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Concerns must be addressed: MOE

Provincial officials say approvals can be withheld

Municipal councillors from across Grey County were told Thursday that wind farm proponents must address their – and the public’s – concerns before the Ministry of Environment will approve the projects.

The point was made repeatedly by Katharine Simpson, the senior program support coordinator with the ministry’s environmental assessment and approvals branch, at the warden’s forum. The first half of the annual get-together for municipal council members focused on renewable energy and the Green Energy Act.

Municipal frustration with the Green Energy Act is widespread in Grey-Bruce, with a number of municipalities attempting through bylaws and regulations to regain some control over renewable energy projects that the province assumed in the act.

The act requires consultations with municipalities, First Nations and the public, Rick Chappell, the MOE’s district manager for the southwest region told the forum.

Simpson said that if municipal and public concerns are not properly addressed by the proponents, they will be told to go back and revisit them before a certificate of approval is issued.

Stewart Halliday, a councillor from Grey Highlands, told the meeting that a proposed wind farm in his municipality seems to be exempt from some of the regulations and amendments, including public consultations, of the Green Energy Act that came in after proponents began the approval process.

“We believe public consultation should happen,” he said in later interview. “We’re in a debate with the proponents right now as to where they think we’re going and where they should be going and where the government thinks they should be going. Right now I don’t think the government has come out with any specific guidelines for grandfathered wind turbine projects.”

Halliday said he was glad to hear that the MOE recognizes there should be proper consultations about energy projects and concerns addressed, “but I think the whole process is flawed because it’s not written out with a set of guidelines.”

He said wind farm proponents have been getting away with “a bit of a flimflam approach,” ignoring even the best practices suggestions drawn up by the Canadian Wind Energy Association.

“ They haven’t followed it one bit,” he said.

Chappell said a lot of the frustration with the Green Energy Act is because municipalities haven’t been provided with information about it.

Council members now have “sources and contacts . . . to get more information,” Simpson added. “We’re always available to call.”