By Kevin Psutka
1 June 2009
The Ontario government recently proposed legislation (Bill 150) to create a Green Energy Act, which helps to build a green economy by promoting use of renewable energy and other measures.
One component of the Bill is particularly troublesome for aviation. In order to make it easier to construct green energy projects, including wind turbine farms, the Bill would permit the government to ignore agreements or municipal by-laws that may be in place to limit where objects could be located, such as in the vicinity of aerodromes.
The Act in effect paves the way for projects despite its detrimental effects on people and property.
Wind Turbine projects have been a difficult issue for aviation, primarily because there is virtually no government guidance or regulation to prevent interference with the operation of thousands of certified, registered and non-registered aerodromes.
A very small number of airports are protected by federal zoning regulations, which are specific to each airport. The qualification criteria for applying for zoning protection are such that relatively few certified aerodromes and no registered or non-registered aerodromes can qualify.
So, beyond ensuring that wind turbines are marked and lit appropriately, Transport Canada will not prevent wind turbines from being installed, and they have demonstrated this position in several projects so far.
Since there is no federal legislation in place to provide guidance on the location of wind turbines relative to aerodromes, it has been necessary for individuals to get involved in defending their aerodromes and "cutting deals" to protect them. COPA has helped in some cases but we simply do not have the staff and resources to get involved with each and every case.
There has been some success in convincing wind energy proponents and municipalities to adopt setbacks and other mitigation measures to protect aerodromes but if the Act proceeds as proposed, all of this good work could be superseded.
The Bill was accelerated through the enactment process and COPA did not learn about it until it had already proceeded to second reading in the provincial legislature and it is now with a Committee for review, including holding public hearings.
COPA was granted permission to make a 10-minute presentation, which is available on our website: www.copanational.org.
I am pleased to report that the presentation was well received by the Committee on April 16. One panel member, MPP Joe Yakabuski, met me after the presentation and stated that it was important to highlight the aviation issues and that as a result of my presentation, as well as one in Toronto that was made by COPA member Joe Chow, owner of Skydive Toronto, an amendment to the Act will be proposed to include COPA’s recommendation "that an aeronautical evaluation be undertaken by a wind turbine proponent in all cases to ensure that all aviation facilities are identified and the potential risks and impacts on the aviation facilities are analyzed so that potential adverse effects from the development can be mitigated."
Another panel member, MPP Lisa McLeod, who recently flew for the first time in a light aircraft, spoke up strongly in support of the COPA position. She specifically mentioned her flight over her constituency as an important event in helping her to understand the need to protect and promote aviation.
We have at least one strong supporter on the Committee as a result of being introduced to general aviation and its importance. The flight was organized by COPA members Norm April and Dave Houston, who co-own a DA40 and lease it to Ottawa Aviation Services, who hosted the event.
Norm had set up the introductory flight to make Ottawa area politicians aware of the importance of general aviation to their constituents. This is an excellent example of how engaging politicians can pay off.
The Green Energy Act is an important issue for Canada because other provinces are watching closely with a view to introducing similar legislation. I encourage every member to watch political developments and get involved early in the legislative process to protect our interests.
COPA is not opposed to the greening of our environment but we all must ensure that proponents are aware of the unintended negative effects this may have on aviation safety and its viability.