Members of an anti-turbine group were blown away when Perth County council rejected their request for a moratorium on wind farm development.
West & East Perth Against Turbines asked the county to forward a resolution to the provincial government seeking a moratorium on wind turbine projects until a third-party health study has been completed.
Initially, the councillors, sitting in committee, voted in favour of the request in a show of hands. But about 45 minutes later they turned down the idea of a moratorium in a recorded vote.
Only three members of WEPAT delegation were still around at that point. They were dumbfounded by the flip-flop.
“I can’t believe that the county is not willing to protect the health of its people, that it’s flopped in favour of bad rulings from the government,” said spokesperson Tom Melady outside the council chambers.
“So who does protect the health of the Ontario people,” he added.
It was the second time in two months that the county turned down a request for a moratorium. Council rejected a North Perth initiative in February.
The issue has divided the local council, which even had Environment Minister and Perth-Wellington MPP John Wilkinson speak at a meeting earlier this year.
In his presentation, Melady outlined the impacts of the large turbines on human health, land use and economic development.
In particular, the turbine opponents are worried about the health consequences from low-frequency noise generated by the turbines and stray voltage from the miles of hydro lines. Another of WEPAT’s seven requests to council was for the county to ask the Ontario Ministry of Environment to identify a “precautionary limit” for low-frequency noise and include that limit in the regulations of the Green Energy Act.
Melady, a farmer, lives in the Dublin area near the Perth-Huron border where a 20-turbine wind farm is proposed. Seven turbines would be within one kilometre of his place, he said.
Two hundred people would live within 800 metres of the turbines and 320 within 1,200 meters, including everyone in St. Columban, half of whom are in Perth County, he said.
Across Ontario, there are about 20-25 homes near turbines that owners can no longer live in and about 130 people under medical care for being made sick by the turbines, Melady said.
“And here they’re walking away from it. If it was right next to them there’d be more interest. If there was a turbine on the edge of a town there’s be a lot more interest,” Melady said.
A turbine lease has been signed by a landowner on the edge of Sebringville, he said.
Councillors Jim Aitcheson and Ian Forrest were the most vocal against a moratorium.
Aitcheson said a health study should have parameters.
“I didn’t support it when it was put through because I think to ask for a just a moratorium in general with a third-party health study is too open ended,” he said.
Forrest said the third-party stipulation implies that Ontario’s medical officer of health, Dr. Arlene King, is biased in favour of the provincial government.
“I feel it’s insulting to that particular person to imply that they are a political hack, that they are just saying what the party of the day wants to hear,” he said.
Coun. Bill French spoke in favour of a moratorium.
“I think we need to be on the side of caution for the residents of the area,” he said.
“After it’s up, if there’s a problem it’s too late.”
Voting against the moratorium were councillors Bob Wilhelm, Bob McMillan, Forrest, Aitcheson and Warden Julie Behrns.
Voting in favour were councillors Walter McKenzie, Vince Judge, Mert Schneider and French.
Coun. Rhonda Ehgoetz was absent.
The 33-megawatt St. Columban Energy LP wind project is in the Renewable Energy Approval process. Fifteen 2.5-mW turbines are proposed for north of Hwy. 8 near St. Columban.
The project is on an Ontario Power Authority waiting list because the transmission capacity is not currently available.