said UI is still in the midst of hearings on the power line issues and will continue to address residents' concerns through July.

"We get a lot of homework assignments and we're trying to work in conjunction with the residents in the communities we serve to come up with a solution that works for everyone, to the best of our ability," she said.

The Connecticut Siting Council expects to vote on the power companies' application in December.


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