WALLACEBURG - The discovery that some large wind developments across Ontario are not being required to adhere to new provincial noise emission requirements has prompted four citizen groups to take legal action.
“Essentially, we feel like we are collateral damage in this whole Green Energy Act to be perfectly honest, and that's not right,” said Bonnie Rowe, spokesperson for the Dutton Dunwich Opponents of Wind Turbines (DDOWT).
A Notice of Application for Judicial Review was filed by DDOWT in the Divisional Court in Toronto on Tuesday against the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change alleging the ministry has allowed companies promoting at least five large-scale wind projects to ignore new government guidelines with respect to limiting the amount of noise any residence in the area should have to tolerate.
The Chatham Daily News received an emailed response from the MOECC that it is reviewing the application for judicial review.
“We will be determining the appropriate next steps. As this is an ongoing legal matter, providing additional comment would be inappropriate,” the MOECC stated.
Members of DDOWT, along with members of Wallaceburg Area Wind Concerns (WAWC) chose the Wallaceburg home of Don and Diana Donkers, located near where some of the tallest turbines to be erected in Canada are to be built in the Otter Creek Wind project, to announce the legal challenge on Thursday.
An announcement about the legal action was simultaneously being made in the Ottawa area by the Concerned Citizens of North Stormont and Save the Nation.
Rowe told reporters: “The MOECC has admitted that their previous noise modelling guidelines resulted in underestimates of noise at the nearby homes.”
However, without any evidence that this was necessary, the MOECC has allowed companies promoting at least five large-scale wind projects to ignore those new government regulations, she said.
She added transition provisions were put in place by the ministry to allow those wind turbine companies to use the old regulations without having to provide evidence that they were unable to comply with the new noise modelling guidelines.
“Our judicial review application alleges that the MOECC erred in law by failing to obtain any evidence that the wind companies were unable to comply with the new guidelines,” Rowe said.
Noting this step has never been tried before, she said, “the purpose is to put a stay on the use of the transition rules as of now, until this whole issue is heard in the courts.
“That means the projects cannot move forward with their renewable energy applications until such time as a decision is made about whether the government did err on these issues,” she added.
Dan Donkers, who describes the 642-foot wind turbines slated for the Otter Creek project as “monsters,” is troubled by the ministry's decision to not require these projects to adhere to new noise standards.
“One of my observations in industry, the province has stated above and beyond all things, it's safety first,” Donkers said.
Noting, he can't step on a ladder in some places without having follow certain protocols, he said when it comes to these wind projects, “safety seems to be a third concern and that just seems foreign to me.”
Violet Towell, spokesperson for WAWC, said based on information received regarding the Otter Creek project, 11 out of the 12 wind turbines and the transformer station would be out of compliance if the new rules are used.
She noted when members of WAWC met with members of Boralex, the developer of the Otter Creek project, “they indicated they did not have the noise output data required for the technical review at this stage of the game.”
Towell said this issue and others were brought to the ministry's attention “to no avail,” adding these concerns were documented by numerous submissions through the Environmental Registry process for the Otter Creek project.
The MOECC commented to The Daily News regarding the guidelines:
“The ministry’s top priority is the protection of the environment and human health. We take our regulatory role very seriously,” stated the email. “When it comes to wind turbine projects, the companies involved must meet our stringent noise standards through noise audits and the ministry’s Compliance Protocol for Wind Turbine Noise. We work closely with the companies to ensure they are meeting the standards set out.”
Dutton Dunwich Mayor, Cameron McWilliam, attended Thursday's announcement.
Citing the fact a community vote was held that resulted in 84 per cent of residents being opposed to the Strong Breeze Wind Power project planned for the community in Elgin County, he said meetings have been held with the developer and MOECC to talk about issues.
“We've had questions and no answers,” he said.
He added unfortunately citizen groups have been forced to seek a judicial review to get answers to just one part of the project, in this case, noise.
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Wind developments in question
According to a Notice of Application for Judicial Review, the following five industrial wind turbine projects have opted to proceed under the transition provisions and not correct errors in their noise reports:
Easter Fields Wind Power Project, located in Eastern Ontario in the Municipality of the Nation and the Township of Champlain, United Counties of Prescott-Russell
Nation Rise Wind Farm, located in Eastern Ontario in the Township of North Stormont, United Counties of North Stormont, Dundas, and Glengarry
Otter Creek Wind Farm, located in Southwestern Ontario north of Wallaceburg
Romney Wind Energy Centre, located in Southwestern Ontario in the Town of Lakeshore
Strong Breeze Wind Power Project, located in Southwestern Ontario in Municipality of Dutton Dunwich