POWASSAN – Local wind power opposition is gaining momentum.
“The key is communication. It’s been very difficult to get information,” said Anne Smith, who is in opposition to a proposed wind power project that would be located near Maple Hill Road, south of Purdon Line. Smith said the lack of information is intentional on the part of the developer.
“It causes controversy and that’s part of a strategy by the developer to get their project completed while we’re all busy with infighting,” she said.
Smith organized a public meeting at the Powassan Legion on April 30, which was attended by about 100 concerned residents looking for information on the Anemos Energy proposal. According to the company, the project could be up and running by 2015.
“It’s the placement in the process that gets everyone upset,” she said.
According to Smith, residents weren’t informed about the project until it was about two years underway.
“We saw them clearing land, but we just assumed we were getting a new neighbour,” she said, noting she was shocked to find out the clearing of land was to accommodate a wind resource measurement tower.
Anemos Energy President Rob Parsons says he doesn’t understand the confusion.
“Anemos Energy mailed a letter in February 2011 to all residents in proximity to the proposed project location which introduced the project proposal and clearly indicated that the project was in very early stages of development, with no specifics of the project fixed or planned at that time,” he said in an email.
Currently, Parsons said the project is in the early stages. The company has secured land rights and completed preliminary environmental constraints analysis, which indicated no significant issues. As it sits, the wind is simply being measured. He said the physical aspects, such as the location, number and size of the turbines would be determined at a later date and with consultation with local residents.
“I would very much welcome the opportunity to share information about wind energy and the very limited details of the proposed project to the local residents, and to receive feedback from them. Anemos Energy will be holding a public open house meeting in the near future so that we can meet and talk with members of the community,” he said.
Parsons said he was never invited to participate in the public meeting on April 30, and only heard about it on the day of by way of a colleague.
“I’ve been told by someone who attended that the only information presented was that which would most certainly cause someone attending to form a negative opinion of wind energy,” he said.
During a meeting of council held April 3, a request made by Anemos Energy for council’s support of the windmill project was deferred until more information could be attained. The company had planned to include council’s written support in its application package to the Ontario Power Authority’s Feed-in-Tariff program.
Mayor Peter McIsaac attended the April 30 public forum and said he has major concerns about the project and wants more information.
“At this time, the project is not clear in size and scope. There is no mention of how many or the size of the proposed turbines. There is no indication as to what properties the wind turbines would be erected on,” he said. “To date, all the Municipality of Powassan has received is a letter dated March 29, 2012 from Anemos Energy. The letter states that the wind data measured to date and environmental constraints analysis indicate that the proposed project is indeed feasible.”
McIsaac indicated he has concerns regarding the possible long-term health effects that have been linked to wind turbines, as well as the issue of loss of property values to homeowners in the immediate area of the development.
According to McIsaac, the Maple Hill wind turbine project may be the largest industrial project in the history of the Municipality of Powassan.
As part of the discussion on April 3, council acknowledged its hands are tied as far as opposing the project since the final decision is made at the provincial level – a procedure that Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli says is just plain wrong.
“When you neutralize the municipality (the public’s only forum to fight a rezoning), toss around phrases like dirty coal (which stifles naysayers), and put a ‘green’ label on it (which minimizes opposition), you’ve got a perfect storm for procedural abuses, failed fiscal oversight, and gross misuse of taxpayer dollars,” said Fedeli, who also acts as the Progressive Conservative’s Energy Critic, in an article entitled, Ontario being led down Green garden path, which was sent by the MPP to each member of Powassan council.
Although he said he wants council to make its own decision, Fedeli said he would continue to bring council members the information needed to make that decision an informed one.
Fedeli was unable to attend the April 30 meeting personally, but had a staff member present. He said he plans to hold an open house most likely in June to further educate the community on the project and why he is “dead against it.”
“The financial aspects are so bad for Ontario,” he said, noting every meeting he has held on the issue in locations across the province, new reasons to oppose wind power come up.
In addition to financial implications, Smith said she’s fighting to save the area’s wildlife and natural landscape from the affects of wind power generation. She said she’s not sold on the idea that wind turbines are safe.
“We came from a generation where we were told DDT was safe and we learned that truth pretty fast,” said Smith. “I was a teacher back when there was still asbestos in the schools. I remember using it as modeling clay with kids.”
Smith said she wants council to create a moratorium on wind power until more information is received. During the April 30 meeting, she was able to obtain about 70 signatures on a petition calling for such a ruling from council.
Smith said the best thing the area can do is be proactive because the companies involved won’t let the residents in on the details until there’s no turning back, which is exactly the message Kevin Elwood brought to the meeting.
“The message I wanted to get across to your community is that they still have the opportunity to educate landowners that may or may not have been approached (by the energy company) regarding land options,” he said. “Once they get to the landowner and get those options, it’s really tough. The best the community can do is be proactive.”
Elwood, a resident of the Stayner area, made headlines in the Toronto Star recently as he and his neighbours are going to great lengths to ensure a proposed wind power project won’t end up in their backyards. The group of residents have been hard at work constructing 16 by 20 foot “houses” in the path of proposed turbine locations knowing turbines are not permitted within 550 metres of a dwelling. The endeavour has cost the group hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal expenses, permit fees, and building materials.
Additionally, a group of neighbours are suing the energy company and the landowner for damaging property values with the project.
“Real estate is your single largest investment in life. These wind turbines decrease the value and attraction of the area,” he said. “It’s not just the adjoining properties. It’s the whole town of Powassan that will suffer a loss in the local economy.”
Elwood said energy companies are only in it for themselves and there is no compensation to local residents for any losses that these developments cause.
“This is something residents are going to feel the impact of for the next 20 years to come,” he added, noting the developers rarely live in the municipality they are planning to locate the turbines in. “They’re exploiting your land and the Provincial government is allowing this and is promoting this to happen.”
Fedeli took a similar stance.
“On the surface it sounds good – green energy – but the only thing green about it is the money that the developers are making,” he said.
It is unclear at this point where Powassan council stands on the project.