Lambton considers joining wind court battle

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Lambton County may join a Charter of Rights challenge against wind turbines.

And if it doesn’t, Plympton-Wyoming could take on the legal bill itself to try to stop the flood of projects in the area.

A group called SWEAR is trying convince municipal and regional governments to join a court battle started by a Goderich couple. They want to use the Charter to shift the burden of proof from the residents need to prove serious harm to health because of nearby wind turbines to the possibility of harm.

Dave Hemingway, a spokesperson for the group, says part of the legal plan is to ask the courts to put all current wind energy projects on hold.

In Lambton County, wind developers have contracts with the provincial government for three different projects, including Suncor Energy’s Cedar Point project of 46 turbines in Plympton-Wyoming.

Hemingway recently asked Lambton County council to consider intervener status, saying for about $20,000 the county could become part of the battle.

“As interveners, Lambton County residents would receive the same benefits as anyone else involved,” says Ingrid Willemsen of WAIT (We’re Against Industrial Turbines) in Plympton-Wyoming. “It would create an avenue to stay (stop) other renewable energy projects.”

And Willemsen says it would send a strong message to the province. “Lambton County council has earned the respect of thousands of citizens across the province…It is time now to take the next step from passive support to active help to protect citizens.”

Plympton-Wyoming Mayor Lonny Napper and Enniskillen Township Mayor Kevin Marriott urged council to spend the money to become involved.

“I believe its time we stood up to the government,” says Napper. “We’ve talked to the government and had different meetings and it sure hasn’t helped.”

Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley urged caution saying staff should provide a report on the issue. “Is this the right action to take?…I believe the political fight is not over yet, then we should talk about what is the political approach we can take as group. I still believe the door is not closed on this issue to bring local democracy back to local planning.”

But WAIT spokesperson Elizabeth Bellavance says the clock is ticking. “I don’t see that a political solution is going to come in time for us…we’re running out of time,” she says.

Staff will prepare a report on what having intervener status would do for Lambton and what the potential costs could be. That report is expected for the county committee meetings next week.

Plympton-Wyoming Mayor Napper says some level of government needs to be involved in the court challenge saying all the provincial parties are shying away from stopping the wind projects which have already been approved by the province.

“Nobody is going to shut down someone who has a FIT contract in the system; there is not one of them that is going to touch it,” says Napper saying they are afraid of the financial repercussions. “Any decisions the province makes now won’t affect us.

“Our backs are against the wall…in 2014 we’re going to have wind turbines. I think my council will likely take this on alone; we feel that strongly about it.”

– Heather Wright