The Department of Energy is not going to intervene to stop a proposed wind farm south of the John Black Road near Amherst.
Speaking during a public information session on the province’s future electricity needs, the minister was asked if his department would step in to stop the erection of three turbines by Halifax-based Natural Forces.
“Decisions are made and implemented later. That project, the permit was issued in 2012 and the Energy Department does not have any legal authority to revoke a permit that was previously issued,” the minister said. “One of the things we find is that people can be unhappy with one level of government so they come to another level of government. We leave it to municipalities to determine the appropriate zoning for projects. In that case they showed that it met the requirements of the day and the permit was issued.”
A group of residents in the east end of Amherst and along the John Black Road and Pumping Station Road are concerned with Natural Forces’ plan to erect a trio of wind turbines in the area.
The turbines will have a tower height of up to 100 metres. To the tip of the blades it will up to 150 metres tall.
The residents have said they are not against wind power or green energy, but believe the turbines should be located in another area further away from homes. Along with health concerns, they are also worried about how the turbines will impact their property values.
They are also not buying the minister’s explanation.
“His answer isn’t good enough,” said Pam Roberts. “The minister has a right to determine approvals and to rescind them. This should never have been given (approval) and blaming the NDP isn’t good enough. There is overwhelming opposition and little support within the project zone.
“The minister needs to listen to the community and we will fight to ensure he does. This will just continue to spiral if he doesn’t intervene and rescind the COMFIT approval for this project.”
In July, Natural Forces, that includes a partnership with the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq Chiefs, announced plans to erect the three turbines that will generate six megawatts of electricity.
The $16-million project has already been approved through the COMFIT program that aims to provide a secure supply of clean energy at stable prices, build community support for renewable energy projects and create jobs.
Residents attending Monday’s meeting with the minister said the company no longer qualifies under the COMFIT program, but Younger said its project did when it applied for a permit two years ago.
“Someone brought up the issue that they haven’t met the point system for COMFIT, but that point system is something new we put in place so they wouldn’t have to qualify before,” Younger said. “We can’t go back and make a project, previously approved, meet the new rules. One of the reasons our government brought in new rules is to address issues exactly like are being raised with this project.”
Younger suggested the residents work with their municipal representatives.
The company is in the midst of preparing for its environmental assessment. If it’s approved, it’s expected construction of the turbines could begin in early 2015 with commissioning later in the year.
Residents have held one information session on the project and are holding a second one tonight at the Amherst Fire Department at 6:30 p.m. Officials from Natural Resources have been invited to appear on the panel along with John Leforet of the Broadview Strategy Group and municipal and provincial politicians.
Cumberland North MLA Terry Farrell, who supports wind energy, but not this project, said Monday he can’t attend the meeting due to his responsibilities as the government’s deputy house leader in the legislature.
“As I have clearly stated in the past I am fully in favour of clean renewable energy but I am not supporting the Natural Forces project in its current location due to the strong opposition by the local community,” Farrell said in an email.
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