Grey Highlands is hoping to take advantage of a loophole in the Green Energy Act to enact a bylaw that would freeze the issuing of permits controlled by council, slowing down the placing of industrial wind turbines in the municipality.
Chief administrative officer Dan Best stressed the proposed bylaw doesn’t purport to stop industrial wind turbines, but delay them until it can be determined whether they cause health problems.
The bylaw has the support of Grey Highlands Renewable Energy Working Group, a grassroots organization that has been challenging wind energy projects in the municipality.
“The proposed Grey Highlands bylaw is designed to effect a pause in wind development in our municipality to enable us to step back pending clarification of known and suspected problem with this technology,”said Doug Dingeldein, a spokesperson for the group at a public meeting before council last week. (April 14)
“The bylaw freezes the approval process but does not stop a project from moving forward if issues are resolved. It’s an effort to restore to council a mechanism for local control, planning control, that the province has sought to strip away” under the Green Energy Act.
Three new projects totalling 19 turbines are in the final stages of approval in the Maxwell/Hatherton area of Grey Highlands.
Dingeldein emphasized that both the federal and provincial governments have embarked on lengthy studies into the health issues related to living near wind turbines.
“Early findings in the provincial study . . . show a causal relationship between health issues and industrial wind turbines, but the report is not yet final. Prudence would suggest that we need to wait until the verdict is in,” said Dingeldein.
Not everyone at the meeting supports the proposed bylaw.
Philip Allanson of Flesherton described the proposed bylaw as a health and safety issue with intent of making life in Grey Highlands risk free, something he says is unreasonable.
He said there’s no mention of bodily injury or people dying from living near wind turbines, yet every year thousands of people are killed or injured on the country’s roads and highways without any thought of closing them.
“Why not? Because we weight benefit versus risk for roads. But council wants there to be no risk associated with electricity we use,” said Allanson.
He closed by challenging council to make better use of its resources.
“Invest your time as a council and our money in more essential issues, such as jobs for our young people,” he said.
Dingeldein talked about whether Grey Highlands’ proposed bylaw could withstand a legal challenge by wind energy developers.
He became aware of a loophole as a result of a recent legal challenge by the municipality of Wainfleet to the 550-metre minimum setback.
The lawyer acting on behalf of Wainfleet Wind Energy discovered there is no legislation to prohibit or strike down municipal bylaws when it comes to industrial wind energy projects.
Dingeldein explained that under the Green Energy Act most bylaws apply to the extent that they would prevent or restrict a designated renewable energy project with certain exceptions relating to health, safety and heritage and the environment.
However, under Ontario Regulation 15/10, Sect. 5 of the Green Energy Act, wind energy is not one of the designated renewable energy projects. Solar energy and other forms are mentioned, but wind projects are not.
“Our proposed bylaw stands on the shoulders of this opinion and declares the municipality’s rights under the Municipal Act to protect the health and safety of its citizens.
“It freezes the municipal approval process until the municipality is satisfied that the healthy and safety issues are no longer an issue,”said Dingeldein.
The proposed bylaw will come up for discussion and a vote by council later this month.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding