MANVERS TWP – Opponents of a controversial wind energy project have lost their bid to keep five mega-turbines out of the Pontypool area.
The Environmental Review Tribunal released its decision in a 200-plus page report on Thursday (Feb. 19), ruling in favour of wpd Canada’s Sumac Ridge project.
The Sumac Ridge Renewable Energy Approval (REA) was submitted to the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) in June of 2012.
In December, 2013, the Province approved the project and the decision was immediately appealed to the Tribunal.
The appellants were the Buddhist Cham Shan Temple, Manvers Wind Concerns and Cransley Home Farm Limited. In presenting their case, they called 17 witnesses (pre-qualified by the Tribunal).
The Cham Shan Temple planned to build four temples in the Bethany area on land they’ve owned for 20 years; mirroring the four Temples in China for a spiritual pilgrimage. They maintained the wind turbines would interfere with their freedom of religion, preventing the peace and quiet necessary for such a pilgrimage, which would draw Buddhists from around the world to the City of Kawartha Lakes. They planned to invest about $100 million and maintained that if Sumac Ridge went ahead they would abandon the Temple project.
The appellants maintained the turbines would be harmful to the water, environment, plant and animal life, especially since two of the five turbines are to be built on the Oak Ridges Moraine.
The sensitivity of the Moraine became a key factor in the appellants’ case.
The hearing continued throughout 2014 hearing from a total of 43 witnesses and concluded last month. The Province elected to call no witnesses.
In its decision, the Tribunal found many of the witnesses for the appellants were offering opinions rather than evidence, or that their evidence was not enough to support their case.
Ward 16 Coun. Heather Stauble, who has fought for years to keep wind turbines out of her ward, said the decision was “stunning.”
“I can’t believe it,” she said. “The ERT had a good opportunity to overturn this approval. There was a lot of evidence – good evidence.”
She said she preferred not to comment further until she had a chance to read through the decision.
Paul Reid of Manvers Wind Concerns emailed This Week, saying “The decision from the Provincial Tribunal on the Sumac Ridge Wind Factory ERT has been issued. Despite our best efforts and huge community support, our appeal has been dismissed and the approval of this project has been upheld…Thank you once again to everyone who sacrificed so much of their time to this effort to save our community from wind industrialization, and thank you to (lawyer) Eric Gillespie and his team who did an excellent job for us.”
Mr. Reid hinted the fight may not yet be over.
“Our legal team is reviewing this decision…to determine what, if any, grounds there are for Appeal. We will advise you accordingly.”
wpd Canada has two more wind energy projects in the City of Kawartha Lakes awaiting approval; Snowy Ridge and Settlers’ Landing. Mr. Reid said the opponents are preparing to appeal those approvals, which he said are “inevitable.”
wpd Canada issued a press release shortly after the decision was released. The company has maintained throughout the process that it has followed all of the protocols required by the Province for its wind energy projects to be approved.
It states, “The Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) hearing an appeal of the Renewable Energy Approval (REA) granted to the Sumac Ridge Wind Farm has ruled the project can proceed as proposed in the REA application. The decision was released today.
Sumac Ridge will be located within the former Township of Manvers in the City of Kawartha Lakes. A $40 million development with strict domestic content requirements, the Sumac Ridge project will bring an estimated 200 jobs to the area during construction. wpd is committed to using competitively-priced local labour and services as much as possible.
The release notes that once constructed, Sumac Ridge will feed an estimated 26,497,200 kWh of clean, renewable energy annually into the electricity grid: this is equivalent to the average annual power use of 1,514 homes.
“We’re obviously pleased with the decision from the ERT,” said wpd Canada President, Ian MacRae. “Sumac Ridge has gone through months of review and scrutiny, both through the Ministry of Environment approval process and the ERT appeal.”
Mr. MacRae added, “The parties appealing the approval argued that Sumac Ridge would harm both the natural environment and human health, and called witnesses to support their position. The independent panel reviewed all the evidence, and in the end did not agree, and we’re now in a position to move forward with Sumac Ridge.”
wpd Canada is based in Mississauga and employs a growing number of Canadian professionals active in wind energy project development in Ontario, British Columbia and other Canadian provinces. wpd Canada is a wholly owned subsidiary of wpd Europe, a green energy company active in 17 countries around the globe.
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