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Huron East debates getting political over IWTs

Whether or not Huron East should join with other local municipalities in fighting the province over the Green Energy Act or if the municipality can be most effective making sure local wind projects follow the rules and regulations to the letter, was debated by Huron East councillors at their July 17 meeting.

Remarking on a Renewable Energy Approval Consultation form filled out by the municipality of Bluewater, Tuckersmith Coun. Les Falconer asked why if Bluewater is making political statements against industrial wind turbine (IWT) projects in its community, should Huron East join them.

“If Bluewater is doing this, why, at the county level, can’t we get together?” he said. “Fighting the Green Energy Act is what it’s coming down to and we have to decide if Huron East is taking on the province.”

But, Huron East CAO Brad Knight suggested that Huron East should find other avenues to get political other than the municipal consultation form. He compared Bluewater’s response to that of the County of Huron when responding to the St. Columban Energy project.

“The key difference between the two documents is that the county document does make the ‘political statement’ at the beginning of the form and I don’t believe the consultation form is the proper place to make that comment,” he said in a report to Huron East council.

Knight added that if Huron East has issues they “may wish to pursue,” they “be documented through the posting on the Environmental Registry.”
The Bluewater consultation form begins with general comments pointing out that the municipality has expressed “unanimous opposition to the installation of wind turbines” in Bluewater, adding that the form “should not be construed in any way as support for the project, and are only made in an effort to point out the shortfalls in the study work done to date, the issues that have not been fully examined and the requirements that the municipality will expect the proponent to fulfill should this application be approved.”
Mayor Bernie MacLellan responded that not all municipalities within Huron County oppose industrial wind turbines or will have to deal with the issue.
“ACW (Ashfield-Colborne-Wawanosh) seems quite content with the turbines up there and some municipalities, like Goderich, don’t have any issue at all,” he said.
Deputy-Mayor Joe Steffler said that while he would be in favour of joining with other municipalities as they create their road user agreements with industrial wind turbine companies, he isn’t in support of the political statements Bluewater is making.
“I would not support their comments because they’re taking a negative approach. It’s good to put in our own comments about how it affects our municipality but I would not support what they are doing,” he said.
When Seaforth Coun. Bob Fisher pointed out that Bluewater is asking for the transmission lines of the Next Era project to be buried, Knight responded that Next Era told him that burying the lines was “not a practical solution.”
“It would be unheard of to bury a line like that in a rural area,” he said.
Steffler remarked that if Bluewater is successful in getting Next Era to bury their lines, Huron East should expect the same treatment.
MacLellan said he agrees with Bluewater’s intention to hold industrial wind turbine companies to the rules.
“I fully believe if we do not think they met all the rules and regulations, we’ll stop them. That’s the only way we can take it on,” he said.
Steffler agreed saying, “For the past six months, the mayor said if the wind turbine people are doing everything by law, there’s not much we can do to stop them. Until we can prove they’re not doing it by the Green Energy Act, our hands are tied. Huron East is going to do everything by the letter of the law.”
Tuckersmith Coun. Larry McGrath said he’d like to see Huron East require the wind turbine companies guarantee a specific turnaround time in which complaints from community members will be addressed.
“We have people telling us they could not get a response from the company but when it hits the paper, they get a response. That’s a little bit troublesome to me,” he said.
MacLellan responded that when dealing with big companies, the only avenue seems to be litigation. He added that landowners who are currently negotiating with wind turbine companies could ask that a timeframe to deal with complaints be included in their contract.
“Can the municipality raise that question?” asked McGrath.
“We are not an agency that has any authority or can give any approval,” said MacLellan.
The mayor added that he was glad to see landowners having their properties tested for stray voltage before the project begins.
“That’s good due diligence and it becomes the property owners’ responsibility,” he said.