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North Stormont nixes fire suppression bylaw for turbines-- for now

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.

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,”... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

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.

“Given the fact that there’s just so much information, speculation and opinions floating all around us, I’m finding it difficult for us to accurately assess what we should be making a decision on and I think that it’s a very important decision — it’s safety,” Densham said. “Even if you read the legal report… even our lawyers are saying that we shouldn’t be making a decision using only speculation.”

Coun. Roxane Villeneuve on the other hand, questioned the township’s CAO relating to information found in his report about the four North Stormont deputy fire chiefs all being in favour of not imposing a fire suppression bylaw.

“On page 80 of your report, you state that the current complement of North Stormont deputy fire chiefs met and provided their opinions on the introduction of automatic fire suppression systems within the turbine structures,” she said. “Then you add that on the Aug. 20 deputy chief meeting, the group unanimously agreed that they would not support any fire suppression bylaw of any type.

“I don’t see any minutes that reflect that Aug. 20 meeting and I’d like to know if all four acting fire chiefs voted against having fire suppression in these turbines.”

“This was not a fire committee meeting,” Calder answered. “This was a meeting between the deputy chiefs. It’s a common practice. I think people around the council table will tell you that. I did receive something in writing to that effect, or else I wouldn’t have included it in the report to council.”

The CAO said he had received an email indicating all four of the township’s deputy fire chiefs had all agreed against the bylaw. Despite his comments, the emails he mentioned were not included in the report to council, presented during the meeting.

“I have a difficult time understanding why four members of the fire committee, who are acting fire chiefs, opinionated against something that the initial fire chief had proposed for fire safety,” said Villeneuve.

Calder suggested Villeneuve seek clarification on her question from the deputy chiefs.

The CAO’s report indicated that there are 94 wind turbine projects throughout the province, for a total of about 2,600 to 2,700 operating turbines. Although he could not provide council with how many municipalities are home to the projects, he did indicate there are a total of seven fire suppression bylaws throughout the province.

The matter of not having the bylaw being a factor in possible litigation following a fire was also discussed. Densham told his colleagues having a fire suppression bylaw could potentially cover the municipality.

“We’d be doing ourselves a favour by doing this,” he said.

Deputy Mayor François Prevost rebuffed Densham’s comments, comparing the many silos located throughout North Stormont to the wind turbines, saying that silo fires ignite quickly but the township does not have a fire suppression bylaw for them.

“If there was a fire at a silo and we had inspected it beforehand, we could be looking at trouble,” he said.

North Stormont Mayor Jim Wert told his council however, that despite the decision they would be taking during the meeting, a fire suppression bylaw could be adopted in the future, if the need ever appeared.

“If the facts change, that would support it, I think any council would be negligent not to look at it,” he said. “Right now, I think the question we all have to ask ourselves is this — do we have anything to support that (fire suppression. We’ve got a pretty compelling figure that this particular model (wind turbine) has a very good record. I’m not saying it can’t happen in the future.

“There’s no door being shut here. This opportunity will come back anytime council deems it is required.

“At this particular time, this discussion is not warranted.”

Wert concluded by telling council the fire suppression equipment could not be installed on the turbines until they were completed, saying that it was an add-on.

After nearly an hour of discussion, Densham and Villeneuve both voted against receiving Calder’s report, whereas, Wert, Landry and Coun. Randy Douglas voted in favour.


Source: https://www.standard-freeho...

SEP 9 2020
http://www.windaction.org/posts/51700-north-stormont-nixes-fire-suppression-bylaw-for-turbines-for-now
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