February 02, 2012
The article can be found here.
A lthough there may be “no scientific evidence” of direct harmful effects in peer-reviewed literature of large scale wind farms, there is a lot wrong with the way in which the Ontario Government has acted as the gatekeeper of their approvals, according to the stance taken by the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA), in seeking a halt to development pending further studies.
Hearkening back to the development of Phase 1 of the Melancthon wind farm, there was some opposition but nothing compared to that of the present. In fact, there was virtually no opposition at the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) hearing into the Melancthon portion of Phase 2 – after the parties agreed to a set of guidelines for public involvement in approvals.
Back then, OMB hearings were the virtual rule for wind farm developments. The affected public, via the local municipal government and the OMB as an adjudicator, was the gatekeeper.
But this meant approvals came slowly, even though the Provincial Policy Statement favoured them, and Premier Dalton McGuinty had pledged to power Ontario with alternative energy, including wind, to replace remaining coal-fired generators.
Hence the Green Energy Act (GEA), a statute that took away the municipal control and virtually excluded the public from deliberations.
The GEA did clarify setback rules. The initial Melancthon development had turbines as close to residential receptors as 300 metres (three football fields in the Canadian Foodball League). These were generally increased to 400-450 metres in Phase 2, thanks to local negotiations and the OMB.
The GEA did hike them to 550 metres, said to be the most stringent globally.
One might think that the GEA’s precautionary setback rule, if that’s what it is, would allay any fears of ill effects from turbines. Maybe it would have, had the GEA not stripped away – usurped – all power of municipal governments and the public.
Now the OFA is demanding a halt to wind farm development pending further studies of their effects on human health. It says the “invasion” of wind turbines is tearing rural municipalities asunder.
Maybe so: Melancthon, with the most turbines of any Canadian municipality apart from Wolfe Island, said so some time ago, its council seeking a cap on the number of turbines any municipality should host, based on an area formula. Mayor Bill Hill apparently said so in a conversation with the minister of Energy or Environment, but was told it was up to him to overcome any community rifts.
Dufferin County’s major industry is agriculture. The agricultural industry nation-wide is somewhat depressed In although there are signs it is recovering. For struggling farmers, the $6,000 or so annual income from each turbine must be a godsend.
Opposition to farming practices is nothing new in this area. We have seen opposition to the location of barns, based on odours, and to the age-old practice of “the manure pile” being in place over winter for spreading in the spring – hence the Nutrient Management Act.
New and costly rules have been foisted upon farmers, largely by former city dwellers enjoying rural homes and/or vacation retreats.
This is an agricultural area, not a retirement community. Someone at Mulmur council years ago took exception to a reference to the township as “cottage country.” Memory of the meeting is dim, but it might have been then-reeve John Newton who adamantly insisted it was “farm country,” as opposed to a vacation township.
In recent months, we have seen a groundswell of at least province-wide support for the preservation of prime foodgrowing acres – notably last September’s Foodstock in opposition to creation of a mega-quarry in Melancthon.
Yet there is opposition to the enhancement of farm income via the erection of wind turbines – including the latest by the farmers’ own organization, the OFA.
Is the OFA being realistic? I don’t think so. I think it would tend to throw the baby out with the bathwater in its stance.
Instead, what is needed is a return of local planning controls to local governments, with recourse to the OMB for anyone not in agreement with local decisions.
In addition, the rules on development should include settlements of some kind with legitimate complaints of existing residents within, say, a kilometre of any new installation.
The problem might be definition of “legitimate complaint.”