The Environmental Review Tribunal has stalled a wind turbine project, ruling it would cause harm to both human health and the environment.
In an 87-page decision, ERT hearing officers Dirk Vanderbent and Hugh Wilkins stated the appeal of the renewable energy application for WPD Canada’s Fairview Wind project by several parties, including the Town of Collingwood, Township of Clearview, residents’ group Preserve Clearview, John Wiggins, and Kevin Elwood, met the test for potential harm to human health with respect to the operations at the Collingwood Regional Airport and Clearview Aerodrome.
The decision was released late Friday.
However, WPD Canada will still have a chance to prove to the tribunal it can provide remedies to alleviate the tribunal’s concerns. Company spokesperson Kevin Surette told Simcoe.com WPD has not yet decided its next steps.
“We’ve only received the decision yesterday, so we’ll take some time to review the decision and consult with our legal team on what our next steps will be,” he stated in an email.
The municipalities and Elwood, who owns the Clearview Aerodrome, had challenged WPD Canada’s project on the basis the eight-turbine wind farm’s 500-foot-tall turbines would have a detrimental impact on the operations of both aerodrome facilities.
“I’m encouraged by the tribunal’s decision,” Elwood told Simcoe.com. “This decision is far-reaching, beyond Clearview Township and Simcoe County; this is a national story from an aviation perspective, and it sets a precedent … that obstacles in close proximity to (aerodromes) will result in harm to human health.”
Vanderbent and Wilkins ruled WPD’s proposed mitigation measures with respect to both airfields would “not significantly reduce the likelihood” the turbines would not have an impact on the safety of planes flying in and out of CRA and Clearview.
“The tribunal finds that the appellants have met their onus to establish that the health test has been met in respect of the project’s effects on persons using both aerodromes,” Vanderbent and Wilkins wrote.
Elwood praised the hearing officers for their ability to comprehend the complexity of the evidence that was presented, especially when it came to aviation and weather.
“I’m encouraged by the tribunal’s ability to understand all that material,” he said.
The hearing officers also ruled the project would cause serious and irreversible harm to local colonies of the little brown bat.
“Without additional mitigation measures in place, the tribunal finds that engaging in the project in accordance with the REA will cause irreversible harm to little brown myotis (bat),” the hearing officers wrote.
Coincidentally, the presence of the little brown bat — along with the Blanding’s turtle — has also held up WPD’s White Pines project in Prince Edward County. Surette said that project is also in the remedy stage, and is now awaiting a decision from the ERT. He expected that to come this fall.
Clearview Township mayor Chris Vanderkruys called the ERT’s decision great news for the municipality.
“We have committed a large amount of money fighting an issue that we never should have had to fight in the first place,” Vanderkruys told Simcoe.com. “It was clear from the beginning that our community and council did not support the project; however the provincial government refused to listen and approved the project against the wishes of the residents that they represent.
“I am glad that Clearview Council had the ability to listen to residents and fight for what they wanted.”
“Clearview Township has always listened to the residents, and council has looked to the future and the importance of the (Collingwood) airport for growth, and the opportunity for an industrial aviation park — all that was at risk,” said Elwood, who is also a township councillor but did not take part in council’s discussions on the appeal.
The tribunal has been adjourned to a telephone conference call to determine the next steps in the appeal.