Four Ontario cabinet ministers have been given the job of devising ways to give local residents more say in where renewable energy projects like wind farms can be located.
It’s a politically urgent task for the Liberals, who were almost wiped out in rural Ontario in the last election.
Anger over the lack of local control over renewable energy projects, especially wind farms, hurt the Liberals in some areas.
The Green Energy Act removes renewable energy projects from municipal planning and zoning control.
Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli, Environment Minister Jim Bradley, Municipal Affairs Minister Linda Jeffrey and Rural Affairs Minister Jeff Leal are have formed a working group on how to give local residents a voice.
“I’m working closely with my Cabinet colleagues to strengthen local control when it comes to the siting of renewable energy projects” Chiarelli said in an e-mail.
He didn’t say what options are being considered.
“We have a clear understanding that we need to make some course corrections to ensure that the process of siting renewable energy projects respects communities and respects municipalities,” he said.
He would only say that proposals would be coming in the “near future.”
Chiarelli’s press secretary Beckie Codd-Downey said the work is “well under way,” but wouldn’t give a time when it will be completed.
Wind farms have divided local communities. They’re popular with farmers and landowners who have leased their land for wind turbines. But many residents say they’re ugly, and some complain of serious health problems that they attribute to turbine noise and vibrations.
The project assigned to the four ministers is separate from another assignment given to the Ontario Power Authority and the Independent Electricity System Operator.
They been asked to come up with a plan by Aug. 1 to do a better job of locating large energy projects like gas-fire generating plants.
The Liberals are in political hot water for cancelling big gas plants in Mississauga and Oakville, and relocating them to sites near Sarnia and Napanee at a cost of $585 million.