Ottawa has no new zoning bylaws to protect rural residents from environmental impacts from new power projects
View of a street in Crysler, south of Ottawa, with wind turbine 2 km away. There have been so many noise complaints that the local board of health is conducting a review. [Photo: D. Larsen for Wind Concerns Ontario]
Two Ottawa city councillors have put forward a motion regarding new power generation facilities, demanding that municipal support be mandatory, and that any power projects be in the best interests of the people who must live near them.
Because Ottawa will not have new zoning bylaws until 2025, what the two rural ward councillors are saying is, rural area residents need up-to-date protection in terms of setback distances and noise limits from power projects, which are an industrial use of the land.
Ontario’s regulations for wind turbines, for example, were created in 2009 and remain unchanged, despite advances in knowledge about such negative environmental impacts as noise pollution, strobe effect, risk to wildlife, and danger from fire, ice throw or catastrophic equipment failures.
Community interests foremost, councillor says
Councillor David Brown submitted a notice of motion on February 1st, seconded by Ward 5 Councillor Clarke Kelly.
Here is what Councillor Brown wrote in the current edition of the Manotick Messenger about the motion.
“At issue is the Independent Electricity System Operator or IESO and its ongoing efforts to procure energy projects across the province. Though energy projects generally receive support from municipal councils before proceeding, the authority is unclear; IESO could attempt to work with a project proponent without the approval of Council.
This means that an LNG power plant, a wind turbine, a solar farm, or any other project could arise without the support of the community.
Additionally, Ottawa is in the process of updating its by-laws. Once completed, these updated by-laws will hep future development better conform to the objectives of the city’s Official Plan. This includes energy infrastructure in general and wind turbines in particular. It is essential that new by-laws be finalized and approved before wind turbines are brought to Council’s attention for consideration and approval.
These are the issues that my motion seeks to address. The goals of this motion are to ensure that Council is able to act as the final authority on energy generation in our City and that new generating infrastructure respects our City’s soon-to-be-updated by-laws.
As new energy generation capacity is likely to be placed in the rural areas of Ottawa, it is vital that new facilities be well considered and respect residents’ needs and our communities’ interests.
No project should be advanced without being in the clear interest of those who live close to it.
By advancing this motion I am hoping to better protect our communities against potentially harmful overreach.
As of last December, the IESO process appeared not to allow municipalities final say in power project approvals, and energy minister Todd Smith recently wrote the IESO a letter asking them to be specific. Early in the current RFP process, municipal support could be “evidenced” by a letter from a planner, or by the issuing of building permits. Issuing building permits is an administrative process, and not an indication of Council support.
Ottawa lags in regulations for safety, health
Ottawa Wind Concerns has called for greater transparency on new power projects, and made several presentations in the past to the previous Agricultural and Rural Affairs Committee. Last year, the then councillor for Ward 21 said there was no need for Ottawa to act because there was no RFP process for new power projects, and sent emails in September to members of both the agricultural/rural and environmental protection committees. The truth was, at that point, the IESO documents were already in the engagement and revision phase, and well known to other jurisdictions.
The RFP commenced December 7, 2022.
Ottawa Wind Concerns has recommended a setback of 2 km from wind turbines to residential areas, based on the recommendation from Wind Concerns Ontario.
The City of Ottawa has expressed interest in promoting wind turbines. Ottawa’s $57B Energy Evolution plan calls for 3,200 megawatts of wind power, or more than 700 industrial scale wind turbines in the rural areas of the city.
During the 2022 municipal election campaign, all candidates in Ward 21 pledged to work for a review of that plan.
New motion to be presented soon
The motion set for February 8th has been deferred to next Council meeting because of technicalities with the local power utility, but will be presented again February 22nd.