SOS Presentation to The Standing Committee on Bill 150
The following is Lou Eyamie’s presentation on April 16/09 to the Standing Committee on the Green Energy Act Bill 150.
Mr. Chairman, Members of the Committee, Ladies & Gentlemen,
My name is Lou Eyamie and I am here today speaking on behalf of SOS ( Save Our Skyline) and on behalf of my wife and myself.
Since 2000 my wife & I have been working hard on the farm we bought to restore it to its former beauty. Our hopes and dreams have been to create a place where we could both retire. We have been working hard to create a home that respects the environment, a place to live in a community in peace & harmony with our neighbours; a place to live simply, grow our own chickens & turkeys and raise horses. We wanted to be a part of a community that my wife had grown up in and loved.
Before we bought the farm it was a booby-trapped, garbage strewn marijuana grow operation. Our work has always focused on restoring the land, rebuilding the heritage of the farm and joining our neighbours in making our neighbourhood one of the things that makes Wilno and the Madawaska Valley so beautiful.
SOS is a local organization. Our membership represents a group of people who live in the Valley who are as concerned as we are about industrial wind turbines. As a member of SOS, I can assure you that I and my neighbours are not speaking out to save a view, but rather to ensure that the industrial wind turbines proposed in our area do not harm the environment, do not increase risks to threatened species and pose no risk or health threat to the people and animals that live near proposed sites.
How do we make our voice heard and bring you to understand the fears and concerns we have? I feel like a small voice in the shadow of large organizations and businesses that have aligned themselves with this government and have even become your advisors and key resources.
But let me share a little more of our history:
Because my wife and I travelled so much after purchasing our retirement property, we often had the chance to see turbine parts being transported along the highways, carried by oversized transports that needed escort, carrying parts of towers and blades that were amazingly large. We thought that this was pretty cool. When word came that SkyPower was proposing building a wind farm down the road from our home we were interested- this was our chance to learn more about something that had always intrigued us. So we went to their open house.
We came out…. very disillusioned.
We asked questions and were given the run around.
We filled out comment sheets and heard no response. When we asked specific questions we were told that there were no answers. The only people present were promoters for SkyPower.
As a result, on our own, we started digging a little deeper and doing our own research. What we found made us angry …and afraid. SkyPower obviously was not telling the whole truth. Since then we have been working hard with our local elected officials, neighbours and businesses to learn as much as we could and to ensure that our communities have been informed of the risks of industrial wind turbines. We have shared our research through numerous public meetings and encouraged our neighbours, the citizens of Renfrew County, to make sure that their concerns were known to their councils. Our primary objective? To ensure that the siting of these proposed towers would not negatively impact our health, our environment, our economy, our rich cultural heritage and history, and our property values.
Our independent research has told us:
- Turbines do not produce when demand is highest
- Turbines operate at only 30% efficiency at best
- The inefficiencies do not address the cost risks including government subsidies that attract potentially unethical business
- Current recommended setbacks from dwellings is 1.5km to 2km – nowhere near the provincial average
- Health impacts are real and the symptoms people are experiencing are consistent world wide
- Environmental impact studies to date are inadequate and biased – there have been 17 requests for more thorough EAs and 17 have been denied. If this government is so adamant that industrial wind power is safe why have they not granted 1 EA? Why are you so reluctant to reassure your voting public that there is NO risk or impact to the environment?
Now we are dealing with the Green Energy Act. This Act is being pushed through without allowing full public consultation. This is legislation that takes away basic democratic rights of citizens to participate in decision making and to be protected from the negative side effects that are already well documented but being ignored.
Just because your Act says it is green, just because wind turbine companies say wind is green, does not mean that they are. We should not abandon all principals of protecting environmentally sensitive areas, and ensuring that this technology does not harm the people you are entrusted to protect.
Our concerns about this Act and this process relate to areas such as:
- The majority of the people & industries with time slots to speak at these meetings appear to be pro-wind. Private citizens such as Barbara Ashbee, who continues to struggle with health issues as a direct result of the industrial wind turbine installations next to her home, have been denied presentation time.
- Other individuals who have publicly voiced their concerns regarding industrial wind turbines have been told that they would need to travel to Sault Ste Marie. For some this is a 7 hour drive to speak to you for 10 minutes. This effectively silences many who oppose aspects of the Green Energy Act
- The removal of perceived barriers, as proposed in this Act, actually removes and eliminates the rights of the voting public to have a say through their municipal councils as to the development and planning within their own communities. Even as your government has accused us of NIMBYism, your Green Energy Act reflects a direct conflict of interest. The alliances and partisanship that exists between organizations that are connected to this government and to wind companies are clearly self-serving affiliations. These include CanWEA, OSEA and others.
CanWEA is a lobby group whose web site states that they are the “voice of the wind energy industry.” Like any other business, wind industry is enthusiastic about government subsidies and quick profits.
CanWEA membership represents foreign as well as domestic companies. They produce all of the literature that supports private industrial wind turbine projects. Their information brochures make no mention of the negative health impacts being experienced by people right here in Ontario and do not address the true cost and inefficiency of wind power. CanWEA states that 300 – 600m is a suitable setback. Worldwide recommendations are 1.5 – 2 km. CanWEA’s literature and research is clearly biased.
CanWEA is acting as a government advisor.
Hermann Scheer, is revered and respected by Energy Minister George Smitherman, but Mr. Scheer does not address the issues of setbacks, environment, and health in his speeches. He has not publicly stated that in Germany nor anywhere else in the world has one coal or gas fired energy plant been closed with the addition of industrial wind turbines. In fact, Germany is building more coal plants in order to provide consistent back-up for wind power.
At a recent meeting in Cobden, hosted by the Ottawa River Institute, a German engineer spoke and was shocked to learn that Ontario is not incorporating the current research, standards and regulations into the Green Energy Act; or adopting the regulations that are being used at credible German wind turbine sites.
It provided some relief for us to hear this and it validated our concerns.
Denmark is another example for us to learn from. As the world’s most wind-intensive nation with more than 6000 turbines generating 19% of its electricity, they have yet to close a single fossil-fuel power plant. The Danish Federation of Industries says that “Windmills are a mistake and economically make no sense”. The chair of energy policy in the Danish parliament calls it “a terribly expensive disaster”. Perhaps Mr Smitherman should speak to this gentleman rather than relying solely on the information so readily and enthusiastically provided by Scheer, CanWEA and OSEA.
The lobbying by these industry-based organizations has clearly been effective.
CanWEA is a voting member of OSEA, which has received funding from the Ontario Trillium Foundation. Public money has been used to fund this industry, an industry that chooses to ignore the importance of public protection and the real green environmental work that needs to be done in conjunction with protecting the environment and public health.
OSEA was one of the founders of the Green Energy Act Alliance who came up with the draft law and lobbied the government to implement it. The bias and conflict of interest that exists in this business alliance with our elected government is astounding to us as citizens in this province.
Media reported that McGuinty promised months of consultation. Instead, the public has been given an inadequate amount of time to voice their opinions and to speak directly, with the number of delegations being limited to seven dates in total. And more shocking still, the people who have already experienced the negative impacts of industrial wind turbines are being denied their democratic right to speak. In fact, if it were not for the assistance of our MPP John Yakabuski, I believe that I would not have been given the opportunity to speak to you today.
So, in conclusion, on behalf of the citizens who are members of SOS and people of Renfrew County, we respectfully place these requests:
- Full environmental assessments of all industrial wind projects (regardless of size) are to be completed. To my knowledge, waiving the requirement to a full EA or instituting a “one size fits all” assessment is unprecedented for any other industrial development proposal – why allow it for the industrial wind?
- The Green Energy Act must be amended to allow for fair and democratic legislation without removing municipal planning rights
- The Green Energy Act must allow municipalities to engage the Province in meaningful and constructive dialogue regarding how they can best contribute to alternative and renewable energy solutions that will benefit the Province as a whole. South Algonquin is actively exploring biomass potential as opposed to industrial wind. My local municipality could explore the feasibility of reopening an existing hydro dam or converting struggling sawmills to wood pellet and biomass facilities. Individual municipalities know their communities, their industries and their economies. They have the right and obligation as elected officials to work with their citizens to ensure that renewable energy initiatives benefit all involved. A true democratic government would honour and respect that right, working in partnership with local government
- We are aware that clean and renewable energy is vital to the health and wellbeing of our planet. But our rush to produce what industry deems as “green” energy should not come at a cost to the health and wellbeing of the people that live next to or near these installations. It should not come at a cost to our environment and our communities. It must not undermine the democratic rights of the citizens of this province. And there must be a fair and democratic process to resolve complaints, concerns and for citizens to voice their opinions. The Green Energy Act must be amended to reflect a fair and democratic process – the onus of proof as written lies squarely with the victim and this is unacceptable.
- And finally, policy and procedure that allows the citizens that have been or will be affected by developments to escalate their concerns to an objective and fair tribunal.
- Ladies and Gentlemen, today I am leaving you with a petition that reflects the concerns of approximately 400 citizens from our area. As well, I have attached copies of letters from the local municipalities of Madawaska Valley and Killaloe,Hagarty Richards. The letters outline their position and shared concerns regarding the Green Energy Act.
- It is our hope that you will work as our elected representatives and that this Act will not just serve the interests of the industrial wind companies, but will be a Green Act that plans for today and protects for the future.
- Thank you for your time and the opportunity to speak today.
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