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Tribunal agrees approved Pontypool wind project would destroy plant and animal life

MANVERS TWP – Ward 16 Councillor Heather Stauble was literally doing a happy dance at the Fenelon Falls Community Centre after learning opponents of an industrial wind turbine project near Pontypool scored a huge victory on Thursday (Nov. 19).

Coun. Stauble was at a special council meeting when she got the news that the Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) had announced its decision on the appeal of the Settlers Landing Nominee Ltd. wind project.

Announcing the decision to council, she was visibly overjoyed as councillors hugged and congratulated her.

“This a huge, huge step forward for the community,” she told This Week.

She noted this is only the second ERT decision in Ontario that has overturned a wind energy company approval in favour of a community.

The Director, Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change issued a Renewable Energy Approval (REA) to Settlers Landing Nominee Ltd., granting approval for the construction, installation, operation, use and retiring of a Class 4 wind facility with a total name plate capacity of 10 megawatts in Pontypool.

Settlers Landing wind park would have put five industrial wind turbines near the village.

SLWP Opposition Corp. appealed the REA to the Tribunal in May on the grounds that the project will cause serious harm to human health and serious and irreversible harm to plant life, animal life or the natural environment.

The Tribunal held the hearing in Pontypool on in September and October.

The Tribunal found “that the planned Settlers Landing wind project in Pontypool will cause serious and irreversible harm to plant life, animal life or the natural environment.” Specifically, the Tribunal, in its decision found that construction and decommissioning of turbines 3 and 5, and the access roads to turbines 2, 3 and 5, will cause such harm to a significant woodland identified as Woodland 11, including the habitat it represents.

Coun. Stauble said having two out of five of the turbines ruled as harmful to the woodlands could affect the company’s FIT contract (whereby they acquire points for renewable energy contracts with the Province.)

Opponents of the wind turbines did not, the Tribunal found, satisfy legal tests with respect to other issues they raised in the appeal, namely serious and irreversible harm to water resources or to grassland bird habitat and serious harm to human health.

Several other wind energy projects from different companies have been approved in Manvers Township, and opponents to the industrial turbines have not let up in their battle to keep them out, especially since several turbines are proposed to be built on the provincially-protected Oak Ridges Moraine. The City has backed their fight, as council has not supported industrial wind turbines in the municipality. While the opponents have raised money for their legal costs, the City has given some financial support and also provided senior staff to testify at the hearings.

In its decision, the Tribunal noted it will provide “a separate opportunity for the parties and participants to address the appropriate remedy and the Tribunal’s remedial jurisdiction in this case.”

Coun. Stauble said the wind company will be given the chance to offer remediation for the two turbines, “but, they must adhere to a 550 metre setback, and to do so means they would have to put those turbines in the woodlands.

“Which they are now not allowed to do.”