Approval of a 77-turbine project from the province could come any day and a group of residents opposed to its existence is doing anything but silently waiting.
Mothers Against Wind Turbines (MAWT) is bracing for a fight, much like their comrades in the West Lincoln Glanbrook Wind Action Group have been. While the latter group is awaiting a decision from the Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) the newer group is gathering information and raising funds to mount its own fight against a much larger project.
Niagara Region Wind Corporation (NRWC) submitted its renewable energy approval application 10 months ago and residents have been preparing for its approval ever since. Should it be approved, 77 turbines will rise on the rural landscape of West Lincoln, Wainfleet and Haldimand. Forty-four of them are slated for the community of West Lincoln, with the majority in the Wellandport and St. Anns areas.
Last week MAWT invited members of the public to an information session at Covenant Christian School in Smithville where they provided an update on both the NRWC and IPC Energy projects and asked for support.
“A Charter challenge is going to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars,” said Deb Murphy, co-chair of WLGWAG and a new paralegal who represented Anne Fairfield at her ERT hearing last month. “The average person, the average group can’t even begin to think about that.”
The issue with taking wind proponents to court, said Murphy, is the process. While an environmental review tribunal can only rule on whether or not a project will impact health – human, animal or environmental – it is the first step in a lengthy process to fight the projects she said. This is the case with WLGWAG’s appeal which was launched by Fairfield after the project was approved and again when the province approved an amendment to the project after it was discovered that four of the five turbines were placed too close to neighbouring properties then regulations allow. The tribunal could not rule on the process, explained Murphy, only on whether or not the amended application would harm health.
“You can’t skip it. You have to go to the ERT and lose that then appeal,” said Murphy, noting it cost WLGWAG $4,000 in copying alone to prepare for the hearing. “It sucks. Thirty one of 32 ERTs lose.”
While the ERT was costly in paper, the next step, divisional court, will cost even more warned Murphy who noted paralegals can’t represent the group in the next stage meaning to have a fighting chance a lawyer is required. Murphy also warned that timelines will be tight as the group will have only 15 days from the time the project is approved to launch its appeal.
Luckily for both groups they have been granted intervenor status in a constitutional challenge launched by three groups fighting turbines in Goderich, St. Columbian and Kincardine. A total of 15 groups in Ontario similar to MAWT and WLGWAG are also included as intervenors on the case which will head to court in November.
It cost each group about $6,000 to participate, said Murphy, who expects wind proponents to challenge any victory granted to groups like MAWT.
“If we win, you know the wind companies will fight it,” she said. “It could take a long time.”
To raise funds for legal fees MAWT is selling tree seedlings, T-shirts and lawn signs. The group also hosts garage sales and is always taking donations of gently used items. The group has a goal of raising $100,000 to cover legal costs each step of the way.
The group is also looking for volunteers to help with fundraising, research and writing and seeks the advice of experts in various fields from legal to technical.
“If we don’t have legal counsel it will be tough for us,” said Lois Johnson, MAWT member. “The time to donate is now.
“MAWT will launch an ERT. MAWT will launch a judicial review and MAWT has joined the constitutional challenge,” Johnson added.
The group is also asking that anyone living within 2.5 kilometres of the NRWC project area determine their receptor number – which is based on the distance between the turbine and home. Those numbers will help the group prepare evidence in relation to noise disturbance from the turbines should they be erected.
“If you’re on the list, we need to talk to you,” Johnson said.
For more information on the group or to donate visit http://mothersagainstturbines.com.