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Turbine project put to rest; Wpd Canada decides not to appeal Environmental Review Tribunal ruling

CLEARVIEW TWP. – Bats and aircrafts can fly without the threat of a collision with a wind turbine now that wpd Canada will not be building eight wind turbines near Collingwood Regional Airport.

Wpd Canada decided not to appeal the Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) ruling that its provincial renewable energy application (REA) permit be revoked.

“Wpd’s board of directors has decided not to proceed with the Fairview project. Wpd won’t be making additional comments regarding its decision,” said Kevin Surette, manager of communications.

Progressive Conservative MPP for Simcoe-Grey Jim Wilson said he is “thrilled” that the project will not go ahead.

Wilson has been fighting against the project to build eight, 500-foot wind turbines near the airport since the start, including introducing a private members bill in the legislature to stop the proposal.

“The whole idea was absurd from the start,” Wilson said. “You don’t build massive wind turbines near airports.

“Why did the government approve it in the first place and why were they so stubborn to stick with it and not listen to the municipal governments and the pilot associations? I hope they have learned their lesson that they never should have given the approval in the first place,” he added.

Wilson commended local residents and communities for their hard work in appealing this project.

“I want to thank everybody who signed the petition and participated in the appeal before the tribunal,” he said.

In an appeal hearing, the ERT ruled against the project on Aug. 16 and the period to file an appeal expired Sept. 15.

The tribunal decision by chairman Dirk Vander Bent with panel member Hugh Wilkins of Aug. 16 read: “Considering all the above factors, the tribunal accepts that the margin for error posed by introducing the proposed wind turbines at their proposed locations would be inadequate to prevent collision with a wind turbine.”

The tribunal’s decision upheld a previous ruling that the Fairview Wind project posed a significant risk to human health due to its proximity to both Collingwood Regional Airport and the Stayner Aerodrome.

The tribunal’s decision is a victory for local residents and the local community who knew from the beginning that the location of this project was inappropriate, said Wilson.

“This is another example of the Liberal government’s mismanagement of the hydro system,” he said. “They tried to force our community to accept industrial wind turbines where they didn’t belong. This is proof municipal planning approval authority for these projects must be restored.”

Stayner Aerodrome owner and commercial pilot Kevin Elwood has spend a large sum of money fighting the proposal since he first heard about it eight years ago.

He was one of six appellants in the ERT that also included his wife Gail Elwood, John Wiggins, the municipalities of Collingwood and Clearview and the County of Simcoe.

“I feel relieved that the community, Ontario and Canada as a whole is now free from the negative impacts and harms that this project would have resulted in,” Elwood said.

Elwood, who is a Clearview Township councillor, said he is appreciative of the unwavering support from residents, Wilson, Clearview Township, Collingwood and Simcoe County.

Clearview Township has also spent a significant sum of money to fight the turbine project.

“This marks the end of a long effort to protect the township’s natural landscape and aviation industry at the Collingwood Regional Airport,” explained Mayor Christopher Vanderkruys.

“It’s unfortunate that the province and this process forced the municipality to contribute such significant resources towards an issue that could have been addressed through proper consultation and deliberation,” stated Vanderkruys.

“On behalf of Clearview Township, I would like to extend my gratitude to the County of Simcoe, Town of Collingwood, Preserve Clearview, John Wiggins, Kevin and Gail Elwood and all other involved parties for their effort, expertise, and commitment throughout the process”.

The REA has been approved Feb. 11, 2016 by the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change for a green energy project.

Appeals were filed eight days later on both allowable reasons; that turbines could cause harm to human health and serious or irreversible harm to animal or plant life or the natural environment.

At the ERT appeal hearing in March, bat biologist and citizens scientists provided evidence that there is a population of the little brown bat, which is an endangered species, in habitat close to where the turbines would have been placed and that the spinning blades causes bat mortality.

Vander Bent and Wilkins also heard that the blades could be slowed at night to mitigate bad and bird mortalities.

But the risk to human health from a possible collision between an aircraft and the turbines was determined to be the primary risk and reason for the REA to be revoked.

The ERT decision was made in the public interest to safeguard pilots and passengers from harms caused through the unnecessary creation of obstacles in airspace utilized by aircraft taking off and landing at aerodromes, said Elwood.

The decision is having wide ranging effects because it proves that safety risks can be evaluated early in a projects development.

“All levels of government and policy advisors can learn from his case.”

Information regarding the revocation of the Renewable Energy Approval is available on the Environment & Land Tribunals website at http://elto.gov.on.ca/tribunals/ert/decisions-orders/.

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