MUSKOKA – Despite amendments to the Feed-In Tariff (FIT) program announced last week, municipalities are as powerless in the final say as they were before.
“It leaves the citizens under the impression something has changed when indeed they did not restore any decision-making rights,” said PC energy critic and Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli. “Only the province makes the final decision.”
On May 30, energy minister Bob Chiarelli announced changes to the FIT green energy subsidy program said to increase municipal control over future projects.
Through changes to the large project stream, those producing over 500 kilowatts of renewable energy, developers and planners will now be required to work directly with municipalities to identify appropriate locations and site requirements. However, the new policy does not restore a municipality’s ability to veto a project.
In 2009, the province stripped municipalities of their right to approve green energy projects leaving the decision-making solely in the hands of the provincial government, which has approved multiple projects, some on Crown land, under the umbrella of the FIT program despite public outcry.
Fedeli said the decision to ignore the opinion of the voters is exactly what prompted Chiarelli’s announcement.
“They lost the support of northern Ontario because of their faulty Green Energy Act, so this is a smoke and mirrors attempt to try to win back those voters,” Fedeli said.
He also added the province has pushed the heat onto municipal leaders by implying they now have some say in where wind and solar projects will end up, even though they are still essentially powerless.
“There can’t be one mayor in Ontario that is happy with this announcement today,” he said.
Chiarelli also announced plans to work with municipalities to determine more appropriate property taxes for wind turbine projects, a decision that would stand to benefit the municipal pocketbook.
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