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Struggle to stop wind turbine projects in North Stormont

Opponents of wind turbine projects in the Township of North Stormont have won the first battle against having installations in the region, however, it will be a very long war. And it may well be one they can’t w

North Stormont council voted 4-1 this week against proposals to put wind turbines in their region, declaring themselves unwilling hosts if any projects move forward.

Mayor Dennis Fife was not surprised by the outcome, noting 200 people had turned up to oppose the proposed wind turbine projects.

“They were very happy,” he said, however he cautioned that the township ultimately has no say whatsoever in whether or not the projects move forward.

“North Stormont council represented the community’s views,” Crysler local Todd Brazeau said.

Brazeau was one of several community members who opposed the project, however, he noted that it now is up to the province to determine whether it will honour the municipality’s decision.

Under the Green Energy Act, municipalities declaring themselves unwilling hosts may still have wind operations installed in their regions. The vote contributes to a points system that gives benefits to companies who manage to secure the support of councils in the area of proposed projects, however, the Ontario government has the ultimate say over whether energy projects are installed.

The report on the projects submitted by chief administrative officer Marc Chenier and community planner Amy Doyle to council noted that almost every township that has declared itself an unwilling host has had wind turbines placed in their region.

Chenier noted voting to be an unwilling host doesn’t contribute to future negotiations. One of the concerns when putting the report together was without contracts or figures presented and with the province having final say over the projects, the township couldn’t evaluate whether it would be worthwhile to vote in favour of the projects.

“It’s like trying to buy a house without an asking price,” Chenier said.”We are saying we don’t want to do business, but at this point you don’t have much to say.”

The township has no way of knowing whether voting to be unwilling hosts will result in less benefits or negotiating power for the region in the very likely scenario that the projects go through.

“It’s created quite an interesting political landscape – we say municipalities are the heart of democracies, but create policies that work against them,” Chenier said.

Mark Gallagher, of EDF, one of the companies proposing projects in the region, noted the company will re-evaluate its position, but still intends to submit a bid. He noted the vote may mean less benefits for the community if the project does go through.

“The way it is presented is we could be more competitive but have less funds for the community. Not having support means we have to be as competitive as possible,” Gallagher said.

EDF’s proposal involved putting in transit power hubs for wind turbines that already exist in the Nation Municipality, not new turnbines in North Stormont, however, because of the time of the proposal it was voted on with companies who were planning to put in turbines.

EDP Renewables and Leader Energy did not respond to requests for comment.