On July 29, 2014, the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario became aware that the Environmental Review Tribunal (the “Tribunal”) had dismissed the appeal by Mikel Pitt and Skydive Burnaby Ltd. (the “Appellants”) in May 2014. To be successful in appealing a renewable energy approval (REA), the Environmental Protect Act (EPA) requires appellants to demonstrate that operating the project in accordance with the REA will cause serious harm to human health and/or serious and irreversible harm to plant life, animal life or the natural environment.
Here, the Appellants argued that the REA would cause serious harm to human health. Specifically, they argued that two of the five wind turbines posed a threat to parachutists associated with the Appellants’ skydiving business, located on a nearby property. All parties agreed that a collision between a parachutist and a turbine, or a parachute collapsing due to turbulence from a turbine, would cause harm to human health. However, the EPA appeal test requires that the project “will cause” such harm, not simply that harm is theoretically possible; as a result, the Tribunal considered the likelihood of such events occurring. Furthermore, the parties agreed that if the turbines were to prevent airplanes from taking off or landing safely, that this would cause harm to human health; since the approval holder and the director disputed the possibility of this scenario, the Tribunal’s analysis focused on whether or not the turbines were likely to cause such turbulence-based interference.
Having heard from expert witnesses on behalf of both the Appellants and the approval holder, the Tribunal accepted evidence that the increased risk presented by the project is extremely low. Accordingly, the Tribunal found that the Appellants had failed to establish that the project would cause serious harm to human health.