An appeal of Ontario’s environmental approval of a 92-turbine wind project under construction in Lambton Shore and Warwick Township has been dismissed by the province’s Environmental Review Tribunal.
In its decision, the tribunal found the appellant, Sylvan resident Robert Lewis, and Lambton County, a party to the appeal, had not established that the project will cause serious harm to human health.
“It was exactly what we expected, which is what happens when the government and industry are working together,” said Marcelle Brooks, a Lambton Shores resident who has been working to oppose the wind project being built by NextEra Energy.
“It’s a betrayal of the community,” she said.
While the tribunal’s decision was predictable, opponents went ahead with the appeal so they could put their concerns on the record, Brooks said.
“We knew at the beginning how futile this would be,” she said.
The measure the tribunal uses in appeals of provincial environmental approval of wind projects is impossible to meet, she said.
“How can you determine something will cause harm before they’re even built?”
She said there have been dozens of appeals across Ontario, “and no one has been able to meet that criteria.”
The tribunal also held that evidence the project will cause serious harm to bird life and farm animals was not sufficient.
Lambton County raised concerns at the tribunal that building transmission lines for the project next to roads increases the risk of collisions.
The tribunal said that risk is low “and the installation of the project’s transmission poles, in their proposed locations, will not materially increase this risk,” in a posting on Ontario’s Environmental Registry.
“In general, I’m disappointed that every time we seem to take a stand and try to go through the legal process, we end up on our backsides,” said Lambton Warden Todd Case.
He said county council felt strongly that the location of the transmission lines and poles does create concern for public safety.
“It’s important to the folks in rural Ontario that are impacted by these turbines, that all of these things are looked at and considered,” he said.
He added the process Ontario put in place for approving wind projects was created without municipal input, and hasn’t dealt with concerns “in an appropriate fashion.”
Because of that, Case said, “We have only one avenue, and that’s the legal process.”
Construction on the $400-million wind project began in the spring and the company has said it expects the work to be completed later this year.
Along with the turbines, the project includes 117 transmission poles to connect the electricity being generated to Ontario’s power grid.
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