While Huron East council has decided it doesn’t have enough evidence to launch a successful appeal against the recently-approved St. Columban Wind project, Mayor Bernie MacLellan said the municipality would like to gain intervenor status as part of an appeal submitted by two McKillop families.
“There are specific things the tribunal will listen to in an appeal,” explained MacLellan after Huron East’s July 16 council meeting. “Part of our problem with going to the Ontario Energy Board is we didn’t even fit the criteria of what allows us to have an appeal, based on their standards. If we felt we had any argument to get our foot in the door to the tribunal, we would.”
MacLellan said that Huron East cannot argue a definite health risk caused by the St. Columban wind development since its complaints centred around two turbines the municipality was concerned were located too close to the road.
“We would need to prove that something could come off the turbine and become a traffic hazard or a distraction,” he said, adding the municipality would have to find evidence that such a hazard has been documented to have happened.
Provincial approval of the 15-turbine project in McKillop two weeks ago was met with frustration by Huron East council and a motion to appeal, a motion which is on the agenda for council’s July 30 meeting to be rescinded.
At the July 2 meeting, MacLellan told councillors they needed to file an appeal as soon as possible since the municipality would only have 15 days to do so. He told councillors he was disheartened that the Ministry of the Environment didn’t make any comments on Huron East’s concerns about the location of two turbines.
Huron East Against Turbines (HEAT) member Gerry Ryan suggested Huron East could request intervenor status and work with HEAT’s lawyer.
“We would like the opportunity to comment that we put forth a good effort with good information and we were ignored,” responded MacLellan. He added that the lack of response to the municipality’s concerns about the St. Columban Wind project makes the Renewable Energy Approval (REA) process “appear to be a rubber stamp.”
Council went into closed session for close to an hour to discuss the potential appeal and MacLellan told Ryan that council discussed other possible legal options they could pursue.
“We looked as far as not permitting building permits on specific building sites for turbines but after the legal opinion we have received and the research we have done and the position it would put the building inspector in, we do not believe we have a position here that we can support,” he said.
“Unfortunately, we feel like we got kicked in the teeth,” said MacLellan.
MacLellan commented that the constitutional appeal launched by the two McKillop families would have an advantage over any appeal the municipality could launch since it would be ruled on a federal level. Scott and Jennifer Dixon and Tom and Kathy Ryan have launched an appeal against the St. Columban Wind project based on the Canadian Charter of Rights.
CAO Brad Knight told council before it went into closed session that the comments Huron East made to the province about the 15-turbine project never argued health effects but focused on the location of T9 and T10 and the route selection process for the transmission line.
Knight said Huron East’s best argument would be that human health could be affected by the turbine T9.
“I do think you have to move that argument from potential effects to effects that it will have and I suggest you should do more research on that,” he said.
He added he was concerned that St. Columban Energy LP will not proceed with a road user agreement, which is a means to protect the municipality’s infrastructure, if the municipality launches an appeal since there is no legislative requirement for a road user agreement.
“An appeal may jeopardize some of the good will that is necessary between parties to enter into an agreement. Although there have been no formal negotiations on a community fund agreement, a continued negative position may make a community fund agreement a remote possibility,” said Knight in his report to council.
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