environment, Francophone, French language Ontario, language rights, MInistry of the Environment and Climate Change, MOECC, wind farm, wind power, wind turbines
June 4, 2018
Prior to the suspension*of Ontario’s “Large Renewable Procurement I” or LRP I, the government program to procure contracts for renewable power from solar and wind energy, five contracts were awarded in 2016 for new wind power projects.
Two of those were in the Ottawa area: the “Eastern Fields” project proposed by RES Canada in La Nation, the Township of Champlain and the United Counties of Prescott Russell, and “Nation Rise” proposed by Portugal-based EDPR.
Those projects are all now in the process toward approval and ultimate construction, in spite of the fact that the contracting authority, the Independent Electricity System Operator or IESO, says now that Ontario has surplus power for the forseeable future, and the fact that the communities do not unanimously support these power projects.
Let’s catch up with where the projects are right now.
Nation Rise, North Stormont
This project was granted a Renewable Energy Approval or REA a few weeks ago, just days before the writ for the 2018 provincial election was drawn up. (The government is not allowed to make any major decisions after the writ.) The announcement came at 5 PM on a Friday; the community had 15 days to decide whether to appeal the REA, five days of those were on weekends, which restricts the ability of community members to consult with lawyers and subject matter experts.
The Concerned Citizens of North Stormont has decided to appeal, and a first appearance before the Environment Review Tribunal will be June 25 in Finch (to be confirmed).
There are a number of environmental concerns, principally the fact that the project will be located on what is designated a “highly vulnerable aquifer” — the Raisin-South Nation Protection Area serves 10,000 water wells. After the reports of disturbed and failed wells in Chatham-Kent during and following construction of a wind power project there, citizens in North Stormont are very worried about what could happen to their wells.
The other issue is noise: many residents will be exposed to the noise emissions coming from the more than 30 industrial-scale wind turbines planned for the area. Here’s the kicker: Ontario knew its noise assessment protocol for wind turbines was flawed so it revised the guidelines, and released a new document in April 2017. But, the five newest wind power projects don’t have to abide by them, instead using a “transitional” process, in spite of the fact their wind turbines are not yet purchased or built. A legal action on behalf of four community groups, North Stormont among them, is in process.
The wind power project will “have a huge impact on our communities,” said Concerned Citizens spokesperson Margaret Benke in a recent news release. North Stormont feels particularly betrayed because the current Premier told Ontario rural residents that wind power projects would not be put in areas that didn’t want them — a contract was awarded anyway, and last week the Premier, on a whirlwind election campaign tour that included North Stormont, was asked about that. She said “We had no choice.”
Listen to Wind Concerns Ontario president Jane Wilson here, in an interview with Bell Media’s Evan Solomon on the project.
This community group has started a GoFundMe effort to raise funds to defend the community, and they need help. Go to the GoFundMe link here: https://ca.gofundme.com/stop-wind-turbines-in-northstormont
This power project was in the mandated comment period which ended June 2nd, Saturday. The Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) says that consultation with the public is very important to the renewable energy process and that the comments from the public are welcome and valued.
That’s why all the documents were available in English only, in communities that are at least 60-percent francophone.
When pressed by residents and the community group Sauvons La Nation, the power developer RES Canada — which stands to make about $7 million a year– said it would cost too much to translate the documents.
Apparently now, the MOECC says that francophone residents should have responded by the June 2nd deadline to say they need the French documentation and to request an extension to the deadline. Why wasn’t the information provided in the appropriate language in the first place, instead of discriminating against the francophone community?
There are environmental concerns with this power project as well, as it is close to the Alfred Bog, a site for migratory birds and other wildlife (Hint: migratory birds don’t count in Ontario — the wind power legislation, crafted by the industry, says that a species has to be on the edge of extinction before a wind power project could be denied).
There are concerns about water in the area as well, as it is rife with waterways, and also features areas of Leda clay or “quick” clay (as does North Stormont).
Noise will also be an issue for residents. Meanwhile, RES Canada, which also operates the Talbot wind power project, has had hundreds of complaints of excessive noise from the wind turbines, with no action taken by the MOECC.
Betrayal? Again, the Ontario government promised it would not inflict power projects on unwilling communities but again, it has. In this case, the gigantic turbines are all planned to be on land owned by members of a single family, involved in agriculture.
*The LRP/wind power program was suspended, which means, if the current government returns to power, or another is elected that also supports wind power, it could be revived and continue.