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Group seeking court review of approval for wind farm project in northern Nova Scotia

The West Pubnico Point Wind Farm is seen in Lower West Pubnico, N.S. on Monday, Aug. 9, 2021. (Courtesy: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan) The West Pubnico Point Wind Farm is seen in Lower West Pubnico, N.S. on Monday, Aug. 9, 2021. (Courtesy: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan)

The approval of a 17-turbine wind farm in northern Nova Scotia has prompted a community group to seek a judicial review of the provincial environment minister's decision.

In a news release, Project Wentworth Valley said it didn't want to go to court, but the May 4 decision by Environment Minister Tim Halman to conditionally approve the Higgins Mountain project left it with "no option" but to mount a legal challenge.

In an interview Thursday, spokeswoman Heather Allen-Johnson said her group believes the minister did not take into account concerns of area residents.

"No one has treated the community as a stakeholder in this project," said Allen-Johnson. "They've just been treating us as NIMBYS (not in my backyards) and activists, and that's not what we are. We just want to have our concerns addressed in the development of this project, and we don't feel that has happened."

Specifically, she said Halman failed to adequately address the project's impact on mainland moose and the community's use of the area for outdoor recreation and ecotourism.

The group says work to clear land and raise the turbines will reduce habitat for the moose, which is listed by the province as a species at risk.

Allen-Johnson said Protect Wentworth Valley wants the government to establish clearer environmental assessment guidelines as it considers further development of industrial wind farms.

"It's not that we are asking for this project to be stopped," she said. "We are asking for clarity in the conditions and expansion on the conditions to protect the area."

In an email, Environment Department spokeswoman Mikaela Etchegary said the province could not comment on Project Wentworth's move because the application is before the courts.

Project Wentworth Valley's lawyer, Jamie Simpson, said the group's review application was filed in Nova Scotia Supreme Court in Halifax on Tuesday.

He said an initial meeting with a judge is scheduled for Aug. 8, with any further legal proceedings likely to play out over several months if hearing dates are set.

The court application contends the minister's decision was "unreasonable" and that he "erred in law and acted unreasonably in failing to adequately consider factors he was required to consider under the Environmental Assessment Regulations."

The Higgins Mountain project would erect turbines between the communities of Westchester Station, Wentworth Station and Londonderry.

Higgins Mountain Wind Farm General Partner Inc. is a partnership involving Sipekne'katik First Nation, Elemental Energy Renewables Inc. and Stevens Wind Ltd.

According to the province, the project's wind turbines will be up to 195.5-metres tall to the tip of the blade and will individually produce between 5.9 and seven megawatts of electricity.

Construction is expected to begin in 2024, with the project projected to be operational for 35 years beginning in 2025.

Under Halman's conditional approval, the project's proponents must carry out noise modelling, as well as come up with management plans for water and erosion and for the potential effects on wildlife and birds.

A monitoring plan is also required for mainland moose for at least two years, although Allen-Johnson pointed out the requirement will only take effect once the turbines become operational.

She said her group is not against green energy.

"We just want to make sure that this is done right so that we are not destroying the environment to save the environment," she said.

Nova Scotia has legislated an environmental goal of having 80 per cent of the province's energy supplied by renewable sources by 2030.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 8, 2023.

For More Nova Scotia news, visit our dedicated provincial page. Top Stories


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