Two exhaustive years, two tribunals and one appeal. The digging, the paperwork, the questions and revelations that just maybe the ministries involved aren’t as neutral as they should be, and it’s finally over. Well, for now.
The witness lists exhausted, the hearings for the second Environmental Review Tribunal for the Ostrander Point wind turbine project wrapped up last week, leaving Tribunal panelists Robert Wright and Heather Gibbs yet again with the task of deciding the fate of the County’s south shore and the species that inhabit it.
This time, Eric Gillespie, the lawyer for the appellant—the County group known as Prince Edward County Field Naturalists— fought yet again to prove that the project would indeed harm the population of endangered Blanding’s turtle inhabiting the delicate habitat on the County’s south shore
The biggest revelation came early on. It turned out even though the expert scientist employed by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry warned against giving Gilead Power Company the go-ahead to develop the project, the ministry did not listen to his advice.
This led to delays, a torrent of paperwork, arguments over technical terms and fishing expeditions as the Tribunal demanded the ministry deliver documents that would show how thoroughly it processed its permit allowing Gilead to “kill, harm or harass” endangered species.
Gillespie attempted to prove the supervisor for the project was biased, trying to push permits and soften the language used in public communications.
The issue, really, is that Gilead’s proposed solution for mitigating damage to the endangered turtle—building artificial habitats—was not an effective one. Not even Gilead seemed to effectively prove their case.
So with nearly all the witnesses called, mainly experts in reptiles and habitats, the Tribunal’s second incarnation seemed to be winding down. There was only one witness left: Gilead president Mike Lord. But with the exhausting Tribunal seeming to stretch endlessly on at Sophiasburgh town hall, Gilead’s lawyers decided against calling Lord, leaving the hearing to end one day before schedule.
Now, there is nothing to do but wait. The legal teams for both sides will have until January 15 to submit their final legal arguments, in writing, to the panel. On that day, the arguments will be presented orally at a courthouse in Toronto. Then it will be up to the panelists to decide, yet again, whether the project will present an unacceptable risk of harm to the Blanding’s turtle.
And for those who are fighting the turbines, that wait is only the half of it. In the Wellington and District Community Centre, the Tribunal for the White Pines wind turbine project continues.
This week, not for profit group the County Coalition for Safe and Appropriate Green Energy (CCSAGE) filed an application for a judicial review of the Green Energy Act, which allows such projects to go ahead with the minimal oversight that has allowed these two projects to be approved despite the harm they could cause.
The fight continues.