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Double standard from energy company: MPP

Chatham-Kent-Essex MPP Rick Nicholls has said a wind farm company is practising a double standard by asking property owners to prohibit hunters on lands near their wind turbines.

Engie sent the letters to property owners last week following two incidents involving gunfire. In one case, a turbine was damaged by bullets. In the other, an employee heard gunshots nearby.

Nicholls pointed out in a Wednesday news release how Engie, formerly known as GDF Suez Canada Services, challenged a 2014 Transport Canada ruling to dismantle eight of their turbines within airport zoning regulations at Chatham-Kent Municipal Airport.

“I question is there not a double standard here,” said the Progressive Conservative critic for community safety and correctional services. “You’re worried about your few employees and yet we have pilots and passengers on a daily basis flying in and out of that airport.”

Bonnie Hiltz, government relations advisor for Engie, said that matter has been resolved by both the company and Transport Canada.

“It was demonstrated that there was no safety concern at all with respect to the airport,” she said. “There’s been no remaining safety issue raised since that time.”

However, Nicholls said he still doesn’t agree with Transport Canada’s decision. He said pilots have told him about issues they have had while trying to land lighter aircrafts at the airport.

He also said vandals should be taking the blame for the two gunfire-related incidents instead of preventing hunters from making a living.

Hiltz said Engie has “reason to believe that at least one of those incidents was hunting related” after working with local law enforcement and landowners.

Nicholls said they should at least wait “until they know for sure” before putting these restrictions on hunters. He said his main concern is what would happen if all wind turbine companies in the area follow this example, with almost 500 industrial wind turbines installed in Chatham-Kent.

“If they get their way with the landowners and landowners prohibit hunting, then it’s going to spread to other parts of Ontario where these industrial turbines are as well and eventually there will be no hunting in Ontario,” he said.

He has asked the minister of natural resources and forestry to overrule Engie’s request. He said he doesn’t have a problem with individual property owners asking hunters to stay away, but a wind turbine company shouldn’t have that power.

While Nicholls is opposed to Engie’s request, he does acknowledge that the safety of the workers is “paramount.”

Hiltz said the company is “pleased that Mr. Nicholls recognizes our need to ensure the safety of our staff and contractors.

“That’s what has always been the upmost importance to us regarding this matter.”