“It’s so confusing,” said South Dundas Deputy-Mayor Jim Locke, referring to the opposing sides of the wind farm debate.
Council has decided to postpone rulings concerning the requests made by the South Branch Wind Opposition Group at the December 6th South Dundas council meeting. The group won’t hear anything definite from council until January 2012.
Leslie Disheau, a spokesperson for the South Branch Wind Opposition Group, presented council with the requests after giving a very thorough, detailed presentation on why Prowind Canada’s plan to build the South Branch Wind Farm, consisting of about 14 wind turbines, should be stopped or, at the very least, roadblocked.
The project, which could begin as early as next spring, but no later than 2013, officially began in 2008.
Disheau began by outlining “South Branch Wind Opposition group’s points of objection to industrial wind turbines: they have not been proven safe to be sited close to communities – health concerns; they kill large numbers of birds and bats; they devalue non-participant properties; and, there is no reduction in cost to consumers for electricity rates.”
In 2006, Nina Pierpont, MD, PhD testified before the New York State Legislature Energy Committee, saying “I’m an intelligent person and I support renewable energy. I am not here to shoot down wind energy, which probably has its place, though that place is not near people’s homes or near schools, hospitals, or other locations where people have to sleep or learn.”
Pierpont has a BA in Biology from Yale University, a PhD in Population Biology from Pinceton University, and an MD from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
In September of this year, Cathy Weston, Managing Director for Prowind Canada, told the Leader that there are only two houses in the area designated to be within 600 metres of a turbine. She explained that the rest of the turbines would be situated at least one kilometre from all existing homes.
At the council meeting, Disheau referred to studies that show inhabitants of houses that are less than a 1.4 kilometres from a turbine are subject to negative impacts on their sleeping habits and, in turn, their health.
According to Pierpont, “a setback of 1.5 miles from homes, schools, hospitals, and similar institutions will probably be adequate, in most NY State terrain, to protect people from the adverse health effects of industrial wind turbines.” For reference, 1.5 miles is equal to 2.4 kilometres.
On behalf of the South Branch Wind Opposition Group, Disheau made several requests of South Dundas council members.
The first request asked council to “pass a motion making a request to the Ministry of the Environment, and provincial officials that would place a moratorium on the construction of industrial wind turbine facilities before a third party independent epidemiological study (can be done) determining they pose no risks to human health, the environment, and property values.”
The second request suggested council “pass a by-law that requires wind turbine companies to have equipment and trained Emergency Response personnel to deal with high elevation fires and rescues for turbines over the 200 foot mark. And, council must amend the Emergency Preparedness Plan for South Dundas to deal with ice throw and flying debris from wind blade disintegration.”
In a third request, Disheau wanted council to “pass a by-law, according to the Municipal Act, restricting night time nuisance noise and vibration.” She explained that as per the Green Energy Act of Ontario, 10 p.m. is the stop time for wind turbine installations.
A fourth request suggested that “before any building permits are given to Prowind or any other developer, South Dundas council should conduct an open forum session for all township residents to have their questions and concerns answered.”
This request is actually being addressed by Prowind Canada itself. Two public meetings, both scheduled for January, will follow a question and answer format. The meeting in South Dundas will be held at Matilda Hall in Dixon’s Corners on January 10th from 7 to 8:30 p.m.
In the South Branch Wind Opposition group’s final request, Disheau pleaded with council to “make an appeal to the Environmental Review Tribunal on the approval of the wind farm project.”
In response to Disheau’s informative and moving presentation, Mayor Steven Byvelds said, “we hear your concerns. I’ve added it to the discussion. There are some options in my mind as to where we can go with this,” however, “here we are less than six months away from people who have spent a lot of money to put something up. That presents challenges.”
During a later discussion, Byvelds presented his fellow council members with three options in response to the group’s presentation and requests: one, take time to review the information and make a decision at a later meeting; two, “take their information under advisement and monitor the progress of the wind farm and if there are any issues, deal with them according to the law; and three, “agree and do as they ask.”
Both Byvelds and Councillor Jim Graham seemed perplexed as to the last minute attention to the project. Graham asked, “It’s been four or five years and this is the first sign of opposition?”
Councillor Archie Mellan agreed, saying “they’re asking us to try to stop it when shovels” are about to dig in.
Byvelds seemed skeptical of the proof behind the group’s concerns, saying “I would find it really hard to believe that the province is relying on poor information.”
With that said, he addressed council, saying “I want to be fair to both sides. I advise council that you read both sides of the story.”
South Dundas council members unanimously chose option one, meaning they will take time to review, research, and attend Prowind’s January 10th meeting, before responding to the opposition group’s requests. The requests will be revisited and decided upon at the council meeting following Prowind’s January 10th meeting.
Byvelds concluded the discussion on the topic, saying “I know I sound a little closed-minded, but we’ve had meetings with Prowind. They’ve spent a lot of money. We want to make sure we’re right on this.”
Contact information for both sides of the issue are: Prowind Canada via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org; and, the South Branch Wind Opposition Group via e-mail at email@example.com.