If North Bayites are as passionately opposed to wind farms as Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli is, they are going to need a local champion.
Fedeli hosted a town hall meeting at the Davedi Club on Tuesday night, where he told the audience of over 100 people why they should oppose wind energy generation.
With Innergex Renewable Energy proposing a project just north of city boundaries in Merrick Township, Fedeli felt it was time to present the facts about wind farms in Ontario.
“In Southern Ontario, this is discussed on a daily basis because they are so prevalent, but this is the first time it has come up our way, so it’s new discussion,” he said. “They are running out of places who will accept these wind turbines, so we are fresh meat, new territory.
“Find a champion who will give you the facts and figures and will walk you through how to attack this, how to fight it, how to delay it and ultimately cancel it,” he added. “These developers will do and say anything to convince you that this is a good thing.”
Fedeli quoted previous Auditor General reports to tell the audience that he thinks the provincial Green Energy Act is an empty, ideologically driven mistake.
Despite spending some $50 billion on lucrative subsidies and long-term fixed contracts with the green energy companies, renewable energy sources continue to provide the province with just 25 per cent of their power he said.
What’s more, the province has paid more than $2.6 billion to export excess energy to the United States and Quebec since 2006.
But most importantly for Ontario ratepayers, Fedeli said hydro rates are expected to soar thanks to costs of exporting Ontario’s extra energy, paying the wind developers regardless of if the energy is needed or not.
“There’s nothing green about this Green Energy Act,” he said simply. “We still make the same amount of green energy that we made $50 billion ago, the Auditor General has told us it’s bad for the economy, and it cost us 300,000 manufacturing jobs in Ontario.”
Despite Ontario already having some of the highest industrial hydro rates in North America, Fedeli said rates are forecasted to increase by up to 42 per cent in the next three years.
Those rates, he said, have chased some big, high-consumption industrial players out of the province because their hydro bills were too high.
Guests Warren Howard of Wind Concerns Ontario and Raymond Beaudry of the Manitoulin Coalition for Safe Energy Alternatives backed him up with anecdotal support as well.
Beaudry, in particular, said that economically, the imminent increases on hydro bills are going to outstrip everyone’s ability to pay and, ultimately, bring the wind power projects down.
Some of the members in the audience said they have witnessed the negative impacts of wind farm projects elsewhere in the province, like Lake Erie, Manitoulin Island, Huron County, and Port Dover.
In the end though, the trio of presenters emphasized that, while the municipalities have little power in preventing the projects, it’s up to the community to rally against them and make the statement themselves.
“You are going to have to start fighting it now,” said Howard.
The Merrick Township Wind Farm Proposal
While Fedeli said he didn’t host the town hall meeting to address any specific projects or companies directly, those in attendance were clearly gearing up for the one that’s expected to hit close to home.
Innergex Renewable Energy, the Quebec-based company proposing the industrial turbine system for Merrick Township, had the preliminary plan to erect a 50-60 turbine wind farm in one of the flight corridors of Jack Garland Airport in the unorganized Merrick Township.
But after the Mayor and City Council submitted a letter of opposition to the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change objecting the wind farm, Innergex met with Mayor McDonald and airport representatives last week to resolve their early concerns.
Chief among them was the threat to their heavy investment in the Airport Industrial Park.
But François Morin, the senior advisor of public affairs for Innergex, who was in attendance for Fedeli’s meeting on Tuesday, said the company has already addressed the city’s concerns by proposing the turbines be outside a 15-kilometre area from the airport.
He said they are now in the process of developing a sound proposal that they are confident will come to fruition with social acceptability.
“It was a good, positive first meeting and we have clarified many things, so it was a constructive meeting,” said Morin. “The city will be careful to question and be sure that we bring something to the community, but I think we share the same objective.
“Yes, there will be short-term jobs; but it’s 300 jobs against zero jobs without the project,” Morin added. “They just want to be sure that if we build a project that we don’t cause problems and there will be a positive contribution to the community.”
After the strong opposition to the proposed wind farm for the Mattawa area, Innergex pulled the plug on their proposal. But the Merrick project remains in the early planning stages for now.
Morin said he and Innergex are more confident in the Merrick project and plan on hosting public meetings in the coming months.
“Now we will have the meetings and answer the concerns one-on-one, but there will also be public meetings and consultations, but only once we know we have a better project,” he said.
Some of the early issues from area residents, he said, revolve around environmental and health concerns.
“I heard many stories tonight that are not related to what we do at all,” said Morin. “We have 25 years of experience in developing projects with 33 facilities all over North America, and we have a spotless record when it comes to environment and we intend to keep it that way.”
While Tuesday’s meeting was scheduled well before the Mattawa project was called off, Fedeli said it’s a good opportunity to keep the momentum rolling.
“It’s my role as an MPP to bring the facts from Queen’s Park for all groups,” he said. “After the Mattawa victory, it was important to carry on.”
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding