The Environmental Review Tribunal has dismissed the appeal of the renewable energy approval for the Gunn’s Hill wind farm – allowing the project to proceed as planned.
In its decision posted to the ERT website late Wednesday, Oct. 21, the tribunal ruled the appellant, East Oxford Community Alliance, failed to establish that the project would cause serious harm to human health or serious and irreversible harm to plant life, animal life or the natural environment.
The appeal was launched in April by East Oxford Community Alliance Inc., a group of local concerned citizens who oppose the wind farm based on potential impact to human health, livestock and environment.
The Alliance has been trying to block the project since it was announced several years ago and has considered legal steps along the way.
Alliance spokesperson Joan Morris said the group is not surprised by the tribunal’s dismissal of the appeal.
“This is the way the whole process has been working in Ontario,” she said.
Even with the odds against them, the EOCA participated in the tribunal to put their evidence on the public record.
“It’s important to put on the record that we are aware of the potential problems this and other projects will cause,” said Morris, adding the information may prove useful decades down the road.
The Alliance will next meet to discuss what direction it wants to go with its case.
Juan Anderson, vice president of Prowind Canada, said the unconditional dismissal is what was anticipated.
“The project is proceeding with construction,” he said in a press release.
Recently, Anderson told the Norwich Gazette work has begun on preliminary construction of the access roads that will branch from county or township roads to the sites of the turbines themselves. Foundations, towers and turbine installation will be done in the spring after the weigh restrictions are lifted from the roads.
Prowind is developing the 10-turbine wind farm in partnership with Oxford Community Energy Co-op (OCEC) and Six Nations of the Grand River Development Corp under the name Gunn’s Hill LP.
OCEC President Helmut Schneider said the co-op’s investors have been eagerly anticipating the start of construction.
“OCEC has developed a very strong investor community in Oxford County,” said Schneider, pointing out the OCEC has secured 49 per cent ownership of the project.
Anderson, who is also the president of Gunn’s Hill LP, said the project will provide clean energy equivalent to what is used by over 6,000 homes, and offer $500,000 to local community initiatives over the life of the project.
“We look forward to being a part of this community during project construction and operation, making a significant contribution to the county’s goal of being 100 per cent renewable,” said Anderson.
Jan. 2008 – Prowind Canada begins work on the project to become Gunn’s Hill wind farm. Years of testing and public meetings follow, with various adjustments to the project scope.
April 9, 2015 – GHLP General Partner Inc., as general partner for and on behalf of Gunn’s Hill LP received Renewable Energy Approval from the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change for a renewable energy project known as the Gunn’s Hill Wind Farm, consisting of the construction, installation, operation, use and retiring of a Class 4 wind facility with a total nameplate capacity of 18 megawatts, located on Middletown Line in Norwich Township.
April 24 – East Oxford Community Alliance Inc. appealed the REA to the Environmental Review Tribunal on the grounds that “engaging in the project in accordance with the REA will cause serious harm to human health” (the “Health Test”) and also 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 “Environmental Test”).
May 25 – Preliminary hearing during which the ERT granted the Township of Norwich’s request for presenter status, and gave procedural directions respecting the main hearing.
June 29 – The hearing began in Oxford Centre and continued over several days.
Oct. 21 – The ERT unconditionally dismissed the appeal and confirmed the decision to issue the REA