In the David and Goliath battle between the small municipality of Clearview and the Government of Ontario and wpd Canada, subsidiary of an international wind energy company, the little guy won – for now.
The Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) decision that the appeals were allowed was delivered by Dirk Vanderbent and Hugh Wilkins just after 6 p.m. Friday when the hearing was adjourned.
The ERT ruled that the plans for turbines in proximity of Collingwood Regional Airport and the surrounding areas was proven to be a detriment both to human safety to planes using the airport and well and an environmental challenge to certain species, specifically the little brown bat.
“It’s a great win for the Clearview,” said Mayor Chris Vanderkruys.
“It’s a great win for the County of Simcoe. It’s a great win for the Clearview Aviation Business Park around the Collingwood Airport,” Vanderkruys said.
“I think this has strengthened our vision of the industrial project and it will be a boom for the economy of Simcoe County,” he added.
The County of Simcoe, the Town of Collingwood and the Township of Clearview appealed the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change’s (MOECC) approval of the wpd Canada Fairview Wind Project based on the threat to human safety with the turbines being placed in close proximity to the Collingwood Regional Airport.
Kevin and Gail Elwood and Preserve Clearview Inc. fought on the basis of threat to human safety with the turbines being place in close to their privately owned Stayner Aerodrome.
Elwood, a commercial pilot and Clearview councillor has spend a large sum of money fighting this project.
“I’m so proud to represent the community both as an appellant and as a councillor. I’ve received strong support from the community,” he said.
The Canadian Owners and Pilot’s Association was also involved in protesting the erection of eight wind turbines.
“This is a national story. Aviation is Canada wide,” said Elwood. “I’m certain this decision will be referred to across Canada when similar authorities look to approve obstacles in close proximity to aerodromes.”
The ERT determined that the test had been met by the appellants to prove that there would be harm to human health and irreversible harm to the natural environment by the director’s approval to build the wpd wind turbine project, explained Elwood.
Kevin Surette, manager of communications for Wpd Canada said in just receiving the decision news, “We’ll take some time to review the decision and consult with our legal team on what our next steps will be.”
“The ERT has some concerns with respects to the REA application and is giving wpd an opportunity to provide remedy to alleviate those concerns,” Surette said in an email Saturday.
The MOECC had approved the project in February under the Green Energy Act, after Wpd Canada was taking the government to court over the delay of approval.
Wpd submitted the Renewable Energy Approval (REA) application for the project in 2012. The company had received a Feed-in-Tariff (FIT) contract from the government in 2010.
The plan was to built eight 500-foot tall wind turbines west of Stayner – on both the east and west side of Fairgrounds Rd, south of County Road 91 and on the north and south side of County Rd. 91, west of Fairgrounds Rd.
At least one of the turbines would have been as close as 3,000 metres from the end the runway at the Collingwood Airport.
Soon after the approval was given, the local governments and individuals submitted appeals.
Clearview has spent “hundreds of thousands of dollars” said Vanderkruys and Collingwood incurred costs of more than $100,000 by June, as reported by the Enterprise-Bulletin.
The hearing also proved that the construction of the wind turbines would be detrimental to local bat populations.
ERTs will only be held for two reasons: if there is a risk to human life and irreversible harm to the natural environment, both of which were proved during the hearing.
However, Elwood is cautious to claim victory.
“They didn’t rescind the approval,” he said.
A conference call by a case coordinator will be held to determine the next steps.
wpd will be given the opportunity to appeal, he explained.
See the upcoming Enterprise-Bulletin edition Friday for more information.