Monday, December 29, 2014

Pilots concerned over power plant near Waterbury-Oxford Airport (KOXC), Oxford, Connecticut



OXFORD — A plot of land just east of Waterbury-Oxford Airport was approved for a power plant back in 1999, and now it is back in the news as a company is finally ready to build on it. 


But there’s been one change to the plan: Competitive Power Ventures wants to nearly double the approved sized, which would require two 150-foot tall stacks. That makes local pilots nervous.

“A press conference held today suggested a letter from the Federal Aviation Administration determined that the CPV Towantic Energy Center project would pose a hazard to the Oxford Airport. This is simply not the case,” said Yanina Daigle, spokesperson for Competitive Power Ventures, which wants to build the 805-megawatt power plant.

That message, however, is in direct conflict with the FAA, which sent a notice of “presumed hazard to aviation” to the company’s office in Braintree, Massachusetts. The hazard is regarding the height of smokestacks and buildings, pollution and thermal plumes that would result from the proposed power plant.

“Initial findings of this study indicate that the structures (stacks), as described, exceed obstruction standards and/or would have an adverse physical or electromagnetic interference effect upon navigable airspace or air navigation facilities,” wrote Darrin Clipper, a specialist for the FAA.

The CPV Towantic Hill Power Plant would be less than a half a mile from the Oxford Airport. Pilots and aviation experts have spoken out and said that the plant would create dangerous, and possibly even deadly, conditions for them to land and take off.

The FAA offered a solution: a study said if the stacks were “reduced in height, so as not to exceed 46 feet above ground level (876 feet above mean sea level), it would not exceed obstruction standards and a favorable determination could subsequently be issued.”

Herman Schuler, who owns and flies his own plane out of Waterbury-Oxford Airport, says he is not at all concerned about flying over the thermals the gas-fire power plant would emit. He also added that, while it’s double the size of the one approved by the FAA and the Connecticut Citing Council in 1999, this plan is more environmentally friendly.

“It is lower and less visible and, on a per pound basis, it uses less fuel and generates more energy,” said Schuler, who was the head of the Oxford Economic Development Commission from 2005 to 2011.

But, an advocate for the neighboring town of Middlebury says Competitive Power Ventures’ revised plant proposal states there would be a 43 percent increase in emissions to the population within a 10- to 12-mile radius of the plant.

“With natural gas facilities what you have is a very, very fine particulate matter the density of say talcum powder,” said Chester Cornacchia, of Naugatuck.

The first of several public hearings on the matter will be held at Oxford High School on Jan. 15. The Connecticut Siting Council, which has the authority to grant or deny the power plant application, expects to make a decision within the next several months.

Story and video:   http://foxct.com

New concerns are being raised about a proposed power plant in Oxford and on Monday opponents reacted to reported Federal Aviation Administration concerns about the height of the plant stacks.

Neighbors have previously worried about Competitive Power Ventures Towantic Energy Center's potential impact on people's health and property values. Now we’re hearing about worries for planes at the Waterbury-Oxford airport.

The Waterbury-Oxford Airport is a place for recreational pilots. Now one of them who’s been flying for more than 40-years says he’s concerned for planes landing here if the plant is built.

“I’m very concerned as pilot but I’m more concerned as a flight instructor,” said Burt Stevens, who is both a pilot and an experienced flight instructor.

“As a 23-year old, I decided that flying looked like fun. So, I went to Oxford. That’s where I started flying.”

Now just about a half-mile from the airport on this land in a rural business park, Competitive Power Ventures wants to build an 800 megawatt, natural gas powered plant.

Stevens says the plant would be right underneath an approach route for planes about to land.

In a letter last month, the FAA voiced concerns about the height of smokestacks that would be about a half mile from one of the main hangars and near the flight path of the runways and taller than the tower that houses air traffic control.

The developer responded to the letter on Monday, stating, “A press conference held today suggested a letter from the Federal Aviation Administration determined that the CPV Towantic Energy Center project would pose a hazard to the Oxford Airport. This is simply not the case.

"The FAA letter dated November 17, 2014 was a notice that the issue needs more study and consideration. It's important to know the CPV Towantic Energy Center was previously studied and approved by the FAA," the company continued. "The current proposed modifications seek to significantly improve the design relative to compatibility with the Oxford Airport. We look forward to continuing to work with the community as this process moves forward.”

Those opposed to the plan say the height of the stacks and what comes out are huge safety risks.

"The most susceptible are the student pilots who are going to be flying into these plumes and they’re going to be flying into these plumes which in some cases are invisible and they reach a thermal hazard and they essentially fall out of the sky and that’s one of the most serious issues that would be had in terms of the air safety," Chet Cornacchia said.

Vince Calio is an amateur pilot who flies in and out of Oxford Airport.He said the position of the runway could spell disaster if the power plant moves ahead.

“That puts you in some conflict with the height of the stacks," Calio said. "It certainly puts you into the plume which rises far above the height of the stacks.”

According to Stevens, plumes from the plant’s stacks could shoot up at 40-miles an hour and create a danger for small planes crossing potentially just a few hundred feet above.

“If an inexperienced pilot is thrust into this type of severe turbulence that could occur and will occur if this plant is built ….he could be thrown into a greater than 45 degree bank and not be able to recover before he hits the ground.”

After all these years flying, Stevens says the approach over the proposed plant site is the best for small planes. He says any other route could compromise safety.

Plant opponents say the FAA is still looking into the plume issue.

Competitive Power Ventures previously said all concerns about the plant have been addressed and looks forward to presenting its position to the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority.

The company has been approaved to build the plant for 15 years, but now wants to make the output even bigger than originally planned. The company said the airport issue will be addressed.

"The current proposed modifications seek to significantly improve the design relative to compatibility with the Oxford Airport," the company said in a statement. "We look forward to continuing to work with the community as this process moves forward."

- Original article can be found at:    http://www.nbcconnecticut.com

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