Setback regulations breached: citizens demand power plant halt

WLGWAG Demands Wind Permit Cancellation

SMITHVILLE, ON – February 10, 2014

The astounding news that three of the five industrial wind turbines in West Lincoln were constructed in violation of Provincial setback regulations has ignited a chorus of angry neighbours and the West Lincoln Glanbrook Wind Action Group to demand that the MOE cancel this FIT wind energy contract.
Confirmation of the setback deficiencies finally came Monday February 3rd when Mr. Vic Schroter, Director of the MOE, Environmental Approvals Branch acknowledged to WLGWAG member Wendy Veldman that an Ontario Land Surveyor had verified that three of the five turbines are deficient in their property boundary setback requirements and subsequently in violation of their Renewable Energy Approval.
The contentious West Lincoln wind project is in the final stage of completion and consists of five humongous turbines towering 475’ above this rural neighbourhood.  If permitted to commence operation this spring the 729 residents living within a 2km radius of these 5 industrial wind turbines are fearful of the expected major negative impacts.  As globally reported wherever industrial wind turbines have been erected as many as 15- 20% experience serious health impacts, 20-40% property devaluation (if even salable at all), and a serious devastation of the local bird and bat populations.
The project is being constructed by Rankin Construction as a major partner in Vineland Power Inc. which received their Renewable Energy Approval on June 20, 2013 despite massive public protests and municipal Council objections dating back to 2010. Unfortunately, under the Green Energy Act, municipal governments were stripped of their historic and democratic rights to plan or regulate such industrial intrusions onto prime agricultural farmlands.
In response to the Green Energy Act, the West Lincoln Council in conjunction, with ninety one other rural municipalities, declared itself a “Not a Willing Host” to wind turbines. Additional Council petitioning the Province to impose a moratorium on any wind development until the federal Health Study on industrial wind turbines is completed in 2015. Similarly over 2000 local residents signed a wind moratorium petition which was submitted to the Provincial Legislature in April 2013 by local MPP Tim Hudak.

Neil Switzer, Chair of the WLGWAG proclaims that this setback violation illustrates the arrogance and disrespect wind companies have for neighbours and the lack of oversight on the part of the provincial regulators/promoters. The Renewable Energy Approval under Section 53 of Ont. Reg. 359/09 is very clear in  the setback requirements. It states that no person shall construct a wind turbine unless a setback is provided between a turbine and the nearest property boundary equal to or greater than the height of the turbine hub, or 312’ in this case. Exceptions to this requirement are permitted so long as the wind company submits a Property Assessment Report at the time of permit application justifying reduced setback(s) or submission of signed agreements with neighbour(s) to the proposed reductions. According to an email from Sarah Raetsen, Senior MOE Program Coordinator, Environmental Approvals Branch, a property assessment report was not completed or submitted because IPC reported that all five industrial wind turbines were compliant to setback regulations

While the MOE hasn’t shared the extent of the setback deficiencies, members of the WLGWAG took measurements with a laser rangefinder and found four setback infractions with the largest short a whopping 92’ or 29% deficient. Most frustrating for local law abiding residents is the obvious double standard that is applied to wind turbine projects. As any homeowner, businessman or developer knows if ever they make a construction error on their approved setback distance they’d be slapped with an immediate stop work order and a demand to demolish or move the project irregardless of the owners expense or loss. Unfortunately it appears a different law applies to the wind industry and they can do no wrong under the current government’s “carte blanche” endorsements.

As of Friday, February 7, 2013 residents have now learned from Mr Steve Green, MOE Niagara Compliance Officer, that a new precedent will be set to legitimize the setback deficiencies by allowing the wind company to retroactively seek and acquire permission from the impacted neighbours to accept reduced turbine setback distances from their property boundaries. Interestingly, Sarah Raetsen (MOE) in an email to a WLGWAG member, clearly stated that if there was a need for a property assessment report it should have been completed PRIOR to the applicant’s final report submissions and MOE approval of the project.
Enough is enough, says Neil Switzer. “It’s time for all concerned citizens to join us in our demand that this project be cancelled immediately. It’s time to restore justice and to curb the skyrocketing electricity costs resulting from these inefficient and exorbitantly expensive wind projects”.
Neil urges all to call or send your demand for cancellation of this project to Mr Vic Schroter, Director, Environmental Approvals Branch, who is both acutely aware of this transgression and more importantly has the legislated right to revoke or cancel the project’s approval.
Please also send a copy of your demand to Schroter’s superiors Minister Bradley and Premier Wynne.

Neil Switzer Chair, WLGWAG