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The fate of the Ontario Environment Ministry’s latest attempt to scuttle a challenge of its approval of a Brooke-Alvinston Township wind farm project could be known soon.
Following a Jan. 6 hearing in Toronto, Ontario’s Environmental Review Tribunal reserved its decision on the province’s motion to dismiss the Middlesex-Lambton Wind Action Group’s appeal of the provincial approval of the four-turbine Zephyr Farms wind project under construction near Watford.
“They have now indicated that they hope to get a decision released sometime next week,” said Eric Gillespie, a lawyer for the wind action group.
The ministry’s first motion to dismiss the appeal was denied by the tribunal in December.
Gillespie said he and the wind action group have provided additional information to the tribunal since then.
“Given that the first motion did not succeed,” he added, “logically, the second cannot succeed.”
Tribunal hearings on the appeal are scheduled to begin Feb. 21. The hearings are expected to be held in Alvinston but some dates will be in Toronto because of witnesses who will be testifying by video teleconference. “The facilities for doing that are located at the tribunal’s offices in Toronto,” Gillespie said.
Disclosure of evidence the parties will be relying on at the hearings is going on this month.
The tribunal also still has to rule on a motion filed by the wind farm developer to limit the scope of the evidence admissible at the hearings.
“That could have a significant affect on the amount of evidence that is filed,” Gillespie said.
He was also the lawyer for Chatham-Kent wind opponents who took a wind farm project there to the tribunal last year.
“The Chatham-Kent decision recognized that industrial wind turbines can cause harm to human health,”
“That was the first time any entity associated with the Ontario Government has come to that conclusion.”
Gillespie said they’re seeking to build “on that foundation” with the Zephyr Farms appeal.
The Middlesex-Lambton Wind Action Group has put out a call to anti-wind activists across the province for donations to help pay its legal costs.
Member Esther Wrightman said she’s hopeful its appeal will help inch forward the case wind turbine opponents are making.
“I’d like to see a major step forward,” she added, “but I’ll take what I can get.”
The hearings are currently scheduled for various days between Feb. 21 and March 9, with closing submissions on March 22.
If the tribunal rules a renewable-energy project will cause serious harm to human health, or the environment, it can revoke or alter the approval given by the province.
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