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Clarington mayor wary about promise on wind farm input

CLARINGTON – The Provincial government promised more community input on wind turbine placement in its throne speech Tuesday, but it’s still too early to celebrate, according to Clarington Mayor Adrian Foster.

“The issue is these things are being imposed on a community. If they give us the power to do the same thing, I’m not sure it’s anything different… Nothing changes,” said Mayor Foster. “We get a little bit nervous when the Province says ‘OK, you do it.’ Do we jump out of the frying pan and into the fire?”

Mayor Foster said that more control would be nice for municipalities. However, he worries that it will land local governments in hot water – saying no to wind farm developers because the project is not right for a community but without the scientific expertise on staff to back up the decision if taken to court.

“We end up in court spending thousands of taxpayers’ dollars for something we can’t win,” said Mayor Foster. “It puts us between a rock and a hard place.”

He said he’d prefer to see a bottom-up approach, in which wind farms are placed where the community wants them and all residents impacted benefit from the turbines.

Mayor Foster pointed to a recent Dutch study that found residents near wind farms who benefited from them financially weren’t getting sick from the turbines. The findings point to one theory that annoyance is a contributing factor to why some neighbours of wind turbines report a range of ailments from headaches to sleep disturbances.

Mayor Foster said by that reasoning, community support for a wind farm might help prevent health impacts for residents.

For years, Clarington council has been asking for a moratorium on wind farms until more studies can be done on their impacts on residents.

There are no details yet on how the Province will allow for greater community input on future wind turbines.

The changes come too late to impact two wind farms planned for Clarington, 10 turbines slated to go in east of Orono and five turbines planned for Port Granby.

Ontario’s Green Energy Act took control for these projects out of the hands of municipalities. The Province approved the new alternative energy and had control over safety regulations.