Fight to stop huge Ontario wind farm begins legal battle
TORONTO – The first court phase of a legal fight aimed at scuttling what would be one of Ontario’s largest wind-energy developments kicks off Monday with a farm family trying to force an immediate stop to its construction.
Documents filed in support of their request show Shawn and Tricia Drennan are concerned about the potential harm the 140-turbine K2 Wind project near Goderich, Ont., could cause them.
The Drennans are asking Divisional Court for an injunction against the ongoing construction of the facility pending resolution of an appeal against the project. They note Health Canada is currently doing a study to understand the impact industrial wind projects have on nearby residents.
“In effect, our government has relegated the appellants to guinea pigs in the name of green energy,” their factum states.
“The fear and anxiety with being a guinea pig is only further heightened by the knowledge that the Ontario Ministry of the Environment has placed a moratorium on off-shore wind turbines because the environmental impact on the fish is not known.”
Joining them in the construction stay application filed in London, Ont., are the Dixon and Ryan families, who are fighting the 15-turbine St. Columban wind project near Seaforth, Ont. The Dixons argue construction noise will hurt their eight-year-old daughter, who suffers from hearing hypersensitivity.
Both K2 Wind Ontario and St. Columban Energy argue their projects are safe, have the required permits, and that stopping construction now would have serious financial consequences. The say the projects underwent an extensive approval process that included two years of planning and various environmental studies.
In its factum, K2 Wind says the appeal will be heard long before the turbines are operational, so there is no immediate health threat warranting a stay.
“In contrast to the lack of harm the appellants will suffer if this motion is not granted,” the company argues, “K2 Wind could suffer serious financial consequences from even a minor delay in construction — consequences that could put the entire K2 project at risk.”
Ontario has seen several fights over wind farms. Some citizens are implacably opposed to them on the grounds they make area residents and animals ill, are an eyesore, lower property values, and are pushing up the price of electricity. Premier Kathleen Wynne and her Liberal caucus were heckled this past week at the International Plowing Match in the hamlet of Ivy, Ont, in part because of opposition to Liberal pro-wind policies.
Proponents argue wind turbines provide renewable energy, are environmentally friendly, create economic benefits, and are safe provided minimum distances to homes are maintained.
The provincial Environment Ministry approved the $850-million K2 — which would be able to power 100,000 homes — and the smaller St. Columban project, prompting the families to appeal to the Environmental Review Tribunal, which upheld the approvals.
In its decisions, the tribunal found no conclusive proof that wind turbines — a few of which are roughly 500 metres from homes — pose a health hazard to those living near them.
The three families, along with a fourth family opposed to the 92-turbine Armow wind farm near Kincardine, Ont., joined forces to appeal the tribunal decisions. The families argue the approvals process violates their constitutional rights given the potential impact on their physical and emotional health and want the project permits yanked.
The appeal itself is expected before Divisional Court in mid-November.
An unrelated battle involving a nine-turbine wind farm development south of Picton, Ont., is set to go before the province’s top court in December.
© 2014 The Canadian Press