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Travale not buying McGuinty’s green energy talk

Dalton McGuinty’s promise to return the power to limit wind turbines to rural communities is “more lip service than substance” and won’t amount to any real change, warns Norfolk’s mayor.

“I seriously doubt they will give any decision-making back to the municipalities,” said Mayor Dennis Travale. “I can only assume the government is looking at perhaps some type of consultation process.”

Ontario’s premier told a conference of the province’s rural mayors last week that upcoming changes to the Green Energy Act will include giving town halls more say over where clean-power projects go.

Anger has swept across rural Ontario, including Norfolk County, over wind turbines and is believed to have cost the Liberals several southwestern seats in the 2010 election.

Municipalities had the right to, in effect, control where the projects went until the introduction of the Green Energy Act, which put the power exclusively in the hands of the province.

Right now, the Ministry of Energy is undertaking a review of its renewable energy program and is expected to announce a number of changes at the end of March.

Travale said Queen’s Park will want to retain most of the control so it can plan how the projects hook into the provincial grid.

“I am cynical,” he said in an interview. “I expect nothing more than a consultation role. It may provide a venting venue for some folks, but that’s all it will be.”

Residents in the west end of Norfolk have repeatedly complained to council that wind turbines in their area have been making them sick, and elected officials have replied there is virtually nothing they can do to help.

McGuinty offered no specifics in his presentation to mayors.

But he told reporters that his government “will be adopting some of the recommendations that have been put forward by rural Ontario . . . we have listened very carefully to the concerns and have incorporated those in the changes we’re making.”

Queen’s Park is looking at a “number” of aspects in its Green Energy Act, said Daniel Cayley spokesperson for the Ministry of Energy.

They include:

• a drop in the price the government pays for wind and solar generated power

• ensuring long-term sustainability of clean energy

• consideration of new technologies and fuel sources

“Additional details will be announced at that time,” Cayley said.

— with files from QMI