Lawyers representing four families battling wind turbine projects in Southwestern Ontario continued their legal arguments Tuesday in a London courtroom, arguing that the government is asking rural residents to bear the psychological and physical brunt of green energy projects.
“The legislative scheme is so skewed to fast-track green energy projects that it gives no meaningful way to appeal the projects,” said laywer Asha James, who represents the four families at the divisional court hearing.
“(We) submit that given the state of current scientific knowledge, if an appellant is able to prove that there’s a reasonable expectation of harm, that is enough to stop a project.”
The lawyers are asking the three Superior Court trial judges hearing an appeal of a decision of the Environmental Review Tribunal to rewrite the law because it’s unfair.
Tuesday was the second day of what was supposed to be a three-day hearing, but the lawyers for the defendants – starting with lawyers for the government – didn’t start their arguments until late in the day, so the hearing will likely go into Thursday.
The government lawyers, who will be followed by lawyers representing three wind turbine projects, will argue that the original tribunal found that there wasn’t any serious harm to people living near wind turbines and that the Renewable Energy Act doesn’t deprive anyone of their fundamental rights, said Matthew Horner, one of the government lawyers.
More of those arguments are expected to be heard Wednesday.
But though courts, judges, tribunal and appeal courts hear arguments, families aren’t getting any relief from their health concerns, said Julian Falconer, the main lawyer for the four families.
“There’s a whole process that takes a year to two years… Health takes a back seat while the (wind) company goes and remodels. It’s business as usual while the company gets more reports,” he said.
Falconer has involved in many important Canadian court cases, including representing the family of Ashley Smith, a 19-year-old inmate who died at the Grand Valley prison for women in Kitchener after tying a ligature around her neck. He also played a major role at the Ipperwash Inquiry and represented Maher Arar, who sued the federal government after he was deported to Syria and tortured.
Appeals and approvals of wind turbine projects have so far placed the onus on families to prove the turbines will have a negative effect on their health, and the Environmental Review Tribunal grants turbine approvals even as it says the effects are unclear, Falconer said.
Falconer said there’s new evidence that should be considered – a Health Canada study that looked at both self-reported health concerns and measurable health problems such as blood pressure and stress-hormone levels in people who live close to projects in Ontario and Quebec.
“There is far more data than has been available to date,” Falconer said. “We submit that the ERT hearing wasn’t fair in the first place … and now we have a reason to hear it again.”
Lawyers for the four families will also argue that the review tribunal decision had serious errors in law.
Also represented at the proceedings are the Ontario Environment Ministry that’s responsible for regulating Green Energy projects including wind turbine applications, as well as three companies building or planning to build turbines projects near Goderich, Seaforth and Kincardine.
Ontario has more than 6,000 wind turbines built, planned or proposed, the majority in Southwestern Ontario. Turbines generate about 4% of the province’s power.
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