(Reprint from 2009)
The dire need to stop global warming with an aggressive renewable energy plan for Ontario outstrips potential damage to sensitive environmental areas, says Marion Fraser, a founding member of the Green Energy Act Alliance. The Sarnia Observer
Green Energy Act to be introduced next week
Posted 2 years ago
By CATHY DOBSON
The dire need to stop global warming with an aggressive renewable energy plan for Ontario outstrips potential damage to sensitive environmental areas, says Marion Fraser, a founding member of the Green Energy Act Alliance.
She was in Sarnia Tuesday to get public input on new legislation expected to be introduced at Queen’s Park next week.
The Green Energy Act was drafted by the Liberal government at the urging of groups like Fraser’s in order to fight global warming and create as many as 50,000 jobs, she told a group of industry leaders, politicians and environmentalists at The Lambton Inn.
“I have faith in Premier (Dalton) McGuinty and Energy Minister (George) Smitherman because I think they recognize they’ve got to be bold or go home,” Fraser said.
The Green Energy Act is expected to spur the development of a green economy that protects the environment. The premier has already said the Act will prevent citizens from objecting to alternative energy projects unless environmental or safety standards are jeopardized.
That prompted several objections from the audience.
“I don’t have a good feeling about this,” said Malcolm Boyd on behalf of Lambton Wildlife.
If a developer proposes a solar panel farm that will wipe out a woodlot or a wind turbine farm in a flypath, the Act could take away the average citizen’s right to object, Boyd said.
Fraser assured him that the intent of the Green Energy Act is to protect vulnerable habitat and animal populations. But she said a balanced approach needs to be found.
“My concern is how many species of wildlife we are going to lose to global warming,” she said.
Later, Fraser conceded that it is ironic that environmental groups are concerned about an Act that is supposed to be good for the planet.
“We’ve talked about this issue,” she said. “We have to recognize that there are global changes taking place and they are driven significantly by our use of energy, and we have to find ways to reduce that impact.
“We have to look at it in balance. We have included recommendations in terms of protecting environment, things like avoiding wetlands and avoiding birdpaths.”
Numerous groups including the World Wildlife Foundation, the David Suzuki Foundation and the Ontario Sustainable Energy Association were consulted in the writing of the Green Energy Act.
They believe Ontario should become a leader in renewable energy in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Fraser said.
Although it won’t be clear what the draft contains until next week, she said core components include a call for fair prices for renewable energy, based on the cost of production.
She said she hopes it will also mean a commitment from the government to finance programs for community-owned energy projects.
In the longrun, renewable energy saves money, Fraser said.
She said she believes there is widespread support for the Green Energy Act because it addresses both environmental as well as economic issues.
“We have to do it now because there are real benefits for both,” she said.
Although Smitherman has said he wants the legislation to be passed this spring, there will be time for the public to provide input.
Fraser suggested contacting the local MPP’s office to make comment and logging onto www.greenenergyact.ca for more details.