SCUGOG: Local opponents of a proposed Scugog solar farm will have their voices heard next month, at an environmental review tribunal dealing with the controversial project.
The project, a 10-megawatt solar farm proposed for a Shirley Rd. property, has the potential to set a precedent for further major infrastructure projects on the Oak Ridges Moraine, say members of environmental group Save The Oak Ridges Moraine Coalition (STORM).
Recently, an environmental review tribunal accepted a pair appeals to the project, which is being spearheaded by Canadian Solar.
When the hearing begins on Tuesday, Sept. 10, Scugog Township and local resident Jacqueline Visconti will be presenting their cases in opposition to the construction of the project, which will cover 142 acres of land.
A preliminary hearing into the matter was held on Thursday, Aug. 8, in Scugog Council chambers as other interested parties made their pitch to be involved with the process.
Five total requests were made to the tribunal, including four requesting presenter status and one seeking participant status.
Canadian Solar has previously declined to comment on the project as it is being appealed.
Prior to last week’s preliminary hearing on the matter, members of STORM and neighbours of the proposed Canadian Solar Illumination facility gathered at a Shirley Rd. home on Aug. 7, to discuss what STORM’s executive director Debbe Crandall described as what could be a "precedent-setting" legal proceeding.
In her presentation to the gathered audience, Ms. Crandall recalled the origins of the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan (ORMCP) 12 years ago, a piece of provincial legislation designed to reign in urban sprawl which came about after lobbying from concerned Ontarians living on the moraine. The plan will be up for review in 2015, said Ms. Crandall, adding that the appeals against the Shirley Rd. solar farm could form the basis of an increased focus within the ORMCP on controlling the proliferation of such green energy developments on moraine lands.
"In 2001, there was no threat of (green energy) infrastructure - it was all about development," recalled Ms. Crandall, referring to the issue of new housing subdivisions springing up on the moraine. "People understand urban sprawl - what they don’t understand is this infrastructure.... If we advocate strategically and intelligently, we can turn the tides of how we look at land use. In 2015, it would be exciting if we shook things up and this (the solar farm appeal) is a good argument."
Among the attendees of the Aug. 7 meeting was Doug Taylor, one of several Clarington residents opposing a proposed Hydro One transformer station slated for a moraine property in that municipality, citing the potential for explosions and leaks on sensitive lands. With that project currently on hold - it was originally expected to get underway this summer - following a number of presentations to various levels of government by Mr. Taylor and his neighbours, as well as a third-party report on the project requested and funded by the group, Mr. Taylor shared some his experiences with the group in battling such developments.
"You need to be about water, water, water," he said. "They (government) seem to care very little about endangered species, but if you fight them on the water, you stand a chance."
The apparent need for such third-party studies, often financed by individuals or organizations at their own expense, on such developments struck a chord with some attendees.
"Why do we have to dig into our savings and RESPs to fund additional studies on these projects?" said STORM director Cindy Sutch. "The province should be assisting with that."