Officials with the Ontario Ministry of the Environment are trying to assure local councils that they do have the ability to offer input into wind projects.
And that input must be addressed by the proponents of those projects before the province will allow them to go ahead.
But some people are still wondering how they can be sure their concerns will be adequately addressed.
Staff from Grey County as well as Councillors from the nine municipalities took part in the annual Warden’s Forum yesterday at the Grey Bruce Health Unit in Owen Sound.
Warden Arlene Wright says she invited the MOE to make a presentation at the forum because there’s a real communication gap between the Ministry and local municipalities.
She feels wind developers are taking advantage of that lack of communication.
The municipalities don’t know their rights under the public consultation process for renewable energy projects and believe that the provincial Green Energy Act has taken away their power to approve or deny projects based on local needs.
Ministry officials Rick Chappell and Katharine Simpson say the municipalities do have the ability and opportunity to have their say and to have their concerns heard.
Simpson – a senior coordinator in the Ministry’s Environmental Assessment and Approvals branch – says the Ministry will not approve projects that have not addressed those concerns.
But Southgate Mayor Brian Milne wants to know who will decide whether or not the concerns have been addressed to the satisfaction of municipalities.
Chappell – the Ministry’s Owen Sound District Manager – says once an approval has been processed by the province, the municipality still has an opportunity to look at all the documentation and bring further concerns forward.
He agrees there has been a significant communication gap between the Ministry and municipalities on this issue but says he can’t explain how that gap has come about.
Chappell says the ministry wants to work to eliminate the gap and to keep municipalities informed of their rights and responsibilities.
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