Is the Ontario government trying to make peace with rural communities on the controversial issue of industrial wind turbines?
It’s certainly a question being asked after the province recently announced plans to improve how large energy projects are sited in Ontario.
In a recent letter, the Ministry of Energy asked the Ontario Power Authority and the Independent Electricity System Operator to help develop a new regional energy planning process.
Under this new protocol, municipalities, the energy sector and other stakeholders are expected to be formally consulted about proposed projects, according to the Ministry of Energy.
However, officials aren’t sure yet how this process would work under the existing Ontario Green Energy Act.
“We are working closely with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Ministry of Rural Affairs and the Ministry of the Environment on developing a strategy to increase local control when it comes to the siting of future large green energy projects,” a Ministry of Energy spokesperson wrote in an email. “That process would be consistent with an improved regional energy planning process – communities must have a stronger voice and real engagement in decision making.”
While Ontario municipalities have been calling for greater oversight, Plympton-Wyoming Mayor Lonny Napper isn’t sold on the proposed process.
Napper said he’s still awaiting to hear the results from a federal study on the possible health effects of wind turbines.
Results from this multi-year study are expected in late 2014.
“My stance right from the start is it doesn’t matter where they go as long as they can prove there aren’t any health effects on people,” Napper said.
Before the province moves ahead, that glaring question of safety needs to be answered, he noted.
“You can come up with different agencies and everything else to get approvals, but that still doesn’t tell me that they’re safe,” he added.
Plympton-Wyoming is currently caught in a legal battle with Suncor Energy over the township’s wind turbine bylaw provisions, including a two-kilometre setback.
Under provincial rules, wind turbines are only required to be built at least 550 metres away from neighbouring properties.
Napper said he’s heard from several property owners in other communities who have experienced health effects living near wind farms.
“I talked to a fellow for over an hour the other day who said he wasn’t against the turbines when they first got them,” Napper said. “Now he goes back to his bush to cut wood and within two hours, he’s got to come up and lay down because he’s got such a headache.”
Napper said the issue has also split up some communities.
“Rural Ontario has always been a friendly little place,” he said. “You waved at everybody. It’s not like that anymore.”
Both the Ontario Power Authority and the Independent Electricity System Operator are expected to report back to the province by Aug. 1.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding