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McGuinty learns it's not easy being green

Mr. McGuinty warned last month that he won't tolerate NIMBYism when it comes to wind farms unless objections are based on safety issues and environmental standards. This doesn't solve anything, however, as a new report yesterday by Environment Commissioner Gord Miller illustrated. The main point of the report is that the 183 species facing extinction or endangerment could be further threatened if the government doesn't bolster its new Endangered Species Act.

Dalton McGuinty has reason to consider the immortal words of Kermit the Frog that "it's not that easy being green."

Consider his experience. Four years ago, for example, he set aside 720,000 hectares of land around the Greater Toronto Area as a greenbelt that would be off-limits to development. In doing so, the Ontario Premier succeeded where others before him had failed and stood up to pressure from developers who love the smell of asphalt in the morning.

The huzzahs have faded, however, and yesterday's anniversary of the Greenbelt's creation was marked by calls for 60-per-cent expansion of exempt lands to deal with leapfrogging development. The Ontario Greenbelt Alliance noted that Mr. McGuinty had made history with his initial move but asked, in effect, "What have you done for us lately?"

There is more to come. When Energy Minister George Smitherman introduced his groundbreaking Green Energy Act last week, he ensured there will be years of conflict in which both sides claim they are acting with the greenest of motives. You can see the hints of this in the growing opposition to wind farms across Ontario. In most cases, the detractors are simply offended by the size... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Dalton McGuinty has reason to consider the immortal words of Kermit the Frog that "it's not that easy being green."

Consider his experience. Four years ago, for example, he set aside 720,000 hectares of land around the Greater Toronto Area as a greenbelt that would be off-limits to development. In doing so, the Ontario Premier succeeded where others before him had failed and stood up to pressure from developers who love the smell of asphalt in the morning.

The huzzahs have faded, however, and yesterday's anniversary of the Greenbelt's creation was marked by calls for 60-per-cent expansion of exempt lands to deal with leapfrogging development. The Ontario Greenbelt Alliance noted that Mr. McGuinty had made history with his initial move but asked, in effect, "What have you done for us lately?"

There is more to come. When Energy Minister George Smitherman introduced his groundbreaking Green Energy Act last week, he ensured there will be years of conflict in which both sides claim they are acting with the greenest of motives. You can see the hints of this in the growing opposition to wind farms across Ontario. In most cases, the detractors are simply offended by the size and noise of wind turbines, but there are also many cases where people think they are an intrusion on an area of unspoiled beauty.

Mr. McGuinty warned last month that he won't tolerate NIMBYism when it comes to wind farms unless objections are based on safety issues and environmental standards. This doesn't solve anything, however, as a new report yesterday by Environment Commissioner Gord Miller illustrated.

The main point of the report is that the 183 species facing extinction or endangerment could be further threatened if the government doesn't bolster its new Endangered Species Act. Mr. Miller said the legislation, which took effect last June 30, is a dramatic improvement on the old 1971 law, but contains loopholes big enough to drive a bulldozer through.

He said the government has the discretion to approve activities that would otherwise be prohibited - harming species at risk or their habitat - with little public input. The effectiveness of the act could be "seriously undermined if the government does not exercise significant restraint and caution."

And what are the chances of that, given the Premier's position and the exuberance with which Mr. Smitherman has adopted green energy? Sources of renewable energy - stiff winds and raging rivers - tend to be far from the places where there's big demand for electricity so this will inevitably mean building long transmission connections to bring the power to the user. Damming the Albany River in Northeastern Ontario, which has been proposed, would entail stringing power lines over previously undisturbed land. Similarly, if a first nation decides it wants to exploit its winds, Mr. Smitherman's act obliges distributors to hook them up.

Mr. Miller understands what this means. "There's no question it appears we're going to have a lot more intrusion into areas that are somewhat rich in natural resources," he said. "Inevitably, at some point in time, there will be some conflicts with species at risk."

The commissioner was wearing a green shirt and tie yesterday, which trumped the green tie and white shirt that Mr. Smitherman wore when he unveiled his act. Alas, the last word in any conflict between green and green would belong to the cabinet. Mr. Miller hopes no government would knowingly threaten a species with extinction.

"I would hope that's what would win in the end in those kinds of conflicts which are going to emerge, but those are societal value judgments that I can't impose," he said.


Source: http://www.theglobeandmail....

MAR 3 2009
https://www.windaction.org/posts/19329-mcguinty-learns-it-s-not-easy-being-green
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