An appeal by Mothers Against Wind Turbines Inc. against a wind turbine project in west Niagara has been dismissed by the Environmental Review Tribunal.
The tribunal’s decision was released Wednesday and came after hearings in January of this year in Wellandport and Wainfleet.
Mothers Against Wind Turbines Inc. filed an appeal last year over the Niagara Region Wind Corp. project, which would see 77 wind turbines, with a capacity of 230 megawatts, installed in West Lincoln and Wainfleet in Niagara, and in Dunnville in Haldimand County
In his decision, Environmental Review Tribunal vice-chair Dirk VanderBent wrote, “The Tribunal finds that the Appellant has not established that engaging in the Project in accordance with the REA will cause serious harm to human health. The Tribunal further finds that the Appellant has not established that engaging in the Project in accordance with the REA will cause serious and irreversible harm to plant life, animal life or the natural environment. The Tribunal finds that the Appellant has not established that s. 142.1 of the EPA violates the right to security of the person under s. 7 of the Charter.”
In an e-mail interview with Mothers Against Wind Turbines Inc. director Linda Rogers, she said the group will be discussing various options and will continue to consult with members and stakeholders within the community.
An appeal of the decision is not the only action that can be pursued, she said
Rogers said the tribunal’s decision in regard to the legal test not being met for human health does not mean there won’t be an impact.
“A legal test is not an appropriate measure to apply in preserving and protecting health. There is sufficient evidence to evoke precaution to stop further wind project development and to stop the operations of the projects already known to be generating reports of negatively impacting adjacent residents,” she said, adding a review of past tribunal decisions will demonstrate the health test is an impossible test to meet.
“It is just one of the reasons for the Charter challenge currently before the courts,” she said. “It is of grave concern that Health Canada has been reported to be not allowing timely access to its data to academics and researchers, who could give qualified expert opinion as part of the peer review process.”
Mothers Against Wind Turbines Inc. will continue to bring attention to the all the species at risk issues in the project area, Rogers said.
One of those species at risk, said the group, is the Blanding’s turtle. The tribunal dismissed evidence about the turtle, indicating it was not part of Mothers Against Wind Turbines Inc.’s witness statement.
“It is sad that the Environmental Review Tribunal does not recognize Blanding’s turtle as a protected species. As such, Mothers Against Wind Turbines Inc. will consider petitioning Environment Canada to conduct a separate review for this globally-protected species. From witnessing previous tribunal proceedings, it is clear that there has been little to no oversight by ministry officials during the construction of wind energy projects in Ontario.”
Mothers Against Wind Turbines Inc. said the siting of a number of turbines will leave them very close to provincially-significant wetlands.
Rogers said the best guarantee Niagara Region Wind Corp. could provide in its environmental impact study is a setback of 0.1 meters (4 inches) from 28 different provincially-significant wetlands in the project location, and 62 of 77 (80%) turbines will require permits from the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority.
She said part of Mothers Against Wind Turbines Inc.’s environmental witness statement stated that to proceed with the construction of this project will require extreme caution, “as delineations between wetland and upland habitats are not clear cut to 0.1 meters, and will require the utmost care to ensure that there is no irreparable harm to the protected species in these recognized environmentally protected areas.”
Mothers Against Wind Turbines Inc. said there appears to be two regulatory environmental standards, one for the wind energy companies, and one for the general public.
“This approval sets a dangerous negative precedent, and will erode public compliance to local environmental regulations.”
Rogers said the tribunal process requires appellants to prove serious and irreversible harm and to date, nobody has yet managed to do that.
“It is flawed in that the experience of others is being disregarded or worse, dismissed and disbelieved. Many people have given evidence at previous tribunal hearings about their health issues in a post-turbine environment, but the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change and the wind industry continue to take the position that they are not credible.”
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