GODERICH – Two groups wary of proposed wind energy developments in Huron County had the ear of county councillors Aug. 4.
Burkhard Metzger of the group Central Huron Against Turbines (CHAT) and Robert Tetu of Huron East Against Turbines (HEAT) each made presentations that day to the county’s committee of the whole, which is made up of all county councillors.
Metzger and Tetu laid out a critique of wind developments, claiming they’ll produce few permanent jobs and could reduce property values among a series of other things, and asked council to remain informed on the matter.
Metzger began his presentation by citing a series of attributes that “make Huron County a great place to call home.”
He then turned to the concept of sustainability, which was defined as the “social, economic and environmental practices that meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.”
Metzger presented a diagram with three overlapping circles, one related to the environment, the second related to the economy and the third relating to society and culture.
The diagram showed sustainability in the centre, where portions of all three circles overlap.
Metzger suggested the way commercial wind is imposed on communities through the province’s Green Energy Act (GEA) “has huge societal and communal impacts.”
He claimed “divide and conquer” is the official approach of industrial wind land agents and developers.”
A slide from Metzger’s presentation states, “society as a whole suffers the consequences (while) the developer and a very small group of landowners benefit.”
Metzger suggested farmers could potentially lose control over their land base through wind developments, and cited the large number of wind projects proposed for the county, claiming they would cause the “biggest visual change to vast tracts of land since the glaciers left.”
He also suggested the province’s feed-in-tarrif (FIT) program, which offers contracts for green energy producers, has led to a “gold rush” situation, with big corporations catering to a small number of farmers, with the of society “left holding the bag.”
Metzger and Tetu both alleged industrial wind projects will create few permanent local jobs, with Tetu suggesting many jobs will be created for roadwork, excavation and cement hauling, but such jobs are temporary.
Metzger said county council claims to have no control left about commercial wind power projects due to the GEA, which could overrule municipal bylaws.
He claimed council still has unchanged powers under the Municipal Act, and asked that council reflect carefully on the presented issues, “with critical thought, without self-interest and come to informed decisions.”
Metzger asked that council direct staff to research commercial wind developments in the county, their potential impacts, and the GEA in general.
He also asked council to summarize and provide public access to information as it becomes available, and to act responsibly toward ratepayers and constituents.
Tetu’s presentation covered similar ground at times, claiming the topic of wind projects and transmission line development and information is difficult to access.
Tetu suggested councils need to remain informed of documents and reports from the Ontario Power Authority (OPA), Ontario Energy Board (OEB) and related information on the GEA.
Citing local projects proposed by companies based far from Huron County, he said billions of dollars will be made by off-shore companies at the expense of Huron residents.
Tetu’s presentation also cited three studies he claims indicate significant property value loss for properties near wind turbines and transmission lines.
Tetu presented a number of expectations of county council that include:
• the request that council find a way to make documents available so people can inform themselves about wind development and transmission lines;
• exercise power as given under the Municipal Act to act in the interest of ratepayers, to protect public health and safety and security of property;
• hear and be open to recommendations from the public;
• make decisions in the interest of ratepayers and residents and not just in the interest of big business and big government;
• ask the OPA and Hydro One to send mayors a report of activities in their jurisdiction; and
• establish a position at the county for someone who becomes informed on the impacts of wind energy projects and can provide information to others.
The COW package for Aug. 4 also included a letter from Huron-Bruce MPP and Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Carol Mitchell that suggests the GEA is a “key step in the province’s plan to combat climate change.”
The letter refers to a report from Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health that suggests available scientific evidence does not demonstrate a direct causal link between wind turbine noise and adverse health effects.
Citing the report, Mitchell’s letter also states the “sound level from turbines at common residential setbacks is not sufficient to cause hearing impairment or other adverse health effects, but it may annoy some people.”
The letter goes on to say matters related to the environment, human health and municipal servicing once dealt with by municipalities through land use planning have been incorporated into the renewable energy approval (REA) process, and states there are numerous opportunities for public input and involvement.
Later in the text, Mitchell states proponents of renewable energy project must consult with the municipality and the community, concerns expressed in those consultations must be documented in the project application, and the proponent must also show how they plan to address those issues and concerns.
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