The Minister of Agriculture’s Tignish office was too small to hold all the residents who wanted to see their MLA Neil LeClair, Monday morning.
They arrived enmass to make sure the message is getting through that this area of western PEI is too small to become a windmill haven for private developers.
Many residents have been very vocal about their opposition to the project, while others have signed easement agreements with the company, allowing windmills to be erected on their properties in the future. Some say it is splitting the community apart in that respect.
Petitions have been circulating around the community protesting the project proposed by NewEn Wind Farm.
It was recently announced that the company had enough land to proceed to the next phase. That will include an environmental assessment of wildlife habitat and bird migration around the proposed site in Anglo-Tignish.
The German based company plans to erect up to 50 turbines in and around the area. Maritime Electric will be responsible for the transmission of power these windmills will be generating for export to New England.
Residents living along the Broderick Road and in other communities are concerned about the health risks they believe are associated with the electromagnetic field (EMF) from power lines running past their homes. They are worried for the safety of their children and devaluation of their properties. Several have already put their homes up for sale.
A petition bearing the names of people opposing the development and requesting safe transmission of power in and around Tignsih was presented to Minister LeClair. The group joined the contingent from Islanders Supporting Safe Transmission Of Power (ISTOP), Tuesday, where they met with government members at Province House.
The Tignish petition directed to Minister LeClair states; “We the residents of your community are very concerned with the recent announcement of a new wind farm coming to our area, how the power will be transmitted safely and not be a hazard to the public. We are asking our government to stop the development of new wind farms coming to our area and listen to the public. We are not for it!!!”
On Monday, residents were stressing the need for regulations before any further development is allowed on the island. Others were interested in knowing how much the government will be receiving from the export of power, noting that it will cost more to satisfy the growing number of people concerned over the development.
One family, who is affected by the transmission lines from the North Cape Farm has power lines going directly over the bedrooms of their children. There were questions about liability if someone becomes sick from EMF exposure.
Minister LeClair told the group he feels the same as they do when it comes to safe transmission of power. He clarified that this is not a government approved project and it has yet to pass the environmental assessment. One resident questioned if the wishes and health of the people are being considered in the assessment process. The Minister said by expressing themselves as they have, it will make a difference.
“There is power in numbers,” he said.
“I have told Premier Ghiz that we have issues, big issues in our riding. What I’m saying if there is a safety issue with this and if no one can tell us that it is safe or not, I feel we should go on the side of caution. If 10 years down the road, EMF is a problem, I have to live here too,” he said. “My biggest problem is with the transmission lines and if they don’t go, there won’t be any windmills anyway.”
Minister LeClair noted that while there is a corridor mapped out by Maritime Electric for transmission of power from the Howlan substation to Summerside, which is servicing the growing wind farm at West Cape, there is nothing sanctioned for the additional power load from the Anglo wind farm should the project go ahead.
Residents here want Premier Robert Ghiz to meet with them in Tignish as soon as possible. The Minister indicated that he will relay the invitation.
By Debbie Horne
14 May 2008
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