From Effective Discourse to Opposition Rhetoric: Ontario Wind Proposals at Risk for Public Defeat

by | Nov 4, 2014

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maiorino, al, public strategy groupA 2013 study conducted by The Environics Institute found that in Ontario, 68 percent of residents held the belief that their province could make the shift from fossil fuels to renewable power. Despite this majority of those surveyed, Ontario has experienced considerable controversy over the implementation of renewable policies since the Green Energy Act of 2009, and Premier Kathleen Wynne’s pro-wind initiatives continue to generate public scorn at speaking engagements on unrelated topics. From Ontario residents’ wider perspectives, it seems that a transition to renewable energy is ideal. However, once a wind project is proposed in residents’ own backyards, public opposition forms to bring the project to a screeching halt. Despite the political support that exists on a macro-level, careful measures must be taken locally to build the support necessary to guide the project through the approval process with ease.

Despite an extensive two-year approval process with various environmental studies conducted, opponents of a 140-turbine wind proposal by K2 Wind in Goderich, Ontario, recently filed a construction stay application to halt the project in its tracks. The injunction filed intended to allow for the completion of a Health Canada study, which seeks to understand the impact of industrial wind projects on nearby residents. Already anti-wind groups have been successful on placing a moratorium on off-shore wind until the potential for impacts on marine life are identified. However, Divisional Courts sided with K2, noting the “serious financial consequences” the company will suffer as a result of a minor delay in construction in contrast to the “lack of harm appellants will suffer” without granting their motion. Despite K2’s narrow escape of costly delays in this case, the opponents’ efforts continue.

When the $850 million K2 project was permitted, the Environmental Review Tribunal upheld approvals finding no evidence of health hazards imposed upon residents living near turbines. However, opponents of the K2 project have joined together with opponents of a 92-turbine Armow wind farm near Kincardine, Ontario and a smaller St. Columban project to appeal the Tribunal’s findings, which the group collectively claims violates their constitutional rights due to the potential health impacts. A decision in this appeal is expected later this month. While Ontario looks on to see what will happen to K2 and future wind proposals in the province, these cases demonstrate opponents’ abilities to band together to impact the success of a proposal at any stage of development.

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