Opponents to Settler’s Landing wind farm down but not out as Tribunal accepts wind company’s remediation plan
PONTYPOOL – Manvers Wind Concerns president Paul Reid sums it up this way: “All in all, a predictable outcome from a thoroughly corrupt government…but thank you to all in our communities who stood up to these polished thugs.”
Reid’s comment came after the Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) ruled in favour of a wind energy developer, accepting their proposed remedy for the Settler’s Landing wind farm near Pontypool.
The Tribunal released its decision Monday (Sept. 19) after hearing final submissions on the appeal last month.
But it was a bitter pill to swallow for opponents of the project who were successful last year in proving the project would cause “serious and irreversible harm” to the Oak Ridges Moraine.
Capstone Infrastructure’s Settler’s Landing runs just west of Highway 35 along Telecom and Drum roads and involves the construction of five, 46-storey wind turbines. 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.
A group of citizens opposed to the project later formed SLWP Opposition Corp. and appealed the REA to the Tribunal in May of 2015 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 in September and October last year, and later found in favour of the appellants relating to harm to the environment.
The Tribunal, in last year’s decision, found that construction and decommissioning of turbines 3 and 5, and the access roads to turbines 2, 3 and 5, would cause such harm to a significant woodland on the provincially-protected Moraine.
Last month, the Tribunal heard the wind developer’s proposed remedy and the submissions from lawyers for the developer, the Ministry and the appellants. A representative for Capstone Infrastructure said the proposed remedy addressed four key findings in the Tribunals’s decision, which included tree removal (clear cutting), fragmentation of the land because the access road would cut through it, impact on wildlife habitat and the time it would take for the woodland to re-grow.
The company’s proposal was to remove turbine 5, leaving the trees in the area intact; move the proposed access road, and use the existing ‘farm track’ and widening it. (Three of the five turbines are planned to be built in this woodland area.)
In a 42-page decision on Monday, the Tribunal rejected the appellants’ arguments and ruled that the developer’s proposed remedies addressed the Tribunal’s concerns, accepting the plan to rehabilitate the woodlands and tree growth, the removal of Turbine 5. There will now be four turbines instead of five.
Stuart Williams, one of the residents who fought against Settlers Landing said the decision was particularly hard to take, especially since the group had “proven our point” to the ERT last year (that the wind turbines would cause serious and irreversible harm to the environment.”
“That forest was planted 40 years ago; it covers two and a half to three football fields,” he said. “You can’t replace it; it will be wiped out.
We were one of only three appellants who have won an ERT hearing in Canada. If this had been a year and one half ago we would be looking at a defeated wind turbine company. Just over a year ago the Ontario Court of Appeals ruled that a remediation proposal was required to be heard and subsequently it became part of the process if the wind company was to lose an ERT. We lost that appeal of the remediation phase of hearings.
“What we were successful in achieving is that Capstone has reduced the turbine installation by one turbine. They decided to remove the turbine which would have done the most damage to Oak Ridges Moraine Woodland #11. They also have removed the connecting road which would have also cleared much of this woodland. Capstone will also now be required to “create a woodland” equal to about three times the size of the forest to be cleared for turbine #3.”
But, Williams noted the battle is David versus Goliath.
“We only had about $45,000; we couldn’t afford to fly in all the experts like arborists…I’d say Capstone has probably spent $500,000 in legal costs and we just don’t have that kind of money.”
Williams said the group is extremely grateful to the people who gave time, money and what expertise they could to help the group accomplish what they have so far.
He said the group will take the next few days to review the decision and consider their options.
“People have seen the huge turbines on Highway 7; the Snowy Ridge project and they are saying they had no idea how big these monsters are,” he said. “They have no idea of the enormity of this. It is difficult to be a part of a team involved in a fight like this for so long and not have an emotional response to what has just happened.
“But, when you get knocked down, you have to be able to get back up.”
The second Tilting at Windmills fundraising sale will help raise money for legal expenses. The sale takes Saturday, Oct. 1 at 9 a.m. at 1402 Highway 7A, just west of Bethany.
The first sale in July raised more than $5,000, which paid off the Snowy Ridge appeal legal expenses and contributed to the Settler’s Landing legal challenge.
The sale offers a wide variety of unique and one-of-a-kind items and all proceeds will go to the Settler’s Landing group’s legal expenses.
If you can help with setup, contact Ron Awde at firstname.lastname@example.org or 705-277-9490.
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