Wind farm opponents’ complaint lacked proof: judge

A group of landowners in Simcoe County, Ontario, was unsuccessful in using the courts to prevent the construction of a wind farm in their area. The group sued the company that would construct the project, wpd Canada Corporation, as well as the farmers who own the land on which the project is proposed to be built.

The Fairview Wind Project is described as an industrial wind farm with a capacity to generate 18.4 MW of electricity. The landowners wanted the court to grant an injunction to prevent construction, and to award “compensatory damages” of $16.6 million for loss of property value, negligence, nuisance and other complaints. The case was dismissed without a trial, the judge ruling that the plaintiffs were unable to prove that they had a cause of action.

The contract for the project was awarded under the Ontario Power Authority’s Feed-in Tariff program (FIT) in May, 2010. The landowners claimed that as soon as Fairview Wind Farm issued public notice of the project, as required by law, the value of their property fell and they were put at risk of negative health effects from the proposed wind turbines.

However, the court ruled that these claims were entirely speculative, especially given that the project had not yet begun construction. Since the plaintiffs in the case couldn’t prove that their land had lost value, there could be no compensation. A legal blogger at Dale & Lessman LLP wrote that opponents of wind farms should be sure that they can prove their claims of damages due to wind farm developments in future if they intend to initiate a legal action. Otherwise they risk the same result as in the Fairview case. Legal costs, which are generally borne by the unsuccessful litigant, could be in the range of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

According to the legal blog, the court in this case left open the possibility for the plaintiffs to sue the wind developer again, if there is concrete evidence to support their claims. For that, there must be a “high degree of probability” that the alleged harms will in fact occur.

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