Wind energy companies could face fines up to $100,000 if their turbines make too much noise in Plympton-Wyoming.
The municipality recently learned a Superior Court of Ontario Justice struck down two of its bylaws aimed at protecting residents from the possible health effects of industrial wind turbines.
Over a year ago, Plympton-Wyoming passed the stringent rules, which would have forced Suncor Energy (which is planning a 42-turbine project in the area) to place turbines two kilometers from homes and pay security deposits of $200,000 per turbine.
Suncor objected to the bylaws and took the municipality to court. After a daylong hearing, and several weeks of waiting, the judgment was handed down with both bylaws being struck down.
But Mayor Lonny Napper says the municipality did find some helpful advice in the ruling to protect their citizens. The judge agreed with one of Plympton-Wyoming’s basic premises, that municipalities are charged with protecting their residents. The ruling suggested that enforcing provincial noise limits might be one area the municipality could do that, according to Napper.
So just days after the ruling was handed down, township council introduced a noise-bylaw so, if it is passed, bylaw enforcement officers can act on any citizen complaints. “If a complaint comes in, we can go out and act on that bylaw…we don’t have to wait for the Ministry of the Environment,” he says noting in places where there are turbines, residents have complained it takes a long time for the MOE to investigate.
“If there are flagrant problems we have to have something to start with,” says Napper noting the first offence could be as little as $500 or to a maximum as $25,000. Napper says the fines would be capped $100,000 for prolonged incidents.
“Maybe it will go the other way, maybe there are complaints there that aren’t justified,” says Napper. “This gives us more control and act on it in a more timely fashion. If there is a complaint, we’re going to deal with it that day – we’ll have our facts down.”
“Basically it is to protect the health of people….it’s like speed limit signs; we put them up there because that’s the speed we want to drive and we enforce it, but it’s just for noise instead.”
Suncor Energy Spokesperson Jason Vaillant says the company is pleased with the ruling but it will be looking into Plympton-Wyoming’s new noise bylaws
“We’re assessing that…going to look at what they’re outlining in those bylaws,” Vaillant told The Independent. “We want to see if that’s something we can talk to them about directly.
Vaillant says the company still wants to work with Plympton-Wyoming on issues such as construction of the towers and agreements to use the road allowances in the municipality as Suncor waits for final approval of the project, expected any day.
“We’re working on a number of different things; we’re trying to get (Plympton-Wyoming) to the table to see what development will look like road use agreements will look like.
“We’ve begun those talks and look to advance that.”