WEST LINCOLN – All Anne Fairfield and Ed Engel want for Christmas is to see the turbines near their rural home ordered down.
The West Lincoln couple has filed an appeal to the province’s approval of the HAF Wind Energy Project based on the Canadian Charter of Rights of Freedoms. The couple claims the province’s approval of the project is in direct conflict with their right to enjoy their property.
While they wait for decisions on two Charter appeals currently before the Environmental Tribunal, they watch in fear as work continues on the five turbine project.
The couple’s most immediate concerns relate to the installation of distribution lines near a known gas well.
“This is where the danger lies,” said Fairfield. “This case has reached a point where the health and safety of a very densely populated rural area of West Lincoln and Hamilton is threatened if no immediate action is taken.”
“It will not bode well for anyone if that is the case,” she said.
An engineer for Rankin Construction, the company tasked with installing both the turbines and distribution lines, however, says the gas wells pose no threat.
“Gas lines and underground electrical infrastructure are collocated in road allowances throughout Ontario with far less than five metres clearance as standard practice,” said Jordan Beekhuis, engineer. “There is no reason to be concerned with the location of this gas well.”
Beekhuis said the gas well was identified in a report by consultant Morrison Hershfield.
“I have confirmed with them that the well was identified and does not pose a risk,” said Beekhuis.
Fairfield called the Ministry of Labour over concerns for the workers installing the lines. Beekhuis confirmed a ministry official visited the site and did not identify any concerns.
Beekhuis said workers are not yet burying the lines. Workers are currently installing underground pipe for the distribution lines to be installed in at a later date. Beekhuis said the lines that will be installed underground are the same as those on overhead poles running down the same street. The decision to bury the lines was made at the request of West Lincoln council.
“Locating these lines underground rather than collocating them on poles with the existing lines was at the request of the township as council made clear to staff that they wanted all lines buried,” said Beekhuis, noting the routing of the lines was designed by a professional engineer and was reviewed by the township and a third-party consultant.
“Gas mains are located far closer to buried electrical than 5 m on a regular basis and must also cross one another to get out to houses,” Beekhuis said. “This is a regular part of installing and maintaining underground infrastructure in roads throughout the province and I see no reason for anyone to be concerned as the location of this gas well is very clear.”
Fairfield and Engel are awaiting the outcome of cases similar to theirs.
Farmers Shawn and Tricia Drennan have filed an appeal to a 140-turbine project near there home in Ashfield-Colborne-Wawanosh Township under the Environmental Protection Act. They claim the potential wind farm violates their right to security of the person under the Charter as well as expose them to potential health problems.
To date, all Environmental Review Tribunal decisions have maintained that effects of wind turbines do not meet the legal test of harm.
Win or lose, Fairfield and Engel know the case will make its way to the Supreme Court – either at the request of the Drennans or the developer.
There is a movement across Ontario among groups like the West Lincoln Glanbrook Wind Action Group – which Engel and Fairfield are members of – to unite the fight.
The Drennan case, should it be successful, will set a precedent and will assist all appeals and legal challenges to follow – including Fairfield and Engel’s. The challenges, as Engel and Fairfield can attest, are costly. To date, the tab is roughly $25,000. A legal fund has been established by the WLGWAG in support of the charter challenge. For information visit www.wlwag.com.
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