A motion set to be argued Friday seeks to prevent Suncor Energy from starting construction on a 46-turbine wind project in Lambton County while its environmental approval is appealed.
Ontario’s Environmental Review Tribunal is scheduled to hear the motion, 10 a.m., at the Camlachie Community Centre in Plympton-Wyoming.
That’s also where tribunal hearings into an appeal of the wind project’s provincial approval are set to begin Nov. 12.
Suncor received a 20-year contract in 2011 to sell electricity from the Cedar Point Wind project it plans to build in Plympton-Wyoming, Lambton Shores and Warwick Township.
This summer, it received Ontario Ministry of Environment approval, under the Green Energy Act, to begin work.
Shortly after that, an appeal filed by Plympton-Wyoming residents Kimberley and Richard Bryce sent the issue to the tribunal.
Wind developers can begin construction while the tribunal hears an appeal, although opponents are able to seek a stay of the ministry’s approval.
“We’re asking that no construction-related activities commence, prior to the decision of the tribunal,” said Asha James, a lawyer for the Bryce family.
Suncor spokesperson Jason Vaillant said Tuesday the company is looking to finalize a construction schedule for the Cedar Point project. He added construction has not begun yet.
Ontario’s environmental approval gives Suncor three years to build the wind project.
James has said the Bryce family is concerned about possible health effects from having their young children living near the turbines Suncor plans to build.
A notice of appeal filed on behalf of the family says its home will be surrounded by eight turbines, and adds the family includes young children with “pre-existing health concerns that will be adversely affected by the project.”
The family also plans to argue the province’s approval for the wind project violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
“I think everybody is ready to get the process on the way and have the evidence put before the tribunal,” James said.
A citizen’s group, We’re Against Industrial Turbines, Plympton-Wyoming (WAIT-PW,) has been fighting the Suncor project and raising money to fund legal challenges.
“It’s what we’ve been planning for,” group member Ingrid Willemsen said about the start of the tribunal hearings.
“We look forward to the opportunity, for sure.”
WAIT-PW set a fundraising goal of $300,000 to help fund legal battles, including the possibility of taking the issue as far as the Supreme Court.
“I think we’d be comfortable saying we’re halfway there,” Willemsen said about the amount WAIT-PW has raised, so far.
“It’s unfortunate we have to pay for the turbines, and the lawsuit,” she said.
“In the end, it’s a fight against the Green Energy Act.”
Lambton County, also a party at the tribunal hearings, is expected to raise concerns the wind project’s roadside electricity collection and transmission lines will create traffic safety hazards.
Under provincial legislation, the only grounds the tribunal can consider are that a project will cause serious harm to human health, or serious and irreversible harm to plant life, animal life or the natural environment.
James is with the Toronto-based law firm headed by Julian Falconer, who spoke at a WAIT-PW-organized public meeting held in May at Camlachie.
Falconer has described appeals to the tribunal as “a long shot,” but a necessary one to preserve the right to raise issues in the courts.