The turbine company that owns eight turbines south of Chatham-Kent Municipal Airport should do the right thing and remove them immediately, says Rick Nicholls.
The MPP for Chatham-Kent Essex said Wednesday the cost for removing the turbines – which has been ordered by Transport Canada – would be far less than having to pay a lawsuit involving a possible airplane accident and the adverse publicity that would follow.
Nicholls said the turbines should come down “sooner than later” to avoid a serious aviation accident or tragedy.
The MPP also said the eight turbines should be removed at the expense of GDF SUEZ, the company that owns them, and not at the expense of Chatham-Kent taxpayers.
“It’s a safety issue and the safety of people who make use of the airport is the No. 1 issue,” said Nicholls, in a telephone interview.
The MPP said he’s spoken with pilots who are concerned about the location of the turbines.
Nicholls said if the turbine company is the good corporate citizen it claims to be, it should take immediate steps to remove the turbines.
He took issue with a claim Wednesday by Dave Timm of GFD SUEZ that “it is not a safety issue but rather a zoning issue.”
“Zoning regulations are put in place for safety reasons,” countered Nicholls.
“This company needs to do the right thing and remove the turbines at their expense immediately.” he said. “If they are at fault they should fess up when they mess up.’
Timm, reached by phone in Vancouver, said his company has responded to concerns expressed by Transport Canada and hopes to meet with agency officials in the near future.
“In the meantime the airport continues to operate as usual and the turbines are operating as usual,” he said.
Timm emphasized that his company complied with all directions on safety issues it received from Transport Canada, NAV Canada, the Municipality of Chatham-Kent and the Chatham-Kent Municipal Airport.
Despite the order from Transport Canada, the eight wind turbines continue to rotate south of the airport.
Transport Canada spokesperson Tina Morris said the agency is working with the wind turbine company to set a practical deadline for removal.
Timm said the order caught him by surprise since it was leaked to the media before the company was notified.
He contends the location of the eight turbines was known by Transport Canada long before construction began.
He said the cost of each turbine is approximately $2 million.
The Daily News learned Mayor Randy Hope wrote to Transport Canada criticizing the agency for notifying the media of the order to remove the turbines before telling Timm’s company.
Morris said that on at least two occasions prior to the installation of the wind turbines, the agency advised the wind farm representatives that height restrictions were in effect in the area around the airport.
She said Transport Canada is enforcing safety rules and requires the removal of the eight wind turbines that are impeding the height restrictions imposed by the airport zoning regulations at the airport.
“Transport Canada does not approve wind turbines or wind farms,” she said. “Transport Canada’s role with respect to obstacles such as wind turbines is to assess them for lighting and marking requirements in support of aviation after in accordance with the Canadian Aviation Regulations.
“An assessment of a wind turbine or wind farm from Transport Canada does not constitute an authorization to construct, because land use falls under provincial/municipal jurisdiction,” she added.
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