West Lincoln residents urged council and the team behind a proposed industrial wind farm to demand the province delay approved turbine projects until results of a Health Canada study are known.
Several residents took to the mic during Monday night’s planning and development committee to speak against the 230-megawatt project proposed by Niagara Region Wind Corp., which was scheduled to provide council with an update at Monday’s meeting. Almost all touched on the study which federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq announced in July. The study, says a press release, will explore the relationship between wind turbine noise and health effects reported by, and objectively measured in, people living near wind power developments. Several residents urged council to demand Premier Dalton McGuinty and his Liberal government put a moratorium on all industrial wind turbine projects until the results of the study are known in 2014.
St. Anns resident Mary Kovacs read from a 2011 CBC report on wind farms that found the system used to measure health impacts from the storeys-high turbines was “flawed” and “inadequate.” She requested council ask Niagara Region’s public health department to survey all residents living within three kilometres of the proposed turbines to have a record of their current health conditions. That, she said, could be used to prove the turbines have impacted the health of neighbouring residents.
Wellandport resident Carole Barker read from a letter the West Lincoln Wind Action Group recently sent Premier McGuinty asking the Ontario government to ask all industrial wind turbine proponents approved under the provincial Feed-in-Tarriff program to voluntarily comply with a moratorium until results of the study are known.
Barker said the ones that care about the communities they are building in would wait, others, that are in it for money, would not.
“What will be the consequences of this steady rush to wind power?” she asked. “If there are any health effects, then we will sue. All of us non-participating neighbours will band together and seek legal, financial restitution.”
She said if all the “non-participating” neighbours of the NRWC project were to seek $500,000 each, it would amount to a class-action lawsuit of $1.75 billion. That number she said, is likely pale to the true amount after all FIT wind projects are taken into consideration.
“Can wind energy companies, including NRWC, financially compensate all the non-participating neighbours?” she asked, following that up with asking if the province could afford to compensate them as well.
“As co-defenders, can the Ontario government afford to cover the cost because they did not pause?” she asked. “Is rushing with wind power worth it?”
She then quoted a newspaper article about a motion passed by the council of North Middlesex demanding the Ontario government put a moratorium on all IWT projects until 2014, when the health study results are expected to be released. She asked that her council do the same.
Catherine Mitchell, John Dykstra, Helen Kzan, Clifford Travis and an emotional Sue Atkins were among others to address council Monday and express similar concerns.
“What gives them the right to take away everything we’ve worked hard for?” asked Atkins, referring to the “dream home” and stable she and her husband built 13 years ago, which is within two kilometres of seven turbines proposed by NRWC. “Not just to us, but to all of the people in this room.”
Atkins also expressed concern for the health of her horses.
NRWC principal Robert Daniels thanked the residents and council for sharing their concerns, in his opening statements to council. He said he and his team, consisting of NRWC spokesperson Randi Rahamim and Al Leggatt, a consultant with Stantec, listened to and respected everything said.
Rahamim outlined the company’s progress with the 77-turbine project since it last met with council, which included the release of a draft turbine map, an announcement of an upcoming meeting and an announcement by turbine-maker Enercon, manufacturer of the NRWC project, to build a facility in Beamsville.
Rahamim said the study area was revised due to an increase in landowner interest in the West Lincoln area which resulted in three more turbines being located in that community. Members of council questioned why none were to be erected in Pelham, which was originally included in the plan, and why the portion of Wainfleet included in the study was lessened. Council questioned if the bylaw passed by Wainfleet council to increase the minimum setback distance to three kilometres from the provincial guideline of 550 metres had anything to do with the changes.
Rahamim said the change was solely based on landowner interest and that Wainfleet’s bylaw had absolutely no impact on the turbine mapping process.
Taking a cue from the residents who spoke prior to the update from NRWC, planning chair Ald. Sue-Ellen Merritt asked if NRWC would welcome a moratorium.
“I absolutely support the idea of putting these projects on hold until the health study is complete,” said Merritt. “The province is putting the cart before the horse here.
“What would be the worst thing about having to wait for the study results?” she asked the NRWC delegation.
Rahamim said the company would be in breech of contract with the province if they put their project on hold voluntarily. If it was mandatory, she said they would have to follow provincial direction “but I wouldn’t say we’d be happy about it.”
Rahamim, Daniels and Leggatt did not have all the answers to questions asked by council and members of the public, but invited them to ask those same questions to the project team at a Thursday, Sept. 20 public meeting at Smithville Christian High School, 6488 Smithville Townline Rd from 5-8 p.m.