By Bruce Bell, The County Weekly News/The Intelligencer
PRINCE EDWARD COUNTY – An industrial wind turbine project in southern Prince Edward County is losing its race against the Blandings Turtle.
In a decision released Monday at noon, the Ontario Court of Appeal reversed a lower court ruling regarding a Renewal Energy Approval (REA) of the nine-turbine Ostrander Point industrial wind project.
The Prince Edward County Field Naturalists have been fighting the development since 2008 and Monday’s decision marks the end of their third battle before the courts in a bid to stop the project.
Monday’s decision confirms a 2013 ruling by the Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT), the Blandings Turtles and its habitat will suffer serious and irreversible harm if the project operates as approved.
Following the 2013 ERT ruling, both project developer Gilead Power and the Ministry of Environment filed appeals to the Divisional Court in Toronto arguing the tribunal had made a half-dozen errors in concluding the project would hurt the creatures.
Monday was a happy day for members of the Field Naturalists.
“We’re very pleased. The court has ruled in favour of protecting the environment, which is what we’ve asked for throughout” said Myrna Wood, president of the PEC Field Naturalists.
The Court of Appeal refused to hear Gilead’s proposal for a remedy to protect the turtles, instead referring it back to the ERT.
“Their remedy for the severe and irreversible damage is to put gates on the roads, after the project is completed, after the damage is already done,” said Field Naturalists spokesperson Cheryl Anderson. “This is something they came up with after the last ERT hearing and I’m certain that we can make a compelling case to them that the gates will not help.”
The Field Naturalists have raised more than $200,000 to help offset court costs since the battle began. Anderson said it’s caught the attention of people across the country.
“The fight to Save Ostrander Point and the legal costs entailed have been supported by donations from people all over Canada,” she said. “Concerned and conscientious individuals have sent messages of support and joined in petitions and letters to elected representatives. The members of PECFN are grateful and humbled by the support and pledge to continue to stand up for the environment, endangered species and important habitat.”
Field Naturalist lawyer Eric Gillespie said the decision may affect other proposed wind turbine projects.
“The decision is undoubtedly important,” he said. “This is the first renewable energy case to reach the Court of Appeal. The court has supported our client’s fundamental concerns and affirmed a number of legal principles that clearly will be relevant to other appeals.”