Officials from Mapleton Township and Wellington County met last week with the president of Wind Concerns Ontario (WCO) to discuss the NextEra Energy wind farm application near Arthur.
As part of his Ontario tour to raise awareness about the alleged impacts of industrial wind power facilities, John Laforet met at the PMD Arena in Drayton with local municipal officials – including Mapleton Mayor Bruce Whale, county councillor John Green and Warden Chris White – as well as members of Stop Mapleton Wind Farms.
“I felt it was critical to meet with them to ensure they are aware of their options,” Laforet told the Advertiser after the meeting.
He explained that although the township and county opted to not take part in the official municipal consultation process for NextEra’s 10-turbine proposal, both are still able to provide comments – as is anyone with concerns – while the application is posted on the Ministry of the Environment’s (MOE) environmental registry.
“At this stage it’s critical that anyone with concerns does comment,” Laforet said. “We just want to make sure absolutely all the comments are on the record.”
Whale said last week’s meeting was helpful in that it provided feedback from residents living near the NextEra proposal area as well as from Laforet on the issues in other municipalities facing similar wind farm applications.
“This is so new for municipalities,” Whale said. “There’s so few of us who have dealt with wind turbines … We’re not experts.”
The goal of the meeting was to ensure all of the township’s concerns are addressed, Whale said, and also to consider any issues Mapleton and Wellington officials may have overlooked.
The information discussed will help form the township’s comments about the NextEra proposal that will be sent to the MOE before its July 11 environmental registry deadline, the mayor said.
He noted Mapleton council will consider a preliminary report on the matter perhaps as early as its June 14 meeting. Whale is hopeful the county will support Mapleton’s comments to the MOE.
White confirmed county council could provide such support, but he noted the county will likely not be submitting its own comments via the environmental registry. White said the county’s issues were addressed in a February letter about the NextEra project sent to the MOE by county lawyer Peter Pickfield.
“I went to support [Mapleton],” White said of last week’s meeting with Laforet.
He added the county hired a lawyer to help protect the interests of all seven lower tier municipalities when it comes to possible wind farm applications – and also to prevent all seven from having to cover expensive legal bills.
“There are impacts that aren’t clear,” the warden said of wind farm applications like the one filed by NextEra. That is why Laforet’s input on issues in other communities with similar applications was helpful, White added.
Laforet, whose group plans to host a rally against the NextEra proposal on June 23 in the Mapleton area, noted that application could be the last wind farm approved before the Oct. 6 election, after which he expects the provincial energy policy to change.
If the WCO has any say on the matter, the current Liberal government, including Premier Dalton McGuinty, will be ousted, Laforet added.
“We’re not getting a fair shake from this government,” he said, adding many residents told him they plan to hold Perth-Wellington MPP and Environment Minister John Wilkinson accountable if the NextEra proposal is approved.
“[NextEra] is a project they’re trying to jam through in the dying days of this government,” he said.
Whale noted that if the NextEra application is approved, Mapleton Township will reserve the right to appeal with an environmental tribunal if the township’s requests are not met. White said the county will also consider such a move.
But until the July 11 deadline, Laforet said he will continue to lobby against the NextEra application and others across the province.
“We need the local communities to express opposition to these projects,” he said.
Locally, he has been impressed thus far by the way Mapleton Township residents have opposed the NextEra.
“I have a positive feeling about what the folks in Mapleton are going to accomplish,” Laforet said.