THOROLD – The Green Energy Capital of Canada has waded into Wainfleet and West Lincoln’s fight against wind turbines.
In a 15-8 vote that drew applause from residents in the public gallery, regional council voiced support for the two townships as unwilling hosts for turbines.
But they shunned warnings that putting their flag in Wainfleet’s camp could put them in a conflict of interest given the Region’s existing 50% interest in a joint venture handling turbines in the area.
“Our communities are not opposed to the Green Energy Act, but we are opposed to losing our planning authority,” West Lincoln Mayor Doug Joyner said.
He said the turbines set to go up are the largest in Canada, but not enough is known about their potential health impacts.
“We’re losing our jurisdiction and we’re losing our authority,” he said. The Region, he said, must let the province know that can’t stand.
But Acting CAO Ken Brothers warned the Region could put itself in legal danger because of their ongoing joint venture, which is set to build five turbines. He said three Region directors sit on the board of Wind Energy Niagara.
The Region has policies on the books permitting turbines in certain situations. And council, he said, can’t pass any laws that violate its official plan.
He said the Region is currently negotiation road allowances with turbine builders.
The Region’s decision comes after it shot down a wind turbine moratorium last year and went on to dub itself the Green Energy Capital of Canada.
There’s no contradiction betwwen the vote and the moniker, said St. Catharines Coun. Andy Petrowski.
“We support municipalities at council and committee on a regular basis … for areas we don’t have jurisdiction in,” he said.
He pointed to Ontario’s slashing a massive green energy deal with Samsung by $3.7 billion as a sign that wind energy is on the decline.
“Clearly even the province is cutting back to its commitment on wind turbines at this time.”
Welland Mayor Barry Sharpe said the two townships deserve the Region’s backing, couching it as “moral support.”
Grimsby Coun. Debbie Zimmerman urged the Region to seek legal advice before making a decision. She said council needed to see how their move could affect their existing contracts.
“It’s my due diligence, on behalf of the taxpayers of Niagara that I represent, to ensure we’re not going to be in conflict,” she said.
After the vote, Port Colborne Mayor Vance Badawey asked Brothers to come back with a legal opinion. He said the vote may expose the Region and individual councillors to lawsuits.
And he compared the vote to the expensive cancellation by the province of gas plants in Oakville and Mississauga.
An earlier effort by Niagara Falls Coun. Selina Volpatti to defer the matter was defeated by one vote.
HOW THEY VOTED
To support Wainfleet and West Lincoln as unwilling hosts of wind turbines.
YEA: Councillors April Jeffs, Dave Eke, Doug Joyner, Bruce Timms, Doug Martin, Dave Lepp, George Marshall, Dave Augustyn, Alan Caslin, David Barrick, Ronna Katzman, Dan Fortier, Andy Petrowski, Jim Diodati and Barry Sharpe.
NAY: Councillors Brian Heit, Ted Luciani, Debbie Zimmerman, Selina Volpatti, Henry D’Angela, Barbara Greenwood, Bill Hodgson and Vance Badawey.
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