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Opponents fail to stop Jarvis green energy project

JARVIS – Construction of the Summerhaven wind project is underway now that Ontario’s Environmental Review Tribunal has dismissed an appeal from a Six Nations man.

Bill Monture challenged the project on the basis that it was a threat to wildlife, vegetation and human health contrary to the Environmental Protection Act.

However, in a ruling Oct. 1, the tribunal said Monture did not marshal enough evidence for his claim. Further, the tribunal accepted testimony in this area provided by expert witnesses acting on behalf of NextEra Energy Canada, owner of the Summerhaven project.

During his testimony before the tribunal this summer, Monture said the Summerhaven project is a threat to traditional native hunting grounds and plant species that are traditionally harvested for native medicine. Monture also questioned the morality of approving the project when authorities know that the 56 turbines involved will kill birds and bats.

“The tribunal finds that the test proposed by the appellant (Monture) – that one bird or bat mortality will always constitute ‘serious and irreversible harm to plant life, animal life or the natural environment’ – would make the (EPA) threshold so low as to render it meaningless,” tribunal chair Heather Gibbs wrote on behalf of her colleagues.

“The tribunal is also conscious of the importance of avoiding an interpretation of the threshold test that would render the test equally meaningless as an impossibly high one to meet.”

When the tribunal hearing began this summer in Hagersville, the group Haldimand Wind Concerns also had standing as an appellant. However, HWC stood down after lawyer Eric Gillespie of Toronto concluded that the group had no chance of meeting the high threshold of documentation for human health effects that the tribunal demanded. NextEra and the Ministry of the Environment allowed HWC to withdraw without paying a share of their legal costs.

With the Monture appeal settled, NextEra has turned the sod on the Summerhaven project. When finished, Summerhaven turbines will range from Jarvis southeast to Selkirk, Fisherville and Rainham Centre.

“Construction has started,” NextEra spokesperson Josie Hernandez said Friday. “The ground has been broken. We started a couple days ago. Construction will continue through into 2013. We will go commercial in July.”

Total value of construction is $270 million.

HWC retreated from the Summerhaven hearing but is in the process of appealing the 67-turbine Samsung project in the east part of Haldimand and the 56-turbine Capital Power project in southwest Haldimand and southeast Norfolk. Both are also subject to hearings before the Environmental Review Tribunal.

“We’re hoping we can change their mind on some of these issues,” said Fred Ortt of Jarvis, a member of HWC. “We hope they will see the light. We hope they will stop with their tunnel vision on this.”

The Samsung hearing is underway in Cayuga and Kohler while the Capital Power hearing is taking place in Fisherville. Peter Slaman of Port Dover testified on behalf of Monture in Hagersville and has standing as an appellant on the Capital Power proposal. Slaman said Friday that the province has made it difficult for appellants to make any headway.

“The government has made the rules in such a way that we humans are penned in like horses in a corral,” he said. “Just when we think we’ve found an opening, they put another road block up in front of us.”