Apparently the Wynne government didn’t hear Norfolk council last year when it declared itself “an unwilling host” for future wind farm development.
Wednesday, the Ministry of the Environment gave the green light for a 10-megawatt turbine development in Port Ryerse. The project was initiated several years ago by UDI Renewables of Nanticoke and later sold to green energy giant Boralex.
The approval comes as a surprise to residents of Port Ryerse who oppose the project and members of Norfolk council who declared the county an unwilling host.
Soon after she took over from disgraced premier Dalton McGuinty, Kathleen Wynne promised modifications to the Green Energy Act that would give municipalities a greater say in the placement of renewable power projects. Responding to the concerns of their taxpayers, dozens of Ontario municipalities declared themselves unwilling hosts for green energy development.
Some municipal politicians at the time – Norfolk Mayor Dennis Travale among them – expressed skepticism about the weight of this new-found input. It would seem this skepticism has been borne out.
“This is just another example of local politicians thinking they have control where they don’t,” Port Dover Coun. John Wells – Port Ryerse’s representative on council – said Thursday. “Someone somewhere else has made this decision for us. It’s annoying.”
Property owners in Port Ryerse have banded together to fight the intrusion. They argue that industrial-scale wind turbines belong in an industrial setting. They worry the Boralex project will hurt property values while diminishing their quality of life.
As well, some residents worry that long-term exposure to wind turbines has consequences for human health that medical authorities don’t yet understand.
Nearly two years ago, a dozen Port Ryerse residents launched a civil suit against the turbines’ sponsors and the neighbours who made their land available. That suit remains on the books. One of the plaintiffs if Port Ryerse resident Larry Hoyt.
“It looks like a done deal,” Hoyt said Thursday. “I’ve been to two environmental review tribunals where they’ve had some really good evidence presented against turbines and nobody is listening. This is not about saving the environment for our kids. This is about money. It’s like beating your head against a brick wall.”
In granting its approval, the MOE has imposed a number of conditions on the Port Ryerse project.
These include complying with MOE noise limitations at all times, carrying out an acoustic audit, preparing a site rehabilitation plan, preparing a response plan for emergency services, creating a community liaison committee to address residents’ concerns, and notifying the MOE of any complaints received during construction and operation.
“The Ministry of Energy has made changes to its procurement process for contracts for renewable energy projects,” Kate Jordan, a spokesperson for the MOE, said Thursday. “This new procurement process is intended to give municipalities a stronger voice in the planning and siting of renewable projects.”
Jordan added there are no new or unprocessed applications on the books for additional wind power projects in Norfolk County.
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