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Giving PE council another chance

At Prince Edward County council’s next public meeting, July 27, in Athol town hall, Cherry Valley, one of the agenda items will be reconsideration of a motion to control wind energy development.   It is similar to one passed in May by the municipality of Arran-Elderslie(A-E) and subsequently adopted or supported by 19 other Ontario municipalities.

The A-E motion requires wind developers to obtain certificates from Health Canada and the Ontario ministries of Environment, Energy, and Natural Resources stating that wind projects “will benefit, or will not harm, the health, safety and well-being of any resident.”  In addition, A-E requires the province to present “documentation [of]   .   .   .  the necessary full and complete non-partisan third party, independent health studies on humans   .   .   .  to determine safe setbacks and noise limits.”  Otherwise, the council will not issue building permits for wind turbines.

The major legal basis for the A-E motion is the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which declares that “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.”   Since the health and safety of people living near wind projects are matters of dispute, both the provincial and federal governments have the obligation to prove that the projects are not violating “security of the person.”

The A-E motion is definitely tougher than the health motion passed by PEC council in December 2008 or another one recently proposed by councillor Alyea to the Committee of the Whole.   Both of these motions merely ask the province to recognize health concerns and act accordingly.  The A-E motion, by contrast, asserts municipal authority.

Mayor Finnegan introduced the A-E motion at council’s June 24th meeting of the Committee of the Whole, attended by the mayor and eight councillors.   Only the mayor and councillor Mertens voted for the motion.

Since seven councillors were absent, there is ample justification for further debate and a second vote.  One of the points at issue on June 24 was council’s authority: Some councillors questioned the legitimacy of the motion, despite its acceptability to 20 other municipal councils.

The Alliance to Protect Prince Edward County (APPEC) hopes that a legal deputation to be made on July 27 will convince our councillors that they have not only the authority but the responsibility to protect citizens.

APPEC continues to believe that industrial wind developments have no place in Prince Edward County for many reasons.  It is deeply disturbing that our council is not demonstrating the same caution as 20 other municipalities have shown when approving wind energy projects.

Across Ontario and around the world reports of adverse health effects continue to accumulate from people living near industrial wind turbines.  Not surprisingly, the wind industry dismisses these reports out of hand, but all levels of governments must be judicious when the well-being of citizens is at stake.  If wind energy development is as harmless as the industry claims, and if the County has remarkably strong winds, then project delays are not significant because construction will eventually occur.

Meanwhile, council should not share the gold rush mentality that has seized developers due to the Green Energy Act.   Adopting a motion like Arran-Elderslie’s ensures that all county residents, whether or not supporters of wind development, won’t suffer unexpected harm.

Citizens who believe this is a prudent course of action should contact their ward councillor(s) before the July 27th meeting.

The Board of the Alliance to Protect Prince Edward County

Filed Under: Letters and Opinion

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