In their fight against industrial turbine developments municipalities, action groups and individuals have appealed to the hand of the law.
A number of court cases have risen in Ontario in recent months, including a local battle between the Township of Wainfleet and Wainfleet Wind Energy Inc. In that case, WWE Inc. took the township to court over its 2-km setback bylaw for turbines. The bylaw, which was enacted last year, went against the Green Energy Act’s 550 metre setback and would have made it virtually impossible for turbines to be built anywhere in the township.
When the township passed the bylaw aldermen were aware of the potential of court action. Both Wainfleet staff and lawyers representing WWE Inc. and Rankin Construction, which is a partner in the project to bring five turbines to the township, warned council there could be action.
And while the WWE Inc. appeal was successful, the judge deemed Wainfleet’s setback bylaw as ‘invalid’ Wainfleet’s mayor April Jeffs still considered it worthwhile.
“I still think it (the bylaw) was the right thing to do,” she said after hearing of its defeat.
The judge sided with WWE Inc. in large part due to the township’s vague definition of property.
John Andrews, president of IPC Energy, of which WWE Inc. is a part, said he was “absolutely” more confident in their project with the decision.
“The bylaw was clearly not enforceable,” he said.
“In my opinion it was made primarily for the reason of frustrating the project.”
With the bylaw squashed, WWE Inc. is continuing to go ahead with its plans and Andrews said they expect to begin construction this summer.
But Wainfleet Ald. Betty Konc, who has been a vocal critic of the Wainfleet project and industrial turbines in general, said she considered the decision a win for turbine opponents.
“We were well within our jurisdiction. If we had a better definition of property we may have won,” she said.
That decision impacts a municipality to the west currently facing a similar court case. Plympton-Wyoming, near Sarnia, is opposing a proposal by Suncor to build 24 turbines in the town, part of a project that will see upwards of 46 turbines built in the area.
That case has yet to be decided, but the town’s mayor, Lonny Napper, remained optimistic after hearing about the Wainfleet decision.
“We’re moving forward. We think we’ve got some pretty good backup,” he said.
“We know a little more what to expect now.”
Plympton-Wyoming enacted bylaws in addition to the setback. It also passed bylaws on development charges and building fees, to make it further difficult to build turbines.
Near Strathroy, reports have surfaced that NextEra Energy is going after a local resident, Esther Wrightman. A lawsuit, filed by NextEra to the Ontario Court of Justice, said that when Wrightman changed NextEra’s logo to read “NextTerror” and “NextError” she infringed copywright, and made misleading statements meant to discredit NextEra.
That case is still up in the air, and it’s unclear what the outcome will be. NextEra has reportedly said it will donate any damages to the United Way.