Developer Responds to Airport Concerns About Proposed Power Plant

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."

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