BERWICK – The majority of the North Stormont council voted in favour of receiving a report from its chief administrative officer (CAO) on Tuesday and in doing so, opted out of adopting a fire suppression bylaw for the Nation Rise Wind Farm project— for now.
In his report, CAO Craig Calder told council he could not recommend a fire suppression bylaw, saying there isn’t enough evidence to warrant it. In addition, he said adopting one could lead to the bylaw being challenged in court.
“The township must be able to provide reasonable evidence to support the bylaw. There is a risk, should there not be legitimate reasons clearly used as a safety benchmark, the bylaw could be challenged, and potentially quashed, on bad faith,” the report read.
Legal counsel, which Calder consulted in order to create his report, explained bad faith does not suggest any wrongdoing or personal advantage on the part of council. Rather, bad faith is identified as council acting unreasonably, and without justification, to warrant the implementation of the bylaw.
“We don’t know what the risks are or the level of risk posed or how much level of risk we’re willing to accept,” said Calder. “We have none of this information. Everything is essentially speculative at this point. Quite frankly, I think we need to be responsible and careful at this point.”
As well as the report, council also received petitions from residents, who said they were concerned with the fire hazards presented by wind turbines. There have also been letter-writing and other campaigns from the project’s opponents, calling on the need for a fire suppression bylaw to force Nation Rise Wind Farm’s owner, EDP Renewables, to install the technology on the turbines in this project.
The concerns cited by the opponents are that should a turbine catch fire, the damage to surrounding crops and properties would be extensive and happen faster than the township’s firefighters could respond.
Coun. Steve Densham said he too considered there is a lack of information on statistics of fires in wind turbines.
“I read through the material in detail,” he said. “I’m still seeing a summary of what appears to be unqualified opinions, primarily. It seems to be a lot of thoughts from different individuals who have ideas on whether fire suppression should or should not exist.
“They have their perspectives on what information might help them make that decision, but we still lack some form of professional recommendation from anyone who has expertise in the field, other than the proponent themselves who, in my opinion, will be biased.”
Densham further said council should seek the advice of what he called a fire-suppression expert, with an unbiased opinion.
“Let’s get one to present, seeing as how we have already allowed a presentation by the proponents,” he said.
Densham’s recommendation to do so was quashed, not managing to get a seconder.
[rest of article available at source]
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