Energy & Power
Minister Yurek revokes approval for Nation Rise Wind Farm
By Kavita Sabharwal-Chomiuk
Jeff Yurek, Ontario’s Minister of Environment, Conservation and Parks, recently issued a decision revoking the Renewable Energy Approval (REA) for the Nation Rise Wind Farm project. The 29-turbine wind farm had been under construction in North Stormont, Ont. since May 2019. The project was planned to generate up to 100 MW of electricity under a 20-year, $400-million contract awarded by the IESO.
The Minister made the decision in response to an appeal filed by a community group called Concerned Citizens of North Stormont (CCNS) after the project received approval. The appeal concerned the harm the project could do to the nearby endangered bat population.
In his decision, the Minister concluded that the wind turbines would cause serious and irreversible harm to endangered bat populations in the area. The potential for harm to wildlife was considered in the context of the contribution to Ontario’s electrical supply in Ontario, which would be minimal; the Minister concluded that it was in the public interest and a precaution to protect the environment to revoke approval for the project.
Margaret Benke, a spokesperson for CCNS, welcomed Minister Yurek’s decision after the group raised several concerns about the environment in its appeal. “This power project has been very divisive for our community; now North Stormont can again be a good place to grow,” she said.
In a statement, the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA)’s president, Robert Hornung, said:
“This decision is shocking and unprecedented and is one of a series of decisions taken by this government with respect to renewable energy that have dramatically reduced the confidence of the electricity industry and its investors in the Ontario market. The decision of the Minister to revoke his own Director’s Renewable Energy Approval, and to overturn the decision of the Environmental Review Tribunal, is disturbing considering the due diligence and rigorous processes that were followed according to the scientific and technical framework set out under the Renewable Energy Approvals process in Ontario.”
The statement went on to mention that cancelling the wind project could lead to dipping investor confidence, which will add costs to the province’s electricity system and the broader economy as new investors incorporate increased risk into their investments.
Meanwhile, a statement from Nation Rise Wind Farm notes that EDP Renewables Canada Ltd. (EDPR), the owner and operator of the project, strongly objects to Minister Yurek’s decision and is “in the process of assessing all potential legal actions.”
“This unprecedented decision means the REA that was issued by the Minister’s own staff, defended by Ministry legal counsel and subsequently ratified by the Environmental Review Tribunal (the Tribunal) is no longer in effect. As a result, EDPR has been forced to halt all construction activities. The Minister’s decision effectively overturned previous findings of both experts and the Tribunal, which had both concluded based on significant investigation, expert evidence, and due diligence, that the project has no material adverse effects on the natural environment,” said the statement.
The statement went on to note that the decision “also contradicts scientific and expert findings and appears to exceed the Minister’s legal jurisdiction under the Environmental Protection Act.”