Prince Edward Hastings MPP Todd Smith has asked the province’s Environment Minister to ensure the Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) process under way in Prince Edward County, is respected.
“On multiple occasions in the House, you have answered questions regarding the actions of the mega multi-national energy corporation wpd and its attempt to construct energy installations both in my riding and that of my colleague, the member from Simcoe-Grey. During those interactions, you have emphatically stated your intent to ensure the integrity of a process, as well as your concerns about actions which could undermine it,” Smith said in his letter.
“I must insist that the process is being undermined by the proponent in this case,” he said the action by wpd Canada “exerts pressure, or influence on the Tribunal to render a decision on its timeline – instead of the Tribunal’s – and in its favour, regardless of the impact on the biodiversity of the South Shore.”
wpd Canada served notice in March, and again the Thursday before the Easter weekend that it intended to begin clearing land on the South Shore of Prince Edward County.
Clearing of vegetation began Wednesday morning, April 19, north of Royal Road and east of Lighthall Road for its White Pines 27-industrial wind turbine project. There was also activity at a second site south of Hilltop Road, just west of Brewer’s Road.
In absence of a final decision on the project, wpd also asked the ERT for a motion date to lift the existing ‘stay’ the Alliance to Protect Prince Edward County (APPEC) obtained April 8 last year to prevent clearing in the turtles’ spring foraging habitat. wpd began clearing trees at the sites on April 4 last year.
“The project, in addition to producing expensive power that the government has already admitted Ontario doesn’t need, will cost County Hydro One customers including those in the County, who will end up paying to hook this project up to the grid.”
He noted Hydro One’s last rate application, showing customers are paying the cost of hook-up for these projects.
“So, this isn’t just bad for the environment down in the County, it’s bad for pocketbooks of County electricity customers.”
Kevin Surette, of wpd Canada said the timing of the work is driven by the REA granted for the project which imposes restrictions on the work that can be undertaken in Blandings Turtle habitat after May 1.
“We advised the Tribunal of this possibility during the closing submissions on January 27, 2017. At that time, we understood the panel to be aware of the possibility of this issue needing to be addressed if a decision was not delivered before the spring window for vegetation clearing.”
Surette said a request that the Tribunal schedule a teleconference with all parties was also made in March, along with a request for an urgent motion to lift the ERT’s stay on spring foraging habitat and site preparation activities (as set out in its decision dated April 25, 2016).
Prince Edward County Mayor Robert Quaiff said his personal feeling is that work being done before a decision is made by the ERT, is premature.
“The County is looking into whether it can do anything at all, but to me it’s poor judgement knowing the sensitivity of the issue here in Prince Edward County,” said Quaiff. “Knowing it’s before the tribunal, for them to come in and do what they’re doing is unacceptable in my opinion. It’s been a divisive issue for many years in the county, some people are in favour of the wind turbines, but I believe more are against.
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