An anonymous letter sent to The Free Press threatening every farmer who works on land with wind turbines is sparking alarm on both sides of the debate and has prompted an investigation by the OPP.
With the heading “Notice to all Farmers and Custom Farming Operators,” the single-page letter reads: “Any field that has an industrial wind turbine will be subject to having foreign materials placed in the crops which will result in very serious damage to any harvesting equipment.” The letter is signed, “Regards, Your neighbours.”
The envelope included no return address.
“It is a pretty complex issue, but we are not going to sit back and tolerate any mischief or vandalism,” OPP Sgt. Dave Rektor said Monday. “Criminal acts are going to be looked at on their own merit and dealt with accordingly and appropriately.”
“There is a difference between a peaceful protest and trying to further someone’s agenda through vandalism,” Rektor said.
The threat to sabotage farm fields hosting wind turbines follows an arson attack just weeks ago on a wind turbine installation in Haldimand County that caused $60,000 damage.
Last summer, a wind farm employee in West Grey told police he was threatened by a shotgun-wielding man who said he would kill the employee if the employee came back to the area again.
The acts of vandalism and threats follow years of bitter exchanges between advocates and opponents of the massive industrial wind farm development under way in Ontario.
Opponents maintain the turbines are lowering property values and damaging their health, while proponents point to job creation and zero-emission energy produced by the wind farms.
But both sides in the debate that has split rural Ontario and fuelled an urban-rural divide condemned the latest criminal tactics.
Wind energy supporters added that the latest threats should prompt opponents to turn down the rhetoric and allow for a calmer debate.
“When there are threats of violence, that seems to me there is a big problem here,” said Gary Zavitz, a co-founder of Friends of Wind and London-area wind energy advocate.
“I think we do need to sit down at the table. I think cooler heads need to prevail.”
Zavitz pointed the finger at the Opposition Progressive Conservatives for making the issue a partisan one and wind energy opponents for “running on emotion.”
But he also blamed the Liberal government for doing a poor job selling wind energy to Ontario and for taking away local decision-making from municipal councils.
“I understand why some of the families are mad. And councils too. Until that’s addressed, we’re going to have this rural-urban divide and it’s not healthy.”
Wind energy opponents distanced themselves from the threats.
“This is appalling,” Jane Wilson, president of Wind Concerns Ontario, said Monday. “There is enough ammunition against wind turbine projects just on the economics, the health and the environmental impacts.”
Wind Concerns Ontario has spearheaded opposition to wind farms across the province and would never condone threats and vandalism, Wilson said.
“We don’t even talk about such things. It’s not effective and it’s silly.”
Robert Hornung, president of the Canadian Wind Energy Association that represents hundreds of companies involved in the sector, said the wind industry in Ontario works diligently to ensure citizens are treated with respect and it expects the same for its hard-working employees.
“CanWea strongly supports the right of all citizens to engage in a respectful and fact-based dialogue on wind energy, whether they support wind energy or not, but it’s unacceptable and illegal for any participant in such a dialogue to threaten, harass or advocate criminal behaviour,” Hornung said in an e-mail.
Farmers shouldn’t be punished for simply doing their job, feeding cities, said Friends of Wind co-founder and Kincardine resident Jutta Splettstoesser.
“That is really sad. Why would you want to harm a farmer?”
Splettstoesser said she’s been threatened, attacked and had her car windshield shattered by a pellet gun, but won’t back down.
“We should not be silent. We teach our kids to stand up to bullying. Wind is not going away even if somebody is going to destroy a farmer’s combine.”
Despite the rhetoric and threats, Splettstoesser said she’s optimistic people on both sides of the debate are willing to talk about the issues.
Wind farms have also been the target of sabotage south of the border, where turbines and transformer stations have been damaged by gunfire.
WHAT THE LETTER SAYS:
“Notice to all Farmers and Custom Farming Operations.
Any field that has an industrial wind turbine will be subject to have foreign materials placed in the crops which will result in very serious damage to any harvesting equipment.
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