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Legislature says no to Simcoe-Grey MPP Wilson’s motion to halt Clearview Township wind project

The opponents of an approved wind turbine project in Clearview Township tried another stab to blow it off course and get the provincial government to put a halt to the plans.

With a busload of local residents down for the day to sit in the public gallery, Simcoe-Grey MPP Jim Wilson put forward a private member’s resolution in the Ontario legislature on Thursday asking the Liberal government to cancel WPD Canada’s Fairview Wind project.

The project would see eight 500-foot wind turbines constructed in an area north and south of County Road 91 west of Stayner, including two within 2.1 nautical miles of the Collingwood Regional Airport. The project’s Renewable Energy Application (REA) was approved in March by the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MOECC), but has since been appealed to the Environmental Review Tribunal. A hearing is scheduled to begin May 16.

In presenting his motion, Wilson challenged the government to “do the right thing” and rescind the decision.

Wilson’s motion was defeated.

The MPP’s presentation was preceded by a news conference in the Queen’s Park media studio with the MPP, Preserve Clearview’s Chuck Magwood, and local businessman, pilot and municipal councillor Kevin Elwood.

Elwood and Magwood called on the provincial government to cancel the approvals based on pilot safety. Elwood said all eight turbines penetrate arrival and takeoff space for both the regional airport and his private aerodrome off County Road 91.

“They will be a serious safety hazard to both aerodromes,” he said, adding the provincial government ignored the report of a third-party consultant “that clearly outlines the risk and the high potential hazard of a turbine-aircraft collision.”

WPD says the turbine locations present a minimal safety hazard to pilots, and in a statement issued Thursday, said the company has consulted with Transport Canada and NAV Canada.

“The Fairview project meets all Transport Canada regulations and standards that apply to the Collingwood Regional Airport,” said WPD spokesperson Kevin Surette, adding that NAV Canada has indicated on three separate occasions, most recently in March, “that it has no objections to the project.”

Under its REA, WPD is required to hire an independent aeronautical consultant to recommend mitigation measures that should be put in place to ensure aviation safety.

Any recommendations are to be implemented 10 days prior to erecting the turbines.

In Thursday’s Question Period, in response to Wilson, MOECC minister Glen Murray said both Transport Canada and NAV Canada had been consulted with on the project.

”Each and every time they said there were no safety issues here that were at all material,” he said.

In an email to Simcoe.com, ministry spokesperson David Mullock emphasized WPD’s application “met the ministry’s stringent requirements” after a lengthy review process.

“Ministry technical experts worked with the proponent and regulatory agencies to ensure any concerns about the proposed layout of turbines near the airport and an aerodrome were considered and meet all regulatory agency requirements to reduce any risk to aviation activities,” he stated.

Mullock added NAV Canada accepted the WPD’s Land Use Clearance Form and stated that they do not object to the proposal as submitted provided their construction notification requirements are met.

However, Elwood said Transport Canada rules only determine how an obstruction will be marked so it’s visible to pilots, while NAV Canada only assessed the safety risk as it pertained to instrument approaches, not visual approaches.

He also said there was a gap in legislation between the province’s Green Energy Act and the federal government’s jurisdiction over aeronautics that created “a serious hazard to aviation.”

Wilson cited the example of a Piper aircraft that collided with a turbine in South Dakota in 2014, killing all four people aboard. In that case, it was determined the turbine’s obstruction lights were not functioning correctly.

“These tragedies can happen,” he said.

“Does this province want to have the first government with blood on its hands after they cause the first turbine-aircraft crash in Canada? The province is knowingly approving turbines that are a hazard,” Elwood said. “What is Premier Wynne going to say to the people of this province when the inevitable happens? What will she say when she has to stand up in the Legislature and explain why a plane collided with a wind turbine?

“These eight wind turbine locations are killers – there is no doubt in my mind.”

Magwood said his group has spent about $1 million fighting the turbines.

“We’re going to fight that fight to the bitter end, but the odds are stacked hugely against us,” he said. “The obligation falls to this government right now. We can’t look anywhere else.

“They set this Green Energy Act in place, they’re the authors of the holes that have been created, and they’re the only ones who can cure it.”