A ruling last month by an environment ministry review panel on a wind farm north of Sault Ste. Marie makes it more daunting for anyone anywhere in Ontario to oppose a wind farm. That panel shot down attempts by seasonal resident James Fata and others to block installation of turbines on a scenic hill area near the Lake Superior coast, the Bow Lake wind farm near Montreal River. In the process, it pared down the grounds anyone could use to oppose a wind farm.
Every time I travel to southern Ontario I stumble across more great potential wind farm sites that have yet to be exploited.
With a government that continues to stack the procedural and legal deck against those who oppose the intrusion of wind farms on their neighbourhoods, you might expect to see turbines almost everywhere.
But it would take a sharp eye to spot one anywhere near the GTA. Wind-energy-watching is much easier in Algoma, Bruce and Chatham-Kent, which house about a third of Ontario’s turbines.
In a past column I mentioned the Toronto waterfront, where offshore wind turbines were seriously proposed. Then a Liberal government moratorium in 2011 put an end to the foolish notion of locating green energy generation where it might be consumed.
I’ve also suggested turbines be put in shopping malls, industrial parks and other places of large-scale ugliness within the bounds of the Greater Toronto Area.
One reader came up with the very feasible idea of lining Highway 400 with turbines from Barrie to Canada’s Wonderland.
Last week I found a couple of new prime locations: the Niagara Escarpment and the quaint main street of Niagara-on-the-Lake. Both seem to have wind in abundance.
Now NOTL, whose strict bylaws preserving the character of the historic village were strong enough to give a McDonalds sign fallen arches, would break out the 1812 muskets at the idea of blades whooshing o’er the fudge shoppes and inns.
And wine country doubtless would sour at the idea of blinking red lights festooning the limestone ridge like a strand of tacky Christmas lights.
But could they do much about it? I doubt it.
Preposterous, you say?
Well, a ruling last month by an environment ministry review panel on a wind farm north of Sault Ste. Marie makes it more daunting for anyone anywhere in Ontario to oppose a wind farm.
That panel shot down attempts by seasonal resident James Fata and others to block installation of turbines on a scenic hill area near the Lake Superior coast, the Bow Lake wind farm near Montreal River.
In the process, it pared down the grounds anyone could use to oppose a wind farm.
Both the approval and appeal processes set up by Ontario’s MOE already were heavily weighted against wind farm opponents.
As the tribunal’s decision notes, “An appellant is required to prove . . . that a project will cause the harm,” not just raise “the potential for harm.” No onus on the developer.
That seems akin to the government allowing pharmaceutical companies to dump drugs on the market and then requiring consumers to conduct scientific studies proving them to be unsafe.
And a tribunal is severely limited as to what reasons it can allow an opponent to use to object to a wind farm. None of that “scenic beauty” stuff for our ministry, even though this particular tribunal granted that the Superior landscape is “iconic.”
But the tribunal narrowed things even more by chopping references to property devaluation, economic impact on the tourism industry and a “prejudiced and unilateral consultation process” from the appeal.
That left Fata et al trying to prove turbines cause indisputably serious harm to human health, something many others have tried and failed, or latching on to an animal species that would be seriously and irreversibly harmed, in this case some little brown bats.
Evidence at the hearing suggested while turbines would doom a whole bunch of little brown bats, there are plenty more little brown bats where those came from.
And the tribunal rejected arguments by people such as adventurer Joanie McGuffin that the visual and social impacts of wind turbines on a natural landscape so striking as to have been featured by the historic Group of Seven artists could result in human health consequences.
So I’d say that leaves folks in Niagara with not too many weapons in their arsenal if some incentive-hungry developer proposed a wind farm.
Scenic beauty? Forget it. Historical significance? Nope. Tourist industry? Not likely.
About all that could stop a wind farm on NOTL’s Queen Street or along the escarpment is the fact that those places lie in the Greater Toronto Area’s back yard, much beloved of Kathleen Wynne’s Liberal government.
Yep. That should do it.
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