by Denis Langlois, The Sun Times, www.markdalestandard.com
A wind energy developer is pushing ahead despite decisions by Grey Highlands that will slow approvals required for a wind energy project south of Maxwell.
Friday council supported a bylaw passed by Arran-Elderslie which claims that section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms — the protection of life, liberty and security —trumps Ontario’s Green Energy Act, which controls alternative energy development.
Earlier in the week council indefinitely delayed approving a proposed road use agreement with International Power Canada that would regulate the conditions around the use of roads leading to the 10 wind turbine sites in the municipality. The proposed agreement also regulates the upgrading of hydro lines by Hydro One to carry the power from the turbines to the transmission system.
Both of these moves are consistent with council’s call earlier in the year for a moratorium on wind energy projects until independent studies have been conducted on the possible health effects of wind turbines.
“I think that’s the reality; that’s where this council is. I don’t want to lead the proponents down the garden path,” said Mayor Brian Mullin.
Grey Highlands is following the lead of Grey County council, which recently asked its staff to investigate preparing a countywide wind turbine control bylaw to protect people’s health.
Jim Wilgar, project manager for International Power sees council’s latest actions as temporary delay.
In the meantime he plans to continue to meet with municipal officials to overcome obstacles in the way of getting council approval for the road use agreement.
He’s not sure what measures can be taken to prod council along. The road use agreement doesn’t fall under the provincial Planning Act so council’s foot dragging can’t be appealed to the Ontario Municipal Board.
William Pol, a planning consultant for International Power, says matters relating to road use and hydro upgrades fall under the Municipal Act.
“I think there is some provisions also under the Electricity Act that also allows that kind of agreement . . . certainly our preference is to work closely with council and not to appeal anything,” he added.
Wilgar said the decision by Grey Highlands and other councils to support the Arran-Elderslie bylaw has generated discussion within the wind energy industry, which is considering its options in consultation with some provincial government ministries. But he doesn’t consider it serious enough to derail the government’s Green Energy Act.
“Obviously the province and the Liberal party have seen green energy as a stimulus to economic development . . . whether this is seen as an issue that is strong enough to derail a full government policy is another matter,” Wilgar said.
On Friday Wilgar and Pol made a presentation to council, the second within four days, outlining the history of the Plateau Wind project with its proposed 10 wind turbines in the southern part of the municipality since its inception in 2007.
The presentation stressed the close cooperation of IPC with the municipality before the passage of the Green Energy Act last year.
Wilgar noted that the wind project had gone through numerous changes in design over the course of the past three years in response to public reaction and municipal regulations.
For example the company has agreed to locate its wind turbines outside sensitive visual areas and has agreed not put any logos on the wind turbines in Grey Highlands. It also agreed to limit the number of turbines to one per lot.
As well the company conducted and completed a shadow flicker report and ice throw report as well as planning justification report, none of which are required under the Green Energy Act.
The project has since received approval from the Ministry of the Environment.
The road use agreement is the next step to move the project along.
Wilgar said he plans more presentations to council and continued negotiations. He also reiterated his request for council to establish a sub-committee of members of council, municipal staff and company representatives to work out the concerns raised by councillors.
“It’s very difficult for members of council to pick up on all of the myriad of details. This is a big thing, a multimillion dollar project. There should be time and effort taken to be satisfied and we’re quite prepared to do that,” Wilgar said.
A report released last week by the province’s chief medical officer of health, which concluded that there is no evidence to support claims by critics that wind turbines cause health problems, was encouraging to the wind energy industry, said Wilgar.
Dr. Arlene King reported that her review of the scientific reports from around the world found no evidence to link wind turbines to health problems.
But critics of wind energy dismissed the report as an insult to people who claim to be suffering health effects from living too close to wind turbines.
“It’s a selective desktop literature review. Another one,” said Lorrie Gillis, a long-standing opponent of wind energy who says King’s study doesn’t prove anything.
Gillis said she was with Barbara Ashbee on Thursday when the report was released. According to Ashbee she was forced from her home in Melancthon Township because of serious health effects that she says are caused by living near wind turbines.
“She cried. She felt like she was slapped in the face and was revictimized,” said Gillis. Gillis said there are 650 turbines in Ontario and 106 people are reporting health related complaints.
“I get calls every week from people . . . they are feeling the effects of turbines. They can sleep at night. . . the report is unimpressive,” she said.