May 16, 2012

Wind turbines don’t belong near airport: Wilson

Michael Gennings, Staff, 16 May 2012

Simcoe-Grey MPP Jim Wilson on Monday, May 14 criticized the provincial government for the fact it is considering allowing wind turbines near the Collingwood Regional Airport, saying such a development would create obstacles that endanger pilots using the runway.

Wilson went toe-to-toe with Energy Minister Chris Bentley during Question Period in the Ontario Legislature.

“Why is this government even entertaining a project that would compromise the safety of the Collingwood Regional Airport?” Wilson asked.

The project in question is WPD Canada’s proposal to build eight wind turbines west of Stayner and just south of the Collingwood Regional Airport.

During Question Period, Wilson referenced letters from Charlie Tatham, chair of the local airport board, criticizing the proposal.

Wilson noted that Tatham calls the turbine proposal “asinine, unjustified and dangerous,” because of how close the turbines would be situated to the airport.

Bentley responded in the legislature to Wilson by saying the renewable energy approval process is extensive and that “obviously questions of public safety, such as those involved with airports and other structures are very much considered.”

But he added airports fall under federal jurisdiction and “in most cases…those regulations and rules would take precedence in virtually every circumstance.”

Wilson jumped on the comment.

“Well minister that’s a rather out of touch response,” he said. “The problem is there are no rules about wind mills in proximity to airports because no one ever thought someone or any government would be so stupid as to put 500-foot tall windmills on flight paths leading to regional airports.”

Wilson noted that local municipal councils have raised the same concerns as the airport board.

“Mr. Speaker, when will the government start paying attention to the warnings of the experts that sit on the board of the Collingwood Regional Airport?” Wilson asked.

Bentley then said it would be inappropriate “to ask a member of the government or this house to start commenting on matters that are either before the courts or involved in litigation.”

Local residents living near the airport and the proposed site of the turbines have launched a lawsuit against WPD and the Beattie Brothers Ltd., as well as Ed Beattie and Son Ltd., the companies that own the land on which the turbines would be situated. They assert the wind turbine project is negatively impacting their property values and their ability to enjoy their property. None of the allegations have been proven in court.

Wilson, in a news release issued after the exchange in the legislature, said he was disappointed in the government’s response to his questions.

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