Developer remedy to save turtles at wind farm not enough: Ostrander Point witness

BRUCE BELL/THE INTELLIGENCER
It was a standing-room only crowd at Demorestville Town Hall for the first of three scheduled days of Environmental Review Tribunal hearings. The ERT is to consider if Gilead Power can avoid harming the native Blandings Turtle at the Ostrander Point site.

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.

More bites from Ontario’s power system (3)

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Buzz buzz

Last installment in Parker Gallant’s, what bites in Ontario’s power system. We saved the best for last!

Hydro One, raising hopes for a Wynne fall 

We have heard the news that Hydro One’s initial share sale could generate $2 billion dollars for Ontario’s provincial government coffers meaning the overall value, if 100% were sold, is suggested to be in the area of $13.3 billion.   The Premier has stated the province will retain 40%  meaning the total raised from the sale of the 60% will be around $8 billion, or less, depending on what shares were handed out to the employees at Hydro One and OPG to settle their labour negotiations.

With $5 billion slated for payment of the “stranded debt” that would leave $3 billion to fund transit projects and/or reduce the deficit.  Even $8 billion may be “pie in the sky” as most utilities usually trade at a multiple of earnings and a price to book less than suggested. They also usually have a dividend yield that is a multiple of the prime rate.  For 2014 Hydro One’s dividends to the province represented a yield (based on the suggested initial share value) of 2% whereas dividend yields for utilities range upwards e.g., Brookfield 5.3%, TransAlta 10.5%.  Increasing Hydro One’s yield would delay infrastructure projects which are directed by the Minister of Energy and are expected to remain if we are to believe “control” will be retained by the province.  Likewise the “price to book” at the suggested sale price would suggest a value of 1.75:1 is higher than Fortis who trade at 1.4:1 with a market valuation of $10.4 billion and a dividend yield of 3.5%.

Perhaps the government should simply use the money from the sale and buy shares in Brookfield Infrastructure which has a much lower “price to book” of about 1:1, a higher yield and trades at a P/E (price earnings) ratio of over 35.  Another option would be to buy TransAlta Energy which has a yield of over 11%, trades at a P/E ratio of 84 and a “price to book ratio” of 1.6:1.

Its worth noting that TransAlta claim 1,476 MW of  wind capacity and Brookfield 1,679 MW, and may be one of the reasons they have both a high dividend rate and a high P/E ratio.  Hydro One has no such long term 20-year contracts that will guarantee them long term profitability!

Whatever comes out of this sale may cover the costs of the “net-zero” settlements they are announcing daily for the teachers unions but there will be little left for infrastructure projects and little left to reduce the annual deficit.

The message I would pass on to the Wynne government is “you have a spending problem”!

(C) Parker Gallant

More bites from Ontario’s power system (2)

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Buzz buzz

More from Parker Gallant on the pesky goings-on in Ontario’s power system.

 

Oxymorons and the Ministries of the Environment and Climate Change & Natural Resources

Renewable Energy Approvals (REA) for wind turbine projects have been issued at a furious pace by the MoE&CC who declare:  “By law, you will need a Renewable Energy Approval (REA) from the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change for most solar, wind or bio-energy projects in Ontario.”  The odd thing about this is, it is the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) that maintain the “species at risk” list!  It would appear the current Environment Minister, Glen Murray, outranks the Minister of MNR, Bill Mauro.

Murray’s Ministry gleefully handed our recent REA to encompass the full dimensions of the significant and Important Bird Areas (IBA) in Eastern Ontario by granting approvals to the White Pines Wind Project (29 bird and bat choppers) and another one to Windelectric’s Amherst Island Wind Energy Project (26 bird and bat choppers).   This completely covers most of the IBAs in Eastern Ontario: Prince Edward County’s South Shore, Amherst Island and Wolfe Island.  It seems completely at odds with both Ministries mandates: to save the environment and protect species at risk, all for the purpose of saving the world from “climate change”.

The Ontario answer is to sponsor the erection of bird and bat choppers producing intermittent power when its not needed and usually exported and backed-up with fossil fuel generation.

A oxymoronic event of crazed destruction with no benefit to the environment!

Nepotism? or just a happy coincidence?

As most Ontario taxpayers know MaRS Discovery District, a registered charity, was bailed out by the provincial government in respect to their Phase 2 building which failed to attract sufficient tenants. It was recently reported some of the space in the building is now being used by the resident tenants (public service employees) for them to unwind playing ping pong and foosball.  The bailout was estimated to cost taxpayers $400 million, even though MaRS annually receives grants from the Provincial Government.  Since the MaRS charity was activated by Premier Dalton McGuinty in September 2005 those grants have totaled approximately $240 million yet they still needed a bailout.

The bailout for the Phase 2 debacle was provided by another arm of the Provincial Government under the guidance of Brad Duguid, Minister of Economic Development Employment and Infrastructure via another entity: Infrastructure Ontario (IO), that received a $200 million repreive of its debt by the same ruling party back when David Livingston was the CEO and before he was appointed as Premier McGuinty’s “Chief of Staff”!   The new CEO of IO is Bert Clark who just happens to be the son of Ed Clark who in June 2015 was appointed as Premier Wynne’s “Business Advisor” and had previously chaired two panel reports for the Premier with the latest one recommending the partial sale of Hydro One.   Hmm, an interesting co-incidence!  IO was also examined by Ontario’s Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk, who noted in the 2014 annual report:  “according to Infrastructure Ontario’s estimates, the tangible costs are still almost $8 billion higher than if the public sector had been able to contract out the projects to the private sector and oversee their successful delivery.”

MaRS Discovery District’s March 31, 2014 annual report under Note 7 states:  “The organization holds a 100% interest in Phase 2 Inc., at a cost of $1 dollar.”  That should give the taxpayers a warm fuzzy feeling knowing that the value of that building is not enough to even buy a small “Timmies” coffee!

Summing up the above we have, in my opinion, what appears to be nepotism, a “charity” dependent on grants from the province and who value their large expansion project at $1 dollar backstopped by a loan from a provincial entity managing PPP (public private partnerships) by handing out an extra $8 billion of taxpayer money.

Keep moving folks, nothing to see here!

 

OPG, now being paid to spill clean hydro 

OPG just released their 2nd Quarter financial results and profits (after PIL [payments in lieu of taxes]) were up 64% to $189 million even though they were forced to spill 1.2 terawatts (TWh) or enough to power 125,000 average Ontario households for a full year.   As noted in their report OPG now receive payment for those spilled TWh caused by SBG (surplus baseload generation) raising the final costs of their generation to ratepayers.  What that means for ratepayers is that we now pay for:

–all spilled hydro,

–all constrained wind generation

–all constrained solar-power generation

–all steamed-off nuclear and those

–idling gas plants

 

It would be a delightful act of “transparency” if IESO were to tell us ratepayers how much all of the foregoing cost ratepayers but they seem reluctant to do so (see above under IESO’s view of transparency).  A rough guess by this writer would suggest an annual cost north of $1 billion!

OPG also reported on Total Ontario Demand for the first six months and it reportedly was 69 TWh, down from 71.1 TWh in the comparable 2014 period.  Conservation must be working as the 2.1 TWh reduction would have been enough to power 219,000 average Ontario households.  Perhaps this should be a signal to IESO that they needn’t spend $400 million annually telling us to “conserve”!   With the prices rising ratepayers have done what they can to stop the incessant climbing of their hydro bills.

 

(C) Parker Gallant

 

Last installment tomorrow!