After four long days of lawyers submissions, a three-man Justice panel has heard all they need to.
Now, they must weigh their options and come to a decision.
At the conclusion of the hearing, Justice Brown, Justice Henderson, and Associate Chief Justice Morrocco announced they will release their decision in a timely but not hasty manner to ensure they thoroughly examine the submissions.
The beginning of the day belonged to lawyers representing the three major wind projects being challenged: the $850-million K2 Wind project, which would see 140 turbines put up near Goderich, a 92-turbine farm near Kincardine, and the 15-turbine St. Columban project near Seaforth.
Christopher Bredt, counsel for the K2 project, said that the opposition must prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the projects will cause harm, rather than purely speculate about the possible effects of government action.
Bredt also alleged that stopping wind projects based on annoyance would open a Pandora’s box in dealing with infrastructure. He says the same issues being raised about wind turbines can be raised about any kind of infrastructure, comparing it to people living close to railways being annoyed by passing trains.
“The implication of making this a charter argument is that a charter claim would be opened for all annoyance caused by infrastructure,” Bredt argued. “Everybody wants infrastructure, just not in my backyard.”
Jim Bunting, counsel for the Amrow Wind project in Kincardine, also argued that the current process is fair.
“If the REA (renewable energy approval) is an express train, the appellants knew the schedule and were at the platform waiting for it to arrive,” Bunting said. “The Environmental Review Tribunal has the ability to pull the brake in certain circumstances.”
Bunting also argued that a recent Health Canada study, presented as “fresh evidence” by opposition lawyer Julian Falconer, offered nothing earth-shattering.
“The ERT already knew that there was a link between turbine noise and annoyance, and they didn’t think it was serious enough, so going back to them to re-appeal would be a waste because nothing would change.”
Bunting created a buzz in the crowd when he suggested that media articles containing “fright factors” regarding wind turbines could be a contributing factor to community annoyance.
The day concluded with Falconer, representing four families fighting to stop the projects, arguing that the sanctity of one’s home was being infringed upon by turbines.
“Members of the public are being held captive by government actions in the very place where they can expect their health and well-being to be safe,” Falconer alleged. “They are subject to an intrusion that they can’t get away from. If they can prove there is a reasonable prospect of serious harm, then it could not be keeping with the government’s desire to develop safe, renewable energy.”
He also said that “it has taken 18 lawyers, truckloads of documents, to state the obvious: unless you can find it necessary to jeopardize the health of these people, the projects need to be stopped.”
Falconer concluded by imploring the Justice panel to truly assess his case.
“You are the guardians of the people. The system has broken down, and you have been tasked with keeping the people safe. We just want to give folks the chance to be heard. The last thing they should hear is doors being closed.”
After the Justices had left Courtroom 20 at the London Courthouse, the public gathered in the crowd broke into applause for Falconer. Leaving the courthouse, he told them to “keep their hopes up”, as they wait for a decision that will resonate throughout Ontario and across the country.