Company takes government to court over wind farm project

A “green energy” company is taking the Ford Progressive Conservative government to court for its controversial cancellation of a wind farm project that was almost finished and ready to start generating power.

EDP Renewables Canada has filed an application with the Ontario Superior Court for a judicial review of the provincial government’s revoking of the company’s Renewal Energy Approval licence (REA) for its Nation Rise wind farm project. The 100-megawatt project is located in North Stormont Township, with several of the 29 wind turbines erected near the border of North Stormont, The Nation Municipality, and Russell Township.

“We have taken legal action, the matter is now with the court,” said Thomas LoTurco, director of development for EDP Renewables for Canada and the Eastern United States, during a January 9 phone interview.

“Our new goal now is to seek to overturn the government’s decision,” said LoTurco, “and finish building the project.”

On December 6, 2019, Jeff Yurek, the new environment minister for the Ford government, announced he was revoking the REA for the Nation Rise project. He cited, among other reasons, concern over the wind farm project’s impact on native bat populations in the area.

Yurek’s decision overturned a ruling by the Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) to allow the project to go ahead. The ERT’s ruling rejected claims by the Concerned Citizens of North Stormont (CCNS) that the project presented a risk to the local environment, but the CCNS appeal to the ERT did not make any mention of bats as part of its argument.

The CCNS then appealed the ERT ruling to the minister, and include in that appeal an allegation that the native bat population would suffer harm from the active presence of wind turbines. Yurek accepted the group’s argument and revoked the REA.

“We don’t have an issue with bats at all,” said LoTurco. “We have a work site that doesn’t see a great deal of bat usage, and we had uncontradicted evidence of that before the tribunal.”

At the time of Yurek’s announcement, the Nation Rise project was “very close” to completion according to LoTurco, with six of the 29 turbines up and ready, another 11 partly assembled, and the rest in the planning stages. All land acquisitions were done and the substation and link to the provincial energy grid almost complete.

“All of that had the project at 95 per cent completion,” said LoTurco, adding that the wind farm would have been ready to start generating power for sale to the Ontario grid by March this year.

The Nation Rise project represents a $200 million investment for EDP Renewables. In its application for a judicial review, the company has asked the court to strike down the provincial government’s cancellation decision and also order the government to compensate the company for the time and expense lost on its completion date for the project.

In the provincial legislature, the NDP, as Chief Opposition Party, has demanded that the government explain how much cancellation of the Nation Rise approval licence may end up costing the public.

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