By DAVID JOHNSTON, Montreal Gazette
The Quebec government should only authorize wind-energy development in uninhabited regions of the province -not in busy rural regions, and especially not in the Monteregie region south of Montreal, home to Quebec’s most productive farms, a coalition of Monteregie mayors said Thursday night.
That message was vigorously applauded by more than 250 people who attended a rally in this town near the U.S. border that was organized to protest against proposed wind-energy projects in the Monteregie.
“It feels good to see so many people here tonight -it reminds me of the turnout we had a few years ago to protest against allowing pig farms in our region,” said Lacolle Mayor Yves Duteau. “We ended up winning that fight, and we will end up winning this fight against industrial wind turbines, too.”
Five large rural municipalities between Montreal and the U.S. border have created a coalition to oppose proposed wind-energy farms in the region. Although no construction has began yet, two proposed wind-energy farms involving 32 turbines spanning three municipalities -St. Cyprien de Napierville, St. Valentin, and St. Paul de l’Ile aux Noix -have received preliminary approval from Hydro-Quebec.
Many speakers addressed the crowd, including mayors and local activists. Organizers of the rally showed a 20-minute video outlining growing opposition in Quebec rural regions to Quebec’s unfolding new wind-energy policy. That policy has seen provincial decrees passed in 2003, 2005 and 2008 that people in rural regions say contains sneaky measures to put up giant windmills without having to hold formal public consultations first.
Etienne Bergevin, a lawyer who works with Dunton Rainville, a firm that specializes in municipal law, compared the political fight against wind turbines in rural regions to the fight in urban and suburban regions against placement of cellular towers close to residential neighbourhoods. He said in both instances higher level of governments get the final say but there’s lots municipalities can do to insist on a greater municipal voice in decision-making.