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Jones grills minister on wind turbine setbacks

Dufferin-Caledon MPP Sylvia Jones tackled Energy Minister Brad Duguid on Monday concerning setback rules for industrial wind turbines.

Rising during the Legislature’s question period, she noted there was “a lot of concern about the lack of community input surrounding where wind turbines are placed

“We also understand that landowners can opt out of the setback rules. Will you ensure that setbacks are consistent across Ontario, regardless of where you live?

“We put in place one of the most stringent setback rules in all of North America when it comes to wind turbines, not only on setbacks but in terms of noise standards as well,” the minister replied.

“It’s a model for North America … and it’s something that—and I encourage the member, because know it’s tough for her, not having a plan of her own, to be able to talk about things like wind and energy – to go to ontario.ca/energyplan to see what an energy plan is about”.

He said that in the plan “we talk about the important role that wind energy will play in creating thousands of jobs across this province and helping to build a cleaner province, a more prosperous province, for ourselves and for the next generation.”

Dissatisfied with the response, Ms. Jones posed a supplementary question:

“Minister, you know that your energy plan has been panned by experts across Ontario. The Green Energy Act left setbacks for turbines to be set by regulation. Can you share with the House what criteria cabinet used to determine 550-metre setbacks for homes and five-kilometre setbacks for offshore? It wouldn’t have anything to do with the fact that the member from Scarborough Centre sits in cabinet and your change has eliminated any possibility of a turbine being sited in his riding, would it?”

“That’s beyond ridiculous,” the minister retorted, “but let me return to the long-term energy plan, because some of the comments that the member made are simply inaccurate.

He cited praise given in response to his announcement of the long-term plan, asserting that the plan “is going to create a lot of jobs – good jobs – for a lot of people, the kind of jobs we all want our kids to get.”

Following the exchange the local MPP’s office sent out a press release asserting that when the Liberal government passed the Green Energy Act last year, “they refused to set in legislation the appropriate distances industrial wind turbines would be from homes. Instead, they made this decision behind closed doors, and without any public input.”

“Last year, I raised in Legislature that the setbacks should be set out in legislation,” Ms. Jones said. “This is an important issue and there should have been public consultation to determine the proper distance between industrial wind turbines and homes.”

In April, she introduced a private member’s bill which, if passed, would return planning power for renewable energy projects to municipalities.

The release said the PC caucus “has committed to restoring planning power to municipalities if elected in October 2011.”