(LINDSAY) Given the heated emotions generated by wind turbines, the preliminary hearing for an appeal of the Sumac Ridge wind farm was civil, courteous and polite.
And, the hearing itself will adhere to a strict protocol.
The Kawartha Room at the Lindsay Howard Johnson’s was packed on Friday (Jan. 24) as the Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) panel held a preliminary hearing to determine who will be able to speak at the appeal next month.
In December, the Province approved wpd Canada’s five-turbine wind energy farm in Bethany, which galvanized opponents, including Manvers Wind Concerns into launching an appeal of the decision.
The appellants are Manvers Wind Concerns, Cransley Home Farm Ltd. and the Cham Shan Temple.
The Buddhist Association of Canada’s Cham Shan Temple maintains wind turbines will have a negative impact on the four Temples they are planning to build. One is in Cavan Monaghan Township and almost complete and three more are planned for the City of Kawartha Lakes, with an estimated investment of about $100 million. Those three are in jeopardy if Sumac Ridge goes forward.
Friday’s preliminary hearing was to set the ground rules for those wishing to take part in the process. Chair Heather Gibbs explained the Tribunal is given “very specific powers under the Environmental Protection Act” and proceedings are conducted accordingly. Those wishing to express their concerns were required to submit their supporting material to the Tribunal, which then determined which (if any) status is assigned.
Ms Gibbs said ‘presenter’ status means the person is not called as a witness in the proceedings, whereas a ‘participant’ delivers opening and closing statements, a presentation and can be questioned by legal counsel. Most of the 30-plus people seeking status fell into the first category.
The Tribunal heard from lawyers for the Ministry of the Environment, which is defending its decision to approve the project, wpd Canada (the approval holder) and the appellants.
The Chair was patient and clear in explaining that the appeal is based on two criteria; (a) that wind turbines are harmful to human health and (b) harmful to plant and animal life and the natural environment. Anyone granted status (which was subject to approval by the lawyers) may not speak to any issue beyond that criteria.
She used the example of loss of property value; that issue is not part of the appeal criteria, which prompted someone in the audience to say, “It’s not your money.”
The hearing must be completed and a decision rendered within six months of the filing of the appeal, in this case June 24.
The panel did reconsider some of the people who had been denied presenter or participant status, allowing several to defend their requests. Lawyers for the Province and wpd Canada allowed several of the changes; but, it was made clear to the audience there will be no deviation from the rules.
Ward 16 Councillor Heather Stauble was granted participant status, which means she will be able to give opening/closing statements along with her presentation. Curve Lake and Hiawatha First Nations representatives were also granted status. The Tribunal will also address allowing audio recording, as Diane Chen of the Cham Shan Temple said there would be a need to translate the proceedings.
The appellants are heard, the respondents will present their cases and the presenters/participants will be inserted at the appropriate times. Ms Gibbs said that for example, after the appellants’ case, their supporters will likely be heard. Those in favour of wind energy would likely be heard after the Province and wpd Canada present their case.
The hearing is expected to take several days, with the appellants scheduling seven for their case. Lawyers for the Province and wpd Canada estimated they would need between one and five days. The hearing will begin on Feb. 24 and several dates have been scheduled in that week and into March.
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