The hall at Demorestville crowded with supporters for Ostrander Point hearing today. Lawyer for the appellant PECFN Eric Gillespie is seated at left.
County Weekly News, September 2, 2015
PRINCE EDWARD COUNTY – It likely won’t come as much of a surprise to local residents, a three-day Environmental Review Tribunal hearing on the Ostrander Point wind development will probably need more time.
The hearing was called after the Ontario Court of Appeal overturned a 2014 Ontario Court decision, siding with the Prince Edward County Field Naturalists (PECFN) that the nine-turbine development would cause serious and irreversible harm to the native Blandings turtles.
In 2013, the ERT upheld the PECFN appeal of the renewable energy approval (REA) to Gilead Power – the first time an appeal of an REA under Ontario’s 2009 Green Energy laws had been successful. A year later, an Ontario Court reversed the ERT decision, only to see the Court of Appeal side with the PECFH earlier this year.
The last decision was ordered back to the ERT to determine if Gilead Power could take appropriate remedial action to protect the turtles.
Legal counsel for the Prince Edward County Field Naturalists, Ministry of Environment and Climate Change and Gilead Power made opening remarks in front of the two-person ERT panel and more than 100 spectators at Demorestville Town Hall Wednesday morning.
Their opening comments were followed by testimony from Dr. Frederic Beaudry, the first of a number of expert witnesses expected to testify in front of ERT panel members Heather Gibbs and Robert Wright.
PECFH lawyer Eric Gilllespie told tribunal members he expected the testimony of Beaudry, a turtle biologist and assistant professor in New York State, to last the entire day on Wednesday and his second witness, Kori Gunson, an expert on road ecology, to require most of Thursday.
Gillespie told Gibbs and Wright their decision may have implications for other Prince Edward County developments.
“There is clearly significant public interest in this,” he said. “wpd Canada now has approval for the White Pines project and that has been appealed now. The decision in this case may well have some implications on those hearings.”
Ministry of Environment and Climate Change lawyer Sylvia Davis said she would be calling Joe Crowley and Karen Bellamy, a pair of ministry employees while Gilead’s counsel will summon testimony from one expert witness, Shawn Taylor, and company president Mike Lord.
In his morning testimony, Beaudry reviewed mitigation efforts by Gilead Power and said he was pleased with the company’s efforts, but could find little evidence any of their proposed solutions would actually stop harm of the turtles.
“Stopping construction between May 1 and Oct. 15, is likely to reduce negative effects but doesn’t exclude risks,” he explained. “Some years, May 1 might be too late to stop and Oct. 15 might be too early to resume. With climate change there is an increase in variability and if it’s warm into late October, the turtles will still be active.”
Beaudry said while some turtles may respond favourably to man-made habitat, there is no evidence it has been done successfully for the Blandings turtle.
Wright told the parties as testimony moved on additional dates to complete the hearings would be considered. Start times for the three days were moved up to 9 a.m.