A group of rural southwestern Ontario politicians have pulled out the big guns in an effort to potentially halt a 92-turbine wind farm set for Lambton and Middlesex counties.
In a rare move, the County of Lambton will join another private party in appealing a recent Ministry of the Environment decision that granted renewable energy approval to the Jericho Wind Project.
That approval is one of the key pieces needed in order to establish an industrial wind farm in Ontario.
A hearing before the Environmental Review Tribunal has been set for June 26. It will focus on the potential health impacts the NextEra Energy project could have on both human and animal health.
If the tribunal finds the project could cause “serious harm” to health, county solicitor David Cribbs said the MOE could be ordered to revoke its approval of the project.
County councillors made the decision to proceed as a party in the appeal during two separate standing committees of council Wednesday. While the issue would normally go before full council for a final vote, county staff needed to respond to the notice of the hearing by Thursday.
Deputy Warden Bev MacDougall told fellow councillors she feels the county needs to act after she saw hundreds of concerned residents turn out for a recent public forum on the issue in Camlachie.
“I believe the issue has built momentum since we first talked about it in November,” she said. “The voices have gotten louder and it’s time for the county to stand behind its citizenry.”
Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley said the county’s participation will also send a message about the “cavalier treatment” it has received from the province.
“If we were treated fairly in the road use agreement, the response here would be muted,” he said.
The Ontario Energy Board recently granted NextEra the right to build a substation and more than 15 kilometres of transmission lines for the Jericho project, despite the fact the county was still collecting public input before it reached an agreement with the company.
“There’s no respect in this process,” Bradley added. “That to me needs to change.”
Cribbs cautioned councillors Wednesday that the legal battle could be costly and lengthy.
NextEra will be represented by Bay Street counsel who are among the “most expensive in Canada,” he noted.
In the event the county case is successful Cribbs anticipates the wind developer would appeal. The county is also opening itself up to risk if the wind developer is successful, he noted.
“We would be the one with the deepest pockets at the table and if we lost, it would be rational to expect that they could come after us,” he said.
Middlesex resident Bob Lewis is currently the only appellant, but board members of We’re Against Industrial Turbines – Plympton-Wyoming (WAIT-PW) will decide shortly whether they will join the case as a participant.
While a court case poses risks, WAIT-PW member Elizabeth Bellavance said the county needs to weigh the legal costs against the potential impacts on health and municipal taxes if the wind farm is built.
She credited councillors for their support.
“There’s a lot of municipalities who have done (the label of) unwilling host, but they don’t move forward with it,” she said.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding