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Changes in Green Energy Act shouldn’t affect Sault — CAO

Premier Dalton McGuinty has said his government will change the Green Energy Act to give municipalities power over where or how many wind turbines are erected in their jurisdiction.

The power was removed from municipalities several years ago by the province, which has created outrage in rural areas where municipalities – or their residents – don’t want the large wind turbines in their communities.

McGuinty, speaking at the annual combined Rural Ontario Municipal Association and Ontario Good Roads Association Conference earlier this week, said in addition to reviewing rates for green-energy subsidies, the government is also “working very hard to see that we do a better job incorporating the local perspective on this.”

Details of those changes have not been released.

Sault Ste. Marie CAO Joe Fratesi said the comment appears to be a reversal of the government’s position of a few years ago when wind turbines were just beginning to be established in Ontario and the province took control of this jurisdiction, vetoing municipal official plans and zoning bylaws.

“I think this is a good thing for municipalities to be able to control with their zoning bylaws,” Fratesi said. “Wind turbines are large structures and, if they are located too close to people without any regulations, that may not be so good.”

Fratesi said municipalities should be able to choose whether wind turbines should be located in their communities, and that needs to be done through the planning process.

He doesn’t expect the legislation will affect the Sault.

Ward 1 Coun. Steve Butland agrees.

Council’s green energy proponent said the change in legislation likely won’t affect Sault Ste. Marie simply because the area has all the wind turbines it needs.

“When we’re utilizing only 25% of the energy we have, we would rather advance research and promote underground storage of the energy we’re creating,” Butland said.

Jerry Dolcetti, the city’s commissioner of engineering and planning, said the city did have its own zoning bylaw to deal with wind turbines until recently, when the references were removed because they were determined to be redundant with the provincial authority.

“I believe that if the government changes its legislation, then we will have to do a report for council and council will have to determine whether it needs a new zoning bylaw or not,” Dolcetti said.

He said the city’s next steps won’t be known until the province sets the legislation and releases specific information pertaining to municipalities.