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Delay worries windfarm opponents in Bristol

BRISTOL - Opponents of proposed wind farm power projects near scenic Newfound Lake and Mount Cardigan are worried because a bill to established a moratorium on new wind farm projects didn't make it out of a House committee Tuesday.

But the chief sponsor of HB 580 said he and his fellow lawmakers on the House Science, Technology and Energy Committee chose to "retain" the bill and a few others dealing with power projects because the legislation wasn't prepared well enough to withstand a debate on the House floor.

"I helped save (HB 580); keeping it in committee will give us a chance to fine-tune the writing so we can make our points sharper and so we can talk to other legislators," said Rep. Harold "Skip" Reilly Sr., R-Grafton County District 8, who lives in Bristol.

Reilly's optimism was helpful to members of the 1,800-member New Hampshire WindWatch group, which formed last fall when Iberdrola Renewables of Spain, the builder of a 24-turbine, $120 million, 48-megawatt wind farm project in Groton, proposed a larger project in the Newfound-Cardigan area.

Iberdrola is looking to begin the state permitting process for its proposed 37-turbine Wild Meadows Wind Power Project on privately leased land in the towns of Alexandria, Danbury and Grafton. Late in the fall, EDP Renewables of Portugal, another international wind developer, announced plans for its own 15- to 25-turbine wind farm in the towns of Groton, Alexandria and Hebron.

WindWatch spokeswoman Nancy Watson, a Groton resident who says she has lost some of her home's views because of the first Iberdrola project, said proponents of the moratorium bill must stay active.

Opponents of a moratorium - labor and business groups among them - have had professional lobbyists talking to legislators for months, she said.

"And now, the bill wasn't good enough to go before the House, and that sounds like some of them are just shoving it under the table," Watson said.

The moratorium, which was designed to slow wind development projects until the state comes up with a comprehensive new renewable energy plan, would have passed, she said.

"I think we could have passed it before the full House. The representatives would have understood the need for it," Watson said.

"We can't sit back and wait," she added. "We're running out of time. It's us and these energy companies racing, and we're not professional lobbyists."

Reilly said he is confident HB 580 will be brought before the full House for a vote, possibly in a few weeks. He did express some worry, saying legislators from elsewhere in the state haven't seen the scenic, natural beauty of the area in which the wind farms would be built.

"Many of them don't know what this windfarm stuff is all about, and they haven't been (to the Lakes Region) to see what's really happening here," he said.

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