Opponents of the Strong Breeze Wind Project in Dutton Dunwich gathered outside the Dutton Community Centre on Thursday, vowing it’s never too late to stop construction of 16 to 20 wind turbines capable of generating over 57 megawatts of green energy,
Meantime inside at a public open house, a spokesman for Chicago-based Invenergy said his firm has had positive feedback from local businesses wanting to know how they can participate in the undertaking that likely won’t see a shovel in the ground before 2019.
Bonnie Rowe, spokesperson for Dutton Dunwich Opponents of Wind Turbines (DDOWT) said the majority of residents remain firmly opposed to the project that would see wind turbines concentrated in the Wallacetown and Dutton areas as well as along the Talbot Line corridor through the municipality.
In a survey undertaken two years ago, 84 per cent of residents who participated were opposed to construction of wind turbines in their municipality.
Rowe advised a follow-up survey was done last fall, “going door-to-door with a petition to the provincial government saying we don’t want this project, we don’t need it because you’ve said we have enough electricity to last for the next 10 years. We found a major portion of people are still opposed. They are very upset and couldn’t sign the petition fast enough. We feel the majority is still very strong.”
Mayor Cameron McWilliam concurred.
“It’s a good turnout and it shows the interest in this project as far as the opposition to it. It speaks to what we’ve been trying to say to the ministry, we don’t need this energy and the cost to society. And over the last year, people have finally woke up to their hydro bills and what we’ve warned the government about, it’s unaffordable.”
“There are a few supporters for sure” added Rowe, “I recognize some of the farmers who have optioned their land. And there are people who are sitting on the fence. As far as the opposition outside, we were really thrilled with the turnout. We had support from many members of our local council, lots of citizens and, as well, support from the Oneida Settlement.”
Darryl Chrisjohn from Oneida led a rally prior to the open house and expressed his disappointment with First Nations groups 1,000 km to the north who threw their support behind the Strong Breeze project.
Darryl Chrisjohn from Oneida Settlement and Dutton Dunwich Mayor Cameron McWilliam
“I’m here to reaffirm there is no other treaty nation that speaks on behalf of my people. They are not part of the confederacy we have established here. They have no say and no business in this land, this is treaty land . . . These are living binding document than can never be broken, ever.
“It’s the Treaty 8 and Treaty 9 people who come here,: added Chrisjohn. “They have no business here at all. They’re using our traditional stuff and your laws and mixing them together to benefit themselves.”
The support from First Nations groups in the Far North may very well be one of the driving forces behind local opposition, McWilliam suggested.
“When they were making an application a year ago,we reached out to the local First Nations to see if they had any contact with Invenergy. We had a response back from one and they had not been contacted and as you know, once the application was approved, it turns out the First Nations group (that supported the bid) is 1,000 km away. I’m not an expert on treaty rights but, at the time, I just couldn’t understand how that could happen. And I think you heard today, the issue is with that.
“There’s a lot of challenges with First Nations with (drinking) water so why aren’t we putting money into that,” McWilliam added. “Why are we giving money back to a multi-national Chicago investment banker to profit from our tax dollars.
In fact, Invenergy is 25 per cent owned by Quebec’s public pension fund manager, the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec which, in 2013, invested $500 million in the company’s portfolio of operating wind farms.
Invenergy has four other wind projects on the go in Ontario and almost 400 megawatts of projects in Quebec.
The opposition in Dutton Dunwich isn’t unexpected, conceded James Murphy, Invenergy vice-president of business development.
Invenergy’s James Murphy, centre, and Dutton Dunwich Mayor Cameron McWilliam, right.
“Power plant projects are not always the most popular projects and there are a host of concerns that arise with them. I think they are all valid concerns. We try to listen and do the best we can to address them. We can’t guarantee everyone is going to come away entirely satisfied, but we’ve done everything we possibly can to try to accommodate them.”
But there has been positive feedback as well, stressed Murphy, a London native who has worked for Invenergy for almost 11 years.
“Today has been an interesting day. We’ve had a lot of feedback from businesses throughout the day. Construction companies and others wanting to know how they can participate and sell their goods. And we’ve heard a lot of questions from people, primarily because we’re showing the project layout so people can see where the units are proposed and where the roads are proposed.”
Public input from Thursday’s open house – with another scheduled for Friday evening – “will become part of the public record for the permit, so we will include it in our consultation record to the Ministry of the Environment. And we will have to show in our responses we addressed comments received to the best of our ability. These are very regulated processes.”
It’s not that his municipality is against green energy projects, McWilliam insisted, “we have a solar project in Dutton Dunwich that’s on some vacant land next to our sewage treatment plant, but it’s something the community needs to be involved with and have a buy-in with.
“We’re not past the point of no return,” advised McWilliam. “Part of this public process meeting is to do with environmental assessment, so there is still an opportunity. We have said to the province, this project is still early, there is no construction and we know buried in the contract there is a buy-out. If you’re going to make the tough decision and do it now, it will be a pretty cheap alternative than paying these exorbitant rates over the next 20 years.”
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: City Scope