Species at risk shuts down Nation Rise
The Nation Rise Wind Turbine project has been halted due to a species of bats which are at risk of extinction. The Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks revoked EDP Renewables Canada Ltd.’s approval of the project according to a press release on Mon., Dec. 9, by Minister Jeff Yurek. The bats in question include colonies of big brown bats, hoary bats and little brown bats. The little brown bats are on the Species at Risk in Ontario list. Moore photo
NORTH STORMONT – Ontario’s Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks has revoked approval for the Nation Rise wind turbine project under construction in North Stormont. The move has some local residents celebrating but since construction was well underway, many questions remain about the fate of the project.
In a Dec. 4 letter to Margaret Benke, a founder of the group, Concerned Citizens of North Stormont, Minister Jeff Yurek says he has revoked approval for the wind turbines due to the threat they pose to the local bat population.
Benke had appealed the Environmental Review Tribunal’s January 2019 decision. Minister Yurek said, explaining his decision, “I am therefore altering the Tribunal’s decision based on my conclusion that the project will cause serious and irreversible harm to bats and I revoke the approval.”
Since the minister’s decision, EDP Renewables Canada Ltd. has halted all construction activities on the Nation Rise project.
In a statement, the company said it “strongly objects” to the Ontario government’s recent decision to revoke the Renewable Energy Approval for Nation Rise and is “assessing all potential legal actions.”
The 100-megawatt Nation Rise wind energy project was to include 29 wind turbines. Nation Rise began construction in May. Construction is quite advanced with numerous wind turbines already fully erected.
“This unprecedented decision means the REA that was issued by the minister’s own staff, defended by ministry legal counsel and subsequently ratified by the Environmental Review Tribunal is no longer in effect,” says EDPR’s statement.
Minister Yurek explains that his decision was taken on the basis that the turbine project would cause “localized harm to an already small bat population.” The bats in question include colonies of big brown bats, hoary bats and little brown bats, the latter of which, brown bats are on the Species at Risk Ontario list.
The minister has also closed the door on the possibility of a “remedy hearing,” where the parties involved could submit information to determine the appropriate “remedy,” which could include amending the terms of the renewable energy approval, revoking approval or directing specific actions. “In this case, I don’t believe that a third round of submissions is necessary … in light of the public interest reasons for revocation…”
The minister noted that this project’s output is only a small fraction of Ontario’s energy usage.
EDPR, for its part, is prepared to pursue legal action, so there is unlikely to be any quick resolution for local landowners who have leased land to the project or others who have agreements in place with the company.
EDPR says the Nation Rise facility had created more than 230 local construction jobs to date and would create about 10 permanent local jobs during operation. Also, according to the company, the project would have injected more than $45-million over 30 years into the local community through municipal taxes, a community benefit fund, charitable contributions and landowner payments.