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Permit impossible?

While the Minister of Natural Resources says the proposed Big Thunder Wind Park would threaten peregrine falcons, the head of Wind Concerns Ontario says it’s just election posturing.

Minister Linda Jeffrey sent a letter to MPP Bill Mauro (Lib., Thunder Bay – Atikokan) stating that Horizon Wind Inc. has never applied for a permit that would exempt them from the Endangered Species Act and that the project isn’t likely to get one.

“I don’t know how the proponent could satisfy the conditions to allow my Ministry to issue a permit to allow the project to proceed,” Jeffrey said in the letter. “I am not prepared to issue a permit at this time, nor do I understand how a permit could be issued for this site.”

Mauro said he’s excited by the letter and that Jeffrey’s strong language is encouraging. The issue for Mauro has always been that the project is in the wrong location for wind turbines.

“We’re trying to find a way to provide some certainty to the community on this issue and we don’t have an application yet from the company that’s in front of the ministry,” Mauro said.

But he stopped short of saying this would put an end to the proposed project. It doesn’t end Horizon’s Feed in Tariff contract with the province and it doesn’t mean the company can’t file an application.

“Everybody can interpret it (the letter) their own way,” Mauro said.

Wind Concerns Ontario president John Laforet said the MNR currently has three exemptions on the table for wind companies threatening endangered species. The letter doesn’t mean the province wants to pull the plug on anything, he added.

“I think this is another attempt to just try and push the ball past the election in hopes of saving Bill Mauro’s seat,” Laforet said.

If the MNR was serious, it would make absolutely certain that no animal on the Nor’Westers would be harassed, harmed or killed by wind turbines he said.

“I’ll be the first to congratulate her (Jeffrey) should she ever do that.”

Nor’Wester Escarpment Protection committee’s Sam Bachinski said while he’s encouraged by the letter and thinks it’s a step in the right direction, the fight is far from over.

“I think it’s very premature to say that this is all over with at this point,” Bachinski said.

But the fact that the MNR has shown concerns proves that the issue is far beyond one of not-in-my-backyard, Bachinski said.

“This validates at least one small portion of what we’ve been arguing for two years,” he said.

Horizon Wind said as of Thursday it has received no correspondence from Jeffrey.

“As such, Horizon Wind has no information at this time,” a release from the company stated.