Despite a high-profile farm lobby group joining a growing movement pushing for a moratorium on wind power development, the province will not reverse course on the controversial plan.
So says St. Catharines MPP and Minister of the Environment Jim Bradley. Late last week, the Ontario Federation of Agriculture called on the government to suspend wind turbine development so it can address a number of issues. Bradley said the government takes OFA’s request seriously, but will continue to develop wind projects throughout Ontario.
“That will be taken into consideration, particularly by the Ministry of Energy, Ministry of the Environment and the government as a whole,” Bradley said of the OFA statement.
“I can tell you that our government is certainly committed to green energy and the creation of green energy jobs, which we’re seeing across the province.”
OFA president Mark Wales, who was unavailable for comment Tuesday, told QMI Agency last week 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.”
But Bradley said the government is moving the process ahead to shut down coal-fired plants and eliminate greenhouse gas emissions. Cutting the burning of coal will save $4.4 billion in health care and environmental costs, he said.
“We are on track to replace all dirty coal-fired plants by 2014,” he said. “Government has calculated through studies it has done that it will be just like taking seven million cars off the road.”
The OFA statement slams the Green Energy Act for not answering several concerns:
— the price paid for power.
— what they see as the inefficiency of wind power.
— the towers’ setback distance from homes.
— health and nuisance issues.
— lack of municipal input in projects.
Bradley said the environment ministry recently completed a two-year review of the Feed-In-Tariff program that has helped lure green energy investment to the province.
“We offered, initially, some attractive prices as an incentive. And now that it’s established and we’ve seen more people come online, I think the Ministry of Energy is looking at those prices and the needs across the province.”
The government issued results of a report that examined a wide range of investigations into the health impacts of wind turbines. It says Ontario has some of the strictest criteria in North America with 550 metre setbacks for developers.
“Our sound-level limits are consistent with what the World Health Organization has recommended,” he said. “Our chief medical officer of health for Ontario has determined there is no direct causal issue between turbine sound and adverse health effects.”
The province will continue to monitor the latest “technological advancement” when it comes to health impacts, he said.
Vineland farmer and OFA member Dick Netherway said he is concerned the statement from Wales will deal a serious blow to the government’s green energy development. The OFA is a credible organization with influence, he said.
“The fact is, (the Green Energy Act) has some faults but it is the right thing to do for our province,” he said. “This gentlemen Mr. Wales … has gone off half-cocked.”
Netherway said until recently, the group had been “cautiously supportive” of the Green Energy Act. Wind turbines have proven to be lucrative for farmers at a time when it can be hard to make ends meet, he said.
“It’s a very stable revenue source.”
— with files from QMI Agency.
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