by David Meyer The Wellington Advertiser
ELORA – Centre Wellington council’s committee of the whole heard on Monday afternoon that several farmers who signed lease agreements for wind farms near Belwood are willing to back out of them.
A delegation led by Dave Hurlburt, Laura Humphrey, Gerry Ellen and Darryl Burnet came to council to ask for its help in opposing the wind farm planned by Invenergy that surrounds much of Belwood and reaches into Dufferin County. They represented a group that is opposing the proposal for up to 35 wind turbines.
Hurlburt acknowledged council has no authority over the project because the provincial Liberal government took it away and gave it to the Ministry of Environment, but he said, “We feel this council has a strong role to play” in opposing it.
Humphrey cited new information coming forward regularly about the health risks wind turbines might pose, which could cause things like sleep disorders, headaches and numerous other medical concerns.
She compared the wind turbines and health issues to smoking, and noted it took years to convince people that smoking was dangerous.
“We need to repeatedly study wind farms to see if they are safe for human health,” Humphrey said.
She added there are impacts on animals and said the site of the wind farm is very close to what has locally become known as “tornado alley,” where there have been several tornadoes over the years that caused millions of dollars in damage in Wellington County.
Hurlburt said part of the process forces Invenergy to consult with the local council, and he wants council to oppose the project and insist that a letter of opposition is included in its report to the MOE.
The group also asked that if the project is approved, transmission lines be buried and that heavy development charges be placed on each turbine. The group asked that council get all the local area roads improved before heavy machinery is allowed to travel over them. It also asked that the company be forced to provide letters of credit for decommissioning the turbines, and to insist on a 4-to 5-km setback from all private airstrips.
The group also asked council to join other municipalities that supported the Mapleton resolution to seek a provincial moratorium on all such projects until health studies are completed. Council has already done that.
One of the more surprising requests was that farmers be allowed to opt out. Councillor Fred Morris asked if that is possible.
Hurlburt said it is. He explained many of the contracts signed by farmers to accept wind turbines on their property had been signed nearly four years ago – and with another company. Invenergy is the third and latest company involved in the project.
He said what farmers accepted four years ago has changed greatly, including the size of the wind turbines. As well, he said, many farmers had no idea the effect the old proposal would have on the community. He said they had no idea of the number of turbines that would be part of the plan and, “If asked today, they probably would not sign.”
Darryl Burnett said, “Not only would they not sign, they want out.” He said at least “five of 15 farmers [in East Garafraxa] would back away” if they could.
He said that in East Garafraxa, he has heard from a council member there that Invenergy officials had told that council it would not stop farmers who want to change their minds about placing wind turbines on their properties.
Hurlburt said he wants Centre Wellington to council to get a similar commitment from Invenergy for the Belwood area landowners.
He added that the group is “really frustrated” not only by the public open house forum that was used as a public meeting, but because the provincial Liberal government has taken the decision away from local councils.
As for the meeting, “It was no public forum; it was a one-way street,” Hurlburt said.
Mayor Joanne Ross-Zuj told the group it has council support. She said she had met with Revenue Minister and Perth Wellington MPP John Wilkinson last week about the issue, and he had told her that residents need to lobby John Gerretsen, the Minister of Environment.
Ross-Zuj told the group, “Whatever it takes – email, a stamp – get it to the MOE as individuals. Gerretsen knows what to expect from council. If that’s where they want it to go, make sure they hear from you.”
Residents also bombarded Centre Wellington officials. Ross-Zuj said she received over 100 letters and all the writers are going to get a reply that they should lobby the MOE.
“That starts today,” she said. Those 100 letters we received should go down there.
Contact information for Gerretsen was handed out at the meeting. He can be reached by mail at: The Honourable john Gerretsen, Minister of Environment, 77 Wellesley Street West, 11th Floor, Ferguson Block, Toronto, Ontario, M7A 2T5, or by email at email@example.com, or be telephone at 416-314-6790, or be fax at 416-314-7337.