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County and community members fighting Jericho Wind farm at Ontario Environmental Review Tribunal

Emotions are running high at the opening day of an Ontario Environmental Review Tribunal hearing to determine the fate of a wind turbine project by NextEra Energy in Lambton and Middlesex Counties.

Community members and the County of Lambton are facing off against the Ontario Environment Ministry and NextEra Energy over the Jericho Wind Energy Project, which would bring 92 turbines to the region.

An opening statement by resident Muriel Allingham, who is appealing the provincial ministry’s approval of the Jericho project alongside several other community members, attacked NextEra as greedy.

In order to overturn the province’s approval of the Jericho Wind Project, Allingham and the County of Lambton must prove it will cause severe harm to humans or the environment.

The first presenter of the day, Elizabeth Bellavance, a local community and social justice advocate, urged the tribunal to consider the injustice of the requirement.

In any project other than renewable energy where products like wind and vibration are released into the environment, showing “adverse effects” is enough to halt their use.

The community’s case against NextEra is virtually non-existent without the testimony of Sarah Hornblower, a local woman and mother who would have been a key witness in the hearing. The tribunal denied a summons for Hornblower late Wednesday afternoon.

Hornblower has several autistic children who she says will be severely impacted by the new wind turbines, several of which would fall on her family’s farm.

She has entered into agreements with NextEra Energy which community leaders say are because she has evidence of severe physical harm arising from turbines.

The resistance of rural communities to wind turbine projects is nothing new. Many argue the turbines destroy quality of life due to noise, vibration, stray voltage, turbine placement on parks and soccer fields, and their impact on those with sensory disorders like Hornblower’s children, among other concerns.

At a break in the hearing, Marcelle Brooks, another community member who is part of the team appealing the NextEra Energy project approval, said they expect this case to be the same as many others they’ve seen in the past few years.

“Our vision here today is how it has been for the last four years for us in this battle, and that is to expose the corruption, to expose the injustice,” Brooks said.