Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Council's stance on wind project doesn't represent everybody

County Live.ca
January 26, 2012
by Nicole Kleinsteuber

This blog entry concerns Prince Edward County and the County Sustainability Group.  For original article click here.

Local wind supporters addressed council Tuesday night requesting they defeat a motion to submit a series of concerns to the Ministry of Environment and Gilead Power.

“We do not find it to be relevant to the original motion, reflective of sound science or representative of the greater good,” said John Thompson, past president of PEC Federation of Agriculture.

The motion states the municipality believes Ostrander Point is an inappropriate site for the proposed wind farm and should not be approved for a list of reasons. Concerns ranged from unresolved adequacy of the proposed setbacks of turbines from residents homes to infrastructure having negative impact on birds, wildlife and the environment.

Rob Williams, a member of the County Sustainability Group agreed with Thompson when he addressed council. The local group wants the community to adopt green initiatives, including windmills.

“Informing the ministry of the municipality’s belief is one thing,” said Williams. “Requesting that the belief that Ostrander Point is an unsuitable site must be addressed to the satisfaction of the County of Prince Edward is quite another. It blocks any opportunity for the ministry to grant approval.”

Williams said most of the reasons in the motion have not been critically evaluated by council or staff and are rife with subjective complaints.

“Exaggerated localized threats to humans and wildlife are given prominence yet the far greater threats from climate change, against which clean sources of renewable energy like wind are our primary defence, are completely ignored,” said Williams.

Williams said the concerns are a thinly disguised attempt to circumvent the approval process and impose a municipal veto on any approval decision by the ministry.

“It is a direct challenge to the ministry’s authority,” said Williams. “It will severely compromise the credibility of council as a reasonable partner and hence diminish council’s stature and influence in future ministry decisions.”

“I’m quite intrigued by the information that we received saying that this is a disguised attempt to circumvent the approval process and impose a municipal veto,” said councillor Robert Quaiff. “Absolutely, that was the complete intent. It was for this municipal council to take a line and draw it in the sand and all declare once and for all whether or not we support the industrial wind turbine location at Ostrander Point.”

Councillor Jamie Forrester wanted to know how councillor Quaiff came to the conclusion that the entire municipality is against the Ostrander Point location.

“I’m not quite sure how we can make that assumption one way or another,” said Forrester. “There hasn’t been any surveys with results backing up the statement.”

Councillor Bev Campbell agreed that the introductory paragraph should be rephrased.

“That paragraph doesn’t belong with matters to be addressed,” said Campbell. “We want Gilead and the province to provide us with mitigation measures to the items we’ve listed.”

Campbell said she wasn’t in favour of deleting the environmental concerns pertaining to the Important Bird Area, wildlife and endangered species. Campbell said the portion pertaining to negative human health impacts, reduced quality of life and noise emissions should be omitted from the list.
Councillor Brian Marisett said the sections about health studies should be left out.

“I don’t think it’s possible for a study to come out with conclusive proof that’s going to satisfy all of the residents regardless of what position they’re taking,” said Marisett. “I’ve heard this debate since 2002. Experts from this side and experts from that side on and on. Everyone is claiming that they’re the authority on the issue and I don’t think we’re ever going to get there.”

But councillor Terry Shortt disagreed, stating these are concerns from a portion of the community.

“They should be included,” said Shortt. “We have a divided community. Part of that community is in support of wind energy and part of the community is not.”

Council decided to amend the original motion to read the province and Gilead to provide mitigation measures for the following concerns.

“It’s some improvement,” said Thompson in an interview. “They’ve taken out the most offensive part. You can’t say the county doesn’t think that it’s an inappropriate site. It’s not possible to say it in all honesty. That information isn’t available.”

Thompson also requested council to bring in the Ontario Federation of Agriculture’s decision to suspend new feed in tariff contracts for wind until their issues are resolved into the debate. Thompson said there are inconsistencies in last week’s press release that said the OFA wants to suspend all wind developments across the province.

The concerns the OFA wants addressed surround the price to be paid for wind power, the inefficiency of wind energy, setbacks and induced currents, health and nuisance issues and the removal of municipal input for projects.

OFA President Mark Wales agreed the call for a suspension should be clarified.

“A lot of people understand what we’re saying and for those who don’t we need to clarify that point,” said Wales in an interview. “The OFA isn’t against wind energy. It’s time to put a pause on the process, don’t issue any new projects until concerns are dealt with. The projects that are in the works are going to go ahead.”

Wales said these issues have to be resolved to ensure the success of all projects.

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