The court met for three days in Toronto at the end of January and delivered its 40-page report Thursday, Feb. 20.
“It’s not surprising we are disappointed and need to read the decision carefully before deciding what to do,” said Cheryl Anderson, Prince Edward County Field Naturalists. “We have 30 days to make the decision about whether or not to move forward.”
The PECFN will be consulting with lawyer Eric Gillespie over the weekend.
“The deck is stacked.” Prince Edward-Hastings MPP Todd Smith said. “Across Ontario we’re talking about small, rural municipalities with small budgets being asked to defend their citizens from the money of major multinational wind developers and the province of Ontario. Even when they win, they’re going to lose because they’ll keep getting dragged into court until the side with the most money wins.”
The Blandings Turtle was hailed the hero last year when a 40-day Environmental Review Tribunal revoked Gilead Power’s renewable energy permit to put nine turbines on Ostrander Point, on the south shore of Prince Edward County. The tribunal ruled the turbines would cause “serious and irreversible harm” to an already threatened species.
Following the ruling, Gilead Power Corporation appealed the decision, then the Ministry of Environment also appealed the decision of its own Tribunal to challenge the small volunteer group Prince Edward County Field Naturalists. The Alliance to Protect Prince Edward County, another small volunteer association, also appealed the tribunal’s decision dismissing the claim that turbines would cause serious harm to human health.
The Ministry of Environment argued the tribunal lacked supporting evidence to support the decision on harm to turtles. Gilead lawyers argued the Tribunal erred in its conclusions about turtle numbers, deaths and on proposed traffic levels. The field naturalists said the tribunal did not go far enough and that the wind project will also likely harm birds and the special alvar ecosystem in the area.
The court document states the parties may make written submissions on costs – Ostrander and the Director within 20 days and PECFN and the APPEC within 10 days thereafter.
“This is a project on Crown Land, ” said Smith. “The government can pull the plug on it whenever they want. I can’t believe that they would use taxpayer dollars to fight the people of Prince Edward County in court after their democratically elected municipal representatives have passed multiple resolutions saying they oppose the project.” Smith added. “When Kathleen Wynne came to Quinte a few months ago and said she was going to listen to local voices on these projects, what she forgot to tell the people of Prince Edward County was that she was only going to listen to their voices if they said what she wanted to hear.”
The case was unique in Ontario as it questioned Renewable Energy Act regulations, their interpretation by the ERT and the intent of legislation which removes the right of development determination from local municipalities.
Gilead had requested that court costs be assessed against PECFN. The www.saveostranderpoint.org website states the naturalists have raised $134,839 of $220,000 needed to pay for the appeal fund.
The 40-page court document here:
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