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Demonstrators back Town of Plympton-Wyoming’s efforts in David and Goliath-like battle

Jutting a thumbs-up out the window of a black SUV, Plympton-Wyoming Mayor Lonny Napper arrived at the Sarnia courthouse to a hero’s welcome Wednesday morning.

About 30 demonstrators cheered and waved signs of support as the mayor rolled into the courthouse for the first day of the hearing into Suncor’s lawsuit against the Town of Plympton-Wyoming.

Sporting a sign listing the names of town councillors deemed ‘our heroes,’ Plympton-Wyoming resident Audrey Chapman said she applauded town council’s resolve to refuse to back down against the wind developer.

“They decided to take the big corporation on,” she said. “It’s a David and Goliath situation.”

Suncor is suing the town over a series of bylaws meant to protect the interests of Plympton-Wyoming residents when it comes to wind energy projects. These include turbines being built at least two kilometres from neighbours – up from the 550-metre setback currently required by the province – and wind companies paying a $200,000 deposit per turbine to ensure each one is taken down at the end of its lifespan.

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For Ed Vanderaa, a greater setback is critical to his health and financial well-being.

Suncor has plans to erect up to 46 wind turbines in Plympton-Wyoming, Lambton Shores and Warwick Township. Vanderaa lives within a kilometre of the proposed wind energy project.

“What we’re hoping is they’ll have to reconsider their 46 turbines and have to put fewer up,” he said of the impact of council’s setback bylaw.

The Town of Plympton-Wyoming is believed to be only the second Ontario municipality to be taken to court by a wind developer, said Ingrid Willemsen, of We’re Against Industrial Turbines, Plympton-Wyoming (WAIT-PW).

In October 2012, the Township of Wainfleet, south of Welland, was sued by a wind developer over its own two-kilometre setback bylaw. Last April, a Superior Court of Ontario judge ruled against the township.

Willemsen said WAIT-PW has been buoyed by the support of both Plympton-Wyoming and Lambton County councils, along with that of the greater community.

“It’s unbelievable the support,” she said. “The only people who mind our presence is the people who have (wind energy) contracts because they want their money, but you can’t blame them for that.”

Vanderaa said wind energy development impacts not only Plympton-Wyoming residents, but all Ontarians.

Suncor’s lawsuit, for example, may have a far-reaching impact across the province. Aside from squashing the Town of Plympton-Wyoming’s bylaws, it is also asking the court to declare that all town bylaws “have no legal application to renewable energy undertaking.”

Vanderaa said the Green Energy Act itself is questionable because it strips the power from local municipal governments.

“It’s a failure of democracy,” he said.