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Residents plan legal action over turbine project

A group of local residents is planning to launch legal action in hopes of preventing a wind farm from being erected near their homes.

Calling themselves the Whittington Coalition for Our Right to a Healthy Living Environment, the residents accuse Mississauga-based wpd Canada Corporation of not following the precautionary principal with its Whittington Wind Farm project.

Essentially, the principal states that if there are any doubts about whether something causes an adverse health effect, don’t do it.

“What we’ve said to wpd is that you’re in violation of the precautionary principal … and we’re going to hold you legally accountable,” David White, coalition spokesperson, said, calling current government guidelines “inadequate.” “People are sick all over Ontario.”

If ultimately approved, the Whittington Wind Farm will see three industrial wind turbines erected on properties bordered by 20th Sideroad to the north, 15th Sideroad to the south, 2nd Line of Amaranth to the west and Mono-Amaranth Townline to the east.

According to Kevin Surette, wpd’s manager of communications, the project has a 20-year life and leases with landowners will be signed for the duration. He said the precise turbine dimensions haven’t been determined at this time.

“We looked at where the resources are available and determined this site was a good site to move forward with,” Surette explained of the project.

Last April, the Whittington project received Ontario Power Authority approval to provide 6.9 MWs of wind energy into the provincial power grid through the Feed-in Tariff program. The program pays power providers 13.5 cents per kilowatt-hour, while most Ontario residents pay between 6.5 and 7.5 cents – the government will subsidize the difference.

The province has not formally approved the Whittington project; wpd is trying to work its way through that process.

“We’re currently still looking at a number of studies that need to be done for the site,” Surette said.

A Prince Edward County farmer is in the midst of challenging the province’s Green Energy Act, which regulates renewable energy projects, in court. Ian Hannah argues the act was approved without considering the precautionary principal in establishing the minimum setback for turbines at 550 metres.

White believes that court challenge will be successful. Working under that assumption, he and others from the Whittington coalition presented wpd Canada president Ian MacRae with materials last week they believe will make it impossible for the project to move ahead.

“Our group is asking ‘Why are you doing this to us?’ and ‘Why don’t you practice the precautionary principal?’” he said. “We have a legal right to health.”

Surette acknowledged the coalition’s materials, but said the company hasn’t had time to review them in any detail, so he wouldn’t comment on how, if at all, they would impact wpd’s plans.

“Any standards or requirements that are part of the approval process, we intend to comply with,” he said, noting that includes providing the Ministry of the Environment a “summarized” version of the coalition’s materials. “I know there are a number of people who have concerns and the scientific evidence to date doesn’t necessarily support that.”

White begs to differ.

“There is evidence out there, peer-reviewed, that is stating that there are issues,” he said, noting some of that work was included in the binder. “Everyone keeps saying ‘may cause’ … because no one’s actually done the medical studies.”

The turbine proponents will likely host a second public meeting next spring, after which wpd intends to finalize its application for approval.

“By that time, we will have responded to the concerns that were brought up in general to the project and specifically to the questions and concerns that were brought up in the (coalition’s) binder as well,” Surette said. “We intend to respond.”