Norfolk’s elected officials have approved an agreement with a green energy company that will set the stage for the construction of 13 wind turbines east of Port Dover.
The company, Capital Power, will be allowed to bury cable underground along county roads to transport wind-generated electricity to the provincial grid.
The deal will help pave the way for a massive wind farm that will start in Norfolk and extend across much of neighbouring Haldimand County.
Norfolk Mayor Dennis Travale reminded Tuesday night’s council meeting the county is powerless to stop the project despite opposition from the public. The province, he explained, decides where green energy projects go and town hall must go along with it.
“This council’s jurisdiction is about as high as a snake’s belly,” Travale said. “We are the child of the province, it’s as simple as that. They tell us what to do.”
Anti-wind turbine activist Stephana Johnston of Clear Creek called on council to take a different form of action: delay.
Johnston – who lives among a group of turbines she insists are making her sick – asked council to “defer” handing out permits Capital Power needs to proceed with the project.
While council can’t stop a green energy project completely, “you don’t have to do things as quickly as in the past,” she suggested.
Travale rejected that idea, warning the county will find itself in legal trouble if it drags its feet on allowing green energy projects to go ahead.
“We can’t say we’re not going to talk to you,” he said. “We have to sit down and talk to them. We can’t be unreasonable or we will find ourselves in a court of law trying defend the indefensible.”
Council has tried to do something in the past. It has twice voted in favour of a provincewide moratorium on the construction of new wind turbines until studies on the impact they have on the health of nearby residents are done.
Houghton Coun. Betty Chanyi said she felt supporting the moratorium is the equivalent of giving “our word” to the public it will do something and voted against allowing Capital Power to use the county roads.
“Are we people of our word or not?” asked Chanyi, whose ward covers the Clear Creek wind turbines. “Can we be trusted or not?”
She vowed to “put the well-being of residents ahead of tax dollars” and “keep my word and not approve” any new wind turbines.
Waterford Coun. Harold Sonnenberg agreed. “Just because the provincial government rules over us doesn’t mean we can’t continue to object,” he said. “Where would democracy be if we didn’t continue to object?”
Simcoe Coun. Peter Black called for council to think about the expense of trying to fight green energy projects.
“We have control over one thing, and that is to protect taxpayers from litigation,” he said. “We can avoid litigation and additional cost to taxpayers.”
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