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APPEC asks the candidates about wind energy development

National Politics and Wind Energy Development
Henri Garand
Chair, APPEC

Does the federal government have a role to play in wind energy development?  Given the sensitivity of the issue in the County, it’s not a question federal candidates running in Prince Edward-Hastings want to answer.  But a few had the courage of standing on party platforms and replied directly to a survey from the Alliance to Protect Prince Edward County.
Rather than dealing with the economic, environmental and health effects of wind development, the survey focuses on matters in which there may be an overlap of federal and provincial jurisdiction.   APPEC also provided background on each question so candidates could understand its context.
Patrick Larkin, Green Party; Michael McMahon, New Democratic Party; and Peter Tinsley, Liberal Party, all replied at length.  Mr. Tinsley returned a general response to the issues; his response has been categorized for ease of comparison.  All the candidates’ answers have been edited for clarity and focus.
Despite repeated requests, Daryl Kramp, the Progressive Conservative incumbent, did not respond to the questions. His campaign office replied:  “As is our policy during this busy time we have declined other invitations to participate in surveys, and it would be unfair to participate in yours.”  At the all-candidates’ meeting in Bloomfield there was time for Mr. Kramp to answer (below) only one oral question.
It’s a pity not to have heard from all the parties because the survey questions are not simply of local interest.  They are relevant to Canadians everywhere who are facing wind development, and the issues will not soon disappear.  Every national political party should be taking a stand if wind development is going to proceed on the scale envisioned across the country.
Our federal candidates, however, make it clear that the politics of county wind development will have to be central to this fall’s provincial election.

Question One: Should Environment Canada conduct its own environmental assessments for wind projects located in areas with large numbers of migratory birds?
Background:  Environment Canada has an international responsibility under the Migratory Birds Act to safeguard the populations of migratory birds.  According to EC’s own guidelines, projects near or within Important Bird Areas are rated “high sensitivity” and require a full environmental assessment.  Presently, EC delegates the work to the Ontario ministries of environment or natural resources, but they do not conduct assessments either.  Instead, the work is left to consultants hired by wind developers.

Larkin:  “Absolutely.  The situation is especially urgent with respect to the Gilead Point industrial wind project in South Marysburgh, where a wind developer is in the final stages of the provincial approval process, despite the fact that the project is within the designated Important Bird Area and adjacent to the Prince Edward Point National Wildlife Area.  Migratory birds do not pay attention to Federal reserve boundaries.  A thorough study of the entire area should be mandated. These assessments must be taken into account before a license is issued. Responsible government would see to this.”
McMahon: “I am not confident that consultants hired by wind developers will produce an unbiased study.”  However, “Bird populations face a far greater threat from urbanization and agriculture than they do from wind turbines. The harm done to birds by the global warming caused by the fossil fuel burning systems that turbines will be replacing is a significant point to consider.”
Tinsley: “A Liberal government would ensure that such related federal responsibilities as do exist, such as those under the Migratory Birds Act, would be assiduously carried out in the interests of all of the residents of Prince Edward-Hastings.”

Question TWO:    Should wind turbine setbacks be measured from property lines?
Background:  Ontario’s Ministry of Environment specifies that setbacks are measured from residences.  Consequently, homeowners who are not wind project participants are providing part of the setbacks.  This virtual expropriation may prevent them from the subsequent severance and sale of land.   Yet there is no negotiation and no compensation.
Kramp: “I do not have the technical knowledge.  I don’t know the answer.”
Larkin: “Proper setbacks are important from the standpoint of health and land-use, but the province is the level of government responsible for determining them.”
McMahon:  “The reason for the setback is, I think, to reduce the sound pressure level in the neighbouring residences. If the setback was for potential future settlement, then there would be no turbines, since in fact a residence can be built anywhere.
“The positive side of the current setback rules is that future severances could be prevented, agricultural land would be preserved, and the unplanned and unsustainable sprawl that is currently ruining the County could be abated.”
Tinsley: No response.
Question 3:   Should Public Health Canada conduct research and establish national standards for wind turbine noise and setbacks?
Background:  At present every Canadian province sets its own regulations for wind turbines.  If wind development is to spread across the country, surely all Canadians should be protected by national standards for health and safety, especially when these matters are in dispute.
Larkin:  “Public Health Canada has the resources and the credibility to conduct the authoritative research which is needed to make sound decisions about how to implement wind energy.”
McMahon:  “I think the Federal government should support research and development of low-noise turbine blade design.
“I think establishing national standards [for health and safety] would be time consuming, and difficult to achieve. If there was a national consensus that action was needed, they would be more likely to be pursued.”
Tinsley:  “The federal government does not have jurisdiction in matters of regulation and implementation of renewable energy projects nor does it have a supervisory jurisdiction of the provincial government in the performance of its role.”
Question 4:  Should the federal government question the constitutionality of Ontario’s Green Energy and Economy Act?
Background: The GEEA has removed municipal control over wind development, replacing it with a process of consultation with private developers followed by a public comment period.  According to the Dunnville Chronicle (March 24, 2011), Michael Ignatieff “said the way wind turbines are being imposed in Ontario ‘raises an issue about democracy.’”
Larkin:  “As a citizen, I am concerned about the way the Ontario government has removed authority for zoning for industrial-scale wind development from local government, but I believe that this is a provincial issue.”
McMahon:  “No.”   That’s all he wrote.
Tinsley: “The Government of Ontario has primary responsibility for regulating the development and implementation of renewable energy. It is important that this is done in ways that benefit local communities.  As I understand it, individuals or groups who wish to dispute implementation decisions have the right to do so through the Environmental Review Tribunal.
“I would take the position that fair and democratic process for all affected residents is a paramount consideration in all matters of federal provincial cooperation.”
Question 5:  In light of the above issues, should the federal government provide Ontario with funding for wind development or related infrastructure costs?
Background:  Funding clean energy is not synonymous with funding wind development.   Wind projects affect many more people than biomass, solar or water projects and always raise environmental, health and political concerns.
Larkin: “I support expanded funding for research and development into low-impact energy sources which will help to reduce our carbon footprint. Canadian entrepreneurs can make us a global powerhouse in renewable and clean energy technology. I am opposed to the government handing out taxpayer dollars –directly or indirectly—to subsidize global companies to set up temporary assembly plants here in Canada.
“There is a very important role for the Federal government to play in facilitating the sale and movement of electric power from our neighbouring provinces, Manitoba and Quebec, [which] have abundant waterpower resources.”
McMahon:  “I think the Federal government should provide funding so that all provinces can move toward cleaner and more sustainable energy technologies.  Wind turbines, photovoltaic arrays, small hydro-electric, tidal, geothermal and deep ocean temperature gradient systems should all be supported.”
Tinsley: “The Liberal Party of Canada is committed to combat climate change and mitigate the rising price of fossil fuels. The Canadian economy needs to become more energy efficient and use more clean energy ensuring that the jobs of tomorrow will be created in Canada.  A Liberal government would create incentives for clean energy usage and will help Canadians save money on their energy bills as they retrofit their homes, and will set a target to quadruple Canada’s renewable energy production by 2017. This plan would be carried out through the Renewable Power Production Incentive in combination with existing provincial initiatives.”

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