By Peggy Armstrong, Lindsay Post
MANVERS TWP. – The possibility of wind farms is blowing into the city and it’s causing a big stir. Energy Farming Ontario Inc. held an open house last month in Pontypool that left one attendee with more questions than answers and a city councillor very frustrated. The meeting was, according to Ward 16 Coun. David Marsh, “despicable, deplorable. It’s unbelievable the province endorsed this.”
“They refused to answer questions,” he told The Lindsay Post. He noted that the province requires public open houses concerning wind farm proposals, but he said no one from the province was in attendance to oversee it.
Marsh plans to hold his own town hall meeting at the Manvers arena later this month or mid-October. He said he intends to invite Energy Farming and the local MPP and MP.
“Rick Johnson (the Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock MPP) is extremely concerned about this,” he added.
Johnson is a long-time resident of Pontypool. He told The Post that he lives “smack dab in the middle” of the proposed area for the wind turbine construction.”
The area includes land south of Lifford Road, west of Porter Road, north of Telecom Road and Drum Road, east of Manvers-Scugog Townline and south of Gray Road.
Johnson said he did not receive a notice of the meeting at home because he has a post box, not a mailbox. His office was informed with only a couple of days’ warning and an aide tsaid Johnson was unable to attend because of a prior commitment.
Johnson told The Post he has heard negative reports about the meeting.
“It was unfortunate the way this company went about it” he said.
Heather Staubley, a resident of Pontypool, said she received notice of the meeting in her mailbox about a week before it was scheduled. She went expecting a question and answer format.
Instead, she said it had booths with promotional material on wind energy and representatives said they would talk to people one-on-one but would not make a presentation.
The proposal is to construct up to 30 wind turbines on private agricultural lands the company would lease from farmers in the former Manvers Township. Staubley said the towers would be 300 feet tall and have blades 168 feet long.
Marsh said the company provided information that implied the land has been leased, but he said he confirmed at the meeting that the company has options to lease. He added that the company would not identify the farms where the wind turbines might be built.
He said neighbours would have no grounds for appeal.
“This is a total infringement of human rights.”
Johnson said that issue will be cleared up when the new regulations concerning the Green Energy Act come out this fall.
He noted that Energy Farming’s notice of the open house cites regulations from 2001.
He said any potential project will be subject to regulations under the Act and will have to include consultation.
The proposed regulations for the Act knocked the wind out of the sails of a project in Port Perry this month. The wind turbines would have to be 550 metres from any home and 150 metres from lands designated as greenspace. That wasn’t enough space for the project envisioned by Port Perry-based Standard Power Corporation of six wind turbines on farmland along the Simcoe Street corridor just north of Seagrave.
A project that is in its final stages can be exempt from the new Act’s regulations, Kate Jordan, a spokesperson for the Ministry of the Environment (MOE) told The Post. It needs to have a certificate of approval from the MOE and a contract with the Ontario Power Authority to hook the turbines up to the grid.
Getting a wind farm approved is not a process that’s easily rushed, she said.
Jordan said that the stage of holding public open houses is at the beginning of the process. Companies have to provide details to the ministry of the consultations that they held.
She said anyone with concerns regarding the validity of the consultations can submit their comments to the approvals branch of the MOE in Toronto by mail or by email directly to email@example.com .
However, a story in The Lindsay Post’s sister paper The London Free Press last week notes that from 2006 to August 2009, Ontario residents have asked for full environmental assessments on 31 wind farm projects. In all cases, the province rejected the requests.
The full assessments are done only for “large-scale complex undertakings with potential for significant environmental effects and major public interest,” Jordan told The London Free Press.
Companies proposing wind farms carry out their own environmental screenings and assess any potential health impacts, without third party, independent input.
Johnson said his office has been trying to make direct contact with a principal at Energy Farming.
Marsh asked at the meeting who the principals are of Energy Farming Ontario. He said a company representative reluctantly said that they are from Germany.
The Post called Energy Farming last week and asked for a name of the owner and an interview. The person answering the phone would not supply a name and no one returned the call for further information.
On its website www.energyfarmingontario.com it says: “Energy Farming Ontario is a privately owned Canadian company formed in 2007 by former engineers and principals of one of the world’s leading wind turbine manufacturers.”
Other sites Energy Farming is proposing to build in are Orono, Millbrook and Norwood.
Despite his frustrations with the company, Marsh is keeping an open mind on wind farms. “My mind is not made up on this, that it’s wrong,” he said, noting that other municipalities have them.