Lambton Shores Council has joined dozens of municipalities which say they are ‘not willing hosts’ to industrial wind turbines.
Municipalities have had little say in the planning of the projects since the province brought in the Green Energy Act. It overruled any local planning authority. At the time, then- Premier Dalton McGuinty said it would stop people from objecting to the projects simply because they didn’t want them in their backyards.
But since then, rural communities have organized lobbying groups trying to impress upon local government and the province there are health concerns associated with the industrial turbines even as big energy companies began planning projects around the province.
In Lambton Shores, 267 of turbines will soon dot the landscape including two major projects by Suncor Energy (46 turbines), NextEra Energy’s Jericho project with 92 turbines.
Lambton Shores has been carefully pouring over the projects, hoping to offer comment to the Ministry of the Environment on areas where residents are have voiced concerned, such as how far the turbines are from homes, stray voltage, and the health effects from sound vibrations.
Lambton Shores has asked for a moratorium on wind development until a health study by the federal government is complete, but so far the province hasn’t responded.
So Roy Merkley of Grand Bend asked council to go one step further, to declare the municipality an unwilling host to turbines. “I am very skeptical if these declarations of unwillingness will have any real affect, but I believe that we are required to at least try if we believe we are doing the right thing,” Merkley wrote to council, adding Premier Kathleen Wynne has said she won’t force municipalities into having the turbines if they are not a willing host. “It can send a strong message.”
Mayor Bill Weber says council declared it was unwilling not because it is against renewable energy projects but because of the province’s handling of the issue.
“It wasn’t a motion against green energy,” he says “it was against the process and the province not giving us the local control.”
And Weber agrees with Merkley it may not have much of an effect.
But anti-wind activists are still pleased. “We’re grateful to council for acknowledging so many people in this community do not support the saturation of turbines in our community,” says Marcelle Brooks of Middlesex Lambton Wind Concerns. “(The unwilling host declaration) is not about supporting renewable energy…it’s about democracy; it’s about demanding democracy.”
And Brooks says even if the label doesn’t make a difference when the Ministry of the Environment is approving projects, local governments have to stand up and be heard.
“We have to add our voice…we have to continue demanding democracy and demanding our voice be heard,” says Brooks.