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Reintroduced Collinsville Dams Legislation Passes House

Measure was Elizabeth Esty’s first bill as a Member of Congress

Submitted press release 

Today, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to approve Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty’s first bill as a Member of Congress – the Collinsville Renewable Energy Promotion Act – legislation that would permit Canton to operate two small, currently inactive hydropower dams and generate locally produced power.

Canton First Selectman Dick Barlow, a Republican, and then-5th District Congressman Chris Murphy, a Democrat, successfully worked to pass similar legislation in the House in 2010 and 2012. Both times, the Senate failed to take up the bill after passage in the House. Esty reintroduced the bill on January 18, 2013. The House Energy and Commerce Committee unanimously approved the bill on January 22. The House unanimously approved the legislation in a voice vote earlier this afternoon.

“I’m again grateful to Senator Murphy and First Selectman Barlow for their years of hard work and dedication to this bipartisan, win-win project that will empower Canton to utilize existing resources to create locally-produced, clean power,” Esty said. “I thank my colleagues of both parties, particularly the members of the Energy and Commerce Committee, who came together to support this bill in the House. I hope that the Senate will do the right thing and allow a vote on this bill so that Canton can move forward to a locally-operated, clean energy future.”

“We appreciate Congresswoman Esty taking up a project that’s so critical to the people of Canton for her first bill in Congress, and we’re grateful to Senator Murphy for his continued hard work and commitment to getting these dams operational again,” said Canton First Selectman Dick Barlow.

The dams are expected to produce nearly two megawatts of power, enough to power more than 1,500 homes.

Both the upper and the lower Collinsville dams are owned by Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and licenses to operate the dams must be obtained from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Federal legislation will provide Canton with the right to operate the dams by allowing for the reinstatement of existing but currently inactive FERC licenses.

The upper and lower Collinsville dams were built in the 18th and 19th centuries to power the Collins Company. The Collins Company, which manufactured axes, closed in the 1960s.

The legislation would also ensure that the river’s health is fully protected by requiring FERC to complete an updated analysis of the environmental impact of the projects and seek additional public comment before taking action.

The Collinsville Renewable Energy Promotion Act must be passed by the Senate and signed by President Obama before the town can take over the licenses.

Esty’s floor remarks: 

Thank you Congressman Luján, and I’d like to thank Chairman Whitfield for his leadership on this important issue and for bringing this bill to the floor so quickly this year.

I rise as the proud sponsor of the Collinsville Renewable Energy Promotion Act.

This bill, as the Chairman described, would provide FERC limited authority to license the town of Canton in my district to operate two small and dormant dams for hydroelectric power.

The Upper and Lower Collinsville dams on the Farmington River were first built in the 18th and 19th centuries to power an ax manufacturer.

While this business closed in the 1960s, the dams have remained and are a lasting symbol of the Farmington Valley’s proud history.

And as our communities have been reinvented over the years, we have the opportunity to reinvent a dormant dam into a dam producing local, clean energy.

If FERC, under the authority in this bill, permits both dams to generate hydropower, the dams could produce nearly two megawatts of power, enough to power more than 1,500 homes.

Licenses for this purpose had previously been issued and this bill would allow for the reinstatement of these inactive FERC licenses.

Now, as with any dam on a river, there are legitimate concerns about the river and the ecosystem’s health. 

The Upper and Lower Collinsville dams already exist and our legislation addresses many concerns to fully protect the river’s health by requiring FERC to complete an updated analysis of the environmental impact of the projects and seek additional public comment before taking action.

Now, this project started long before I was elected to Congress and I am proud to continue the work on this bill.

Just a few months ago, this body voted to pass the exact same language offered by then-Congressman Murphy, Connecticut’s new Senator.

He has been a longtime champion on this issue and I am grateful for his and the First Selectman of Canton Richard Barlow’s work spearheading this effort back home. 

I also would like to mention another longtime supporter of this project – Art Fournier.

Sadly, Art passed this past July. But during one of the occasions I had the opportunity to discuss issues with him and gain from his lifetime of experiences, he brought up this bill to make sure I was aware of it.

 He was committed to public service and to ensuring that the world was a better place for the next generation.

His commitment to public service was evident from his service on many boards and commissions in the Town of Canton including on the Hydro Power Advisory Commission.

Another advocate for this project who sadly also passed this past summer was Mark Quattro.

Mark, too, made sure that I was aware of my colleagues’ efforts to pass this bill.  He too was deeply committed to Canton and served on many different town organizations and boards including the Canton Chamber of Commerce.

It is fitting to honor the hard work of these two fine citizens of Canton, Art Fournier and Mark Quattro, by passing this bill today.

I’d like to thank Chairman Whitfield, as well as Chairman Upton and Ranking Members Waxman and Rush and their staffs, for bringing the Collinsville Renewable Energy Promotion Act to the floor for a vote today.

This project has a long history of bipartisan support at the local level, and I am proud to be working with my colleagues across the aisle to empower local communities to utilize existing resources to create locally-produced, clean power.  I respectfully urge my colleagues to support this bill.

I yield back the balance of my time.

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