Turmoil left in the wake of the Ontario’s wind energy push is keeping environmental lawyer Eric Gillespie busy.
His Toronto-based firm represents Plympton-Wyoming, a Lambton County municipality being sued by Suncor Energy over its wind bylaws, as well as other clients across Ontario involved in legal actions and environmental tribunal appeals.
“We could well have somewhere between 70 and 100 files open,” Gillespie said, adding there are times when as many as many as six lawyers in his firm may be working on wind-related issues.
“The level of concern and legal activity that we’re seeing across Ontario appears to reflect, in many people’s minds, the fact that the government embraced wind energy before a thorough review of the issue,” Gillespie said.
He’s set to speak at a public meeting the anti-wind citizens’ group, Conservation of Rural Enniskillen (CORE), is hosting Saturday afternoon at Lambton Centennial Public School, located on Oil Heritage Road just south of Petrolia.
Wind companies have been active in Enniskillen Township recently, approaching landowners with lease offers for wind farm projects being planned.
Several township residents, including Chad Burke, formed CORE earlier this year to oppose the projects.
The wind companies active in Enniskillen hadn’t received Feed-In Tariff (FIT) contracts yet to sell electricity to the province, and in late May the provincial government announced it will replace the FIT process with one requiring wind companies to work directly with municipalities on where turbine projects are built.
Ontario’s earlier Green Energy Act took away municipal planning approval powers for renewable energy projects, causing resentment in many rural communities.
There were three wind companies active in Enniskillen in recent months but one has since told township officials it was pulling out.
“In Enniskillen we’re thinking we’re pretty good, but we just want to make sure, 100%, there are no turbines coming,” Burke said.
Gillespie is one of four speakers scheduled to make presentations between 2 p.m. and 4:30 p.m., Saturday, following a beef on a bun fundraiser for CORE set for 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. The cost is $5.
Gillespie said he will provide an update on Environmental Review Tribunal appeals, wind industry challenges of municipal bylaws, as well as property devaluation lawsuits against some wind companies.
He also plans to speak about the situation faced by landowners who no longer wish to participate in wind projects.
Enniskillen council has opposed the wind projects and passed a resolution declaring the township an unwilling host for wind farms.
Gillespie said he’s aware of approximately 30 other Ontario municipalities that have passed similar resolutions.
“It’s clear that municipal officials are very concerned and very interested in having more of a say in what happens within their communities,” Gillespie said.
Plympton-Wyoming just recently passed an unwilling host resolution, and Brooke-Alvinston Township council declared in May it’s not a willing host for future wind turbine development.
Brooke-Alvinston is already home to the four-turbine Zephyr Farms wind project.
Oil Springs council has also declared itself an unwilling host, as have councils in St. Clair Township and Lambton Shores.
“It’s the process we’re complaining about,” said Lambton Shores Mayor Bill Webber, where 10 turbines are already in place and many more are expected to be built.
“We’re not opposed to green energy, per say,” Webber said. “We’re opposed to the entire process that has been forced down our throat.”
Petrolia Mayor John McCharles said his council is also opposed to wind turbines.
Dawn-Euphemia and Warwick townships haven’t passed resolutions, at this point, said officials in those rural municipalities.
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