Aviation safety, endangered wildlife win Fairview appeal
In January 2014, John Terry, the lawyer for the well-funded wind power development lobbyist the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) told the panel of judges in an Ontario court at the appeal of a decision at Ostrander Point, that their decision was very important for the future of wind power development in Ontario because, he said, “This [a successful appeal] was never supposed to happen.”
One might think that he meant the approval process was so rigorous that wind power projects should pose no danger to the environment or to people and that’s why “this,” the successful Ostrander appeal shouldn’t have happened. But no, what he meant was, the rules and procedures attached to wind power development were supposed to be so iron-clad that mere citizens acting on behalf of the environment, wildlife and their own health, could have no hope of success. Lawyers acting for appellants have said, the test set up by Regulation 359-09 to prove serious harm to human health and serious and irreversible harm to wildlife was impossible to meet.
Except, now, that test has been met.
The successful appeals at Ostrander Point, White Pines, Settlers Landing and yesterday, Clearview, show that when proper attention is paid to the requirements to preserve the environment and actually balance development against potential harm, the wind power developments can be demonstrated to be in the complete wrong place.
But the wind power development industry, coached and encouraged by their huge lobbyist and the very compliant Ontario government, felt entitled to propose wind power projects wherever they found willing landowners. Such was the case at Clearview where the eight, 500-foot turbines were to be located near not one, but two aerodromes, the Collingwood Regional Airport and a private airstrip. WPD Canada felt so entitled to success and money that it believed it could locate huge turbines even where pilots’ safety would be in danger and where wildlife would almost certainly be killed.
The Environmental Review Tribunal decision was released Friday, October 7: yes, there would be serious harm to human health because of the risk to aviation safety and yes, there would be serious and irreversible harm to the endangered Little Brown Bat.
Paragraphs [149-151] are interesting: the appellants’ expert witness arguments were “informed and reasoned” the panel wrote, finding they had established “the evidentiary base to support their qualitative assessments.”
Although a remedy hearing is possible, the Tribunal expressed doubts as to the effectiveness of any measures proposed.
The Tribunal used very strong language in places in the decision, saying “it would be trite to say …” or “it is obvious …” and they noted the federal Ministry of Transport’s carefully crafted opinion letter on aviation safety at the airport.
The people of Ontario have despaired at times as wind power projects have been put in fragile environments, too close to people’s homes and workplaces, without any real demonstration of environmental benefit. Millions have been spent by ordinary citizens as they took on corporate Big Wind to defend—what? The environment against their own Ministry of the Environment.
One lawyer for the Ministry has often been heard to say “wind trumps everything.” She is wrong, as this latest decision demonstrates.
Actions taken in the name of preserving the environment must really do that, and not rely on ideology-based trite statements for justification. Ontario has still never done a cost-benefit analysis on its wind power program even though clearly, wind power has a high impact on the natural environment, on communities, and on the economy, without actual demonstrated benefits.
Clearview was a victory for all Ontario, and the environment.
Wind Concerns Ontario