Port au Port Peninsula residents want more information on proposed wind farm and its potential environmental impacts
STEPHENVILLE, N.L. – Residents on the Port au Port Peninsula are expressing concern about the wind power and hydrogenation project proposed for the area.
World Energy GH2 plans to construct and operate a maximum one gigawatt (GW), 164-turbine onshore wind farm on the peninsula.
The company, a consortium of four Canadian partners, says Project Nujio’qonik will include associated transmission and supporting infrastructure to power a 0.5-GW hydrogen/ammonia production facility in the Port of Stephenville.
Nadine Tallack is a spokesperson for the Environmental Transparency Committee, which says there is a lack of information being shared with residents about the project.
The committee is made up of residents from area towns and local service districts and includes some municipal councillors. Its members come from all over the peninsula.
“We’re all in this as a group,” said Tallack, who lives in Cape St. George.
She said the committee is not saying it doesn’t want the project, just that it wants more information. She said there are a lot of people on the peninsula who are not even aware of what’s being proposed.
The project is currently going through the environmental assessment process with the provincial government. The proposal was registered on June 21 and the public has one week left, until a July 27, to comment on the plan. A decision from the minister of Environment and Climate Change is expected on Aug. 5.
But Tallack said with the lack of information available that timeframe is just too short.
“It was not enough time to inform the residents of this big project that’s actually coming,” she said.
The Town of Cape St. George held a meeting on the proposal on July 6 that included representatives from the company and its investors.
Tallack said some questions were answered.
“But not all of them. There’s still more that we have to ask,” she said.
And so, the committee is trying to gather information and share it with residents.
It recently sent out a flyer that contains information on what the project includes and lets people know how to have their say through the environmental assessment process.
From a personal perspective, Tallack said the development is happening too fast.
“The environmental impacts are going to be really concerning,” she said.
“The main concern is the proposed sites and the amount of the peninsula itself (where wind turbines will be located) and the effects it’s going to have on the environment, the wildlife. It’s a lot of things.”
Tallack said she is not against having cleaner energy and the committee is not against the project. It just wants more information.
A couple of committee members may get some of that information today, July 20, as they travel as part of a group of 10 people from the area to visit a windfarm in Hamilton, Ont. The trip is being arranged by Nova Scotia billionaire John Risley, a director with World Energy GH2.
Tallack is a bit skeptical and said there is no comparison between the geography there and on the Port au Port Peninsula.
“It’s going to be different sizes. The environmental impacts are going to be different,” she said.
Peter Fenwick is a resident of Cape St. George who operates an inn in the town. He said he feels the plan was sprung on people when the environmental assessment process started.
“And absolutely no input came from the residents in terms of saying where these wind turbines should be located,” he said.
A former provincial politician and former mayor of the town, Fenwick has done some checking with the province’s legislative librarian and said some relief for the town may come as it has the final say where the wind turbines go by having to issue a building permit for whatever wind turbines go up inside the town.
“Because the windmills are basically much too close to houses, and to the park and to endangered species,” he said.
Some of the wind turbines will go in unincorporated areas that don’t have the same rights.
He also sees a problem with the Environmental Assessment Act which is set up so that if someone was going to build a gravel pit that’s what they’d use.
“A billion-dollar operation like this is much too big for the environmental assessment process to be any reasonable way of looking at it,” Fenwick said.
]He’s asking that the province hold off on approving the project until it has good legislation in place that covers wind energy and the regulations that go with it.
“I don’t disagree with it. I think the idea of producing electricity out of wind energy, which we have a lot of, is a good idea. It’s just that it can’t go totally as a result of this company saying this is what we’re going to do,” he said.
“It’s got to be a structure and rigour to the whole process that protects the people that are here already, it protects the birds and the wildlife and that can only be done by a piece of legislation by the province.”
He’s asked Industry, Energy and Technology Minister Andrew Parson to come out and tell people what the province’s strategy with wind energy is and its plans for legislation and regulations but has yet to receive a response.
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