By L.G. Karry www.kingsvillereporter.com
After hearing a report from Town Planner, Danielle Truax regarding the limited and potentially costly remedies available to municipalities with regard to wind power, Kingsville Council has decided to make a concerted, cohesive, and collected effort to deal with matters concerning the potential impact of offshore wind turbines.
Kingsville has already partnered with the Town of Leamington in hiring the Jones Consulting Group. A report from Jones completed in September 2009, which coordinated technical peer reviews found “significant deficiencies and a lack of specific details to support the conclusions” reached by SouthPoint that “the project would not create a negative environmental impact”.
A more recent proposal by SouthPoint Wind to put up as many as 700 offshore turbines in Lake Erie and Lake St. Clair if their initial proposal for 15 turbines in Pigeon Bay is approved has alerted Council to the fact that they must keep abreast of the process and timelines.
At the request of the municipality, SouthPoint has changed the venue from the Kingsville Arena for their March 27th public meeting scheduled from Noon to 2 p.m. to the Lakeside Pavilion at the Park on Queen Street. SouthPoint has acquired the services of Daniel Cherrin to act as their public relations strategist to speak on its behalf. Cherrin was former Detroit Mayor, Ken Cockrel’s chief communications officer.
Ms. Truax provided Council with a recent review of legislation from the Jones Consulting Group, prepared by Ray Duhamel. In it he noted that the Green Energy Act enacted in May of 2009, removed “local planning authority’ for all renewable energy undertakings. According to his report, the role of the municipality was greatly reduced, and proponents only need to consult with municipal officials on a limited number of items. Municipal feedback as part of the Renewable Energy Approval process may include municipal services and infrastructure, the rehabilitation of areas disturbed or damaged during construction, safety protocol, and issues raised during municipal consultation.
Any issues raised after a decision has been made by the Ministry of Environment must prove that the project will cause serious harm to human health or serious and irreversible harm to plant life, animal life or the natural environment. The cost of the studies would be borne by the municipality.
Councillor Tamara Stomp said that the “whole thing is stacked against the municipality” and that the new legislation has taken away municipal and public voice. She said that the government is not providing information as to how the municipality can respond, and “won’t tell you until the report is out there”.
Mayor Nelson Santos agreed that the odds are stacked against the municipality, and he suggested that the municipality not only continue their partnership with Leamington, but also Union Water and the Essex Regional Conservation Authority. Deputy Mayor Katherine Gunning also suggested that the County of Essex be brought into the mix.
Three motions were passed by Council at the March 8th meeting. The first was made by Councillor Stomp to review the budget at the next budget deliberation meeting set for March 29th to accommodate future costs of the studies undertaken by the town with partners. The second was a Notice of Motion, which Councillor Stomp said was also being presented to Amherstburg. It called for local municipalities to have a voice in matters that affect local watershed planning, and the potential impact the offshore turbines may have on water quality, human health and animal and plant life, and that the resolution be forward to the MP and MPP, relevant ministries, all other municipalities in Essex and Windsor and Pelee Island.
The motion also asked that the County of Essex, together with all member municipalities, Pelee Island, the City of Windsor and the ERCA be asked to develop a joint regional position regarding offshore wind turbines proposed for the Essex Windsor Region.
Councillor Gord Queen reiterated in his motion, that because the Green Energy Act was in essence “taking away all our rights” he wanted a full environmental assessment to be conducted, and that the Premier of Ontario, the Ontario Power Authority and the Queen as represented by her Ministers be given notice to that affect. All three motions were passed unanimously.