The Ontario Superior Court of Justice has ruled that claims against wind farms and are possible as soon as projects receive approval, but wpd Canada says claims of a victory for protesters are a mischaracterization of the ruling
The Ontario Superior Court of Justice ruled on Monday in favour of lawsuits against wind energy companies and the landowners who agree to host them and that such lawsuits can be launched as soon as the projects receive approval. However the president of wpd Corporation Canada has dismissed speculation that this is a victory for wind turbine protesters.
In a hearing concerning the residents of Clearview Township case against the Fairview Wind Project, the court ruled that although residents cannot launch claims for a proposed industrial wind project this should be “without prejudice to the plaintiffs' rights to commence an action for identical or similar relief when and if the Fairview Wind Project receives the necessary approvals to be constructed” [Paragraph 6 of the court ruling]. Paragraph 37 of the ruling also recognizes that claims against wind companies and the landowners that agree them can be made as soon as the projects receive approval.
The ruling was based on reports that homeowners in areas close to wind turbines are finding that their homes are selling for less than market value and also considered evidence presented by a doctor concerning possible detrimental effects on human health.
Lawyer Eric Gillespie, acting for the plaintiffs, said that the ruling appears to be a major step forward for people with concerns about industrial wind projects across Ontario and that there are likely to be more claims now that the door has been opened to legal action. However according to Ian McRae, the president of wpd Corporation Canada this does not mean that the plaintiffs evidence was accepted but merely that the judge accepted it into the record. This means various suggestions that the judge accepted property values had declined are a misrcharacterisation of the ruling according to Mr McRae.
“The judge simply accepted into the record, as unchallenged, the unproven evidence submitted by the plaintiffs, so that the court could assess whether there could be a legal basis for the claims” Mr McRae said. “This evidence is not proof of the plaintiffs' claims, and the decision does not suggest this. The case was dismissed by Justice Healey prior to wpd entering or challenging evidence, due to the inability of the plaintiffs to establish any legal basis for their claims to proceed to trial.” Mr McRae added that had the case gone to trial wpd Corporation Canada would have challenged the plaintiffs evidence.
An analysis of the ruling by Madam Justice Healey states that “...as the evidence exists today the plaintiffs are unable to prove that they have been wronged by the defendants.”
In a survey conducted among Canadian citizens by Angus Reid Strategies in 2007 87 percent of respondents said that renewable energy sources such as wind or solar was good for Canada. Another survey in the same year conducted by Saint Consulting indicated that wind power was the technology most likely to receive public support for future energy development in the country, with only 16 percent of respondents expressing opposition.