The Canadian Auto Workers union will not comply with a request from Saugeen Shores council to await the results of a Health Canada study before turning on its controversial wind turbine in Port Elgin, says CAW national president Ken Lewenza.
He said the union was “shocked” to receive the request in a letter last week since it was never mentioned during a recent meeting between union officials and the town’s mayor and deputy mayor.
“Obviously it’s politically driven,” Lewenza said in an interview.
He said the CAW has followed all legal and regulatory requirements for new turbines and will not delay turning it on. The turbine will be powered up once it is hooked up to the grid, which he said could happen any day now.
“We’re ready to go.”
Saugeen Shores council voted last week to formally ask the CAW to postpone activating the lone turbine, which was built at its Family Education Centre, until Health Canada completes a planned study on the relationship between turbine noise and human health. Results of the study are expected in 2014.
Deputy-mayor Luke Charbonneau said council agreed to make the request to the CAW after being asked to do so by the Saugeen Shores anti-turbine group STOP.
“There was nothing sinister or anything about it. I’m not sure what Mr. Lewenza is getting at when he says it was politically driven,” he said.
Charbonneau said he too has concerns about the turbine and the possible impact it will have on the health of people living nearby.
“We don’t know what the impacts are going to be,” he said.
The CAW turbine project is highly contentious.
Saugeen Shores council tried to stop its construction in 2006 by voting down a rezoning application to permit turbines. The CAW appealed and won at an Ontario Municipal Board hearing in 2007. Council also approved a 2,000-metre setback for wind turbines in 2011, but the rule has no teeth since turbine approvals rest with the province under the Green Energy Act.
Opponents of the project, including members of the Saugeen Turbine Operation Policy (STOP), say the turbine was built too close to homes and, as a result, threatens the health and safety of many people and will reduce the value of nearby residential properties.
About 100 homes are within 550 metres of the turbine, which is the minimum setback set out in the Green Energy Act. The turbine is exempt from the act since approval was granted before it became law.
The CAW has said the project is an “important milestone” in the union’s efforts to “build a more sustainable future.” It has said it has taken all necessary precautions to address possible impacts on the community, including from noise, and has adhered to all federal and provincial regulations.
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