SOUTH HURON – Citing a desire not to waste taxpayers’ money, South Huron council has decided not to support the Municipality of Bluewater’s appeal of Northland Power’s Grand Bend Wind Farm project.
South Huron held a committee of the whole meeting in the afternoon of Aug. 11 to deal with six requests it had recently received from James Corcoran of the local Trees Not Turbines group.
As previously reported, Bluewater has decided to appeal both the Northland Grand Bend turbine project and the NextEra Goshen project.
Corcoran’s first request to South Huron was that it support the appeal of the Grand Bend project.
Coun. Dennis Hockey said after South Huron has consulted with its lawyer, it has determined such appeals “are not winnable” because the province has taken away municipalities’ power.
“According to our lawyer,” Hockey explained, “if we try to fight this, we’re fighting a losing battle and we’ll pour taxpayers’ dollars down the drain, so I do not support this resolution.”
The rest of the committee agreed with Hockey’s statements, with Coun. Bill Francis saying, “There’s not much we can do to win this, and again, we’re spending taxpayers’ money on something we’re going to lose.”
Coun. Tom Tomes agreed, with Coun. Wayne DeLuca adding that the province has made it so municipalities or groups would have no success in any appeals. He said an appeal north of Sault Ste. Marie was thrown out by the judge “in about an hour.”
DeLuca said the province had “no dialogue” with the municipalities.
“They put municipal councils under the gun and for us to proceed with this, you’re going into a war that you simply are unable to have any success (in) . . . I think we’re just throwing out taxpayers’ money (if South Huron appeals).”
Deputy Mayor Jim Dietrich added the province “took the Planning Act away from us,” while Coun. David Frayne echoed the comments about the concerns of wasting taxpayers’ money by appealing.
Corcoran’s second request was that South Huron send a letter to the Ontario Ombudsman and the Minister of the Environment requesting that NextEra’s Goshen project not be approved due to serious unresolved community concerns.
By the time South Huron held its committee of the whole meeting to discuss the issue, the Goshen project had already been approved by the Ministry of the Environment, although it is now being appealed by Bluewater.
Hockey said South Huron has been doing what it has been able to do regarding wind turbine projects, noting the municipality recently denied a noise bylaw exemption request that asked that construction be allowed to take place through the night.
The rest of council noted South Huron can’t request the Goshen project not be approved, because it already has been.
A third request from Corcoran saw him asking for South Huron to appeal the Goshen project’s approval, but the appeal period had already expired by the time South Huron held last week’s meeting.
In a fourth request, Corcoran asked South Huron to join the Multi-Municipal Turbine Working Group and accept the group’s draft terms of reference.
Council opted not to do this, with Hockey saying, “Any areas that we are able to negotiate with the contractors we are working through our lawyer to do that, and our lawyer is looking at what other municipalities are doing and referencing that to move forward on and get the best deal that we can possibly get. So we are doing everything we can, in my mind.”
The rest of council agreed, saying South Huron is working with its lawyer on turbine issues.
To Corcoran’s request that council send a letter to request the Office of the Ombudsman investigate the Renewable Energy Approval process, the committee agreed to have staff bring a report back to council for further discussion.
Chief administrative officer Steve McAuley said staff can come up with language on a letter in which the municipality can express the issues it has had with the turbine project process and the Green Energy Act.
Hockey said, “We do object to the process and certainly I would very much approve making that statement.”
Francis agreed, saying if enough councils send letters to the Ombudsman, municipalities might get some of its control back over renewable energy projects.
Tomes and DeLuca agreed, with DeLuca cautioning that the Liberals just won a majority government in Ontario and “now has total control.”
Referring to Toronto’s heavy support of the Liberals in the recent election, Mayor George Robertson added, “It’s too bad the rest of Ontario is controlled by one city. That, to me, is not right, but that’s where they have the most votes.”
Dietrich agreed with sending a letter to the Ombudsman expressing concerns about the turbine projects. He said he thinks there will be a second round of such projects in the future and would like South Huron to have a say.
A sixth request from Corcoran asked council to send a letter to the Minister of Health asking the Chief Medical Officer of Health “be prepared to understand and deal with the significant and growing environmental health problems caused by industrial wind turbines.”
Again, staff will draft a letter from South Huron’s perspective and bring it back to council for further discussion.
The committee agreed the health effects from wind turbines should be further looked into.
During comments from the public, Exeter’s Dianne Waun expressed her disappointment that South Huron isn’t helping Bluewater with that municipality’s appeals of the Grand Bend and Goshen projects.
“We were at the Bluewater meeting when they decided to appeal Northland,” Waun said, “And it’s a real disappointment that the atmosphere in this room is so much different from the one we experienced there.”
Robertson said of Bluewater, “What they do is none of our business. How they do it is also none of our business. What we do here is what we do here. Because we don’t support some of these things doesn’t mean that we like to see these things (turbines) . . . What we’re not prepared to do is spend taxpayers’ money foolishly, because they’re not going to win either.”
Crediton’s Sue Muller said while council didn’t hold a meeting to discuss appealing the Goshen project until after the appeal period had lapsed, she said the municipality could have submitted an intention to appeal – the municipality wouldn’t have had to go through with the appeal, but it would have made a public statement and allowed them to express some of their concerns with the process, she added.
Waun said, “There are degrees of unwillingness, and I just would like to see a stronger sense of unwillingness from South Huron.”