Tuesday, June 9, 2009
A History of Huron East Against Turbines
Huron East Residents Oppose Turbines
A group of Southwestern Ontario rural residents is fighting a proposed wind energy project that will be located, almost literally, in their backyards. In this agricultural community, near the village of St. Columban, there will be ten 2MW wind turbines. Each will stand 140 metres tall from ground to tip of turbine blade. Some will be situated a scant 450 metres from residences.
Just over 2 years ago in March 2007, flyers appeared in some, but not all, of the residents’ mailboxes advising that studies had begun for a proposed wind project and that the community would be kept informed with “opportunities for public participation”. This past January 14, an article appeared in the local weekly Huron Expositor headlined “Public input wanted for two wind power projects”. The article outlined the projects and quoted Jose Menendez, Special Projects Consultant for CASA Engineering and Construction, that “feedback from the community during the upcoming meeting would be considered in the planning of the projects”.
Four months later, with just 4 business days notice, an ad appeared in the Huron Expositor inviting the public to an Open House in nearby Brodhagen, Ontario. The event appears to have been planned to coincide with a time when farmers are busy preparing their fields and planting crops. The 60 or so attendees were greeted by Mr. Menendez and four consultants who guided visitors into a hall containing only a number of tables supporting placards with information about the project. Several vocal residents demanded to know when the “public input” would take place. Mr. Menendez refused to allow a discussion and insisted that questions should be written on a piece of paper, deposited in a box and that they would be responded to in due time. A month later we are still waiting for answers.
The dissatisfied residents formed an ad hoc steering committee, dubbed Huron East Against Turbines (HEAT) and staged its own public meeting less than ten days later, packing a local hall with more than 120 concerned residents. The committee, which had assembled an impressive amount of research in that brief time, gave a powerpoint presentation on the drawbacks of wind energy including major health issues due to noise and vibration, inefficiency, environmental degradation, loss of viewscape and a decline in property values. Although invited to speak, the four landowners on whose property the turbines will be located chose not to attend. HEAT announced that it would be joining Wind Concerns Ontario, a province-wide coalition of groups affected by wind energy projects. The enthusiastic crowd backed the organizers unanimously and signed a petition calling on the Huron East municipal council to declare a moratorium on wind projects until a proper epidemiological study could be prepared.
On May 19, the council generously listened to and discussed HEAT’s presentation. The 30 minute deputation stretched into 2 hours with over 100 supporters crowding the council chambers. Although the councilors supported the moratorium in principle, they were advised by the Huron County Planning Board that their hands were tied by the recent passage of Ontario’s Bill C 150, the Green Energy Act, which took authority over energy projects out of the control of municipalities.
The main issue for the group is the short set-back distances of the turbines. They consider the 450 metres far too inadequate (the World Health Organization and the French Academy of Medicine recommend 1500 – 2000 metres). HEAT has retained a lawyer specializing in environmental and municipal law and is pursuing its fight against the project. It has organized a letter-writing campaign to politicians at every level. Recently an Ontario MPP promised to place a package of our concerns directly into the hands of George Smitherman, Minister of Energy and John Gerretsen, Minister of the Environment. A long-awaited meeting with the riding’s own MPP, Carol Mitchell is scheduled for June 11.
In order to educate the greater public about wind energy, HEAT has organized a Public Education Meeting and is advertising county-wide. It is expected that concerned citizens will pack the Seaforth Community Centre to hear presentations by experts on the adverse effects of these projects. Testimonials will be given by victims who were impacted by the electrical complexes at Ripley and Shelburne/Melancthon. The event is planned for Thursday June 18 at 8 pm. Everyone is invited.
Information available at www.heatont.blogspot.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org