Save the Nation’s fight, and that of other wind turbine opposition groups, has turned legal. On January 23, Toronto lawyer Eric Gillespie filed a judicial review against the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change.
The review pertains to updated 2016 regulations surrounding noise modelling. At the time, the provincial government realized its noise modelling regulations resulted in underestimating the actual post-construction noise levels.
By then, all the Large Renewable Procurement (LRP) I projects had been selected under the old regulations. Despite the changes coming only months after the projects were selected, they were not required to re-model and meet the new regulations.
Therein lies the crux of the problem.
Noise reports filed after new regulations
The filing includes four opposition groups and five proposed projects, including: Eastern Fields in St-Bernardin, Nation Rise in North Stormont, Otter Creek in Chatham-Kent, Strong Breeze in Dutton-Dunwich and Romney Wind Energy Centre in Lakeshore.
According to Gillespie and the turbine opposition groups, 75 per cent of the proposed turbines across the five projects would either need to be moved or simply could not be built under the new regulations.
Gillespie says it would have been understandable to have a certain grace period if there were projects on the verge of approval when these new regulations had come out, but he says that wasn’t the case.
“The problem with the LRP I projects is the error was known long before any of these projects were developed or before any approvals had been granted,” he says.
More or less.
The final 16 LRP projects were selected in April 2016; the new regulations came out a month later. But it’s safe to assume the Ministry didn’t just pull out these new regulations out of thin air and was conducting studies at the time of looking over the LRP projects. While the problem may have been known, it wasn’t yet officially addressed.
With that said, all noise-related documentation for the five projects was filed between January and October of 2017. That means both draft and final noise reports were filed, months in some case and more than a year in others, after the new regulations were brought in.
In an emailed statement, the Ministry says its “top priority is the protection of the environment and human health… We work closely with the companies to ensure they are meeting the standards set out.” As it’s an ongoing legal matter, it wouldn’t comment further.
The Review also contacted Renewable Energy Systems (RES), the company behind Eastern Fields for comment, but it declined comment, again citing that the matter is before the courts. RES’s Eastern Fields would see nine turbines being built, but the company has yet to finalize which model it will be using or the final locations of each turbine.
Possible ‘significant redesign’
Gillespie says with such broad implications, it will likely only be in late spring or early summer for a hearing.
If the courts decide in favour of the turbine opposition groups, Gillespie says it “would likely lead to significant redesigns of all these projects.”
To Julie Leroux, spokesperson of Save the Nation, that leads to the heart of the problem.
“If (turbines) were built farther away and didn’t affect people, there wouldn’t be as much opposition,” she says. And, she adds, “When people file complaints, nothing happens,” referring to documents obtained by Wind Concerns Ontario that showed thousands of complaints being ignored by the Ministry.
Leroux says going to a judicial review wasn’t originally the plan for Save the Nation, but it was approached by the Dutton/Dunwich Opponents to Wind Turbines for support.
She says it’s too bad it’s come to to a legal recourse.
“We’re hoping to be heard and the government finally applies its own rules.”