All charges have been withdrawn in the alleged well water contamination case against the Ministry of Environment, minister Jeff Yurek, and three wind turbine companies.
The Attorney General intervened and ordered all charges to be dropped. Attorney General representative Brian Wilkie said there was not enough evidence to link the companies to the problem.
The judge withdrew the charges in Blenheim court on Wednesday morning, saying there was no reasonable prospect of conviction because of the reasonable doubt cited by Wilkie. Wilkie would not explain what the missing link was, saying he had nothing else to add.
The Ministry of Environment, the minister, Pattern Energy, Samsung Renewable Energy, and Engie Canada were all named in the lawsuit filed. They were all accused of contaminating well water in Chatham-Kent with black shale and hazardous metals.
Complainant Christine Burke said other legal avenues are being explored. Her Toronto lawyer, Eric Gillespie, said an appeal is being considered.
“Quite frankly, everybody knows these charges were against the government and now the government has withdrawn the charges and, in our client’s mind, this is like leaving the fox in charge of the hen house,” said Gillespie.
Gillespie said many people are puzzled with the court decision and wondered if the Attorney General even took the case seriously.
“Our office contacted the government and we said you have information from us, we have more information and we’re willing to provide even further expert information but the government never got back to us,” he added.
Gillespie said he will know what the next step is in about a week.
“There’s a number of avenues open and an appeal is a possibility but at the same time there are other legal options and we are exploring them and I’m quite confident this is not the end of the matter,” Gillespie said.
The three companies were charged under the Environmental Protection Act with “unlawfully discharging contaminants, including black shale and potentially hazardous metals into the natural environment in an unlawful manner that caused or is likely to cause an adverse effect.” Both Yurek and the Ministry of the Environment were charged for allegedly “failing to take all reasonable care to prevent the installation and operation of the wind turbines” at two wind farms, which resulted in the well water contamination.
After the charges were dropped, Jeff Yurek released the following statement:
“Today, the Crown withdrew the charges laid by a private individual against me as Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks and the ministry alleging contraventions of the Environmental Protection Act related to two wind projects.
This government and I will always take the public’s concerns about wind projects very seriously and will continue to stand with the families living in Chatham-Kent to make sure what happened under the previous Liberal government never happens again.
An expert panel has been formed by the Minister of Health to carry out a health hazard impact assessment. The expert panel has been meeting regularly since July 2019 and the final report is anticipated by the end of 2020.
It’s unfortunate that I had been named and associated with this matter as the decision to approve the wind projects and force them into the backyards of rural Ontarians was made under the previous Liberal government.
The previous Liberal government consistently showed a complete lack of respect for the people of Ontario.
This is why since taking office, we have kept our promise by repealing the Green Energy Act, restoring municipal planning power, and cancelling and winding down more than 700 unnecessary energy projects – saving Ontario ratepayers $790 million.”