WEST LINCOLN – Despite government approval, a group of West Lincoln resident continues to fight impending industrial wind turbines.
Earlier this month the provincial government gave the green light to a wind farm planned by Niagara Region Wind Corp. The company plans to erect 77 wind turbines with the majority located in the township. Mothers Against Wind Turbines Inc. is doing anything but accepting the approval and has filed an appeal the project.
The appellants allege they have several grounds to prove the proposed project will cause “serious and irreversible harm to plants, animals and the natural environment” – which is what the tribunal can make decisions based on. MAWT alleges the project could harm butterflies and an endangered tree species within the project study area. They say that studies on both by the proponent are incomplete and that site surveys for several natural features were not conducted.
The group also alleges the project will harm human health, alleging that more than 600 people will be experience negative health effects from the turbines and that the project is a violation of rights granted to all Canadians under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The name of their group is also points to one of the reasons it’s fighting against the wind turbine, said president Marianne Kidd, noting part of the appeal is on behalf of the children of host property owners where turbines can be built closer than the minimum 550 metres from a home.
“Host farmers across the province of Ontario are able to put turbines less than the safe setback of 550 metres closer to their homes,” said Kidd, a mother to three. “That is one of our big concerns. That can effect children in their care, so we are appealing on behalf of those children of host turbine.”
The group also takes issue with the sound rating used in the proponent’s renewable energy application, alleging they have documentation which shows these larger turbines have a higher rating and will break the maximum 40 decibel sound restrictions governed by the Green Energy Act. The group has hired a sound expert to testify on their behalf should their appeal move forward.
MAWT is also one of several citizens groups – including the West Lincoln Glanbrook Wind Action Group – which is awaiting a tribunal decision in regards to the HAF Wind Energy project in operation in Caistor Centre – who has applied for intervener status on a case before the Divisional Court. This month the court heard a case involving four families, including the Drennans, fighting a 140-turbine project near Goderich, Ont. on the grounds that the provincial approval process for such project is unconstitutional. The case is the first challenge to the controversial piece of legislation to have reached the appellate court level.
Julian Falconer, the lawyer representing the Drennans and three other families, told the court that provincial legislation makes it impossible to argue that turbines might harm them despite several families fleeing homes because of them. He pointed to a recent Health Canada study which upheld the earlier conclusion of Ontario’s chief medical officer of health that there is no causal link between wind turbines and poor health. What differs in the Health Canada study is that it did uncover a link between turbines and “high annoyance”
“There exists real fear and real apprehension, not on the part of the thin-skinned, but on the part of reasonable people,” said Falconer, who sought to introduce the study as fresh evidence in the case.
“They must prove that it will harm them. That’s unconstitutionally unsound.”
The court, he said, should alter the “rigged” legislation to force authorities to consider a “reasonable prospect of harm” when approving a project.
There have been 20 health-based challenges to wind project to date, all of which have been unsuccessful.
Kidd said her group is heavily relying on a win in the Drennan case.
“It can affect all those different wind projects all over the province,” said Kidd. “We would have a case that sets a precedent. It would change the way that environmental tribunals are conducted so that you don’t have to first get sick to prove there is a health effect.”
Kidd also hopes the outcome will change the way these cases are heard by eliminating the “destined to fail” environmental tribunal phase.
“We are going to try and get through the ERT as cheaply as possible,” said Kidd. “We know we are going to lose. It’s not a fair way for people to about this.”
The group has tried fundraising through spaghetti dinners and garage sales and is now just appealing to the public for any financial contributions to what is going to be a costly legal fight. Donations can be made online at www.mothersagainstturbines.com or via mail to Box 132, Wellandport, Ont. L0R 2J0.
The three judges presiding over the hearing said they will decide at a later date whether or not to include the study as new evidence and whether not to grant the coalition intervener status.
That same Health Canada study suggests that 16.5 per cent of people within two kilometres of a wind turbines are negatively effected. In the case of the NRWC project, which has more than 10,000 residents living with two kilometres from the three-megawatt turbines, 1,650 people will be affected.
MAWT is scheduled to have a preliminary hearing on its appeal Dec. 19 at the Wellandport Community Centre.
with files from TorStar Media
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