Municipalities are being given more say in hosting wind turbines, but Thursday’s announcement was met with cautious optimism by those who have opposed the massive wind developments in Grey-Bruce.
“I’d want to read it to make sure it’s not a bunch of grey stuff that doesn’t have any meaning,” said Mark Davis, founding chair of a multi-municipal wind turbine working group that’s been trying to stop the developments and help those who claim to have been made ill by the turbines.
Davis, who’s also deputy-mayor of Arran-Elderslie, called it a “positive step forward,” but fears the announcement and the scrapping of the large project stream of the Feed-in-tariff (FIT) program may not go far enough.
“There could be no more worse news than what we’ve been receiving for the last six years, so we’re due to head in the other direction,” Davis said of the announcement. “It sounds like good news. I don’t really trust government and the way they word things, so we’ll have to see if it’s clear and concise, or grey-worded mumbo jumbo. I hope it’s clear and concise.”
Davis said the next step remains helping those whose health has suffered from the turbines. “We can never lose sight of those people,” he said.
Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli announced the increased local control over future renewable energy projects. From now on, developers will have to work with municipalities and receive their approval before seeking approval from the Ontario Power Authority. As well, the province will work with municipalities to determine a property tax rate increase for wind turbines.
For Lorrie Gillis, chair of the Ontario Regional Wind Turbine Working Group just outside of Flesherton, the wording of the announcement is simply too vague.
“It doesn’t tell me whether projects already in the pipeline are still a go, it just doesn’t give me enough information, and it doesn’t address the problems we are trying to get help with, with existing turbines,” she said.
Health concerns remain an ongoing problem, as well as property devaluation, she said. Those issues “are still not being addressed.”
Gillis said she hopes that it will at least send a message to wind companies “that perhaps they can’t walk with such impunity anymore, that maybe they’ll have to actually work at putting turbines up.”
Shirley Teasdale, co-chair of the Bruce Peninsula Wind Turbine Action Group, said she hopes it spells the end to speculation of as many as 275 turbines going up on the peninsula. She’s cautious about the announcement though, because of the previous provision in the Green Energy Act that called for consultation with the community.
“The consultation was a farce,” she said. “(Wind companies) went in and held open houses and said this is what we’re going to do, and there was absolutely no opportunity for reaction from the community.”
Hanover Deputy-mayor Bob White said he would have liked to hear stronger wording Thursday.
“When push comes to shove, I don’t know that there’s an avenue for the municipalities to stop it,” he said. “I don’t think that’s being made clear at this point. From what I understand, it’s a step in the right direction, there’s no denying that, but I think it’s maybe one step short.”
White brought a motion to Grey County council in March calling for it to add its voice to a moratorium on new wind turbine developments. Nine of the 13 councillors at the meeting supported the call for the indefinite freeze until further studies provide “conclusive” evidence related to the impact of the industrial machines on human health.
Huron-Bruce MPP Lisa Thompson was critical of the Liberal government move.
“In brief, it’s too little too late, and the fact of the matter is, it’s not going to have any effect on my riding or communities across Ontario that already have projects approved or in the queue, past projects that already have the right to proceed,” she said. “They just continue to thumb their nose at municipalities and communities that continue to struggle with a variety of issues associated with industrial wind turbine development.”
Thompson is the deputy energy critic and has floated several private members bills dealing with wind developments. Her party would like to see municipalities have complete autonomy and veto power over turbine projects.
She doesn’t expect the announcement to politically harm her party, which has had a strong mandate on wind turbines for some time.
“Today’s announcement doesn’t change the field at all,” she said.
The Liberals haven’t been approving new wind development applications for a while now, she said, which amounts to an “unofficial moratorium. It’s going to be interesting to see where they’re going with this.”
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