By Russ Niles | October 9, 2016
The Canadian Owners and Pilots Association (COPA) has announced a major decision that may help ensure that Canadian airport operations are not hampered by wind farms. It had a little help from some bats, too. Ontario’s Environmental Review Tribunal has ruled that a proposed wind farm would potentially “harm human health” by creating obstacle hazards in the pattern for Collingwood Regional Airport in southern Ontario and Stayner aerodrome, a privately operated airstrip a few miles away. “This is precedent-setting,” said COPA President Bernard Gervais. COPA spent more than $175,000 fighting a plan to build eight 500-foot wind turbines within two miles of the airports. Local municipalities and private individuals also fought the proposal. The turbines were planned for the downwind of the main runway at Collingwood, the major regional airport in that area of Ontario, and would have also caused conflicts for Stayner, which is a privately owned “aerodrome” operated by an aviation business but open to the public.
The tribunal decision was literally the last resort for opponents to the project, which was approved by the Ontario government under its Green Energy Act legislation last February. The Green Energy Act essentially invalidates any land use, property value or nuisance claims by local governments or individuals in its approval of alternatives to fossil-fuel energy. Approvals can only be overturned on environmental grounds and threats to human health are among those concerns. The opponents hung their case on the fact that colliding with a wind turbine on downwind would indeed be harmful to human health and the tribunal agreed. The Ontario government and the company proposing the project, wpd Fairview Wind Incorporated, argued the windmills could be accommodated by adding a right-hand pattern at Collingwood but the tribunal agreed that right-hand patterns are less safe than standard patterns and the alternative wasn’t reasonable. Transport Canada, which could have rejected the project before anyone spent any money opposing it, instead took a hands-off approach but suggested there would be limitations on the airports’ operations if the windmills were permitted. But it’s not just airplanes that are in danger of running into the turbines. The tribunal also found that the little brown myotis, an endangered species of bat, could bash into the big blades and diminish their numbers even further.