Since Ontario’s Green Energy Act became law in 2009 a handful of wind turbine projects have met the conditions of the act and moved ahead, the environment minister said Friday.
But the local Progressive Conservative candidate suggested any number is too many and emphasized that wind turbines should be under the jurisdiction of municipalities and not the province.
“We want to give planning authority back to the municipalities,” said Randy Pettapiece, Conservative candidate for Perth-Wellington.
“If they want one, fine, but if they don’t that’s fine too,” said Perth-Wellington MPP and Environment Minister John Wilkinson, adding that most of the projects that have been approved, like the one in Halton Region at a Wal-Mart location with one turbine, are small projects.
Wilkinson suggested just a couple of the five projects given the go-ahead are on a large scale, including one in Chatham-Kent that will have eight industrial wind turbines.
In comparison, 900 wind turbines were erected when turbines were within the jurisdiction of municipalities, he said.
Wilkinson suggested the problem was lack of consistent rules across the province concerning issues such as minimum setbacks and sound. The setback now is 550 metres from any school, home or church, and the noise level has to be less than 40 decibels at the site, he said.
Pettapiece argued municipalities don’t have the right to say no to projects. And that in itself is a problem.
There are currently four wind projects under technical review, three pending review and five returned or withdrawn.
Wilkinson said any wind turbine project must first engage the municipality and the public. Municipalities should submit any conditions they would like to see on projects, such as road access or transmission-line location. He added municipalities and the public can submit their best advice as to whether a project should go ahead.
However, municipalities do not have any zoning control over wind turbines, Wilkinson acknowledged.
There has been much concern about the possibility of wind turbines in the Sebringville area, but Wilkinson said there is no application currently at the ministry.
Pettapiece noted there are projects, including one in Mapleton, that have started the process, including holding meetings with the municipality and the public.
A Conservative press release noted there are 77 communities that have put forward resolutions objecting to industrial wind farms. There are 444 municipalities in Ontario. In the grand scheme of things, 77 may not seem like a lot.
“It is if you’re going to be affected by a wind farm. You’re probably not affected if you’re way up north,” Pettapiece noted.
After attending the Association of Municipalities of Ontario meeting this week, Wilkinson isn’t convinced wind turbines are a top concern for municipalities.
He said a list of 12 requests for answers were given to all three political parties. “On the list they did not request to have final say on wind turbines downloaded to municipalities,” he said.
AMO doesn’t have an official position on wind turbines because there’s no consensus, said spokesperson Brian Lambie.
For a list of projects and information on rules, go to the Ministry of the Environment website at www.ene.gov.on.ca.
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