Given Ontario’s energy rules, Melancthon Mayor Bill Hill wasn’t surprised to learn Dufferin Wind Power Inc.’s wind farm is getting the green light from the province.
“This is a government that just frankly doesn’t care what the public or local politicians say,” Hill lamented. “They have their own agenda and they just simply don’t care.”
The way Melancthon officials learned about Dufferin Wind’s approval on Tuesday afternoon (June 10) might just reinforce Hill’s frustration with the province.
At about 3:20 p.m., officials with the province’s Ministry of Energy told The Banner that Dufferin Wind Power Inc.’s plan to construct a 49-turbine wind farm in Melancthon had received Renewable Energy Approval (REA).
A few minutes later, Hill was astonished to learn Dufferin Wind’s proposed 99 MW wind farm had been approved from the media, and not from the province.
Apparently, The Banner was informed before township staff in the project’s host municipality.
“You think somebody would notify us and let us know,” said Melancthon CAO Denise Holmes. “I’m just surprised that we’re not supposed to be notified. We’re the host municipality.”
Ministry of Environment spokesperson Lindsay Davidson said numerous arms of the government, including project evaluators, engineers, scientists and technical experts from the Ministry of the Environment, the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport, and the Ministry of Natural Resources, reviewed the project.
“This project like all REA applications accepted by the ministry was carefully reviewed by a team of inter-ministerial experts,” Davidson said in an email to The Banner. “The review team ensured the application satisfied all regulatory requirements.”
Although approved, Dufferin Wind will have several conditions placed on the operation, including preparing a traffic management plan, which will be provided to Melancthon and Dufferin County as well as enter into a road users agreement.
“The conditions reflect the concerns raised during the pre-application consultation process and the direct municipal, public and Aboriginal community input received during the review process,” Davidson said.
As well, Dufferin Wind will be required to complete an acoustic emission audit to assess noise created by its equipment; comply with ministry noise emission limits at all times and implement a natural heritage monitoring program, including keeping an eye on bird and bat populations.
As well, Dufferin Wind must notify the ministry of any complaints it receives regarding construction, operation or retirement of the facility.
The REA approval comes just days after Ontario’s Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli announced sweeping changes would be made to the province’s green energy rules on May 30.
While he pledged municipalities would be given a stronger role in the consulting process with energy developers, Chiarelli noted they wouldn’t be granted enough power to kibosh projects on their own.
“A municipality can’t say no. The new rules, however, give the municipality a much stronger role,” he said, noting rule changes wouldn’t apply to companies, such as Dufferin Wind, that had already started the approval process. “The new structure makes it very, very difficult for a developer to have a contract approved without a significant engagement with the municipality.”
Hill wasn’t a believer then, and he sure isn’t buying it now. He noted the province’s Green Energy Act still strips municipalities from having any final say in the process, and forbids them from being able to appeal any decisions made by the province.
“The new rules, in my opinion, do absolutely nothing,” Hill said. “It’s just more smoke and mirrors from a government that is intent on bullying their agenda through the province.”
Going by population numbers found in the recent census, Melancthon will have a turbine for every 17 people, now that Dufferin Wind’s project has received approval.
“I think that number is a little high,” Hill responded. “The reality is that we’re probably the most densely populated turbine per person in Ontario. Enough is enough.”
Melancthon council was initially scheduled to hold a special council meeting to deal with the latest version of a road agreement with Dufferin Wind later this week. There will be some new talking points to discuss now.
“We’ll obviously have to deal with that issue as well,” Hill said. “I’ll advise our CAO and so on, and we’ll go from there.”
— with files from Bill Tremblay
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