Tom Van Dusen
FINCH – With three days to go in what was supposed to be a two-week session, the Environmental Review Tribunal hearing into North Stormont’s approved Nation Rise turbine project was adjourned July 31.
No specific public reason was given for the break in proceedings. Under chair Maureen Carter-Whitney, the hearing is expected to reconvene Sept. 10-11 with a discussion of hydrology concerns. Key issues in deciding whether authorization given to the wind farm should be revoked are that it poses serious risk to human health or that it could create irrevocable damage to the natural environment.
Before the hearing broke, opponents presented their case on the threat to bats and birds posed by installation of 33 turbines by EDP Renewables, the last wind project to be approved in Ontario before the recent provincial election.
Several other projects which hadn’t reached the approval stage were cancelled by Doug Ford as one of his first acts after becoming Premier. Among cancellations was the neighbouring project in La Nation and Champlain townships.
On the final day before adjournment, EDP had a chance to rebut the bird and bats argument. EDP experts concluded the danger to bats would be minimal, and the impact on the songbirds and migratory waterfowl would be equally limited because they’re commonly found closer to shorelines.
Overall to date, said opposition coordinator Margaret Benke, those resisting the project have received a fair hearing from the tribunal which she hopes will be persuaded by her group’s arguments. She indicated opposing witnesses brought forward some fresh points on turbine noise irritation and on “debris fling”… the fact that pieces sometimes break off windmills and are hurled long distances, posing a threat to humans in the area.
While there’s some frustration among opponents that they’re required to proceed with a hearing at their expense while other projects have been cancelled, Benke said resentment must be set aside in the campaign to defeat the project.
A major issue now, she emphasized, is paying the $20,000 debt opponents have accumulated in going against the project while raising more money to continue the fight to the end.