By Jennifer Bieman, St. Thomas Times-Journal
ST. THOMAS – Dutton Dunwich anti-wind turbine activists are at it again, delivering three stacks of petitions to Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP Jeff Yurek Friday in their latest bid to block a highly controversial green energy project that’s been green-lighted by provincial regulators.
Dutton Dunwich Opponents of Wind Turbines’ (DDOWT) previous advocacy efforts weren’t enough to stop the Strong Breeze wind farm – a 57.5 megawatt renewable energy project set to begin construction in 2018 – but they’re hoping this petition might help.
“We were very pleased with the numbers. The numbers certainly demonstrate that the vast majority of people are very opposed,” said Bonnie Rowe, DDOWT spokesperson.
It took DDOWT volunteers three weeks to collect 1,822 signatures and letters of support for their anti-turbine cause. A survey conducted by the grassroots group in 2014 found 84 per cent of Dutton Dunwich respondents opposed the renewable energy project.
“I’d say the momentum is gaining in our favour,” said Jamie Littlejohn, executive member of DDOWT. “The more information that comes out every day about the adverse affects and economic hardship that it’s creating. It’s getting stronger.”
Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP Jeff Yurek, a longstanding supporter of DDOWT’s cause, will be presenting the documents to Ontario Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault and forwarding a letter to Premier Kathleen Wynne in the coming weeks. He said the Strong Breeze project is a stark example of how the government has overruled the autonomy of municipalities that aren’t willing hosts for green energy projects.
“Municipalities should have the right to deny these projects from coming into their area if they don’t want to support them. 1,800 signatures is quite a large amount for that area of our county,” said Yurek.
In September, wind farm opponents were moved to action once again when the Liberal government announced it would not be signing another $3.8 billion in green energy deals – mere months after approving the Strong Breeze project.
The Dutton Dunwich project was approved during the first phase of the Independent Electricity System Operator’s (IESO) Large Renewable Procurement (LRP) process. Though the government has only suspended the second part of the renewable energy program, Yurek wants the Liberals to reexamine the projects they’ve rubber stamped to date.
“There’s still plenty of time to cancel this contract without undue hardship to Ontarians. They need to act on it,” he said.
Shortly after the contract was awarded in March, Dutton Dunwich residents learned six First Nations communities in northwestern Ontario endorsed Invenergy’s proposal. The communities — all more than 1,000 kilometres away from the southwestern Ontario municipality – helped the Strong Breeze application get IESO approval.
The communities, through a jointly owned development company, have a 10 per cent stake in the project.