Thunderous applause and a standing ovation followed Ashley Duncan’s speech in opposition of the 80-megawatt Acciona Armow Wind Project, which spans from the former Kincardine Twp. to Bruce Twp.
Representing about 70 non-option landowners and members of the Old Order Amish community living within the proposed project, Duncan said council must act to protect the quality of life, health and property rights of its citizens within wind project areas.
“The province and wind developers have failed to address our issues. The only way to inspire provincial change and reclaim municipal control is to stand in opposition to the Green Energy Act (GEA),” said Duncan, adding it should be “designed to protect people instead of corporations.”
Duncan said the local landscape is becoming “industrialized” and the failure to protect residents falls on both the province and wind proponents. The GEA is intended as a document to guide consultation and protect the public, but many residents don’t see it that way,” she said.
“Instead of building strong communities they’ve divided our community,” said Duncan.
Opposition against the GEA is building province-wide, with more evidence of health issues, electrical pollution and civil opposition surfacing against wind projects, Duncan said, adding their families should be able to educate, worship, work and live in an area where they’re “equally deserving of protection” as residents who live in town.
Duncan praised the provincial moratorium on Offshore Wind Power development that was announced Feb. 11, but said it could come back to the table in as few as two years.
She also addressed the municipality’s support for an increased 700-metre setback from the GEA’s 550, adding that less than 1,000m is inadequate. Shadow flicker and proximity of turbines to property lines both impact the enjoyment of their properties, she said.
The Ministry of Environment noise guidelines were also targeted at the meeting, as Duncan said the 40-decibel standard for noise limits from turbines more than doubles the 20db outdoors ambient noise they currently enjoy.
Although “40db is said to be the sound of a ‘quiet library,’ this is true but it’s irrelevant,” she said, adding they aren’t willing to accept an increase “two times as loud as the natural environment.”
With a dozen residents in the area reporting health effects from wind turbines, Duncan called on council to “put a plan in place to support people and mitigate the effects” of turbines.
A request was made to council to freeze wind power building permits, and join with the neigh-b ouring municipalities of Saugeen Shores, Arran-Elderslie and Huron-Kinloss to get involved with investigating legal defence and get involved with organizations fighting against unwanted wind power projects, she said.
Councillors praised Duncan for her “informative,” “thorough” and “well thought out” presentation.
Deputy-mayor Anne Eadie said council will be taking wind power issues to the Minister of Energy at the Rural Ontario Municipal Association (ROMA) in the coming weeks, on the premise that the municipality is concerned about curbing of future municipal growth from wind power.
“We want to protect for future growth over the next 40 years,” said Eadie, adding earlier “meaningful” consultation and setbacks will also be addressed.
Coun. Ron Coristine said the province made the mistake of mixing residential and industrial zoning in the 1950’s and 1960’s, so wind power should be considering “best practices”. He said if setbacks were 2 km from receptors, there would be no issues.
“There are good wind practices, they’re just not happening here,” said Coristine.
Coun. Maureen Couture said council should commit to finding answers and convince the province the issues of local residents “are real.”
“They have to listen to us, we vote for them too,” Couture said, adding the 90% in favour of wind aren’t representative of the local population. “Municipal councils are obligated to look after the health, welfare and safety of their residents . . . we should do more research into the legal aspects of all of this.”
Coun. Randy Roppel said carbon credits and future decommissioning are issues of concern alongside health concerns, which the province “can hide behind anymore”.
Mayor Larry Kraemer was supportive of the move to join neighbouring municipalities in an effort to investigate the legal routes to fight wind power.
Kraemer took exception to the call to freeze building permits, as he said there’s no legal defence if it were to be challenged by wind developers or the province. He said it also puts municipal staff in a position where they have to choose to break council’s ruling or provincial law.
“It’s a legal liability and virtually undefendable, that’s why blocking building permits is not done widely because it does not work,” said Kraemer.
Councillors requested staff investigate the legal ramifications of such a move, so it can be discussed further by council.
Council made a motion to work on updating guidelines based on input it receives from ROMA. Staff will also seek legal advice from lawyers and determine when councillors can attend future wind power-focused meetings with neighbouring municipalities.