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Public hearing on turbines to be held Tuesday

Halifax report urges regulation of wind energy despite ongoing protests

The winds of change can blow slowly through Halifax Regional Municipality.

In November 2006, regional council started a planning process to prepare policies and land-use rules for the installation of wind energy turbines in the municipality.

On Tuesday, a public hearing on wind turbine use will finally be held at Halifax city hall. It’s to begin shortly after 6 p.m. in the council chamber.

A city staff recommendation says the politicians should consider amendments to the regional municipal planning strategy and community land-use bylaws to allow for the regulation of wind turbines.

This week’s public hearing will follow two rounds of community consultation that included at least 18 public meetings across the Halifax region, a staff report says.

“The generalized findings of this extensive public consultation (were that) HRM should encourage and support wind energy,” the report says.

This opinion is far from universal, however. Many people do welcome wind energy but others are worried about noise pollution and health problems they say turbines cause.

Coun. Gloria McCluskey (Dartmouth Centre) has said there are many questions regarding the effects of wind turbines. Last year, she told council that a Pubnico family moved from their house because family members said noise from a 120-metre turbine was making them sick.

Alastair Saunders, of Friends of Jeddore, said his group isn’t opposed to wind energy.

Members “just want wind energy developments, particularly large wind energy developments, to be located in places where they will not be a hazard to human health, safety and the environment,” he said in a recent release.

A petition against wind farm development close to communities has about 400 names on it, he said.

In an interview Saturday, Saunders said Friends of Jeddore intends to make seven presentations at Tuesday’s public hearing.

He acknowledged the issue is “very contentious” in such areas as East Jeddore, Porters Lake, West Jeddore and Ostrea Lake. He said noise levels and other concerns, such as potential pollution by contaminants, indicate wind turbines should be situated far from homes and businesses.

A catastrophic malfunction could lead to environmental problems caused by antifreeze leaking from a disabled machine, said Saunders, adding that oil is used in the unit’s gearbox.

“Antifreeze, of course, is a deadly poison,” he said.

The provincial government last fall passed new regulations that require utilities to supply 25 per cent of electricity from renewable sources by 2015. The government has a target of 40 per cent renewable electricity by 2020, an Energy Department website says.

Brennan Vogel, of the Ecology Action Centre in Halifax, has said Nova Scotia has done a commendable job setting targets for renewable energy, greenhouse gas reductions and energy efficiency.

But the province has yet to say how and when it’ll shut down its four coal-fired power plants, The Canadian Press reported last month.

At Halifax city hall, regional council hasn’t made a decision on proposed planning and land-use amendments hooked to the use of wind turbines.