‘Second wind’ for Eastern Fields turbines? Licence granted, officials still reviewing application

From left, Michel Lavergne, Leo Proulx and Leslie Howard — opponents of the 'Eastern Fields' wind project in The Nation Municipality — and Margaret Benke and John Irven of the Concerned Citizens of North Stormont, opponents of the proposed Nation Rise Wind Farm, along with MPP Jim McDonell, who received almost 1,300 letters of opposition to the Finch-area project in 2016. Zandbergen photo, Nation Valley News

ST-BERNARDIN — Cheered by last year’s cancellation of the proposed turbine farm in their neighbourhood, the community activists that fought the development are now seeking assurances of no second wind for the “Eastern Fields” project in The Nation Municipality.

The ‘Save The Nation’ group has been perplexed to find out recently that various provincial bureaucracies are still shepherding forward certain aspects of the unbuilt 33-megawatt project: Despite being among 758 renewable energy projects cancelled by the Ford government last July, the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) on Dec. 6 awarded Eastern Fields a license to generate electricity. And  Ontario’s Ministry of Environment Conservation and Parks (MOECP) continues to review the developer’s “Renewable Energy Approval” (REA) application on Eastern Fields, according to emailed correspondence with a ministry official supplied by Save The Nation spokesperson Julie Leroux.

News of the generation licence — good until 2038 — “shocked” Leroux, who consequently reached out to Ontario energy minister Greg Rickford earlier this week and then learned about the ongoing review work at the Environment ministry.

“We do not understand why or how a cancelled project can be issued a licence to produce electricity for a period of 20 years …  We’re also extremely disappointed that the Ford government does not seem to follow through with its announcement,” she says.

“We’re asking Minister Rickford to confirm that this promise has been kept and that Eastern Fields Wind Farm LP is a dead project with no chance of ever moving forward. We also ask him to revoke the useless Electricity Generation Licence EG-2018-0213.”

The OEB granted the licence on the same day the Ford government adopted the Green Energy Repeal Act, notes Leroux, who still awaits an answer on why the licence was awarded.

For its part, the MOECP’s ongoing work on the REA application is a “separate matter” from the Ford government’s “winding down” of Independent Electricity System Operator contracts last summer.

“As I mentioned previously, winding down of the IESO contracts does not mean automatic cancellation of REA applications currently with the ministry – these are two separate matters,” an Environment ministry official tells Leroux in a March 7 email forwarded to Nation Valley News.

Originally slated for a property on Highway 22, the Eastern Fields project was announced in June 2015, during the reign of the previous Liberal government. Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives came to power last spring on a platform that included a promise to cancel renewable energy projects. Eastern Fields was on the list of kiboshed developments when the Tories carried through with the pledge last July.

NVN has reached out to the province for clarification on why bureaucrats are still “going through motions” for Eastern Fields, if other cancelled projects are receiving similar treatment behind the scenes, and how much it’s costing Ontario taxpayers to have provincial staff reviewing cancelled projects.

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