NORTH STORMONT, Ontario – Ontario’s Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks Jeff Yurek has cancelled a controversial wind farm project in North Stormont.
The nearly complete Nation Rise Wind Farm would have seen 29 turbines producing wind energy once completed, but Yurek has chosen to cancel the project out of concern for the local bat population.
“It is the Minister’s belief that the project is likely to cause serious and irreversible harm to the local bat populations,” wrote Gary Wheeler, Communications Officer with the Ministry. “The Minister has directed ministry staff to review how harm to bats is assessed as part of the renewable energy approval process and related guidelines, and whether any changes might be necessary. Ontario is committed to ensuring that wind turbine facilities are constructed and operate in a way that is protective of human health and the environment.”
Stormont, Dundas and South Glengarry MPP Jim McDonell had previously called for the cancellation of the project earlier in 2019.
“The Nation Rise Project, like many industrial wind farms across rural Ontario, was a project forced upon the people of North Stormont by the previous Wynne government. The Liberal Government made it their mission to expand renewable energy at an unsustainable rate, resulting in unaffordable contracts for surplus power,” wrote McDonell in a Letter to the Editor.
EDP Renewables Canada Ltd., the company that was building the Nation Rise Wind Farm has strongly objected to the province’s decision and claims that they have chosen to ignore previous expert testimony that cleared the project of having any negative environmental impact.
“(EDPR) strongly objects to the Ontario Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks’ recent decision purportedly to revoke its Nation Rise Wind Farm’s Renewable Energy Approval (REA) and is now assessing all potential legal actions,” EDPR’s statement reads. “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staff, defended by Ministry legal counsel and subsequently ratified by the Environmental Review Tribunal (Tribunal) is no longer in effect. As a result, EDPR has been forced to halt all construction activities.”
The project would have generated 100-megawatts of power. EDPR claims that the project employed 230 people, and would have seen an investment of $45 million in the local area over 30 years.
“The Minister’s decision effectively overturned previous findings of both experts and the Tribunal, which had both concluded based on significant investigation, expert evidence, and due diligence, that the project has no material adverse effects on the natural environment,” EDPR goes on to state. “Decisions of this nature should be based on science and law, yet there was no expert testimony or evidence presented at the Tribunal or to the Minister that would provide a reasonable rationale for the Minister’s decision. Instead, the Minister based his decision upon an issue the appellant did not raise even once in its appeal submission. The decision also contradicts scientific and expert findings and appears to exceed the Minister’s legal jurisdiction under the Environmental Protection Act.”
EDPR say that they are ready to pursue all courses of legal action.
Seaway News reached out to the South Nation Conservation (SNC) authority, the body that manages the environment and ecology of North Stormont for a statement on whether the wind farm was a concern to the bat population, but received no response at time of publication.