Comment  - Green Energy Issue

by Bill Jackson - The Regional

Sept. 15, 2010

With public delegations appearing on behalf of Nanticoke's power workers, as well as residents along the lakeshore bracing for the onslaught of wind turbines, Haldimand Council took another bite out of the dog's breakfast that is the future of power generation in Haldimand County, and for that matter the Province of Ontario.

It's obvious that municipal councils have very little control over green energy proposals, and trying to move forward positively with the spirit of a renewable future in keeping with economic development opportunities, while attempting to mitigate the concerns of residents, is proving to be challenging. As a result, it's become increasingly difficult to discern exactly where municipal councils stand on certain forms of green energy generation.

Judging from the opposition to the Green Energy Act and the heavy handed approach of the province with respect to wind turbines, it's obvious that many other jurisdictions are in the same boat, realize their limited authority, and are unwilling to go down without a fight, swinging.

Although Haldimand and Norfolk have both signed on to be part of a green energy hub with neighbouring jurisdictions, they're also considering ways to stop wind turbines from becoming too invasive. Norfolk has joined with other municipalities across Ontario to request a moratorium on them until health concerns are addressed. Haldimand signed on to a working group this week with the Western Ontario Wardens' caucus that will make a collective attempt to re-establish the local planning process and address public concerns.

The concerns are very serious and shouldn't be taken lightly, especially in an area where hundreds of wind turbines are being proposed. It's not as if one side is entirely right, or entirely wrong. There are expert opinions - polar opposites - coming to the forefront these days, from health experts, doctors, scientists and professors, who are debating the effects of wind turbines on humans and the environment.

As cited by Ken Brownell, a member of the Northshore Property Owners Association, residents' concerns include, but are not limited to, setback allowances, electrical pollution, adverse health effects on both humans and wildlife, devaluation of property, drilling in areas with natural gas pockets, vibrations traveling through bedrock and shale, sun flicker, catastrophic blade failure, damage from ice thrown from blades, collapse, fire and many other environmental issues.

Some concerns are much more valid than others, perhaps, but the evidence is backed up  by many different sources across the globe. Information is posted online, so people can see for themselves. Brownell suggests that people in Haldimand log on to www.windfacts.ca, www.windconcernsontario.org, www.windvigilance.comm and www.youtube.com, and search door "wind turbine" videos. "You will be shocked at what you see and discover," he promises.

Meanwhile, provincial officials from the Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure are expected to be on their way to the area this Friday for a Grand River boat cruise on which representatives from local municipalities will pitch the area as a hub for green energy generation, manufacturing and research.

Certainly, there are many opportunities beyond wind and solar farms - such as biomass to replace cal - that local residents and farming communities would welcome. Yet provincial officials must be reminded that they also have a fiduciary responsibility to address the concerns of Ontario taxpayers. It will e up to Haldimand Council now and in the future to stay vigilant with a full court press to demand answers from developers who have provided little information to the public about their proposals that could alter the landscape and impact lives for years to come. It's simply unacceptable for people who have contributed to the province's economy throughout their entire lives to have green energy rammed down their throat, like so many other policies by this provincial government during the past seven years.

For now, council seems to have taken a down-the-middle approach, and is willing wo work with the province to proceed with a green future, while attempting to address the concerns of residents in the meantime. Along with the marketing and promotion of the local area this Friday, the second part of the accord should also be emphasized.

If the province turns a deaf ear and a blind eye, council will be obligated to ratchet up its opposition to 'green' projects in the future.

One can only wonder if by that time it will be too late.