Perth County and lower-tier municipal leaders will be looking for some clarity regarding their role in the development of industrial wind turbines when they meet with the Minister of the Environment and his staff next month.
“Some of our elected officials are already dealing with (these projects),” says Perth County warden Julie Behrns, who requested the meeting with MPP John Wilkinson at the request of county council, whose members have many questions about the approval process the province introduced with its Green Energy Act.
“Hopefully this meeting will improve the knowledge we have with what’s all required with wind turbines, and to extend to the minister any issues or concerns we have.”
Behrns says councillors hope to better understand the ministry’s approval process, setback distances and how the turbines are arranged on a property.
She adds many councillors believe the province has stripped municipalities of any authority when it comes to approving renewable energy projects.
“Because of the way (the Green Energy Act) is written, the ministry has the final say (on these projects),” she argues. “We have no say whether it’s approved or not approved.”
Much uncertainty exists in the community regarding wind turbines. An information meeting in Stratford last month, hosted by West & East Perth Against Turbines, a grassroots group of residents who are concerned about the impact wind turbines have on human health and the environment, drew nearly 300 people.
Wilkinson, in a previous interview with the Gazette, defended the province’s decision to assume final decision-making powers on any new renewable energy projects. Only the province, he added, has the legislative authority to shut down a project not complying with government regulations.
He said the ministry will judge any future proposal strictly on its merits, and that the developer must meet all requirements, including consultation with the municipality and the public, before approval is granted.
He added the process is designed so that an individual has ample opportunity to voice their concerns or appeal a final decision if they wish.
Responding to some of the criticism voiced at the public meeting last month, the minister said the government’s regulations for noise and setback distances are based on science and the recommendations from Dr. Arlene King, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer.
“The scientists and the doctors who have the responsibility to advise us on this, who are independent of us, say there is no science to say there’s a link.
“(And Dr. King) said there is no proof of an adverse health effect on human health as long as (the turbines) are meeting the new strict requirements of the Province of Ontario,” he added.
Wilkinson said the province is committed to replacing dirty energy, adding, “we’re well on our way of achieving that goal.”
The meeting, scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 3 at 1 p.m. inside the county council chambers, is open to the public, though there will be no opportunity for public comment. Behrns says the meeting is not to debate wind turbines but for county and municipal leader to to voice their concerns and to gain a better understanding of their role in the project approval process.
Due to limited seating, anyone planning to attend is asked to contact clerk Kerri Ann O’Rourke at 519-271-0531 ext. 120.
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