Friday, September 22, 2023

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Wentworth Wind Opponents Plead to a Judge
Bill Martin
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Wentworth Wind Opponents Plead to a Judge

The Wentworth Valley group that has been fighting a major wind farm development announced they are not done yet.

The Protect Wentworth Valley Committee of the Folly Lake Wentworth Environmental Protection Society (FLWEPS) fas hired a law firm to file a judicial. The group is not happy with the Minister of Environment’s approval of the project that would install mega wind turbines around Higgins Mountain.

A judicial review would put the decision in the hangs of a judge, a move the committee hopes will better hear their concerns.

Heather Allen-Johnson, a member of the committee, says, “We did not want to go this route, but the minster’s decision left us no option.” 

Allen-Johnson echoes the sentiment of a growing number of area residents, saying, “We feel citizen concerns have not been heard or acknowledged over the past three years.” She added, “We were basically dismissed.” 

The Folly Lake Wentworth Environmental Protection Society which was officially formed in 2007 to gather and coordinate information on the proposed Higgins/Stevens Wind Project.  In 2020 a sub committee, now known as Protect Wentworth Valley (PWV), was formed with the continued mandate to protect the ecology, biodiversity and recreational integrity of the Wentworth Valley.

The group met last week to discuss their options and the judicial review seemed the most reasonable in terms of effectiveness and cost.

The committee asked its supporters if it was reasonable to go this route with an expected cost of nearly $40 thousand — mostly legal expenses — but with less risk of being held responsible for costs claimed by their opponents. About twenty-five people at the meeting and others online all seemed to agree and many committed financial to go forward.

Feedback to the environment minister’s review was considered “unprecedented” with over 187 comments and concerns, only six of which were favourable to the project.

Speakers at that meeting said they did not feel that the environment minister truly listened to their concerns. Further, they felt the local MLA, Natural Resources Minister Tory Rushton had also let them down.

Allen’Johnson noted the local minister had reported his department received more than 1700 letters or submissions opposing the project. In fact the minister did say there was that much feedback but he did say there are people in favour of the project. The group contends, “The Minister failed to adequately address the project's impact on the endangered Mainland Moose and the community's use of the area for outdoor recreation and eco-tourism.”

Lawyers for the group will file a request for a judicial review. If accepted, the group will present their case directly to a judge who has the right to overturn the ministerial decision or to call for further dialogue with the community.

The committee admits the move is a long-shot but they feel “the current system is deeply flawed,” so they are looking to impact future developments.

Calling it a “test case for future developments in Nova Scotia,” the valley advocates are pressing for clearer environmental assessment guidelines that hold applicants and government to the highest standards.

Given that Minister Rushton says he expects another round of wind applications, they hope the procurement process will stay in Nova Scotia and not be administered by a third party in the United States as was the case for the current projects, a process set up by the former government of Stephen McNeil.

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