Not so quick wpd Canada.
Only days after an Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT), ruled the 27-turbine White Pines wind energy development would cause irreversible harm to wildlife, including Blanding’s Turtles, wpd Canada informed the appellants the company intended to commence with site preparation – namely clearing of brush – as early as next week.
The Alliance to Protect Prince Edward County has responded quickly, filing a motion requesting a stay of any work on the site until the ERT has resolved the issue.
In its decision, the ERT ruled the development would cause “serious and irreversible harm” to the turtles and Little Brown Bats, suspending wpd Canada’s Renewable Energy Approval, pending remediation hearings.
In a letter to local resident John Hirsch and the Alliance to Protect Prince Edward County (APPEC) as well as the director of Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change, wpd informed them of their intent to begin clearing brush on March 14.
“We are appalled by wpd’s chosen course of action (as) it is fundamentally disrespectful of the appeal process not to mention an ERT decision that to anyone’s mind would bring the White Pines wind project to a grinding halt,” said APPEC president Orville Walsh. “Instead, just four days after the tribunal issued its decision to uphold the appeal, wpd is behaving as though the decision does not apply to them.
“Vegetation clearing for turbines and access roads will cause irreparable environmental destruction. Of particular concern is the impact of heavy machinery that will be brought in on Blanding’s turtle habitat, where most of the wind turbines are located, and on Blanding’s turtles themselves as they emerge from their over-wintering sites early this year after a mild fall and winter.”
APPEC’s legal counsel has responded quickly submitting a motion requesting the ERT to issue a stay of all physical activity associated with this Renewable Energy Approval until this matter has been resolved by the Tribunal.
Walsh said the decision by wpd to proceed with site preparation was similar to another Prince Edward County turbine development, Gilead Power’s nine-turbine project at Ostrander Point.
“APPEC, Mr. Hirsch and the Prince Edward County Field Naturalists (PECFN) note the similarities between wpd’s attempt to start on construction while an appeal is underway and a prior attempt by Gilead Power to do the same at Ostrander Point,” he said. “In this instance, the Ontario Court of Appeal had no hesitation in granting a stay on construction in order to prevent irreparable harm (and) we are confident that wpd’s attempt will meet with the same outcome.”
While the ERT ruled the development will cause harm to the Little Brown Bats and Blanding’s turtles, it did not find serious and irreversible harm to human health, to hydrology or to migratory birds. It did acknowledge it could present a significant risk of serious harm to migrating birds and the project site was poorly chosen from a migratory bird perspective.
“As I said when the ruling was given, we remain cautiously elated with the decision,” Walsh said. “This has only happened twice before, once with Ostrander Point and one other, in Kawartha Lakes I believe. We are glad the tribunal agreed with us that this is a poorly chosen location for turbines and we hope it results in the permit being revoked.”
The tribunal ordered a hearing to listen to submissions on possible remedies. No date has been set.
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