More than 80 gather at HEAT meeting in St. Columban

Community expresses continued support of efforts to stop local wind development

By Susan Hundertmark, Huron Expositor

More than 80 people filled the Knights of Columbus Hall in St. Columban last Thursday night to hear that Huron East Against Turbines (HEAT) will not be giving up the fight against wind turbines in the St. Columban community.

“We are very grateful to for the commitment you folks have shown. We support you 100 per cent,” said one man in the audience to the applause of everyone.

Updating the community on both the group’s finances and its lobbying efforts during the past two years, HEAT members displayed the map of 15 proposed industrial wind turbines recently published by St. Columban Wind LP, pointing out that there are many inaccuracies in the map with some existing homes not shown.

“The publishing of the map is what provoked this meeting,” said HEAT member Gerry Ryan.

“The purpose of this map is to stop people from building any closer than 550 metres of the proposed turbines,” added Rob Tetu, also of HEAT.

Tetu pointed out that the St. Columban wind project, which started with the developer CASA Engineering, which was absorbed by Pristine Power in Calgary, which was bought by Fort Chicago Energy and then Veresen Inc., has gone through several changes of hands in the past two years.

“The companies keep flipping over and once they have the turbines are up, they’re going to profit from it and as soon as the subsidies of the government are taken away, they’re going to pull out and leave the rusting turbines in the fields for the leaseholders to take down,” he said.

Tetu pointed to a study done in Prince Edward County where turbines are planned. For a projected annual financial gain of $1-2 million for land leases and taxes from 197 turbines, the county risks losing $2.5 to $40 million a year in revenue from tourism and other business, he said.

“It’s about quality of place. I have lived here for 36 years and I love living here and I love my house but if it’s going to have two turbines behind it, I’m leaving. We’ve got quality now and we’re going to lose it,” he said.

HEAT member Jeanne Melady told members of the St. Columban community that it’s easy to get disheartened by the proposed wind project but encouraged them to become politically active and begin voicing their concerns to both municipal and provincial politicians.

“We don’t intend to give up. We still believe in democracy and we intend to speak out and hopefully, you’ll speak out too,” she said.

Melady said HEAT will dispute St. Columban Project LP’s claims that they completed an environmental screening process and a notice of completion.

“We disputed it in 2009 but it wasn’t heard because they (the province) were building new regulations at the time,” she said.

She said that HEAT’s main concerns continue to be the health effects from industrial wind turbines and added the Ministry of the Environment has admitted that they can’t distinguish between the sound from the wind and the sound from turbines and therefore, can’t enforce its regulations.

“You can’t be putting in industrial plants and not be able to make the producer comply with the regulations,” she said.

Melady added that HEAT is still working diligently to have the province recognize low frequency noise (LFN) in the regulations, which she said seems to be the source of health problems. As well, she says the province doesn’t regulate stray voltage, which also causes health problems.

“It’s interesting that LFN was originally in the regulations but CanWEA (the Canadian Wind Energy Association) lobbied the provincial government and they took it out,” she said.

Melady recommended that St. Columban-area residents begin to get baseline assessments of their properties and their health before the wind turbines are installed so that if the project goes ahead, they will be able to measure and prove whatever ill effects take place.

She said it’s possible to get a noise study of your home, an electrical study and a medical assessment of your family.

“It’s really important to let politicians know you’re doing that. It’s telling them that you have a right to your space and you’re going to hold them liable if you’re going to lose that because they’re the ones who are causing that,” she said.

Melady also asked residents to call their health unit with their wind turbine-related health concerns and their school board with their concerns about turbines being located near St. Columban School.

She said the province is worrying about what Ontario residents are thinking about green energy, pointing to a document by the Sussex Strategy Group that recommends confusing the public for the year leading up to the election talking about green jobs, clean air and farm income instead of any of the health concerns around wind turbines.

“It’s marketing and would only show they are worried so can this train be moved around? It can be moved from the tracks it’s on,” she said.

She added that HEAT has challenged Perth-Middlesex MPP and Environment Minister John Wilkinson to improve the science around industrial wind turbines by completing an independent study on the health effects.

“The best available science lacks a study and that’s what we keep saying,” she said.

Showing a map created by Central Huron Against Turbines (CHAT) showing the location of the 422 wind turbines planned for Huron County and the 330 turbines planned for Lambton Shores, HEAT member Tom Melady said, “if you do not resist, they will come.”

Ryan told St. Columban residents that Huron East will be voting on third reading of a bylaw that would create setbacks of 2,000 metres between industrial wind turbines and homes and encouraged them to call municipal councillors.

“If we need you to fill the council chambers, you’ll get an email,” he said.

Ryan said the local community has already contributed towards $65,000 in legal costs and advertising costs to fight wind turbines in St. Columban. He said an additional $20,000 is needed to cover the costs HEAT incurred while promoting a LFN bylaw in Huron East.

He added that more voices are needed to protest to both local provincial politicians.

“The people allowing this are politicians and they sluff us off like we’re nothing. But, they’re representing you, not big foreign corporations. They shouldn’t have to toe the party line and abandon the people they represent,” he said.