Base wind debate on “facts, not fear”

Author: 
Ross Lees
Source: 
Belleville Intelligencer
Date published: 
Mon, 2011-07-04

Sierra Club executive director John Bennett does not believe the baby should be thrown out with the bath water.

He believes while Ontario's Green Energy Act may be imperfect, ground breaking legislation, it is still the centrepiece of Canada's response to climate change, the basic issue in the renewable energy debate.

At a Greater Napanee council meeting, Bennett was allowed to make his full presentation on the controversial topic in the Roblin community hall and there was an opportunity for questions and comment following the presentation.

Just over a week earlier, Bennett was allowed to make a presentation to Prince Edward County council, but there were no questions or comments allowed afterwards because of a suggestion of a libel and slander suit threatened by Wind Concerns Ontario, an organization opposed to wind turbine projects. A press release about the suit arrived on the computers of PEC councillors just prior to the meeting, not allowing any time for a legal opinion, so debate and comment was cut off at the meeting.

Bennett can't understand why some people and organizations don't want spirited debate on wind energy in Ontario.

"I'm not surprised some people oppose wind mills," Bennett noted during his presentation. "Part of me sympathizes on a very basic level."

Opposition to wind mills is understandable for Bennett, especially in light of the misinformation and aggressive tactics being used to stifle badly needed debate, he said following the meeting in Roblin.

"The debate, however, should be based on facts, not fear, and conducted in a spirit of goodwill, not intimidation," he stated.

Bennett said after the council meeting the Sierra Club lobbied for 15 years to have a Green Energy Act and, when the Ontario Liberals finally passed their provincial legislation, the organization felt it had to step in and help battle the backlash.

"When they (Ontario Liberals) passed the legislation, it was like they stepped on a land mine – it blew up in their faces," Bennett said.

Bennett said he wanted to put Ontario's Green Energy Act into context, adding it is not just about electricity, whether it is portrayed as eliminating coal or creating jobs.

"It's an essential part of addressing climate change and providing us with safe energy," he said. "It is not something we should discard lightly."

Bennett believes in wind energy and properly located wind farms with turbines which do not constitute significant public health risks due to proper setbacks.

He said he feels turbines need proper setbacks in place, especially in a proposal like that at Ostrander Point in Prince Edward County, and the Sierra Club's literature review on wind turbines in Ontario called The Real Truth About Wind Energy "found more than enough evidence to assure us and you that turbines do not constitute a significant public health risk."

"When properly located, turbine noise, vibration and flicker will not cause significant health impacts," he noted after the meeting, but wanted the "when properly located" emphasized.

Bennett said their report has been shared with other researchers and authorities who have commented on and improved it.

"It is a living document and we have invited everyone to provide additional material and will improve it where necessary," he stated.

            

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