Enniskillen Township residents should feel free to exercise their right to remain silent when wind energy companies come calling, says Mayor Kevin Marriott.
EDF EN Canada has reportedly been approaching residents and groups about its Churchill Wind Project proposal, a 100- to 150-MW wind farm it wants to build in Enniskillen and neighbouring Plympton-Wyoming.
Marriott said he turned down a request from the company to meet with township council, and urged others in the community to do the same.
“We’re unwilling hosts,” Marriott said. “We’re not interested, end of discussion.”
Enniskillen Township was among about 80 Ontario municipalities declaring themselves unwilling hosts for wind turbines after the provincial government said it was changing how it awards renewable energy contracts.
The 2009 Green Energy Act took away municipalities’ planning powers for wind projects, leading to an outcry from many rural communities and municipal councils. Last year, the province said a new system of awarding renewable energy projects will require companies to work with municipalities.
“It will be very, very difficult for a developer to be approved without municipal engagement, in some significant way,” Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli said last June.
But Marriott said until the province clarifies what it means by municipal engagement, “We’re being vigilant.”
He advised the anti-wind turbine group, Conservation of Rural Enniskillen (CORE), against meeting with the company.
“I said, ‘Whatever you do, don’t consult with them because they may be able to use that as a checkmark,'” Marriott said.
“Who knows what could be construed as public consultation.”
CORE also ran newspaper ads urging township residents to not speak with wind company representatives.
Lambton County has 14 wind turbines in Lambton Shores and Brooke-Alvinston Township, but construction has begun on the 92-turbine Jericho wind project, and Suncor Energy is awaiting provincial approval for its 46-turbine Cedar Point project. Both new projects sit north of Highway 402 in Lambton.
Brooke Leystra, president of the Lambton Federation of Agriculture, said it also turned down the wind company’s request to meet because the group represents farmers on both sides of the turbine debate.
“We didn’t want it to be misconstrued as us working with them, in any way,” Leystra said.
By early June, Ontario is expected to finalize its plan for awarding contracts for up to 300 megawatts of new wind-generated electricity this year, and a similar amount in 2015.
“The government has been really wishy-washy on what this new process does consist of,” Marriott said.
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