al maiorino

Ontario Wind Proposals Increasingly at Risk for Public Defeat

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A 2013 study conducted by The Environics Institute found that in Ontario, 68 percent of residents held the belief that their province could make the shift from fossil fuels to renewable power. Despite this majority of those surveyed, Ontario has experienced considerable controversy over the implementation of renewable policies since the Green Energy Act of 2009, and Premier Kathleen Wynne’s pro-wind initiatives continue to generate public scorn at speaking engagements on unrelated topics.
Ontario Wind Proposals Increasingly at Risk for Public Defeat

From Ontario residents’ wider perspectives, it seems that a transition to renewable energy is ideal. However, once a wind project is proposed in residents’ own backyards, public opposition forms to bring the project to a screeching halt. Despite the political support that exists on a macro-level, careful measures must be taken locally to build the support necessary to guide the project through the approval process with ease.

Despite an extensive two-year approval process with various environmental studies conducted, opponents of a 140-turbine wind proposal by K2 Wind in Goderich, Ontario recently filed a construction stay application to halt the project in its tracks.

The injunction filed intended to allow for the completion of a Health Canada study, which seeks to understand the impact of industrial wind projects on nearby residents. Already anti-wind groups have been successful on placing a moratorium on off-shore wind until the potential for impacts on marine life are identified.

However, Divisional Courts sided with K2, noting the “serious financial consequences” the company will suffer as a result of a minor delay in construction in contrast to the “lack of harm appellants will suffer” without granting their motion. Despite K2’s narrow escape of costly delays in this case, the opponents’ efforts continue.

When the $850 million K2 project was permitted, the Environmental Review Tribunal upheld approvals finding no evidence of health hazards imposed upon residents living near turbines. However, opponents of the K2 project have joined together with opponents of a 92-turbine Armow wind farm near Kincardine, Ontario and a smaller St. Columban project to appeal the Tribunal’s findings, which the group collectively claims violates their constitutional rights due to the potential health impacts.

A decision in this appeal is expected later this month. While Ontario looks on to see what will happen to K2 and future wind proposals in the province, these cases demonstrate opponents’ abilities to band together to impact the success of a proposal at any stage of development.

 Anti-wind sentiments can attract supporters near and far even though a community, province, or country favors the use of renewable sources as a whole. The silent majority of supporters must be awoken to counter the misinformation and let public officials know they favor a transition to renewable power in their community. Without a strategic plan to build support from the start, wind projects in Ontario will continue to experience the wrath of a well-connected and organized opposition network.

Provide outreach

The wind industry must strive to start a dialogue and work to dispel the myths that plague most new wind proposals. The industry must inform and educate the communities they move into using a variety of outreach methods. Among these techniques are direct mailing to educate residents about project details, telephone identification calls to identify potential latent supporters, and open house information sessions to open channels of direct communication between residents and project experts who can answer questions face-to face with supporters, undecideds and opponents.

Residents want to be informed and to know the assets and drawbacks a project will bring. If project advocates do not inform them, it is a certainty that opposition groups will. Furthermore, some locals may have very legitimate concerns that require in depth answers. It is paramount that these concerns are addressed or acknowledged by the wind company itself while analysis takes place. Rather than ignore citizen complaints, industry leaders must keep residents engaged while working to find ways to address the concerns of interested parties.

 Maintain contact

Companies must also build a database of supporters to call upon when a mobilization of support is needed. The question that all too often is not asked is “are you willing to help?” to awaken the silent majority of supporters. If residents are provided with “how to help” handouts and project fact sheets, they can communicate directly with public officials through coordinated letter writing campaigns and hearing attendance.

 Additionally, the growing role of social media cannot be neglected. Creative content that can be shared easily is an important digital dialogue facilitator. Staunch opposition will never tire in its public outreach, and neither can those who put forth the proposal. When supporters run social media sites and get creative on multiple platforms, the media and public officials are inclined to take notice.

 Maintain the Momentum

Finally, supporters must be aware that success at the local level can be overturned at the higher levels of government. Teach supporters about how to engage most effectively with their local elected officials on a continuous basis.

Make sure that every project is accompanied with a grassroots advocacy campaign that will keep the project popular both with locals and state governments. Politicians will be much more likely to stand behind industry if industry is backed by their voting constituents. With strong local and legislative support, projects will remain lasting investments. 

Al Maiorino

President, Public Strategy Group

Al Maiorino started Public Strategy Group, Inc. in 1995. His firm has developed and managed multiple corporate public affairs campaigns in a variety of industries such as gaming, cable television, retail development, auto racing, energy and residential projects. Additionally, his firm has worked on projects in twenty states and three countries. 

Add a comment
James
Of course, it's your job to advocate for wind energy and offer advice for developers on how to succeed. You were smart not to use the word "propaganda" in your message; however, that is what it will be when the developers present it. I have been to meetings and heard the one-sided rhetoric. The developers' representatives refuse to face the truth - that these monstrosities are uneconomical, unhealthy and unreliable - and are unwanted by anyone who has done the research. If you had done your homework, you would certainly have difficulty sleeping at night. It has nothing to do with NIMBYism. It has everything to do with the future of this once-beautiful province. Do you really want to leave this mess for your children and grandchildren to endure?
Tom
Mr Maiorino- I don't know how you can look at yourself in the mirror - does your mother know you engage in this sleaze for a living? Haven't you got the picture yet - the more people learn about wind turbines the
snowball
Hi. Just google Down Wind and you can download a recent documentary on wind turbine issues in Ontario. The continued harm and destruction to human and animal life is awful. The government is completely negligent and the sorry situation grows with each new turbine project erected. It would be a good idea to interview some of the folk on the documentary, then write an article based on your new knowledge.
Rachel
Al Mairorino I encourage you to dig a little deeper in your research to gain a more comprehensive knowledge of the industrial wind turbine industry. For close to 5 years I have been hearing horror stories from friends and members of my community in Kincardine who have had their homes surrounded by the 115 Enbridge wind turbines. The infra sound generated from these 40 storey tall structures has many of these people experiencing a pulsing vibration throughout their bodies in sync with the 40m blade passing in front of the tower. Many have resorted to abandoning the comfort of their bedrooms to sleep in tents outside where they can hear the wind turbines but at least do not have the torture of the vibrations. Many no longer live in these homes and have been unable to sell. This snake oil stinks.
pam
You might be surprised when you find out the "silent majority" are in fact a very educated public and that is why you will continue to have opposition...a well connected and organized network with years of experience. Thank you for the compliment....Anit Wind is United in the Fight!
don

the people here are not nimby sir. The geo plant was put in the middle of 10,000 people. It has leaked, it has caused sickness. Now guess what? The LIVE volcano is flowing in this direction. The rest of the state does not give a rats a$$ for the residents here So why should we care about their electric? This has been protested since day one. YOu do not live here. You do not know.