A citizens’ group has announced a last-minute decision to withdraw from an Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) hearing on a controversial 10-turbine wind farm project southwest of Arthur.
Preserve Mapleton Inc. (PMI) issued a press release on July 14 indicating the unavailability of a key medical expert caused the group to withdraw from the process, which was slated to begin July 13.
The expert, Dr. Robert McMurtry, was unable to participate due to a medical condition, PMI member Jitske DeJong said in an interview on Monday.
In a press release, PMI concluded the testimony of McMurtry was “essential to substantiate” the testimony of other witnesses. McMurtry is a surgeon and researcher at the University of Western Ontario, whose areas of study include kinetics and determinants of health.
On June 8 the ERT ruled against a motion by PMI to adjourn the hearing while it arranged for the availability of the witness.
PMI lost in an bid to block the project through the court system in April, when a judicial review panel ruled the group did not have standing to bring the application forward. The panel ruled PMI, which was formed in 2011, could not establish it was prevented from participating in the consultation process for the project.
DeJong said the decision to withdraw means PMI does not currently have any applications open in an attempt to halt the project.
“At this point, we don’t know yet which way to pursue our cause. We have to explore our options,” DeJong said. “We are still hopeful that in the future a decision will be made that wind turbines make people sick because we know that they do.”
In their press release, PMI pointed out that during an ERT hearing in Chatham/Kent in July 2010, “it was established that there is a correlation between industrial wind turbines and people getting sick. The degree of sickness has yet to be determined.”
DeJong pointed to a July 11 CBC News story on the announcement of a Health Canada study on the effects of wind turbines that included interviews with Arthur area residents who contend their health has been affected by their proximity to an existing wind farm near the village.
“People can see that it’s close to home already,” said DeJong, who suggested area residents take a drive by the Conestogo Wind Energy Centre construction project, to see for themselves the impact of wind turbines on the environment, including the “destruction of farmland.”
While unable to provide figures, DeJong noted the legal process has been “very expensive” for PMI, adding fund-raising efforts by the group will continue. “The lawyer still has to be paid,” she said.
Nicole Geneau, project manager for NextEra Energy, which is constructing the 10-turbine project near Arthur, said the PMI objection was the last open legal file the company was dealing with on the Conestoga site.
She said the company is aiming to have the energy centre open by mid-December. She said the next phase of construction area residents will notice is the transportation of the wind turbines themselves to the site. Geneau said the company will be issuing announcements in advance of the transportation process.
“They are extremely large pieces of equipment … and they will be transported on tractor trailers, so people will notice them moving through,” she said. She added the company is looking forward to providing input about the methodology of an upcoming Health Canada study on the health impacts of people living near turbines.
“There is a pretty formal consultation process, so we will be participating in the process,” said Geneau.
NextEra’s role will be to contribute input on the methodology of the study, an option which is open to any member of the public, Geneau stated.
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