By Glenn Grenier

On August 16, 2017, the Ontario Environmental Review Tribunal (“ERT”) handed down its final decision on the proposed Collingwood wind turbine project approved last year by the Director of the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (the “Director”). The ERT revoked the Director’s Renewable Energy Approval (“REA”) on the basis the proposed project would cause serious harm to human health (the pilots and passengers using the Collingwood and Clearview (Stayner) aerodromes) and that no effective means to mitigate those harms had been presented.

On February 11, 2016, the Director approved and issued an REA for wpd Fairview Wind Incorporated to construct eight 500 foot wind turbines within the vicinity of two aerodromes. The proposed turbines would be located along the circuits of runways 19 and 31 at Collinwood and actually inside the downwind of runway 16, Clearview. Two of the turbines were located immediately beside the approaches to Clearview runways 16 and 34. The Director’s approval was appealed by a number of concerned parties including COPA members Kevin and Gail Elwood, the owners Clearview Field. The Towns of Collingwood and Stayner, the owners/operators of Collingwood Airport, also appealed. COPA sought, and was granted, status to participate in the appeal proceedings and was represented throughout by COPA Counsel, Glenn Grenier, and COPA Director, Conrad Hatcher.

The controversial project was raised in the Ontario Legislature last year, with the Wynne Government voting down a private member’s bill to revoke the approval as an obvious threat to safety. Despite lobbying efforts by COPA and its members, the Federal Minister of Transportation refused to exercise his authority pursuant to the Aeronautics Act to stop the project as a threat to aviation safety.

On October 7, 2017, the ERT released its initial decision and found that the proposed turbine project would indeed cause serious harm to human health as well as serious and irreversible harm to animal life (namely harm to an endangered species of bat). In fact, as a result of the evidence presented, the Director actually changed his mind and withdrew support for two of the turbines (those located at either end of the Clearview runways), but still urged approval of the remaining six. However, the ERT rejected as ineffective all the mitigation measures proposed by wpd and the Director during the initial hearing to reduce the risks the turbines posed to aviation.

After its initial ruling, the ERT ordered a “remedies” hearing to allow wpd and the Director to present any further proposed mitigation measures and to receive submissions on what order should be made. While wpd called evidence concerning mitigation in respect of the harm to bats, no further evidence was called concerning proposed mitigate measures addressing aviation safety.

Pursuant to the applicable legislation, the ERT had the option of revoking the REA, ordering the Director to take such actions in respect of the REA the ERT determines is advisable within the framework of the regulations or altering the decision of the Director and substituting its own decision. The ERT ruled that as no effective measures to mitigate the harm to humans (pilots and passengers) had been presented, it chose to revoke the REA in its entirety. Case pdf below.

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