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Turbine appeal called laughable

WYOMING – The appeal of a new wind farm project in Brooke-Alvinston township is “abusive” and “laughable,” says counsel for the Ontario Ministry of Environment.

“All they have done is raised concerns,” said lawyer Frederika Rotter during a preliminary hearing on Thursday.

“People can be concerned until the cows come home.”

Representatives for the ministry, the Zephyr wind project and the Middlesex-Lambton Wind Action Group (WAG) met in Lambton County council chambers in Wyoming to discuss the $22 million, four-turbine wind farm under construction near Watford.

WAG is appealing the project because of concerns for its effects on the health of nearby residents.

It was the preliminary hearing for the Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) to review WAG’s appeal. The provincial government has already approved the project, which should be operational in early 2012.

The ministry is seeking to have the appeal thrown out, arguing that it does not provide evidence on how this specific project will be harmful. Rotter says this appeal only rehashes issues covered in an ERT tribunal earlier this year for a wind project near Thamesville.

But WAG member Harvey Wrightman says his group is not the one presenting stale arguments.

“If anybody’s rehashing it, I think it’s the other side,” Wrightman said.

“We’ll see when the evidence is presented (and) what new evidence they have.”

The preliminary meeting was held to address scheduling and administrative issues. ERT vice-chair Paul Muldoon was the only member of the panel at the proceedings. He directed counsel that a preliminary hearing was not the place for judication.

“I cannot, without my panel, unilaterally make a determination,” Muldoon told Rotter. “That is just the way it is.”

Both the Ministry and Green Breeze Energy Inc. filed motions before the hearing. The ministry was looking to have the appeal thrown out while Green Breeze, the company building the wind farm, was seeking to limit the scope of evidence to just new information ever since the Thamesville tribunal.

The ERT didn’t approve the ministry’s motion but asked the appellants to give specifics about the potential harm of the project. WAG revised its appeal, but the ministry isn’t satisfied it met the request.

“If there aren’t any further particulars, there’s nothing to have a hearing about,” Rotter said. “Honestly, we have no idea what this appeal is about.”

Wrightman says the appeal is different than the one put forward in Thamesville. Residents living near the Kent Breeze wind power project have since filed a $1.5 million lawsuit against Suncor, the project’s owner, and many have complained of health issues.

“It’s pretty powerful when people are that determined,” Wrightman said.

The ERT is set to meet Jan. 6 in Toronto to discuss the motions. The hearing will begin Feb. 21 and will be held in Alvinston. The ERT has until May 15 – six months from the date of the appeal – to make a decision.