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Ontario court dismisses challenge to wind farm setback standards

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An Ontario Superior Court has dismissed a legal challenge to the province’s wind farm siting standards, which call for 550 meter (1800 foot) setbacks in most cases. The Court ruled that it could only judge whether the process of coming up with the regulations followed proper protocols, including public consultation and the use of science-based evidence in coming to its conclusions. That lifts a cloud of uncertainty from developers of wind farms, says the president of the Canadian Wind Energy Association. “We’re expecting this to be a record year for wind development in Ontario,” Robert Hornung said in an interview. “This decision just helps everybody put their head down and focus on the work.”

“It is not the court’s function to question the wisdom of the minister’s decision, or even whether it was reasonable,” the court ruled Thursday. “If the minister followed the process mandates by the Environmental Bill of Rights, his decision is unassailable on a judicial review application.”

The Court pointed out that the province’s Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) can consider whether setbacks are reasonable, on a case-by-case basis.  In fact, an ERT review is currently underway, challenging the standard setbacks at a wind farm in Chatham-Kent, the first new wind farm to be permitted under the new law. Read the rest of this entry »