Amherst Island appeal begins: significant impact on birds

Amherst Island is a favoured spot for owls, and other birds
Amherst Island is a favoured spot for owls, and other birds

The Whig-Standard, December 7, 2015

BATH — The appeal of the approval of a controversial wind energy project on Amherst Island is underway.

The Association to Protect Amherst Island is appealing to the Environmental Review Tribunal the decision by the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change to approve Windlectric’s application to build 26 turbines on Amherst Island.

In late August, the provincial government approved the project subject to more than two dozen conditions.

The appeal began on Friday and is to include a series of hearings between then and Dec. 22.

The association has hired environmental lawyer and University of Toronto adjunct professor Eric Gillespie to represent it.

On Friday, the tribunal heard testimony from Tom Beaubiah from the Cataraqui Region Conservation Authority, who spoke about potential impact on Owl Woods, wintering raptors and avian habitat.

Beaubiah requested that if the appeal is rejected and the project goes ahead, that additional conditions be placed on it to further investigate wildlife areas, relocate turbines and include the conservation authority in post-construction monitoring.

Island resident Amy Caughey also provided comment about health and safety concerns related to locating industrial components of the project, including a cement plant, laydown area, transformer station, mobile fueling, a maintenance building and construction office close to the Amherst Island Public School.

Bill Evans testified on behalf of the Kingston Field Naturalists about the project’s potential impact on bobolinks, of which there are about 2,800 on the island.

The Amherst Island project would kill more than 32 bobolinks each year, casualties that, when combined with loss of breeding habitat, would seriously threaten the bird’s population in Ontario.

Among the experts still to be called upon to testify for the association are epidemiologist Carl Phillips and biologist Christina Davy, who are to be backed by experts in hydrology, hydrogeology, ecology and biology.

The appeal comes in the wake of Ontario auditor general Bonnie Lysyk’s annual report that showed deficiencies in the province’s electricity system that have cost taxpayers billions of dollars.

Lysyk’s report showed the long-range plans from the Ontario Power Authority have not been reviewed and approved by the Ontario Energy Board.

Between 2006 and 2014, the electricity portion of the hydro bills of residential and small-business consumers increased by 70 per cent, according to Lysyk’s report. Included in that cost are fees paid to power-generating companies over the market price that cost consumers $37 billion over that time period. Those fees are expected to increase to $133 billion between 2015 and 2032.

Between 2009 and 2014, Ontario’s average annual electricity surplus was equivalent to the power-generating capacity of Manitoba, and the Independent Electricity System Operator predicts the power-generating capability of Ontario will exceed the province’s demand by an amount equivalent to Nova Scotia’s power needs for about five years.


“Serious environmental impact if White Pines proceeds” : witness

Report on Environmental Review Tribunal Hearing on White Pines Wind Project

December 7


On Day 18 of the Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT), APPEC expert witness Dr. Daryl Cowell testified that there is substantial evidence of karst in the White Pines study area and that serious and irreversible impacts will occur if this project proceeds.   WPD witness Ronald Donaldson and Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) witness Mark Phillips disputed this.

Dr. Cowell told the ERT that he has appeared as a karst expert witness before eight Ontario Municipal Board hearings, done work for municipalities across Ontario, and authored or co-authored hundreds of technical documents, including peer-reviewed papers.  He has spent 40 years studying karst, with the past 20 years focused on hazard assessment.  Dr. Cowell was qualified as a professional geoscientist with expertise in karst.

Dr. Cowell said that a major karst area runs through Black Creek Valley ANSI (Area of Natural and Scientific Interest).   Physical evidence of karst includes sinkholes and crevices (as identified earlier by area resident and presenter Doug Murphy), an artesian-like stream, year-round springs that go underground, dry wells, and extensive limestone pavements.  Turbines would be located in epikarst, the upper boundary of a karst system, close to the edge of the valley.  The access road to wind turbines T02 and T03 crosses Black Creek and proceeds through a zone of karst features including crevices one foot wide and ten feet deep.

However, none of WPD’s Renewable Energy Approval reports identified karst features, assessed potential impacts, or even surveyed water bodies except in September and October, known to be low-flow periods.

Dr. Cowell noted that mapping the watershed in a karst aquifer is extremely difficult when vertical and horizontal fractures make water flow unpredictable and boundaries are always in flux.  A storm water management plan is out of the question because it is impossible to determine the high water mark, a basic requirement for construction activities.

According to Dr. Cowell, blasting and trenching for 16 kilometres of new access roads, collector lines, and turbine bases will cause serious and irreversible harm to shallow karst areas.  Blasting and backfilling through the upper metre of bedrock will dam and divert flows resulting in permanent impacts to the surface water/groundwater regime.

WPD witness Ronald Donaldson was qualified by the Tribunal as a hydrologist.   His testimony focused on potential interference with the quality and quantity of the local water supply aquifer and groundwater.

Donaldson reviewed aerial photographs, maps and literature that show no conclusive evidence of karst in Prince Edward County.  He considers the Black Creek Valley a sub-glacial tunnel formed long ago by glacial melt-waters.  Though predicting impacts such as sediment in shallow water wells and wetlands, he said there are mitigations for the temporary effects as well as for sinkholes or fractures opened during construction.   Donaldson agreed with APPEC counsel Eric Gillespie, however, that alterations to the top three metres could impact wetlands.

Mr. Gillespie referred Donaldson to a 2013 study cited by Dr. Cowell, “Evaluating karst risk at wind power projects.”  While agreeing that karst evaluations should be done early, Donaldson said he was not qualified to speak to the study’s number one mitigation—to move the turbines.

Mark Phillips, of the MOECC, was qualified as a surface water specialist with expertise in identifying risks to and mitigation of surface waters.  Starting in October 2014, Phillips raised a number of issues about the lack of detail on project impacts on wetlands in WPD’s Construction Plan Report, the risk of impacts during construction on surface water, and the timing of surveys for water bodies.  However, WPD chose to rely on existing MOECC records rather than carry out additional field work. 

Nonetheless, Phillips considers that risks from erosion and sediment can be fully managed by the “mitigation toolbox” and the effects will be temporary.   He confirmed with Mr. Gillespie that he did not review the wetlands near turbines T27, T28, and T29 or, indeed, the Natural Heritage Assessment on wetlands.

-Paula Peel, APPEC 

Using ‘green cred’ to reap outstanding fortunes: Andrew Coyne


The Ontario government subsidized companies to produce power, and it subsidized consumers to conserve it. And when it found itself, not surprisingly, with a huge and growing power surplus, it sold it off at a loss to foreign buyers — effectively subsidizing them to take it. 

The National Post, December 7, 2015

The other day I happened to be in Ottawa. I happened to have a lunch at a downtown restaurant where I happened to overhear a conversation between two businessmen. The subject of their conversation, as it happened, was how to get money out of the federal government.

The one was a lobbyist, the other was his client. The lobbyist was reporting back on his discussions with a ministerial staffer regarding the grant his client was seeking. The staffer had advised him on the kind of supporting documentation the client would need to supply — mostly about job creation —  to ensure the money flowed. It didn’t sound like it would be a particularly hard sell.

I imagine this sort of conversation goes on every day in restaurants all over the city, as it did under the previous government, as it will under the next. It is the same conversation that goes on in every provincial capital and every city of any size in the country. It is, perhaps, Canada’s largest industry, but of a peculiar kind. For those employed in it are not in the business of selling products to consumers. They are in the business of buying subsidies from governments.

The name of the company involved in the exchange I overheard does not matter. It might be any one of a thousand. It may advertise itself as being in a particular business — cars, or planes, or ships. And it is true that that is the product it makes. But it does not make it to sell to others — that is only a secondary consideration. Its primary value is as a medium of exchange — for the subsidies it can purchase from government.

For the company is not just making cars, or planes, or what have you. It is making things the politician really wants: jobs, usually, or at least the claims of them, but also association with prestigious technologies, or green cred — anything that will make the politician feel important, or get him elected, or both. And whereas the firm is typically unable to persuade consumers in competitive markets to pay it enough to cover the costs of making its notional product — hence the need for subsidy — the same product will buy it millions of dollars in subsidies.

Indeed, the longer it keeps at it, the more the terms of trade tend to move in its favour. In time, the firm finds it no longer has to create more jobs to keep the subsidies coming. It can simply threaten to withdraw those it has. Subsidies in the past thus become the chief argument for subsidies in the future. For then the politician is implicated. Jobs that are never created never make headlines. But workers, once employed, make admirable hostages.

All this is by way of prelude to last week’s extraordinary double whammy of industrial-policy ineptitude. First came news that the price of constructing 15 new naval warships — part of the much-heralded National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy — had more than doubled from initial estimates, to $30 billion from $14 billion, with further cost overruns likely to come. This was, you’ll recall, supposed to be the “good” procurement project, after the string of fiascos — helicopters, submarines, fighter jets — that preceded it. Instead, it is shaping up to be the biggest procurement disaster yet.

The head of the Royal Canadian Navy, Vice-Adm. Mark Norman, confessed to the CBC that nobody involved on either side of the exchange had the first clue of what it cost to build the things. “We didn’t have the mature industry and so there was a lot of guessing and speculation going on. And to be quite blunt, we got a lot of it wrong,” he said. Whether the government will cough up the extra $16 billion, or whether the navy will have to make do with half the ships, remains to be seen.

But surely the real question is: why, rather than design and build the ships from scratch in Canada, we did not just purchase them off the shelf from countries with competent military-industrial complexes? And the answer is that governments in this country are not really in the business of buying the best ships for the least money, any more than the companies involved are in the business of supplying them. Rather, it is about, on the one hand, jobs and industrial development, and sucking cash out of the government on the other.

But while we were still reeling from that came news of an even-larger raid on the public till: the $37 billion that Ontario’s auditor general reports the province has overcharged consumers for electricity over eight years. The policy dysfunction was comprehensive and manifold. The Ontario government subsidized companies to produce power, and it subsidized consumers to conserve it. And when it found itself, not surprisingly, with a huge and growing power surplus, it sold it off at a loss to foreign buyers — effectively subsidizing them to take it.

But at the heart of it was a coterie of companies, ostensibly in the renewable energy business, whom the government massively overpaid for power, recouping the costs from consumers on their electricity bills. The fortunes made must be astounding: if consumers were out $37 billion — almost 1,000 times as much as the sums involved in the sponsorship scandal — somebody was in for a good chunk of that. It may be doubted whether consumers would be willing to pay, as the Liberal government did, twice the market price for wind power or more than three times market price for solar.

But then, if the companies involved were interested in selling to willing consumers, they’d be in another line of work. They’re not in the energy business. They’re in the subsidy business.

National Post

Two-thirds of contested White Pines project on endangered species habitat, Tribunal hears

I'm here
I’m here

Alliance to Protect Prince Edward County

Report on the ERT Hearing on the White Pines Wind Project – Dec. 4, 2015
By Henri Garand, APPEC

On Day 17 the Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) of the White Pines wind project heard the testimony of WPD witnesses Shawn Taylor and Dr. Paul Kerlinger.

Mr. Taylor was qualified by the Tribunal as “an ecological restoration and construction mitigation specialist.”  However, he testified at length about Blanding’s turtles because of his participation in a four-year study involving a Kanata road extension into their habitat.

After classifying the roads (paved, gravel, and access) required for White Pines, Taylor spoke about the risks from higher traffic, but he said these are minimal due to the “block-out period” on construction between April 15 and October 15, and the later infrequent maintenance visits.  Mitigations such as staff training and 15km speed limits will protect turtles.

Taylor also felt that “new roads would not increase fragmentation of Blanding’s turtle habitat.”  He described the access roads as “laneways” flush to the ground surface and therefore not a barrier to turtles.  Similarly, turtles will readily move through the nine culverts to be constructed.  The roads would also not interfere with water flow into deep wetlands, crucial overwintering habitat.

Predation of eggs and young by foxes, raccoons, and skunks is possible but could be mitigated by compaction and reduction of roadside gravel, though neither method is cited in the White Pines construction report.

During cross-examination by APPEC counsel Eric Gillespie, Taylor admitted that his witness statement is incorrect in describing most access roads as passing through ploughed fields instead of cultural meadow, alvar, and treed land. Only nine turbines are located within current agricultural fields.   The access “laneways” would be 5m wide, with brush clearance as much as 5m on each side.

Taylor also conceded that two thirds of the White Pines project lies within primary Blanding’s turtle habitat. According to a map in WPD’s Natural Heritage Assessment, wind turbines T7, T11-24, and T27-29 all fall within known turtle egg excavation or spring foraging areas.

Paul Kerlinger, Ph.D., was qualified as “a biologist with specialization in bird behavior and expertise on the impacts of wind energy projects.”   Once an Audubon Society director of the Cape May Observatory, Kerlinger redirected his career to studying avian risks from wind projects in Canada, Mexico, Spain, and the United States, and he has testified in 100 cases as an expert witness on behalf of developers.

Although stating that “all wind projects kill birds,” Kerlinger does not regard this as “serious and Irreversible harm” because the fatalities are not statistically significant at the species population level, whether measured as a percentage or by population viability models (which take into account reproductive rates, dispersal and mortality).   He said studies show that mortality ranges from 6-9 birds per turbines per year, and the upper figure applies to Wolfe Island when its monitoring records are averaged over three years.

Under cross-examination Kerlinger admitted there are different views of the appropriate geographical scale to be considered for assessing risk to bird populations.  He also conceded that monitoring results are dependent on search area size and terrain, number of predators, frequency of searches, and staff training.  Data comparison across projects is complicated by differing turbine sizes and power output.  Finally, though noting the effectiveness of such mitigations as flashing lights and turbine shutdowns, he said he had made no suggestions to WPD.

The ERT resumes Monday, December 7, 10 a.m., at the Prince Edward Community Centre, 375 Main St., Picton.

No fixes for wildlife after wind farm built: experts at White Pines appeal

Report on Environmental Review Tribunal Hearing on White Pines Wind Project

 December 3


Paula Peel, APPEC


On Day 16 of the Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT), APPEC expert witness Kari Gunson testified that the White Pines wind project will cause serious and irreversible harm to Blanding’s turtles on the Prince Edward County south shore, and Dr. Smallwood completed his testimony from Tuesday.

Ms. Gunson has worked as a Road Ecologist for 16 years and has co-authored 13 peer-reviewed published articles.   She was qualified by the Tribunal as a Road Ecologist, with experience evaluating the indirect and direct effects of roads on wildlife and their habitat.

Gunson focused on the large roadless areas around wind turbines T12 to T24 and T26 to T29.  White Pines will increase road density in habitat occupied by the Blanding’s turtle, a threatened species, and the new roads will be used by maintenance vehicles, by landowners to gain access to their property, and by farm machinery.

Moreover, Ms. Gunson predicts that upgrades to existing municipal roads, such as Babylon and Helmer, will result in more traffic and vehicles moving at higher speeds than at present.   Blanding’s turtles are at risk from vehicular strikes because they range up to 6 km, and in habitat, like the South Shore where soil is scarce, they will nest along the roads.  Gravel roads can be ecological traps where turtles are also vulnerable to predation and poaching.

Access road construction, said Gunson, can lead to changes in vegetation composition and in hydrology, with changes in water temperatures and levels impacting turtles which overwinter in wetlands.   Blanding’s turtle experts have recommended a 150m construction buffer from wetlands.  However, WPD’s approved Environmental Impact Study provides only 120m buffers and permits construction activities metres away from wetlands.

Dr. Smallwood ​continued his ​discuss​ion of his findings on Wolfe Island wildlife mortality for the purpose of understanding the impact of White Pines.  He noted that fatalities for 57 bird and bat species have been reported, more than in any other single project​ he has ever seen. It is probable that the numbers will be even higher for White Pines because of the migratory pathway.

If Wolfe Island rates are realized at White Pines, Dr. Smallwood predicts project-level fatalities up to 954 birds and 1800 bats per year.  Dr. Smallwood noted his concern with bats, which are drawn to heat-releasing vents in the turbines.  It is difficult to estimate how many small bats are killed as they are not readily detected in carcass searches.

Dr. Smallwood told the ERT that the best way to prevent harm is siting White Pines to avoid problems.  Little can be done after the project is built.   He strongly disagrees with claims by Dr. Kerlinger and Dr. Strickland, witnesses for WPD, that impacts can be effectively mitigated once the wind turbines have been constructed.

The ERT continues Friday, December 4, 10 a.m., at the Prince Edward Community Centre, 375 Main St., Picton.

The power system is broken, says Ontario AG: Parker Gallant

The sad (and very expensive) truth. Ontario fleeced out of $37 billion
The sad (and very expensive) truth. Ontario fleeced out of $37 billion

Financial Post, December 3, 2015


by Parker Gallant

Almost a year ago Bonnie Lysyk, Ontario’s Auditor General, issued a report related to the “smart meter” program, estimating it cost double its projected costs. Bob Chiarelli, the Ontario Minister of Energy, was quick off the mark to defend his ministry by stating “The electricity system is very complex, it’s very difficult to understand,” he said. “I can tell you that some of our senior managers in discussing some of these issues with some of the representatives from the Auditor General’s office got the feeling that they didn’t understand some of the elements of it.”

Here we are one year later and yesterday’s annual report out of the AG’s offices is all about the electricity sector and the condemnation of the planning and implementation processes that have emanated from the past and present energy ministers since the Liberals gained power.

Here is one of the condemnations that will prove hurtful to Minister Chiarelli and his predecessors: “over the last decade, this power system planning process has essentially broken down, and Ontario’s energy system has not had a technical plan in place for the last 10 years. Operating outside the checks and balances of the legislated planning process, the Ministry of Energy has made a number of decisions about power generation that have resulted in significant costs to electricity consumers.”

Here is another: “The Ministry has issued a total of 93 directives and directions to the OPA [Ontario Power Authority] between 2004 and 2014. Through them, it has made a number of decisions about power generation — decisions that sometimes went against the OPA’s technical advice.”

The AG has included many estimates on the costs of those “directives and directions,” estimating the FIT or feed-in tariff program alone will result in ratepayers picking up extra costs of $9.2 billion just for wind and solar contracts when the GEA [Green Energy Act] usurped the previous competitive procurement program. Other notable issues highlighted in the AG’s report include the Mattagami project, $1 billion over the original estimate, raising the cost of hydro production to $135 per megawatt hour, and the conversion of the Thunder Bay coal plant to biomass using imported wood as a fuel source and producing electricity that will cost $1,600 per megawatt hour.

The report is also critical of the “Conservation First” theme brought in by Minister Chiarelli in his most recent Long Term Energy Plan, due to our significant surplus generating capacity, past spending of $2.3 billion and future spending of $2.6 billion that simply raises the price of electricity for consumers. The effect of the surplus capacity is highlighted in noting that it is exported well below its cost and that curtailing power to ensure grid stability is paying generators for not producing.

That message alone highlights how “the Ministry of Energy has made a number of decisions about power generation that have resulted in significant costs to electricity consumers.”

As stated in the report, “Since power is exported at prices below what generators are paid, and curtailed generators are still paid even when they are not producing energy, both of these options are costly. From 2009 to 2014, Ontario had to pay generators $339 million for curtailing 11.9 million MWh of surplus electricity.”

Anyone observing Ontario’s electricity sector over the past 10 years will have no difficulty in nodding in agreement with the bulk of the report’s conclusions, having seen their electricity bills rise on a semi-annual basis for the past decade. Those who want a better understanding of why those increases have occurred will also appreciate the AG’s observation that “lack of transparency” has prevented ratepayers from being told why their bills keep going up.

While the Ministry has stated after each recommendation in the AG’s report: “The Ministry agrees with the Auditor General’s recommendations,” the concerns of ratepayers are likely to be tripped up by Premier Wynne’s promise to bring in her latest tax grab in the form of the promised “cap and trade” plan, which will surely result in additional costs that ratepayers will be forced to absorb.

The AG has demonstrated that she has far more insight into how the electricity system works in Ontario than the Minister or Ministry officials, but it remains to be seen whether the system can be fixed.

Parker Gallant is a retired banker who looked at his electricity bills and didn’t like what he saw.

(Parker Gallant is vice-president of Wind Concerns Ontario.)


MPP Pettapiece launches energy referendum petition


From Randy Pettapiece, MPP:

Last week, my colleague MPP John Yakabuski tabled a bill entitled Energy Referendum Act, 2015.

If passed, this bill would mandate that local municipalities hold a referendum before large-scale renewable energy projects are approved so that residents are the ones who decide if these projects will go forward.

The bill can be viewed at:

Forced industrial turbines have been a serious issue in our communities, and I support MPP Yakabuski’s efforts to return decision making powers to municipalities and residents.

If you would like to voice your support for this bill, I have attached a copy of a petition that you can sign. I will be introducing all completed petitions in the Ontario legislature to send a strong message to the government.

Please return original copies of the petition to my office: 55 Lorne Avenue, Unit 2, Stratford, Ontario, N5A 6S4.

The petition can also be accessed on my website:


Randy Pettapiece, MPP


Phone: 519-272-0660

Toll-free: 1-800-461-9701


Wind Concerns Ontario: SIGN this petition ( you must sign a paper copy and MAIL IT) and forward to your municipal government representative as well. Return local land use planning to our communities.

McCabe OFA president for another year

OFA president McCabe: OK with him if you have wind turbines and destroy your community. It's your right.
OFA president McCabe: OK with him if you have wind turbines and destroy your community. It’s your right.

Don McCabe, who believes that what farmers do on their own land—never mind the consequences for neighbours and communities—is their business, has been acclaimed for another term as president of the Ontario  Federation of Agriculture, reports Ontario Farmer.

While McCabe advises farmers contemplating leasing land for wind turbines and associated wind “farm” equipment to “get a lawyer, get a lawyer, get a lawyer,” he also appears to support aggressive wind power development in Ontario. Last year, he told farmers at a Finch Ontario gathering on wind power that they could get power from the turbines for their own farms first if they sign up–this is not only impossible, it’s also illegal.

Farmers Forum editor Patrick Meagher reported on the McCabe acclamation but also posed the question, Is the OFA too close to the Liberal Party? “Two provincial elections ago [not under McCabe leadership] the OFA wanted a moratorium on wind projects,” Meagher notes, “but didn’t want to address it with the Ontario Liberals on the campaign trail because, by an OFA director’s own admission, the OFA didn’t want to affect the election outcome. … Was that a ridiculous omission, or partisan politics? ”



Wind power costs more than it should says AG as Ontario citizens fleeced of $37 billion

No justice for Ontario communities under the Green Energy Act: appeal process stacked in favour of corporate interests
Ontario electricity customers bilked by their own government

Toronto Star, December 2, 2015

Ontario electricity consumers are being zapped by unnecessarily high green energy costs that could be worth billions of dollars and lousy service from Hydro One, which is currently being privatized, says auditor general Bonnie Lysyk.

In 14 value-for-money audits for her 773-page annual report delivered Wednesday at Queen’s Park, Lysyk took aim at the electricity sector on the eve of Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli’s announcement on next steps for the province’s aging nuclear reactors.

She also highlighted problems with everything from Ontario’s 47 children’s aid societies — including questionable executive expenses — community care access centres, and school buses to the bungled SAMS social assistance computer system and the lack of a plan for dealing with contaminated waste.

But much of her scorn was reserved for the energy ministry, which is overseeing the sell-off of Hydro One, the provincial electricity transmitter.

“Hydro One’s customers have a power system for which reliability appears to be worsening while costs are increasing,” said Lysyk, echoing Ed Clark, Premier Kathleen Wynne’s privatization czar, who has argued Hydro One can and should be a much more professionally run company.

“Customers are experiencing more frequent power outages, mostly because assets aren’t being fully maintained, aging equipment isn’t being consistently replaced and trees near power lines aren’t being trimmed often enough to prevent outages,” she said, lamenting that this will be her final audit of the company since it will no longer fall under her purview once it is private.

At the same time, Ontario’s controversial push to promote wind and solar energy is proving more costly than it needs to be, and energy conservation is proving unnecessarily expensive because the province has a surplus of electricity.

Lysyk estimated consumers could end up paying $9.2 billion more for renewable energy over 20-year contracts issued under the Green Energy Act with guaranteed prices set at double the U.S. market price for wind and at 3.5 times the going rate for solar last year.

“With wind and solar prices around the world beginning to decline around 2008, a competitive process would have meant much lower costs,” Lysyk wrote, noting the government ignored advice from the now-defunct Ontario Power Authority to seek bids for large renewable energy projects.

The auditor shines a light on energy conservation efforts slated to cost $4.9 billion from 2006 to 2020, saying the investment does “not necessarily” lead to savings because excess electricity must be exported at a loss.

“We are concerned,” Lysyk wrote. “Investing in conservation at a time of surplus actually costs us more.”

Read more here.