HEAT consulting with second lawyer as public comment period enters its final stages for St. Columban Wind project
As the comment period for the St. Columban Wind project enters its final weeks before the Dec. 21 deadline, Huron East Against Turbines (HEAT) is consulting with a second lawyer in Toronto to see if there is any further action the group can take to stop the 15-turbine project.
The nine HEAT directors held a public meeting in St. Columban last Monday, urging local residents to continue their actions against the project.
“We are entering the final stages for comment. The project has been listed on the Environmental Registry and you and we have until Dec. 21 to respond to what you feel is good or bad about this project. And, this is the most important time for you to be involved,” said HEAT’s Gerry Ryan.
Pointing out that the Ministry of the Environment (MOE) is paying the most attention to comments about health and environmental effects caused by industrial wind turbines, HEAT director Allison DeKroon suggested that local residents continue making comments.
“Our opinion is that there is power in numbers. We’re pushing you to comment,” she said, adding that HEAT is asking the MOE for a 30-day extension to the comment period since St. Columban Energy LP received an extension to plan the building of 45 kilometres of transmission connection last fall. She added that the holiday season coupled with the need for more time to complete a professional review of the sound expected to be created by the wind project are the reasons HEAT needs an extension.
Ryan added that HEAT has hired an acoustician from Michigan to do a baseline study of two properties within the St. Columban wind project so that local residents will be able to compare the sound levels after turbines are erected.
DeKroon told local residents that HEAT is recommending everyone living near the 15 turbines should receive baseline health tests, property assessments, sound studies and stray voltage tests so they can prove the conditions of their home and family before the turbines are operational.
Rob Tetu, who has served as HEAT’s treasurer told the community that HEAT has received total contributions from the community of $98,625, $93,873.88 of which has gone towards HEAT’s lawyer Kristi Ross. Other expenses have included advertising costs and hall rentals.
“It’s an amazing figure that shows a commitment from the community to HEAT,” he said.
But, he warned that HEAT still owes $3,000 in legal costs and pointed out that amount will rise to at least $10,000 when HEAT goes forward to consult a second lawyer.
HEAT member Tom Melady said the group decided not to launch an appeal to the Environmental Review Tribunal, a process expected to cost between $60,000 and $80,000, because other communities who did so were not successful. Instead, HEAT decided to see what seeking the advice of a second lawyer could do.
“We know there are serious flaws in this project – that’s why we’re still willing to fight,” said Ryan, who pointed out that the St. Columban wind project would have been up and running two years ago if HEAT hadn’t fought against the project.
“We stopped them then and we still think we’re working with good advice. We’re not going to stop until this is over,” said Ryan.
Melady said the consultation with the Toronto lawyer will cost $15,000.
“You are fighting on the right side of justice and it’s cost this community a pile of money but at least we’re going to go down fighting on the right side. It’s better to fight and lose than to just roll over,” added Melady.
HEAT members provided local residents with a template letter to help them make their comments to the MOE, adding that they would also sit down with anyone who needs help writing their own letters.
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