Lambton County is jumping into the divisive wind turbine fight with both feet.
It recently agreed to try to become a participant at an Environmental Review Tribunal on a project in Goderich which is part of a Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms civil suit. The Goderich couple says the wind energy companies should be able to prove industrial wind turbines will not cause any health damage before they can be erected. They’re hoping to halt the project until that can be proven.
Local wind groups, including We’re Against Industrial Turbines in Plympton-Wyoming, urged county councilors to join the fight. They believe if the Goderich move is successful, it could be used to stop wind projects on the books in Lambton County including a 43-turbine project in Plympton-Wyoming.
After receiving hundreds of emails, Deputy Warden Sarnia Councilor Bev MacDougall believed the argument has merit. “If we waited to fight this in Lambton County instead of getting involved now…for the expense of $20,000 we can actually use the resource of Mr. (Julian) Falconer and present our concerns…rather than wait for our own case, I believe for $20,000 we can go in as a participant and we are not risking anything.”
Other councilors were concerned this would only be the beginning of the legal fees. “Our experience in the city is when we intervened in the court…on a similar issue…our lawyer spent one and half days in court and it cost $75,000,” says Sarnia Councilor David Boushy who only agreed to support the action if the county only contributed $20,000.
And St. Clair Township Mayor Steve Arnold wanted to make sure that if the county was granted status at the hearing, county councilors would have a say on what Lambton’s position would be. “I want to see what were going to submit because I believe council has not given anyone cart blanche to act on our behalf…I didn’t give my vote for a pig in the poke.”
Lambton is not guaranteed standing at the hearing. If it doesn’t succeed, the $20,000 will be granted to the anti-wind groups in the county to use to “as they see fit” in the fight against turbines, according to Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley.
While the county has thrown its money behind the fight, it’s also adding some political pressure. Plympton-Wyoming Mayor Lonny Napper will ask councilors at their first meeting of 2014 to declare Lambton County “not a willing host” to wind turbines.
“As I heard it, Mr. Chiarelli (Ontario’s Energy Minister) said if you can prove to the province that you are participating in the renewable energy, the wind turbines wouldn’t be forced on you. I think we are doing wonders with what were doing with the solar farms and the biochemicals.
“I think it could be a good case for us to do that.