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Tribunal dismisses appeal against Snowy Ridge wind turbine project

MANVERS TWP – Ward 16 Councillor Heather Stauble and everyone fighting to keep industrial wind turbines out of Manvers Township suffered a devastating blow when their appeal of the Snowy Ridge wind park approval was dismissed.
The Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) which heard the appeal, issued the decision on Tuesday (Dec. 22), upholding the provincial approval issued to Capstone Infrastruture.
The hearing began earlier in the fall in Pontypool.
Snowy Ridge is the third wind project proposed for the area. It is located north of Highway 7A and east of Highway 35 near Bethany. The other two adjacent projects, Capstone’s Settlers Landing (just west of Pontypool) and wpd Canada’s Sumac Ridge (south of Highway 7A and east of Highway 35) were also appealed.
Taken together, all of the wind projects would see 15 mega-wind turbines built in the area, including several on the provincially-protected Oak Ridges Moraine.
In an interview on Wednesday (Dec. 23) Coun. Stauble said the ERT on the Settlers Landing wind project, which took place earlier this year did find “serious and irreversible harm” and is still under review by the ERT. Capstone Infrastructure has until Jan. 7 to respond.
The Sumac Ridge ERT decision was appealed to the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change several months ago, and there has been no decision to date.
Coun. Stauble said during the Snowy Ridge hearing it appeared to her that the Tribunal was paying close attention to the similarities arising from all of the appeals. The Snowy Ridge Appeal dealt largely with water, species at risk, the Oak Ridges Moraine and noise issues.
But, the cumulative noise of 15 industrial wind turbines in three projects is a central issue for Manvers Township residents opposed to them, and was a major component of the Snowy Ridge appeal. Coun. Stauble said any testimony relating to noise was not permitted at the Snowy Ridge hearing.
“They wouldn’t allow noise testimony from any of the experts, and that put the appellants at a huge disadvantage,” she said.
She explained that early in the ERT process Capstone Infrastructure filed a motion to have the noise issues struck from the Notice of Appeal. “The Motion resulted in the ERT striking several sections of the Notice of Appeal and redacting the Appellants’ noise witness statements, leaving the community with no expert testimony to address the concerns that the cumulative noise levels had not been properly considered in the review of this project which is located close to two schools and a daycare,” she said.
Coun. Stauble said that in spite of assurances to the City of Kawartha Lakes by the senior staff person in charge of REA Approvals at the Province that a cumulative noise assessment of all three adjacent wind projects would be conducted, none was done.
She said many of the residents and children attending the schools and the daycare will be exposed to the audible and inaudible noise at both home and school. Concerns over reports of chronic sleep deprivation and the resulting adverse health impacts reported in multiple studies were among the concerns reported to the ERT, she said.
“The ERT put the community at a severe disadvantage when they disallowed evidence on noise. You cannot protect people’s health when requirements meant to protect health are dismissed.”
Coun. Stauble said the ERT also dismissed expert testimony from City staff concerning contamination of and impact on the shallow wells in the area. “Residents in this area rely entirely on private wells from ground water with no other source of drinking water.”
Coun. Stauble said she does not believe the ERT process is impartial; that the numerous concerns about the potential impact of industrial wind turbines on human health, flora and fauna – including species at risk – drinking water and particularly, the Oak Ridges Moraine are all common denominators in the appeals to all of the wind projects planned for Manvers Township.
“The ERT also dismissed the concerns expressed by residents, the City and Save the Oak Ridges Moraine (STORM) Coalition about the impact of yet another industrial wind project on the environmentally protected Oak Ridges Moraine,” Coun. Stauble said.
She noted the ERT is not just hearing an appeal of one wind turbine project; but several, and should be looking at the impact of 15 turbines on the area.
“The ERT should be considering the full intent of the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan and the cumulative impact of the multiple projects. Wind companies need to be held to account on the legislation meant to protect the environment and health.“
She said the fight is not over yet; that the appellants are “looking at the options.”
They now have 30 days to file an Appeal, either through the courts through an Application for a Judicial Review or directly to the Minister of the Environment.
This Week has contacted Capstone Infrastructure for comment. Watch mykawartha.com for updates.