With the provincial election coming up in October, members of Huron East Against Turbines (HEAT) are asking Huron East council to do what it can to stall progress on the St. Columban Wind Energy LP’s 15-turbine project, which recently received an offer for an Ontario Power Authority contract.
“There is no reason to rush negotiations. With an election coming up, there is every reason to stall,” said Gerry Ryan, HEAT member at Huron East’s July 19 meeting.
Ryan and fellow HEAT member Rob Tetu urged councillors to attend an Aug. 11 meeting of the Inter-Municipal Wind Turbines Working Group in Chesley, where Tetu has made arrangements to meet before the working group meeting at 6:15 p.m. with a councillor and the deputy-mayor of Grey Highlands.
“They (Grey Highlands) hold the record for holding off wind turbines the longest and they are willing to come early and sit down with HEAT and a couple of councillors to find out what can be done to hold them (the St. Columban wind project) back until after the election,” said Tetu.
Tetu told councillors that provincial Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak has said, if elected, he will turn back any wind projects that have not had a notice to proceed from the province once he’s in power.
“In Grey Highlands, council has been the spearhead, not a group of individuals like ourselves that have to try to prod the council to help us out,” said Tetu, adding that a wind project requires an entrance permit which must be passed by council.
“Would one of you, or several, please join us and ask your questions directly,” he said.
Ryan added that the St. Columban wind project will need a notice to proceed before it can begin construction of wind turbines and must give 60 days’ notice of its second public meeting that is required under the environmental assessment.
He reminded council that the wind company is not required under the Green Energy Act to negotiate any financial concessions with the municipality.
“Put yourselves in our shoes. Many people have built new homes in our neighbourhood. Some of them are for retirement and some are new young families. Come with us for a drive and see for yourselves. Now is not the time to start negotiating with our lives,” he said.
Deputy-Mayor Joe Steffler and McKillop Coun. Andrew Flowers, who were already appointed to accept correspondence from the Inter-Municipal Working Group and attend meetings if necessary, agreed to attend the Aug. 11 meeting in Chesley.
“It’s up to you guys to decide which part of the meeting you’ll go to,” said Mayor Bernie MacLellan.
Later in the meeting, while discussing a resolution from Central Huron requesting that the province declare a moratorium on all current and future projects for on-shore and off-shore development of wind energy facilities, Seaforth Coun. Nathan Marshall asked if Huron East would look foolish supporting the resolution if it isn’t willing to do anything to stop wind turbines in its own municipality.
“It doesn’t make any sense to me. We say we can’t do anything but tons of other municipalities are doing something,” said Marshall.
Tuckersmith Coun. Les Falconer said council has to meet in good faith with the wind turbine developers and hope the developers come to meetings in the same spirit.
“We don’t want to turn them away. We want to have a conversation with them and keep it going,” he said.
Grey Coun. Alvin McLellan agreed.
“We still need to sit down at the table with them and keep all our options open,” he said.
Because the resolution from Central Huron also asked that, “local authority be restored to pre-Green Energy Act levels to allow local government to mitigate impacts of renewable energy projects within the community,” Deputy-Mayor Joe Steffler said he didn’t agree with that part of the resolution.
“Somebody has to take responsibility and I don’t think it’s the responsibility of the lowest tier there is. It should be at least county-wide,” said Steffler, adding that boundaries between municipalities could complicate the issue of wind turbine setbacks.
Tuckersmith Coun. Larry McGrath said he would support the resolution. He read from the second paragraph of the resolution that cited the Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health’s acknowledgement that there is no sufficient scientific evidence to prove wind facilities have a direct negative impact on human health and wellbeing.
“The interesting thing was that she (Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health) was asked point blank if she ever interviewed the people directly affected and the answer was no,” said McGrath.
Council voted in favour of the Central Huron resolution.
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