Opponents of two wind farms – one near Collingwood and the other in Plympton-Wyoming – are expressing deep disappointment that the Ontario Superior Court of Justice has rejected their arguments.
A new ruling has turned back the groups’ claim that turbine developers should first have to prove the projects will do no harm. Instead, the court supported previous tribunals’ decisions that place the onus on objectors to prove the projects cause harm.
“It’s a subtle distinction” but an important one, said Santo Giorno, a spokesperson for the WAIT-Plympton-Wyoming group.
But he is not dissuaded from his belief that turbines can cause human health problems and that wind developers should have to prove their safety before proceeding.
“Eventually we’re going to have a preponderance of scientific evidence that there is a problem . . . If I were to have an industry situated beside me, I’d like a little more assurance than ‘you probably won’t be harmed,’ ” Giorno said.
The ruling is another blow to anti-turbine activists who have so far won just one major reversal of a planned project, that in eastern Ontario where an installation would have jeopardized habitat for the endangered Blanding’s turtle.
“Our argument in the appeal is that there’s no scientific evidence to prove they’re safe, so how can we prove they’re unsafe?” said Gary Fohr, spokesperson for the opponents of the Grey Highlands project in the Collingwood area.
He said his group has spent more than $200,000 on legal fees and countless hours of volunteer time to battle wind projects.
The Superior Court of Justice, after hearing arguments in a London courtroom, confirmed, in a 24-page decision, a divisional court ruling that had, in turn, confirmed environmental review tribunal decisions.
The bottom line is a 46-turbine project in Lambton County can continue to operate and a partly finished 14-turbine project near Collingwood can proceed.
Turbine opponents have argued the structures endanger human health with low-noise frequencies and shadow flicker and harm birds and other wildlife.
Fohr said he’s not opposed to green energy. “I think renewable (energy) is the way of the future. It’s just the way they are being installed,” he said.
Thousands of turbines have sprouted in Ontario in recent years, as the province pledges to wean residents off fossil fuels as part of its Green Energy Act, which also includes using more solar and hydro generation.
Opponents have waged public battles against turbines: local politicians, irked that they’ve been excluded from decision-making within their own municipalities, and neighbours, fearful the machines cause health problems in people and can be harmful to wildlife.
From the decision
“There is a difference between a negative determination that serious harm to human health has not been proven and a positive determination that engaging in the renewable energy project in accordance with the renewable energy approval will not cause serious harm to human health. . . . Based on a substantive review of the tribunal’s three decisions, we are satisfied that the tribunal, in effect, complied with the requirements of (its mandate).”
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