Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty is clearly floating a trial balloon through the wind-turbine community with his NIMBY message.
‘Not in my backyard’ isn’t a reason for blocking new energy projects that will be tolerated by Queen’s Park when its Green Energy Act is rolled out, the premier says.
McGuinty told a London audience the legislation will include provisions to stop special interest groups, or municipal governments, from trying to block green energy projects for anything other than safety or environmental concerns.
He says the province hopes to create 50,000 new jobs from green energy projects, and that he’s convinced Ontario residents want those jobs in their communities, which means being a willing host to giant wind turbines or solar panel farms.
Maybe, maybe not.
There’s no question that most Canadians understand the need for less reliance on nuclear energy. Canadians get that. The question is where to put new energy projects, a concern Barrie residents know all too well.
Opposition was long and loud to building an ethanol plant at the city’s former Molson brewery. Residents were never convinced it wouldn’t smell bad and foul the air and water. City council, acting on these concerns, threw up roadblocks that essentially ban ethanol plants in Barrie.
The proponent, Northern Ethanol, eventually withdrew its application to the province to operate a plant.
Now city politicians and staff are working their way through a policy on wind turbines. A public meeting is to be scheduled on a policy that could allow turbines of various sizes in most parts of the city, except for the downtown and lakeshore areas.
But city councillors have already expressed concerns about a landscape dotted with wind turbines, and that the policy cannot be too permissive.
These concerns are not limited to Barrie. In Innisfil, there are fears about a proposed wind turbine farm along Highway 400. If approved, it would connect to a 44-kilovolt grid on Innisfil’s 5th Sideroad, requiring feeder lines and a substation.
There are concerns about the noise from turbines, the shadow flicker from its blades and how it will affect area property values. Not to mention five, 390-foot-high turbines on 200 acres of agricultural land.
Are these the type of NIMBY roadblocks McGuinty is talking about? Or are they safety and/or environmental concerns, which the premier says will be considered as legitimate reasons for a roadblock?
The premier has said the Green Energy Act will have rigorous safety and env i ro n m e n t a l s t a n d a rd s , but there are few details at this point. All of which makes things confusing for Ontario residents who might or might not want wind turbines, biofuel plants and solar panels in or near their backyards.
McGuinty and the Liberals can rail all they want about the NIMBY crowd, but there are many unknowns about new energy projects and what they will mean to our urban and rural communities.
It’s not fair to people who’ve lived in their homes for years to have their peace and quiet, or their sunlight or their fresh air adversely affected.
If the province wants to dictate where these energy plants are located, they had better be sure it’s OK with the neighbours.
The next Ontario election isn’t that far away.