MANVERS TWP – The legal team for opponents of a controversial wind energy project approved for Manvers Township are going over the recent dismissal of their appeal by the Environmental Review Tribunal with “a fine-toothed comb,” says the local City councillor.
Ward 16 Coun. Heather Stauble could not estimate the cost to mount the legal challenge to wpd Canada’s Sumac Ridge project, which has provincial approval to install five mega-wind turbines near Pontypool; two of them on the Oak Ridges Moraine.
Sumac Ridge was approved in December of 2013, and Manvers Wind Concerns, Cransley Home Farm Ltd and the Buddhist Cham Shan Temple immediately appealed to the Tribunal.
Most of 2014 was spent in legal wrangling and weeks of hearings, and the Tribunal released its decision on Feb. 19, dismissing the appeal.
The group could ask for a judicial review of the decision; they have 30 days (from Feb. 19) to file that request.
The opponents are concerned about the effects on the huge turbines on the environment, human health and particularly the water aquifers on the Moraine, which ironically is protected under provincial legislation.
The Tribunal ruled, in part that some of the evidence presented by the appellants was more opinion than fact. But Coun. Stauble said there were “many experts and strong testimony” from those who qualified as witnesses. Dozens of people who volunteered to lend their talents to the appeal.
Coun. Stauble said there is an option to appeal to the Ontario Divisional Court, but, it’s too soon to say whether or not the Tribunal’s decision will be appealed to the Ontario Divisional Court as lawyer Eric Gillespie and his team are reviewing every aspect of the decision.
But, Coun. Stauble said one of the most important victories the appellants scored was when the Tribunal recommended a hydrogeological study be conducted.
“The City has asked for that study from wpd Canada since the beginning,” she said. “If it was ever conducted, they never showed it to anyone. So, it’s important that the ERT has recommended it be done.”
She said wpd Canada produced a water report, but it only examined surface water. On the Moraine, the primary water sources are underground aquifers. There was never a hydrogeological study done, which is an in-depth examination of the aquifers that flow through the layers of sand and gravel, and what could have an impact on them.
Coun. Stauble said the City continually asked for that study, but without results.
“The moraine is the direct source of water for 250,000 people, and indirectly for most of southern Ontario,” she said. “A hydrogeological study would have looked at the impact of wind turbines on that water source. The Tribunal recommended that it be done and the MOE could ask for it.”
The councillor said the Green Energy Act does not protect the Moraine as well as the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan, but that it was good news that on Feb. 27 the Province announced that Plan will come under review.
With more wind energy projects from other companies in the queue for the area, Coun. Stauble said the Province should rescind the Sumac Ridge approval and withhold all others until the proper studies are done. That said, she insisted there should be no wind turbines of any kind permitted on the Moraine. Two of the Sumac Ridge turbines are on high vulnerability aquifer areas, and another concern is that hazardous materials are stored inside the turbines.
“If they spilled, they would disappear into the ground and contaminate the water so quickly, no one would realize it.”
Coun. Stauble said while she didn’t know how much the case cost to date, “it would have been a lot more without the volunteers” who helped out. And, she noted the battle is not over yet; there are plans to fight two more wind turbine projects proposed for the area; Snowy Ridge and Settlers’ Landing.
Paul Reid of Manvers Wind Concerns expressed his disappointment in the decision, saying that, in his view, “it was pre-ordained from the outset. We have until 30 days after the decision of Feb. 19 to file an Appeal and I suspect we will use up all of the time available to us by statute.”
Mr. Reid added, “I remain however, very disappointed, and naively so, in the system that is in place that completely disregards local sentiment and existing legislation that was intended to protect the Green Belt from industrialization. A shame.”
For more information, visit Manvers Wind Concerns at www.manverswindconcerns.wordpress.com. To donate to legal expenses, send a cheque to Manvers Wind Concerns, 1450 Highway 7A, Box 14, Bethany, Ontario, L0A 1A0.