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Residents threaten legal action in bid to halt wind farm development

By July 31, 2019 No Comments

A group of Eastern Kings residents opposed to an expansion of P.E.I. government wind farms in the area has incorporated and hired a lawyer in its efforts to stop the project from moving forward.

The P.E.I. Energy Corporation has proposed adding seven more wind turbines with a generation capacity of 30 megawatts in the Elmira/ North Lake area, near the site of the existing wind farm in Hermanville.

The Eastern Kings Community Association Ltd., a newly-registered non-profit corporation has hired a lawyer, Peter Ghiz, who this week sent a letter to the Rural Municipality of Eastern Kings.

The letter calls on council to halt the current process, starting with the cancellation of a public meeting scheduled for Wednesday evening. 

The Eastern Kings Community Association “is concerned that the council has embarked upon a process that is deficient because it does not comply with the law and does not adequately address the merits of this project,” according to the letter.

Some of the turbines from the original wind development in Hermanville, completed in 2013. The P.E.I. Energy Corporation wants to add seven more turbines at the site, doubling the generation capacity from 30 MW to 60 MW. (Angela Walker/CBC)

“Some people don’t want windmills or wind turbines in their backyard. Some people are worried about their property values,” said Don Humphrey, who identified himself as one of 14 members of the Eastern Kings Community Association. 

He said some residents feel the municipality wasn’t fairly compensated in previous agreements to allow wind farms going back to 2007.

Request for variance

The P.E.I. Energy Corporation, which will be at the meeting to provide information to the public, has applied for a 10 per cent variance to the municipality’s siting guidelines to allow the turbines to be placed closer to homes and businesses — within 900 metres instead of the 1,000 metres required under the municipal bylaw.

That would allow the turbines to be spaced further apart, increasing their capacity to generate power.

The province had also considered Skinners Pond and Irishtown as possible sites for wind farm expansion, but now says it’s hoping to put seven new turbines in Hermanville, which is located within the Rural Municipality of Eastern Kings. (CBC)

The letter alleges council has held closed meetings to discuss the proposal when those discussions should have taken place at public meetings, according to the Municipal Government Act.

The letter also alleges that the municipality’s mayor, Grace Cameron, “has continued to participate in the process and has presented her views of the project” after she and another member of council declared themselves to be in conflicts-of-interest and recused themselves.

Cameron said she had no comment to offer on her own behalf regarding the allegations. Another spokesperson for Eastern Kings said the municipality had no comment on the letter, but that the meeting was scheduled to go ahead as planned.

Assessment ‘ongoing’

The letter also argues that council can’t consider the request for a variance before an environmental assessment has been completed on the project.

A spokesperson for the P.E.I. Department of Energy said environmental assessments are ongoing at three different potential sites, “but at this time, Eastern Kings has been identified as our focus” for the new wind farm.

We’re not going to stand by and let a wind turbine farm be built without expressing our opposition.—  Don Humphrey, Eastern Kings Community Association

The other locations that were considered are Irishtown, northeast of Kensington, and Skinners Pond in West Prince.

Before the Eastern Kings development could move forward, the province said the energy corporation “must complete the environmental impact assessment and acquire any required environmental permits before the final development permit can be issued.”

‘Move forward on good faith’

According to a presentation by the energy corporation at a community meeting on May 4, government had, at that point, awarded a contract for project management services and issued a tender for wind turbine procurement.

“The corporation wishes to proceed with a 30 MW wind plant in 2020,” the May 4 presentation noted, but added that the “project schedule is so tight we may need to move forward on good faith.”

The energy corporation has offered 2.5 per cent of revenues — roughly a quarter of a million dollars per year — to local landowners, and anywhere from $100,000 to $150,000 per year to the municipality, with the larger amount kicking in if council agrees to the province’s request for a variance.

Humphrey said his group has raised $7,000 so far and is prepared to take its fight to court if required.

But he said he hoped this debate wouldn’t become as acrimonious as the one that started in 2012 when the province first proposed the original wind farm in Hermanville.

“This is kind of ‘tough love,'” he said of his association’s threat of legal action. 

“We like our neighbours and we like our council and we appreciate what they do. But we’re not going to stand by and let a wind turbine farm be built without expressing our opposition.”

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