By Dominique Milburn, Lucknow Sentinel
There’s concern among ACW residents that more information is desperately needed before conclusive decisions can be made within their township on the topic of wind turbine development. If the Dec. 7 meeting of township council is any indication, the concern and confusion is growing, between both residents and members of council.
ACW resident Anita Frayne spoke on behalf of a growing number of residents who want to ensure that their council is considering all of the cons of wind turbine development. She was given the opportunity to make a presentation to council, and came backed with more than 40 pages of supporting evidence that serious consideration is required on the issue.
She wasn’t alone in speaking up. At least 10 members of the public in attendance also voiced their concerns, including one man who said if proposed developments go ahead, he’s moving out of ACW.
“I’ve been a resident here for 30 years,” said Don Uptegrove, “My three and a half acres is going up for sale. That’s how I feel about these wind turbines.”
David Colling, who said he’s been gathering evidence of “electrical pollution” caused by turbines in Huron-Kinloss, added he’s dealt with four families already who are no longer living in their homes due to adverse health effects caused by the low level noises.
“We’ve got four empty houses in Ripley, three in Shelburn. This is only going to get worse,” Colling said.
From Council’s viewpoint, their power to act has been stripped since the 2009 debut of the Green Energy and Economy Act (GEA).
“We don’t have authority over [industrial wind turbine development],” said chair of the wind portion of the meeting, Coun. Barry Millian. Reeve Ben VanDiepenbeek declared a conflict of interest. Deputy Reeve Neil Rintoul and Coun. Murray Curran also stepped away from the councillor’s table.
“Who does?” asked one gallery member.
“Bill 150,” Millian answered. “The Green Energy Act is pretty much running the show.”
The Ontario Bill 150 GEA was passed into law in May of 2009, and is now the deciding factor in green energy regulations. Some argue the GEA is extensively flawed, and gives wind energy an unfair advantage in the energy market, and that this “unfair advantage” hides apparent flaws in wind technology. The GEA is also strongly criticized for eliminating municipal control over wind power projects.
“It’s easy to say the GEA supersedes everything,” said another member of the public. “I think you’ve got to go to the wall on this and not take the easy road … It’s for the future and all of our grandchildren.”
More than 30 gallery members braved unfavourably snow covered roads in order to attend the meet and add their names to the list of residents who want to stop wind development without comprehensive review of the growing number of reported negative health effects.
“Cental Huron Against Turbines, Huron East Against Turbines, Huron-Kinloss Against Lakeside Turbines, Northern Ontario for No Wind, Bruce Peninsula Against Industrial Wind, Middlesex Wind Action Group, and Manvers – Gone with the Wind– these are just a few of the over 50 grassroots groups in over 30 counties and districts across the province which have come together to form the coalition in response to the proliferation of industrial wind turbines in our province,” said Frayne in her address to council.
Frayne presented to council a list of municipalities in Ontario that have enacted bylaws, passed resolutions, and even appealed the provincial government in an effort to address the economic, future development, safety and health issues that have arisen “in the wake of this quixotic quest for green energy.”
“Among other things, these initiatives address powers being restored to municipalities, requests for independent health studies, development agreements, and the issuance of certificates from Health Canada and provincial ministries before a building permit is issued [for turbine developments],” Frayne said.
Some of those unresolved matters, she went on, include farmers with signed wind tower leases who now claim to have been mislead into believing they were protected by noise and setback regulations in the Green Energy Act. It all points to, she said, the need for five “Job One” actions from ACW Council.
“Number one, that you add your voice to the municipal call for a province wide moratorium in industrial wind turbine development.”
“Number two, that you show your support, enact and adopt municipal resolutions, bylaws and development agreements which will best protect all residents of ACW, and which will be in the spirit of a united municipal response to our provincial government’s ‘cart before the horse’ approach.”
Numbers three to five dealt with the need for members of council who have pecuniary interests in wind developments declare a conflict of interest and step away from the matter, that councilors continue to be an active presence at wind related meetings, and that they take their time with the matter, because “much is at stake.”
“Council, you have gone the distance in the past to protect the best interests of our municipality … don’t drop the ball on this one,” Frayne said in closing. “You must do everything in your power to ensure the safety and security of all ratepayers and residents.”
“I’m impressed with the 41 pages of information you’ve provided,” said Coun. Roger Watt. “I feel the same way about a lot of it.”
“I think what you’re looking for is whether or not this council is looking at what it really is,” Millian said, “If it’s harmful or not.”
“Things are happening [in the wind turbine safety debate] and we’re aware of it, we’re not sitting here with our eyes and ears closed.”
At council’s previous meet in November, they discussed minor amendments to a draft Wind Turbine Development policy they hope future industrial developers will comply with. The policy reflects what the municipality wishes to see from developers, however it was noted by council the final decision rests in the hands of the Ministry of the Environment.
On Dec. 7, council discussed amalgamating their guideline policy with a bylaw passed by the Township of Arran-Elderslie in Bruce County. The bylaw uses Section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which protects life, liberty and security of the person, in a bid to regain some municipal control over wind farms, which was stripped away by the province’s Green Energy Act. It says Health Canada and three provincial ministries must provide certificates confirming that any wind generation facility built there “will benefit, or will not harm, the health, safety and well-being” of residents before a building permit for a turbine is issued.
“Arran-Elderslie is at a higher level,” said Coun. Doug Miller. “It stands on its own … I think we should consider [adopting the Arran-Elderslie document] as a bylaw. It goes into greater detail on what we expect.”
“I’m concerned about how much of this we can actually pull off, but if we don’t try, it’s our fault,” added Coun. Roger Watt.
The ACW drafted Wind Turbine Development policy was adopted before the end of the Tuesday meet, with allowances of minor “tweaking” on wording. The Arran-Elderslie document will return to the council table at their next meet, scheduled for Dec. 21.