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Council opts to consider judicial appeal after province approves wind turbines

MAPLETON TWP. – Council here met in closed session from morning to night before deciding it will consider a judicial appeal of a wind farm approved near Arthur.

NextEra Energy Canada’s Conestogo Wind Energy Centre approval arrived from the provincial government on Dec. 8 and council sought legal advice after hearing an appeal from a group of citizens called Stop Mapleton Wind Farms at its Dec. 13 council meeting (see article on pages 11 and 12).

Mayor Bruce Whale said council had to consider on Monday if it would seek an Environmental Appeal Tribunal ruling on that approval by the Ministry of Environment, or if it should go to provincial court and challenge the approval on procedural grounds.

“I think after hearing the information we did from our legal counsel there wasn’t a lot of chance” of overturning the provincial government approval at the tribunal, Whale said Tuesday morning. He added council had to consider the cost and decided it was “not a good use of public money” to appeal to that tribunal.

Council is instead asking lawyer Peter Pickfield, of Guelph, to review the documents and determine if a judicial appeal to halt the wind farm is feasible. Pickfield is familiar with the turbine file, having already acted for Wellington County on the same issue.

John Krul, who has been the spokesman for Stop Mapleton Wind Farms, told council on Dec. 13 the tribunal was the more expensive way to appeal the decision.

Whale said taking the judicial appeal route would also give council “a little more time.”

Residents living near the proposed turbine site were outraged they had only 15 days to appeal the ministry decision. The deadline is Dec. 23, two days before Christmas.

Whale said having a lawyer check the files to ensure NextEra followed all proper procedures and met all the legal criteria for the project was another way to approach the township’s objections.

“It’s sort of due diligence on our part,” Whale said, adding that a judicial review does not fall under the appeal deadline and that gives Pickfield some time and the opportunity to go through the proposal to determine if there were errors or omissions that could overturn the project.

The proposal is for ten wind turbines, providing 18 to 25.3 megawatts of power, southwest of Arthur. The turbines will be 80 metres high and able to collectively generate enough electricity to power more than 5,400 homes.

Whale was unsure what the anti-wind farm group would be doing, noting the township was attempting to contact its members about council’s decision. But he said if those residents are going to launch an appeal, it is likely better for both groups if council is separated from what is effectively now a lobby group. He believes it would give that group an advantage during future hearings.

Whale said it would likely take a couple of weeks before Pickfield can go through the paperwork and make his recommendation.

NextEra spokesman Josie Hernandez said Tuesday the company remains confident in its “robust application … It exceeds all the provincial standards.”

Mapleton Township staff was inundated with calls from across the province on Monday as council deliberated.

The NextEra proposal is the first to be approved under the provincial Green Energy Act, and chief administrative officer Patty Sinnamon said there is much interest from other municipalities who are facing similar proposals in their jurisdictions.

The Advertiser was unable to reach Krul for a comment.