Another wind farm in Ontario has had their Renewable Energy Approval (“REA”) revoked by the Environmental Review Tribunal. This time, it is the Fairview Wind Farm in Clearview Township. The ERT concluded that the Fairview project would cause serious and irreversible harm to an endangered species of bat, the little brown bat. The ERT also concluded, for the first time, that there would be harm to human health due to the close proximity of the project to two aerodromes.

Little Brown Bat

The Appellants argued that the Fairview Project would cause serious and irreversible harm to three bat species due to collision mortality: little brown bat, northern myotis, and eastern small-footed myotis. All three species are listed as endangered due to an “invasive fungal disease” known as White-Nose Syndrome.

The Tribunal found that there was insufficient evidence that either northern myotis or eastern small-footed myotis were actually found on the Project site. However, on the basis of expert evidence concerning the habitat on the project site, the Tribunal found that there was likely little brown bat present in the area.

The Tribunal further found that there would likely be serious and irreversible harm to the little brown bat in the area as the mitigation measures set out in the REA do not require preventative mitigation (unlike at the Amherst Island Project, whose REA was recently upheld). In other words, the threshold (10 bat mortalities per turbine) for mitigation measures to be triggered, would not be effective in preventing harm to the endangered little brown bat species.

Aerodrome

The Fairview Project was located in close proximity to the takeoff and landing areas of two aerodromes, the Collingwood Regional Airport and the Clearview Field, Stayner. The Appellants’ alleged that the construction of the wind turbines would result in serious injury or death due to the proximity of the turbines to the aerodromes.

The Collingwood Airport is uncontrolled and has approximately 13,200 take offs or landings per year. Clearview Field is much less busy, with approximately 800 take offs or landings per year. Turbines from the Fairview Project are within approximately 3,000 to 4,000 metres of the end of Collingwood Airport runway and within 1,500 metres of the end of the Clearview Field runway.

In the circumstances, after extensive expert evidence, the ERT concluded that the Fairview Project would cause harm to human health based on a number of project specific factors including the experience of the pilots using the two aerodromes, the presence of flight schools, lake effect snow storms, the direction of the wind, the location of the turbines, and the lack of an aircraft controller at the aerodromes.

Notes

This is the second REA to be revoked on the basis of serious and irreversible harm to the little brown bat. The other project, White Pines, was the subject of a blog post in March of this year.

In this case, the ERT has given the project proponent the opportunity to address remedy through further submissions. It appears clear in the ERT’s reasons that adoption of the mitigation measures from the Amherst Island Project will likely address the concerns regarding little brown bat.

Given that this is the first ERT decision to find harm to human health, it is less clear how the concerns regarding the aerodromes will be addressed. It will likely be a matter for expert evidence and new mitigation measures. It will likely be a matter for expert evidence, new mitigation measures, or a potential appeal.