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Ontario town reignites opposition to wind farm after court overturns cancellation

Residents of an Ontario town still want the government to know they don’t want a wind farm after a court decision overturned a previous project’s cancellation.

The community of North Stormont, Ont. has repeatedly asserted its unwillingness to host the Nation Rise Wind Farm, despite the previous Liberal government’s attempts.

The project was cancelled in 2019 by Ontario Progressive Conservative Environment Minister Jeff Yurek due to concerns for local bat species, however this decision was reversed by the Ontario Superior Court.

This has reignited a years-long fight for residents opposed to the project.

Ruby Mekker, a member of the grassroots Concerned Citizens for North Stormont, said the community’s concerns haven’t been heard.

“In all we signed three petitions – two for the minister and one was submitted with our appeal. We also signed notices of non-consent,” said Mekker. “The council refuses to do anything to address the resident’s issues.”

Some residents would have accepted the cancellation for any reason from their growing list of complaints, including declining property values, fire suppression concerns, water contamination, noise pollution, adverse health effects from turbines and threat to local wildlife.

Over a decade ago, Ontario, then under Liberal rule, pledged to make half of the province’s energy renewable by 2025. As a result, major energy contracts were given out through a competitive process called the Large Renewable Procurement. (LRP)

Ontario eventually settled on EDP group, a Portuguese energy company, to erect 29 wind turbines that would supply Ontario with 100 Megawatts of renewable energy. North Stormont was chosen as the location.

Mekker says she doesn’t know why the project was not cancelled.

“This project failed to meet any of the four requirements such as community approval and indigenous consent, but they approved it anyways,” said Mekker.

There has been similar opposition to wind turbines in other communities, such as White Pines’ opposition to a wind energy project in 2018, which cost the Ontario government $231 million to cancel in 2019 even though turbines were already standing.

The scrapping of White Pines set a precedent for community opposition to energy projects. With the arrival of the Doug Ford administration, early-stage green energy projects were being cancelled in their hundreds.

North Stormont’s critics of the project feel they have not been afforded the same privilege to decide what is good for their community.

In 2015 the township declared itself an “unwilling host” for the Nation Rise Wind project. They would go on to oppose the same motion again while contesting the project at the level of the Independent Electricity System Operator. (IESO)

“I think what concerns me most is the loss of our democratic rights,” said Mekker.

“The government of Ontario is proceeding, they are forcing this on people despite the harm it could cause.”