The McGuinty government’s controversial green energy plan suffered a major blow Friday with the largest farm lobby group in the province pulling the plug on its support for wind turbines.
The Ontario Federation of Agriculture, which represents 37,000 farm families, issued a call Friday for the province to suspend wind turbine development.
OFA President Mark Wales said industrial wind turbines have split rural communities, pitting neighbour against neighbour.
“The situation is untenable,” Wales said. “It is taking away from what farmers do best and that is grow food and create jobs.”
“We need to slow this down and put some calm out there and then government needs to resolve the issues.”
Ontario Energy Minister expressed dismay at the OFA stand coming one month after the farm organization issued a press release backing green energy.
“I’m surprised and a little bit disappointed,” Bentley said. “Thousands of farmers are already participating in green energy projects, including wind, and many more are looking to participate.”
Bentley said the province remains committed to green energy and is looking to strengthen a review of the program is complete. More than 3,000 individuals and groups have submitted comments to the government, including many from the farming community, he said.
“We are taking a look at those and we are determined to get clean, renewable energy into the province of Ontario and secure the jobs that help Ontario serve the world with green energy,” Bentley said.
In its position released Friday, the OFA released a list of issues that need to be resolved before further wind turbine development is allowed.
The list included:
Giving some planning control of the projects back to municipalities;
Addressing health and nuisance complaints of rural residents;
Capping the price paid for renewable energy at the peak price that will be paid for imports six years in the future.
Wales said technical solutions also need to be found before further development, such as how to store the energy from wind turbines when it is being produced but isn’t needed.
Selling such energy to other jurisdictions at a loss just isn’t good economics, he said.
With hundreds of the giant turbines under construction, the Ontario government has come under intense criticism from rural groups for taking planning control away from rural municipalities.
Several Liberal MPPs, including former Agriculture Minister Carol Mitchell, were defeated in rural areas where turbines were being installed, helping to push the Liberals into a minority government position.
After the election, Premier Dalton McGuinty shifted veteran London Cabinet minister Chris Bentley into the politically hot energy portfolio.
Jane Wilson, president of the anti-wind turbine coalition Wind Concerns Ontario, called the OFA move surprising and gratifying.
Wilson said the OFA, with its clout, will provide a boost to the coalition’s campaign.
“A lot of rural communities are being just ripped apart by this issue,” said Wilson, adding it indicates the new OFA executive is listening to its farm members.
But Jutta Splettstoesser, a Kincardine area farmer and president of Friends of Wind Ontario, said she was shocked to read the OFA position.
“It was full of unfactual statements . . . I’m so disappointed,” she said.
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