The recent green light given the Jericho Wind Project has some demonstrators seeing red.
What had been peaceful demonstrations has now turned to anger, vandalism and criminal charges since energy company Nextera received its approval recently to build a 92-turbine industrial wind farm in Lambton and Middlesex counties.
That OK may have prompted the graffiti splashed on Grand Bend Highway 21 businesses and the municipal sign April 18.
The entry sign north to the Caldwell Banking sign “Stop wind power” was clearly written in red paint. At the Ausable Inn, one car was splashed in red paint and the tires slashed.
When asked if she was aware of the damage in Grand Bend and if her group of protesters had any knowledge of who did the spray painting, Lambton Shores resident Laureen Maurizio replied the act was deplorable and destructive and there would be “hell to pay” if she found out it was one of their protesters.
“We are here to educate; not aggravate,” she said.
Fellow protester Bob Lewis said while they have always displayed peaceful demonstrations, he could see that changing and become aggressive or violent as people become more frustrated.
The OPP charged two protesters recently with assault and uttering threats following a March 18 meeting at South Huron council.
“This whole Green Energy Act is unconstitutional! It was done in a manner that prevented public input and impeded the democratic oath taken by government officials,” said Maurizio.
She has called on council to request the Ontario Ombudsman to launch a criminal investigation into the Ontario Ministry of Energy, Ontario Energy Board, Ontario Power Generation, Hydro One and the Ministry of Environment, as it relates to the Green Energy Act.
Bill Weber, mayor of the Municipality of Lambton Shores, told the QMI Agency “it’s disappointing that it would come to this in Lambton Shores.”
Even more frustrating for Weber is that the municipality – which includes Grand Bend – is one of nearly 100 unwilling host communities in Ontario.
The municipality has been fighting to keep turbines out of the community and stands largely on the same side as those in the anti-wind movement.
“Everyone understands the frustration that the anti-wind people have, that’s the frustration the municipality has with the Green Energy Act,” Weber said, adding he does not believe this destruction helps to further the protesters’ cause.
Provincial approval to build 92 new wind turbines near Grand Bend was handed down recently and although Grand Bend is not directly involved in the wind debate, yet, the businesses may have been targeted because they are close to homes and apartments being rented by wind company employees.
“The OPP understands this is a very sensitive issue in our communities. Bottom line is, it’s mischief, it’s against the law and we’re not going to tolerate this,” said Lambton County OPP Const. Chrystal Jones.
Weighing in on social media, one poster said “Shameful! This is not about wind power being a good or bad thing – this is about morons out vandalizing neigbourhoods!”
Another agreed, stating “Did they think this was going to change anything? What a bunch of fools!”
Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment has issued a Renewable Energy Approval (REA) for the company’s proposal to build a 150-megawatt wind farm spanning Lambton Shores, Warwick Township and North Middlesex.
Some final details still need to be worked out, but construction of the Jericho Wind Energy Centre is expected to begin as soon as possible, said Ben Greenhouse, director of development with Nextera Energy Canada.
The project has been in the works since 2008, he said, and was submitted for ministry approval 14 months ago.
“We’re excited,” he said, noting a laydown yard – headquarters for construction – will soon be built on Thomson Line, north of Jericho Road and south of Northville Road.
But not everyone is enthused about the approval.
Lambton Shores resident Marcelle Brooks, with the Middlesex-Lambton Wind Action Group, has been a vocal opponent of the project.
“It was just devastating that our voices simply aren’t being heard.”
Members of the Lakeshore Coalition met with the Middlesex-Lambton Wind Action Group to discuss what actions can be taken to appeal the decision.
“The fight isn’t over yet,” Brooks said. “The ministry’s working against us; we have industry working against us. But we’re fighting for our homes, for our communities.”
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