Ontario’s Environmental Review Tribunal has dismissed an appeal of a proposed 22.4-megawatt turbine project east of Durham.
Robert V. Wright, the vice-chair of the ERT, wrote in his July 29 ruling the evidence presented by the appellants did not demonstrate that construction, use and decommissioning of the concrete foundations for the turbines or that directional drilling under waterways would cause serious harm to human health or serious and irreversible harm to fish – more specifically to the endangered redside dace or its habitat – or the natural environment.
Leonard Van Den Bosch, who owns a farm next to the three of the turbine sites, said the ERT failed to follow the precautionary principle with the resultant risks for future contamination of drinking water sources from the chemicals contained in the tonnes of concrete to be used in the 14 wind turbine bases.
“No one knows the environmental damage that this toxic concrete that will be left in the ground will cause. But instead of using the ‘precautionary principle’ as the law prescribes, they are willing to risk poisoning the drinking water of future generations,” he said in a statement after the ERT ruling.
Van Den Bosch appealed the Ministry of Environment’s Jan. 20 approval of NextEra’s East Durham project, which consists of 14 General Electric 1.6 MW turbines. The Ontario Power Authority has contracted to buy electricity produced by the project under a 20-year Feed-in Tariff agreement.
For Van Den Bosch, the issue includes alleged harm from the construction of the wind turbine concrete foundations, the leaching of contaminants, wash water from the cement trucks and other project construction concerns such as directional drilling under waterways that could contaminate habitat of the redside dace, an endangered species.
Redside dace were found in a 2000 survey by the Royal Ontario Museum in the Saugeen River and in a 2004 Ministry of Natural Resources survey of the Saugeen River watershed 40 kilometres downstream from the proposed wind energy project area and downstream of Durham.
Van Den Bosch’s only expert witness, biologist Dr. Chris Wren, concluded NextEra and the MOE did not demonstrate due diligence in considering or evaluating fish and fish habitat in the wind energy project area and that further studies are required.
Wright concluded that given the lack of evidence regarding the actual presence of redside dace in the proposed wind turbine project area, that there is insufficient evidence to determine whether they are present.
“The tribunal therefore finds that the appellant has not shown that engaging in the project in accordance with the approval will cause serious and irreversible harm to fish habitat, including redside dace habitat.”
Christopher King, one of the presenters during hearings held in Durham in May and June, charged the MOE with lack of oversight of the project as it relates to the environment.
“I am disappointed that our representatives within the MOE could not find it within themselves to truly represent the citizens of Ontario and to follow its own mandate and protect the environment,” King said in a statement issued last week.
West Grey mayor Kevin Eccles wasn’t surprised at the outcome. He said the ERT ruling confirmed what he already believed – that the degree of proof required to be successful is absolute, compared with one of reasonable doubt called for in criminal law.
“The way I read it is that the adjudicator in his report has said there is some doubt here but Mr. Van Den Bosch has not proven absolutely with professional scientific evidence that anything (negative) has a possibility of happening,” said Eccles.
Meanwhile West Grey is awaiting the decision of a judge of the Divisional Court of Ontario on a review by NextEra of West Grey’s process of approving the company’s request for entrance permits needed before the project can proceed.
A hearing was held in Toronto before the Divisional court in mid June.
No one representing NextEra returned calls for a comment.
According to the company website the East Durham project is expected to come on line in early 2015.
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