Windy Controversy- The London Free Press
Thu, September 3, 2009
By RANDY RICHMOND, THE LONDON FREE PRESS
Despite requests from citizens’ groups for the assessments, 31 projects have been allowed to go through after a less stringent screening process undertaken by the wind farm proponents themselves.
“It demonstrates the process is a sham,” said John Laforet, president of Wind Concerns Ontario, a coalition of 33 smaller groups.
“Each of these projects is a foregone conclusion.”
Requests for environmental assessments:
2006: 4 (all denied)
2007: 7 (all denied)
2008: 12 (all denied)
Jan to Aug. 2009: 19, 9 denied, 1 withdrawn, 9 under review.
And Carmen Krogh, a researcher and advocate for wind farm victims, called the process “flawed.
“It is something that has to be fixed,” he said.
The government is allowing the wind farm proponents to assess their projects without proper oversight, said Krogh, a former pharmacist and director of Health Canada’s pesticides agency.
“The proponents are the ones who fill out the information about health impacts,” said Krogh. “They all have an official position (that) there are not health effects, so there is not authoritative, independent review.”
Opponents are equally concerned by new provincial regulations that are intended to streamline the approval process even more.
They predict the new rules and ongoing resistance to citizen input is going to lead to a bitter political fight that will intensify during the next provincial election.
“Through completely ignoring the legitimate claims of people, the government is ratcheting it up,” Laforet said. “You wouldn’t be getting into a war if the government was taking people seriously.”
But the Environment Ministry is standing by the process. Officials say there’s no need to look at each project separately because there have been so many.
“They are not unique,” said ministry spokesperson Kate Jordan. “We know what the environmental impacts will be.”
Companies building wind farms must conduct what the province calls an environmental screening that identifies the potential social, economic and environmental impact of the project and how to mitigate any possible problems, such as noise.
People worried about a project can ask the province to conduct its own full-scale environmental assessment on the proposal.
From 2006 to August 2009, Ontario residents have asked for full assessments on 31 wind farm projects. In all cases, the province rejected the requests. In July, for example, the province decided no assessment was needed for the Flat Creek Wind project in Chatham-Kent, according to opponents of the proposal.
There are another nine projects still being reviewed, including one near Strathroy. Opponents there plan an open house on the proposal Sept. 9.
Full environmental assessments are carried out only for “large-scale complex undertakings with potential for significant environmental effects and major public interest,” Jordan said.
Although a company proposing a wind farm carries out its own environmental screening, it’s not given a blank cheque to do what it wants, Jordan said.
The screening must include how public concerns were addressed. Often companies are required to mitigate those concerns before the province takes a look at the final proposal, she said.
“There is a lot of back and forth that goes on.”
Randy Richmond is a Free Press reporter. firstname.lastname@example.org