“SBWOG is still determined to fight this project,” said Leslie Disheau, representative for the South Branch Wind Opposition Group (SBWOG), on April 11th.
The opposition group is hard at work trying to raise awareness and support for their effort to stall and, ultimately, stop Prowind Canada’s wind turbine development project, the South Branch Wind Farm.
As reported in an earlier edition of The Leader, on April 10th, two local MPPs, Jim McDonell for Stormont, Dundas and South Glengarry as well as Steve Clark for Leeds and Grenville, hosted a public meeting in Dixon’s Corners.
The meeting was held in response to requests from the opposition group for a balanced public information session.
“I was pleased with the public turnout at the meeting,” said Bruce Albers, president of the South Branch Wind Opposition Group.
“There were some excellent comments and questions. I applaud Jim McDonell and Steve Clark for recognizing the concerns of their constituents and addressing them, something both municipal councils refused to do.”
“I thought it was very telling that those bodies whose responsibility it is to protect our community refused to attend the meeting.”
“The MOE (Ministry of the Environment), MNR (Ministry of Natural Resources), and Eastern Ontario Health Unit should be ashamed of themselves,” he continued. “The only public body to live up to its responsibilities and attend the meeting was the South Nation Conservation Authority.”
In addition to attending local meetings and asking local politicians for assistance, the opposition group has come up with additional tools for spreading awareness, sharing information and garnering support for their fight against the influx of wind turbines.
One such tool is their new website: www.stopbigwind.ca.
The website defines the group’s membership and mission: “We are a collection of citizens living in Brinston, Shanly, and South Mountain, Ontario. Our mandate is to provide information about the South Branch industrial wind project, as well as the potential negative impacts of industrial wind turbines.”
Still in its infancy, the website lists information on the project itself and it provides links to various relevant news articles, quotes, and related information.
In addition to the website, the group has started a series of newsletters called “Breaking Wind.” So far the newsletter has had two installments. The second, out in April, was four pages long and offered updates, information, definitions of wind terminology, myth debunking and more.
One of the highlighted myths: “Europe has been using windmills for the last twenty years and they don’t have any problems.” According to the opposition group’s counter fact: “There are more than 520 organizations in over 20 countries who oppose the continued proliferation of industrial wind turbines.”
Through their website, newsletters, and various activities in the community, the opposition group is working to keep this issue front and center.
In response to recent changes made to the Green Energy Act, Disheau stated: “Our group has made it known that we openly oppose wind developers and their projects, so with the ‘new’ rules of giving ‘points’ to areas supporting wind developers this may change what happens here in South Dundas for future prospects.”
“Families here still remember fifty-four years ago when the St. Lawrence Seaway project was undertaken to give us power generation for the next hundred years and an international commercial trade route for economic prosperity,” continued Disheau.
“Those provincial promises made back then are very similar to those being made today… not worth the ink.”
“We all know that this region is not getting the full benefit of the hydro electricity being produced in Cornwall nor did the economic prosperity ever transpire for the villages along the St. Lawrence river. ‘We must go, but watch us grow’… I’m still waiting to see the ‘grow’ happen and I’ve lived here for 43 years.”
“I really can’t see how subsidized industrial wind turbines will save us from global warming. ‘Green is good’ only for those profiting,” she said.
As for Prowind Canada, they have submitted their final report to the Ministry of Environment and are awaiting the next step.
According to Albers, with Prowind’s submission, “the MOE will first ensure that all components necessary for the application have been included, such as archaeological surveys, flora and fauna studies, community consultation documentation, etc.”
“Once this step has been completed, the application may or may not move to the technical evaluation stage,” he said. “It may simply be posted to the EBR (Environmental Registry) website for public consultation. Here the application must be posted for a minimum of 30 days.”
“In the past, projects have been posted for 60 days but more recently the government has gone back to their 30 day rule. Once the public consultation period has concluded, the MOE is supposed to take into account the comments then determine whether or not to provide the Notice To Proceed. The reality is,” continued Albers, “no wind project has ever been halted due to comments from the public.”
Albers also pointed out that “projects where endangered species or species at risk were to be affected had to have special permission to ‘kill, harm, and harass’ from the MOE. The South Branch project has a number of such species including the snapping turtle, the bobolink, the barn swallow, and the eastern meadowlark.”
“With the help of the provincial NDPs, the new budget has passed and along with it some 60 amendments affecting the Endangered Species Act where the government can now exempt from prosecution proponents and private landowners from having to protect these vulnerable species.”
In their fight to protect their families, homes, and communities, the South Branch Wind Opposition group is not stopping at websites and newsletters. They have attained the services of lawyer Erik K. Gillespie.
Gillespie, is also legal representative for the North American Platform Against Wind Power (NAPAW), which represents people in Canada, the Caribbean, Central America, Mexico and the United States.
On behalf of NAPAW, Gillespie recently sent a letter to governmental representatives throughout Canada stating: “The purpose of this letter is to advise that in our client’s view the implementation of industrial wind energy facilities in close proximity to residences appears to violate a number of Articles of the UN Declaration of Human Rights; United Nations Convention for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; and United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.”
Members of the South Branch Wind Opposition Group intend to meet with Gillespie sometime in mid-May to discuss their options. He will be discussing “possible legal avenues that include an ERT (Environmental Review Tribunal), Judicial Review, and other avenues,” said Albers.
“Our objective is to explore whatever legal avenues will stop the project, an ERT seems like the sensible avenue,” he continued, “however, we are not limiting ourselves to one single approach.”
“We have committed to pursue the Environmental Review Tribunal,” agreed Disheau, “and this is costly so we need financial commitment from people who don’t want these turbines to be built.”
“I am still hearing people say they don’t want the turbines but will not support us because they believe this project is a done deal,” she added.
“Some have even commented that they are going to wait until the turbines are built to see if the turbines will affect them, then fight against the wind developer if there are ill effects.”
In reaction to those views, Disheau said that “now is the time to fight because once the turbines are built they will never be turned off and any ill effects will never be dealt with.”
Albers reported that “our organization is preparing for an Environmental Review Tribunal which requires legal representation at the cost of $40,000.”
“This project will not go away unless it is opposed. People need to understand that this is the nature of the GEA (Green Energy Act), it facilitates these projects.”
“Councils for South Dundas and for Edwardsburg and Cardinal refuse to address the known negative issues surrounding industrial wind turbines.”
“Those bodies such as the Eastern Ontario Health Unit, MNR, and MOE have refused to meet with the citizens of South Dundas and Shanly to address their concerns.”
“The provincial Liberals, authors of the GEA claim that industrial wind turbines sited within populated areas are safe despite the fact people have had to abandon their homes.”
“There is no one looking after our community interests,” said Albers, “the only people we have to rely on in protecting our community from industrial wind turbines are ourselves.”
“People need to be proactive. They need to do their own research. There are approximately 1,000 industrial wind turbines in South Western Ontario where there are many people suffering negative health affects.”
“Whatever resistance we provide is better than the alternative.”
“The South Branch project could be the first of many turbines in the area. There are a number of citizens in the area who have signed on to host turbines, so we now know our area will have more than 14 turbines, as we suspected. There are other projects slated for North Gower, Winchester, and Chesterville, these projects are awaiting a FIT contract with the government.”
For more information about the South Branch Wind Opposition Group and industrial wind turbines, contact Bruce Albers at 613-658-1236 or at email@example.com.