People who do not want to see wind turbines line the south shore of Prince Edward County made up the vast majority of the packed house attending MPP Todd Smith’s Town Hall meeting Thursday night at St. Andrew’s Church in Picton.
More than 250 people filled the chairs and the audience spilled into the foyer, the balcony and sat on the edge of the stage to hear speakers and the public have their say.
County organizations opposed to turbines here were well represented. The County Sustainability Group, which supports the Ostrander Point wind project, announced publicly it choose not to participate “in the promotional vehicle for the County’s anti-wind energy campaign”… but will meet the Prince Edward Hastings MPP face-to-face to provide input in a neutral setting.
Speaking about the proposed project location as an Important Bird Area, about endangered species and alvars were Rosemary Kent, of the Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory; Myrna Wood of the PEC Field Naturalists, Sandy Goranson and Janice Gibbins of the South Shore Conservancy. Orville Walsh, representing the Alliance to Protect Prince Edward County, spoke of “the many reason why the south shore is the wrong location.”
Karen Hatchard, representing Point to Point’s 1,200 supporters, spoke of the expansion of the south shore as a national park, noting the proposal is not a new idea, but relates to studies and discussion by council back to 1985.
“In 1993 council passed a resolution asking the government of Canada to declare their land holdings at Prince Edward Point in South Marysburgh a National Park… The idea of creating a land and marine based park has been studied to death…in 1985 and 1993 by divisions of Environment Canada.”
Garth Manning, of the County Coalition for Safe and Appropriate Green Energy, touched on real estate values, health problems, the sheer height of turbines and healthy, sustainable systems for the future, concluding “In the County our way of life is under threat. Do everything possible to get a moratorium on wind factories.”
Dr. Robert McMurtry highlighted points from various reviews and studies and the recent Auditor General’s report which lists 36 major concerns with Ontario renewable energy initiatives, including due diligence, analysis of jobs, social injustice and health concerns.
Soon after the public portion of the meeting opened, Doug Bradshaw stood to proclaim he is for windmills and went to Wolfe Island where he “found nobody complaining there. The people making money are happy with them….”
Before he could continue the booing and hissing from the audience took over, but was quickly quashed by organizers who reminded everybody to “show respect”.
Sarah McDermott, a resident of Wolfe Island, clarified “There are a lot of people who are discontented with the way the process went, the way there was no public input. We tried but we were basically ignored. We took our council to court and we were basically pushed over with promises of recreating habitat, putting money into organizations that help habitat.
“Mainly, I think I want to say it has been destructive to our community and destructive to a lot of people’s lives. It’s not an easy thing to live with at all. And there hasn’t really been any kind of discussion about the emotional turmoil that one experiences when they feel that their homes are being threatened. It starts there – the impact it has on human health.”
Janet Grace, president of the Association to Protect Amherst Island, spoke of the proposal there to construct 33 turbines “the length and breadth of Amherst Island” and the impact on real estate.
“We are also an Important Bird Area. We have no fewer than 18 endangered or species at risk on Amherst Island and they are bulldozing us completely,” she said. “Thank you to the Wolfe Island people for coming to this meeting. I’m also a real estate broker. I deal with a lot of waterfront properties. When I’m asked to take people to Wolfe Island, I do so. I don’t say anything. The first thing people say when they walk into a home where there are turbines close by – and when I say close by I’m not saying 550 metres, we’re talking 800 metres to a kilometre-and-a-half. The first thing they say when they walk in and out onto the deck is: ‘Oh, my God. Nothing could make me buy this property.’ I’ve had people step out of the car and say ‘I’m feeling something strange in my head. What am I feeling?’ It is that low, pounding sound that is affecting them. The sales on Wolfe Island have plummeted. The prices have plummeted. The sales on Amherst Island have plummeted. Our real estate values have decreased just by the very threat of wind turbines. I know farmers on Wolfe Island who have told farmers on Amherst Island not to do it: ‘Don’t do it. It’s terrible for your community. It’s not worth the money.’ There are a lot of land owners out there who feel maybe this is their right – they can put a turbine on their property and get their $6,000 or whatever it is and that’s their right and nobody can stop them. It is not their right to harm our lives to devalue our real estate and to provide an unhealthy atmosphere for our seniors, our children, everyone.”
Marilyn Cooper, of Picton, speaking about the province selling energy, quipped: “When I give a gift, hopefully I don’t have to pay them to take it.”
A man concerned about cumulative effects of wind and solar projects also spoke out, hoping talk at the provincial level would also include solar projects “that are equally destructive in their own right.
“In my back yard we have a massive solar project under way, probably going to be the largest solar project in North America… Folks across Ontario are going to be displaced in exactly the same manner was wind. Take the word wind, put in the word solar. Not the small microfit guy we’re talking about but the big, big energy producers like the Samsungs of the world … the ones with hundreds of thousands of panels in your back yard.”
PC Energy Critic Vic Fedeli, the meeting’s keynote guest speaker, addressed solar and wind.
“Right off the bat, if you think wind is bad, which operates at 28 per cent efficiency; solar operates at 13 per cent efficiency. We pay 80 cents a kilowatt hour for people to produce energy from solar. So, even a kid with a lemonade stands know we can’t buy a lemon for 80 cents and sell lemonade for five cents and that’s exactly what’s happening.”
He asked the audience to remember what was “learned in the past week from Spain, Italy, the UK, Denmark, and now on the weekend, Germany, are cutting their subsidies for wind and solar. You have the Auditor General, we had the environment commissioner talk about Smart Meters and how they didn’t work; you’ve got Spain – one of the world leaders in renewables is now getting out of that business. When Germany announced it was getting out of the solar business, it plunged the stock market in Europe last week for solar products. We’ve got Britain, Italy and Denmark all backing away from subsidies. What the hey do we need to tell this government when everybody around the world, and in our own back yard, including the Auditor General’s office, is telling the government this is a wrong-heading program?”
“I think we’ve been led down the green garden path,” said Fedeli. “I genuinely believe that the Green Energy Act is tremendously flawed and we’re going to do everything in our power to change it. It all started with the stated purpose was to “green” our Ontario energy sector.
“To meet that end, the government genuinely felt they needed for force-feed their philosophy to achieve the green energy goal. So that meant they needed to pay 80 cents a kilowatt hour, a ridiculously high amount by world standards, for solar, and an equally high FITT price for wind and again, as I said earlier, torpedoes be damned.
“We are going to work very very hard to continue to show the government that they absolutely need to listen to the people and need to listen to the municipal councils.”
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