Paintearth County rejects landowners petition to increase wind turbine setbacks

Paintearth County rejected a petition by a group of landowners that wants wind turbines setbacks in Capital Power’s Halkirk #2 Wind Project be 1.5 km from homes instead of the proposed 500 metres.
Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Tarolyn Aaserud, during council’s regular meeting Jan. 3, cited the Municipal Government Act (MGA) rules as a reason for rejecting the petition.
“There was adequate amount of petitioners that were submitted, however, as per the MGA, Section 232 prohibits petitions for new bylaws, or against existing bylaws or resolution under Part 17, which is planning and development. Therefore, the petition is not valid. However, this document provides thought to electors…and council may wish to take this document under consideration.”
The 37 landowners – calling themselves the Battle River Group – presented their petition, with 312 signatures, to council Dec. 5. This resulted in the Paintearth County’s Subdivision and Development Appeal Board (SDAB) holding a hearing in the county chambers Dec. 6. The hearing was adjourned until April 23, 2018, at the request of Capital Power’s lawyer to allow Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) to finish its regulatory review process.
The landowners, however, spoke to county council again on Jan. 3, providing them with more reasons why the proposed 500 metre setback for the wind turbines isn’t adequate.
Landowner Gerald Borgel said the county’s wind turbines setback distance to roads and fields won’t meet new provincial Occupational and Health Safety (OHS) laws, which come into effect June 1, 2018.
Borgel said the wind turbine manufacturer’s manuals stipulate that no one should be within 400 metres of an operating turbine and added that the county currently has wind turbines only 100 metres from the road.
“There’s a responsibility for workers and employers to comply with OHS Regulations and there are strict penalties and fines and even jail time for non compliance,” said Borgel.
Paintearth County Reeve Stan Schulmeister told Borgel that he appreciates the information and council will definitely take it under advisement. Reeve Schulmeister added that there are a lot of risks in everything we do in life.
“Are there additional risks? We have to consider this and we have to act accordingly.”
To that Borgel said, “Well you have to comply with the law.”
Landowner Stacy Fuller asked county council, that since the wind turbine manufacturers say no one should be within 400 metres of a turbine, “how then is it OK that the landowners and public be so?”
Fuller said that because the county has a 100 metre setback distance from property lines and public roads for wind turbines, “the landowners, the public and the county’s own employees are working, walking and commuting in the operating zone of a wind turbine.”
Landowner Dwayne Felzien said council previously said that the land in Halkirk #2 was disturbed by cultivation and was damaged to nature and didn’t support wildlife. He said, however, that Golder Associates Wildlife counts show wildlife counts on cultivated lands are second to only those of wetland/drainage classifications.
“This supports that the cultivation/farming practices within the Halkirk #2 area support and enhance wildlife,” said Felzien.
Alberta Environment already approved Capital Power’s Halkirk #2 project that would see 74 wind turbine generators, a collector system and a substation erected five miles north of Halkirk. If approved, it would be in operation in 2019 and generate 148 megawatts and meet the needs of 50,000 Alberta homes annually.
The 74 turbines at Halkirk #2 would be in addition to the 83 turbines at Halkirk Wind Farm, which generates about $2.3 million in taxes annually to the County of Paintearth and provides 8 – 10 jobs. Capital Power plans to meet increased power needs arising from the Alberta Climate Leadership Plan (CLP), which aims to end coal-fired electricity generation facilities by 2030.
The AUC is reviewing Capital Power’s application for a substation and is expected to make their decision in March.

Lisa Joy
ECA Review

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