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MPP disappointed by turbine decision

Chatham-Kent Essex MPP Rick Nicholls has slammed a recent decision to allow eight turbines to remain near the municipal airport, after Transport Canada ordered them removed.

The agency said it is discontinuing the enforcement action that began in July.

“Long before I became Her Majesty’s loyal opposition critic for community safety and correctional services, I challenged the location of these turbines because of safety concerns,” Nicholls said in a statement on Thursday.

Transport Canada had said the Erieau Wind turbines violated height limits on lands at the airport, which are subject to the airport zoning regulations (AZRs).

The July order called for the removal of the turbines by Dec. 31, 2014, which was a change from the federal agency originally issuing a letter last year requesting voluntary compliance.

However, the potential safety risks were mitigated by Nav Canada with the issuance of a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM), which was later replaced with an altered Instrument Approach Procedure Chart so that pilots are aware of the wind turbines and could avoid them.

“It still doesn’t dismiss the fact that there are 8 IWT’s (industrial wind turbines) illegally constructed inside the AZRs,” Nicholls said.

“Someone needs to be held accountable, and as the critic for community safety I will continue to work hard to protect those vulnerable aircrafts not only at the Chatham airport, but at airports throughout Ontario.”

The MPP said the turbines should have never been approved within that area near the airport to begin with.

He believes “care must be exercised when determining where to locate these monstrous, impeding industrial wind turbines, especially when they have been constructed around airports.”

However, company spokesperson Bonnie Hiltz welcomed the latest news, saying there is no danger due to the structures.

“GDF SUEZ is pleased that upon a full, independent review, Transport Canada has agreed that there is no safety concern for these turbines,” she said in an e-mail to The Daily News.

“We would like to thank the community and landowners for their continued support for the project and look forward to our continued relationship.”

In a previous interview, Mayor Randy Hope said the municipality has maintained all along that the airport is safe, calling the decision “one more hurdle behind us.”

Early next year, municipal officials will meet with Transport Canada to discuss how the situation can be avoided in the future by ensuring that no new wind turbines are constructed in the AZRs.