More than 600 pack hearing about Oxford power plant

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OXFORD -- Nearly 700 people packed Oxford High School auditorium for a three-hour long public hearing about a proposed power plant at Woodruff Hill Industrial Park.

The Towantic Energy Center got the go-ahead from the Connecticut Siting Council in 1999, but because project managers with Competitive Power Ventures returned in the fall with a bigger design, the plant needs another approval, which necessitated the public hearing.

Dozens spoke passionately against the proposed 805-megawatt natural gas power plant amid cheers and claps from fellow opponents, several of whom scoffed when supporters testified.

Peter Bunzl said he worries about the project’s effect on Oxford’s reputation.

“This will be a blight and an eyesore. We will no longer be considered a rural, quaint area,” said Bunzl of Oxford.

Kathy Johnson, who also lives in Oxford, said she fears for public safety.

“That’s a perfect storm up there right now: a power plant, gas lines, electrical lines,” Johnson said of the plant’s proposed location, which sits in the flight line of the Waterbury-Oxford airport.

David Rogers and many others spoke about environmental concerns.

“It will create air pollution, noise pollution. It will, at times, require outrageous amounts of water,” Rogers said.

Increased traffic is one of many negatives for Gil Kirby, who testified that he’s tried to contact Competitive Power Ventures about his worries, but to no avail.

Despite those perceived cons, supporters, including several union members, reasoned the Towantic Energy Center could be good for Oxford.

“I think it is a Godsend,” said Gerard Carbonaro. “Jobs and tax revenue that will be produced by this project are truly staggering.”

“You all complain that there’s not enough jobs, yet something comes along that creates job and we oppose it. It’s crazy,” said Dale Hallaman from Local 478.

A recent University of Connecticut study found the power plant would bring in nearly $8 million to Connecticut in a 25-year span. Also, the company told the Connecticut Siting Council at a hearing earlier on Thursday that at its peak, construction of the plant would employ 500 people. Representatives said they anticipate 21-25 full time jobs at the plant once its up and running.

A member of the council tells Fox CT he anticipates several more public hearings on this subject, but that they’ll likely take place at council headquarters in New Britain.

Opponents of the Towantic  Energy Center started a Facebook page and a petition.

Competitive Power Ventures lists a petition in support of the Towantic Energy Center website, with nearly 7,000 signatures.