In what may be a significant shift in the prevailing winds, the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) has released a position statement calling for a moratorium on the construction of new wind turbine projects. The position statement from OFA president Mark Wales says the process for wind turbine construction is divisive and the technology is not living up to promises. OFA is Ontario’s largest association for farmers.
“We are hearing very clearly from our members that the wind turbine situation is coming to a head – seriously dividing rural communities and even jeopardizing farm succession planning. The onus is on our provincial government to ensure the interests of rural Ontarians are protected. OFA is speaking up to clearly outline the issues that must be addressed right now,” said OFA president Mark Wales.
The statement was welcomed by local anti-turbine groups across Ontario, including West Lincoln Wind Action Group (WLWAG), which has been lobbying against proposed turbine projects in west Niagara since late 2010. WLWAG founder and president Neil Switzer said the OFA statement was a vindication of his group’s work.
“I commend the OFA for having the courage to speak the truth and acknowledge that there are some real serious problems with the industrialization of rural Ontario,” said Switzer. He said the OFA statement was particularly telling, as the group had previously expressed support for wind turbines.
“It’s like a 180 degree turn. The OFA were consultant to and part of the original Green Energy Act process, in which they supported it,” said Switzer.
As recently as Dec. 2011 the OFA had put out statements calling for support of the Green Energy Act. However, the OFA have long acknowledged discomfort with certain aspects of the approval and construction process for wind turbine projects. Under the Green Energy Act, a municipality cannot prevent the construction of a wind turbine, and may only provide advisory input to the province. They also warned rural property owners about some of the pitfalls of signing a lease and with energy pricing. The recent statement says that these issues have not been addressed.
Tim Hudak, MPP for Niagara West-Glanbrook and Conservative leader, applauded the OFA’s position. Hudak spoke against the Green Energy Act and wind turbines in particular during his campaign. He said municipal governments needed a greater say in the process.
“Local officials know what’s best for their communities… I am pleased to hear the OFA has come on board in demanding the McGuinty government suspend further industrial wind turbine development,” Hudak said in a statement to media.
While calling for a suspension in turbine projects, the OFA continues to support the Green Energy Act in general terms.
“OFA supports green energy but is working to ensure that green energy projects will respect concerns for noise, community involvement and price, balanced against the effective provision of power,” their position statement reads, in part.
Switzer said the OFA’s change of heart was based on the experience of thousands of rural residents in municipalities with wind farms.
“We have not felt the impact of these giant wind machines. Whereas the OFA, they not only represent the rural communities but they also live in these communities where there’s literally hundreds of turbines in place. They are confronted with the reality, and they are finding there is a disconnect between what they were originally told and what the province is saying,” he said.
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