ERT Wiggins v. Ontario: Decision revoking wind turbine permit

In this important decision by the Ontario Environmental Review Tribune, the Tribune officially revokes Wpd Canada's permit to install eight 137-meter (450 feet) tall wind turbines in close proximity to the Collingwood Regional Airport and a private air field owned by Kevin and Gail Elwood. In its October 2016 decision, the ERT had determined that the appellants met the test that showed there would be harm to human health. The ERT also agreed that irreversible harm to the natural environment, specifically to bats, warranted further investigation. Wpd Canada was granted an opportunity to show that mitigation could resolve the concerns. The ERT in this decision held that the risk to human health and safety was unacceptable. A portion of the decision is provided below (paragraphs 15-20) pertaining to the turbines impairing safe air travel. The full decision of the ERT can be found by clicking the links on this page.

Analysis and Findings

[15] At para. 150 of the October 2016 Order, the Tribunal addressed three primary considerations when assessing the risk that pilots flying the circuit at the Collingwood Regional Airport (“CRA”) might collide with a wind turbine:

• conditions resulting in a pilot flying very near the wind turbines;
• pilot inexperience, which would lead to a pilot requiring more time to recognize and respond to a hazard; and
• the volume of plane traffic at the CRA, which increases the likelihood that a hazardous situation could arise.

[16] At para. 151, with respect to CRA, the Tribunal concluded that:

Considering all the above factors, the Tribunal accepts that the margin for error posed by introducing the proposed wind turbines at their proposed locations would be inadequate to prevent collision with a wind turbine.

At paras. 154-156, the Tribunal analyzed and made a similar finding with respect to Clearview Field, Stayner (“Clearview Field”), which is another aerodrome in the vicinity of the Project site.

[17] The Tribunal assessed the proposed mitigation measures put forward by the Approval Holder to address the Appellants’ evidence regarding safety concerns both at CRA and Clearview Field. Specifically, with regard to the CRA, the Tribunal considered, at para. 158, the Approval Holder’s proposed mitigation measures to:

(1) maintain a left-hand circuit pattern, but require a “tighter” circuit path, so that slower flying … planes will not fly over the wind turbines...
(2) as a variation of Option 1, slower [planes] would fly the tighter left-hand circuit, and faster … planes would fly a non-standard right-hand circuit; and
(3) maintain a standard left-hand circuit for [Runway] 13/31, and a non-standard right-hand circuit for [Runway] 31/13. This would place the circuit path on the north side of the paved runway irrespective of the runway direction.

The Tribunal found that there was insufficient evidence that these mitigation measures would be either effective or feasible.

[18] Regarding Clearview Field, the Tribunal considered, at para. 170, the Approval Holder’s proposed mitigation measures consisting of a standard left hand circuit for one runway and a non-standard right hand circuit for the other runway to “keep the aircraft outside and clear of the wind turbines as obstacles.” The Tribunal found at paras. 171-172 that these proposed mitigation measures were not feasible and “would not significantly reduce the likelihood of a collision with a wind turbine, or ground crash caused by wind-turbine induced turbulence for all wind turbines other than wind turbine 2”.

[19] In the remedy hearing, neither the Approval Holder nor the Director provided any additional evidence or mitigation proposals to address the Tribunal’s finding in its October 2016 Order of serious harm to human health.

[20] As the Tribunal has found that engaging in the Project in accordance with the REA will cause serious harm to human health, and neither the Approval Holder nor the Director have proposed effective means to mitigate this harm, the Tribunal finds that it is in the public interest to revoke the REA under s. 145.2.1(4)(a).

Ert 16 036 Wiggins V Ontario Decision 2017 08 16

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AUG 16 2017
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