By Connor Lynch
NORTH STORMONT — The Nation Rise Wind Farm, a 29-turbine project at North Stormont, hit significant headwinds last December when Ontario’s Environment Minister Jeff Yurek revoked its approval, citing a potential risk to the local population of bats. The project was approved two years ago and has been contentious ever since.
But an Ontario court threw Yurek off the case last month. The developer, EDP Renewables Canada ltd., applied for judicial review of the minister’s decision, arguing that the minister had overstepped his bounds by cancelling the project on the basis of an issue that hadn’t been previously raised by either party.
The courts agreed but went even further, concluding that the minister’s decision should be quashed anyway. In a May 13 decision, the judges wrote: “A reasonable decision maker could not conclude that the project would cause serious and irreversible harm to bats.”
Further, the court concluded the minister had breached “procedural fairness,” by not giving the developer an opportunity to mitigate risk once the minister concluded harm (to the bat population) could not be avoided by the conditions in place. “Nation Rise could not make meaningful submissions on remedy until it knew the minister’s concerns.
“While the usual remedy is to send a matter back to the original decision maker to be decided in accordance with the court’s reasons, we find that this is a rare case in which the minister’s decision should be quashed and the decision of the ERT (Environmental Review Tribunal) should be reinstated.”
The Concerned Citizens of North Stormont, which requested the minister intervene and has opposed the project since its inception, plans to appeal the decision. Margaret Benke, with the group, said the court’s decision “appears to leave the entire province highly vulnerable. The minister and Ministry of Environment with all of their resources can’t protect our natural resources and species at risk. The only protection against these kinds of mistakes by the ERT is now in the hands of private citizens.”
The Progressive Conservatives have argued that renewable energies like wind and solar are unnecessary money losers and Ontario already produces a surplus of electricity. They cancelled 758 renewable energy projects last year that had yet to receive final clearance from the Independent Energy System Operator (IESO), arguing that it would save taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in inflated hydro bills.
The North Stormont wind project received approval from the IESO just days before the provincial election, which has been criticized as a breach of a government tradition not to make major decisions or announcements on the eve of an election.
EASTERN ONTARIO: Courts reject minister’s intervention over North Stormont wind project
By Connor Lynch