Wind power project proceeds in spite of acknowledged risk to endangered bats

London Free Press, July 28, 2016

By John Miner

A last-ditch attempt to stop an Oxford County wind farm, based on damage it will do to an endangered species, has run into a wall.

The East Oxford Alliance citizen’s group filed an urgent request last week with Environment Minister Glen Murray to stop the Gunn’s Hill Wind Farm because the project will kill little brown bats, a species whose numbers are plunging across North America and is now on Ontario’s and Canada’s endangered lists.

In a written reply on the minister’s behalf, the director of the ministry’s environmental approvals branch said it is the ministry’s priority to ensure renewable energy projects are developed in a way that will protect human health and the environment.

In the case of wind power, clear rules have been established to protect birds, bats and their habitats, Kathleen Hedley wrote.

The Gunn’s Hill Wind Farm, a 10-turbine project in Norwich Township, is required to conduct mortality surveys for at least three years after it starts up.

“If thresholds of bird and/or bat mortality are reached, contingency plans can be put in place to reduce impacts and additional monitoring is conducted to ensure the contingency plans are effective,” Hedley wrote.

Disappointed alliance member John Eacott said the bottom line is the wind power company is just required to collect bat and bird carcasses for three years before taking action: “This is the clear rules that Ontario has established — nothing has to be done.”

Fellow alliance member Joan Morris said the group will review its options.

Waiting to count carcasses of endangered species is irresponsible and completely incongruent with the intent of the Endangered Species Act, she said. “Three years from now may be too late for the little brown bat.”

A study released by Bird Studies Canada this month found bats dying at the rate of 18.5 per turbine in Ontario, well above the allowable 10-per-turbine threshold set by the province’s Natural Resources Ministry.

An estimated 42,656 bats were killed by Ontario wind turbines between May 1 and Oct. 31, 2015, including several endangered species, the study said.

North American studies of bat deaths and wind turbines have found bats are killed either by being struck by turbine blades or by air pressure changes caused by the turbines that burst blood vessels in their lungs.

Ontario’s Endangered Species Act, passed in 2007, originally prohibited killing or harming species on the endangered list and their habitat.

But that law was relaxed by the province in 2013 …

Read the full story here

State of crisis in Bruce Gray over electricity bills, says United Way

The addition of renewables such as wind power has added to Ontario citizens’ electricity bills substantially. This news release tells the story of what the Ontario government’s policy means for rural communities

2015-16 Utility Report for Bruce and Grey Counties

For Immediate release; 2015-2016 Utility Report – Rural Ontario in Crisis

UWBG Utility Assistance Report 2015-16

The United Way of Bruce Grey wanted to get a larger picture of energy poverty in our region and acknowledge the other organizations who also take on the task of keeping people warm and their lights on.

The United Way was able to access additional data from both Counties, Y Housing as well as the Salvation Army in Wiarton.

The numbers are startling and a crisis is brewing in our region

Almost $700 000 in direct dollars were spent to pay down utility bills. If staff time and resources were factored in, over $1 million has been spent in the last 12 months on utility arrears.

Utility Assistance by organization

Electricity continues to be a challenge as we note that costs have increased 100% in the past 10 years. Rural residents are hit with massive delivery costs and conservation efforts are negated by annual increases due to reduction in demand. “Our clients, our families are not wasteful, they do everything they can to reduce consumption, they unplug everything and we often advise them to turn breakers off in an effort to reduce their bill.” said Francesca Dobbyn Executive Director of the United Way of Bruce Grey.

Utility type

The introduction of the Ontario Energy Savings Program in November could give qualifying consumers $30 to $50 per month relief, and while appreciated, for many families it’s simply not enough to prevent disconnections.

We are still seeing large bills from 2013 when billing and meter issues created large “catch-up” bills. A new partnership with Credit Canada can assist families with longer repayment schedules.

When a disconnection does happen, the Bruce Grey team swings into action to gather as many supports as possible to reconnect the family.  From finding additional dollars, advocacy and negotiation the whole team works together.

For more information on this report please contact the United Way or the appropriate agency and staff listed below:

United Way of Bruce Grey – Francesca Dobbyn – 519 376 1560

Grey County Housing – Anne Marie Shaw – 519 376 5744

Bruce County Social Services – Christine MacDonald – 519 881 0431

Y Housing – Joan Chamney – 519 371 9224

Salvation Army Wiarton – Mary Miller – 519 534 0353

IESO cancels Feed In Tariff contracts for 5 wind power projects

The IESO has announced that it has cancelled several Feed In Tariff contracts for power generation projects, among them five wind power projects.

They are: Trout Creek in the District of Parry Sound, the Meyer and Majestic projects in Kincardine, the Clarington project, and Ostrander Point in Prince Edward County.

See the list of projects by year and quarter here: http://fit.powerauthority.on.ca/program-updates/program-reports

Wind turbines killing bats, other endangered species: Bird Studies Canada report

 

London Free Press, July 20, 2016

By John Miner

Wind turbines are killing bats, including ones on the endangered species list, at nearly double the rate set as acceptable by the Ontario government, the latest monitoring report indicates.

Bats are being killed in Ontario at the rate of 18.5 per turbine, resulting in an estimated 42,656 bat fatalities in Ontario between May 1 and October 31, 2015, according to the report released by Bird Studies Canada, a bird conservation organization.

Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources has set 10 bat deaths per turbine as the threshold at which the mortalities are considered significant and warrant action.

The bats being killed by turbines in Ontario include the little brown bat, tri-coloured bat, eastern small footed bat, and northern long-eared bat, all on the endangered species list.

The Birds Studies Canada report draws its information from a database that is a joint initiative of the Canadian Wind Energy Association, Canadian Wildlife Service, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Bird Studies Canada.

Brock Fenton, an expert in the behaviour and ecology of bats and professor in Western University’s department of biology, said the bat deaths are a concern.

Bat populations across North America have been plunging with the emergence of a fungal disease called white nose syndrome.

Birds are taking less of a hit from wind turbines, according to the report, with an estimated 14,144 non-raptors killed by wind turbines and 462 raptor fatalities between May 1 and October 31 in 2015.

The report noted that some wind farms have moved to reduce bat mortalities by cutting their turbine speeds from dawn to dusk in the late summer and early fall.

A spokesperson for the Canadian Wind Energy Association said the association is concerned about reports that are based on limited data that have the effect of boosting estimates.

In response, CanWea is developing its own system that will be released this fall that is designed to improve existing and proposed bat regulations, said Brandy Giannetta, CanWea’s Ontario regional director.

“It aims to achieve this in part by enhancing knowledge of the existing data in order to drive science-based policy decisions and also by providing avoidance, minimization, and mitigation options that we hope operators and regulators alike will find useful in conservation efforts,” Giannetta said in an email.

Wind Concerns Ontario, a coalition of provincial groups opposed to wind farm development, said it is concerned that birds and, significantly, bats are being killed in numbers that were not forecast by either the Ontario government or the wind power developers.

“The population of the Little Brown Bat in particular is now at 5-10 per cent of its historical levels, so, as the Environmental Review Tribunal stated in the White Pines decision in Prince Edward County, even a few deaths will have a serious impact on the species as a whole. And we know for a certainty that bats are killed by wind turbines,” Jane Wilson, president of Wind Concerns Ontario, said.

It is critical to understand that wind power projects shouldn’t be approved without a full and objective assessment of all factors in any given location. The government’s push for wind power has to be balanced with the continuing need to protect the natural environment, Wilson said. …

Read the full story here.

Wind farm appeals no longer a ‘rubber stamp’ after Ostrander Point community success, says lawyer

“If a sports team went out week after week for the better part of a decade and lost every single game, you would have to question what is going on,” says environmental lawyer Eric Gillespie. “Even the Toronto Maple Leafs win some games.”

Ostrander-Tree
Photo: The Wellington Times

The Wellington Times, July 15, 2016

Ostrander Point Tribunal drags scrutiny of wind and solar projects out into the open

Only when time has passed and the memories of the the yearslong struggle begin to fade, will we know that industrial wind turbines have been banished from Ostrander Point for good. But for now, the creatures who occupy or pass through this bit of land on Prince Edward County’s south shore may do so without the threat of bulldozers rolling across the terrain or 50-storey machines whirring overhead. Maybe forever.

The Ostrander Point wind project has been stopped. Its appeal period has expired. There remain scenarios in which the project could be revived, but that likelihood is now remote, according to the lawyer acting for the Prince Edward County Field Naturalists (PECFN).

“There is rarely a final chapter written in these types of sagas,” said Eric Gillespie. “It is fair to say, however, that the odds of this going further are extremely low. To the best of our understanding, the Gilead Power permit is revoked. That decision is not being appealed. The file has concluded.”

The volunteers who form PECFN allowed themselves to exhale on Thursday evening—after the developer’s appeal period had expired.

“It is particularly wonderful to finally realize that the battle is over,” said Cheryl Anderson of PECFN.

WHAT IT MEANS
The decision by the Environmental Review Tribunal—written by Heather Gibbs and Robert Wright—fundamentally alters the future for Ostrander Point, and has the potential to disrupt other projects involving land where Blanding’s turtles are known to nest, including White Pines and Amherst Island. But it has the potential to reach much further. Indeed, it has the potential to shake the very foundations of the Green Energy Act (GEA).

In 2009, the provincial government, led by Dalton McGuinty, was unsatisfied with the pace of wind and solar energy development in the province. Deadline after deadline had passed and his targets for renewable energy had gone unmet. A panel of experts had reported a year earlier that the regulatory process— the safeguards that protect human health, the environment and even the electrical grid itself—were causing the delays to wind and solar development across the province.

The GEA set out to remove these hurdles—eliminating safeguards in the Ministry of the Environment, Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, Ministry of Energy and the Ontario Energy Board, among others.

Since the GEA was enacted, industrial wind and solar projects have been reviewed and approved behind closed doors in a mostly tightly controlled process. The only nod to public transparency and accountability was a single Environmental Review Tribunal.

But the test, established under the GEA, to overturn or amend a project at the Tribunal stage was thought to be impenetrable. That is, until now.

The only way to block a project with a renewable energy approval (REA), according to the legislation, is that an appellant must prove the risk posed by the project will cause “serious harm to human health,” or “serious and irreversible harm to plant life, animal life or the natural environment.”

dozens of appeal hearings, predictions of impenetrability proved true. Gillespie says this led many to despair the review mechanism was just a formality.

“If a sports team went out week after week for the better part of a decade and lost every single game, you would have to question what is going on,” said Gillespie. “Even the Toronto Maple Leafs win some games.”

He says there was growing consensus among the legal community in Ontario that the test was being interpreted in such a way that “nobody could ever get to first base.”

“For many people, that undermined the credibility of the government and the credibility of the Tribunal’s process,” said Gillespie. “Every hearing became a rubber stamp process.”

The Ostrander Point Tribunal changed that— perhaps in a profound way.

For what it does is bring the review process out into the open. The developer and its lawyers had argued that it was beyond the Tribunal’s reach to consider the thoroughness or strength of the review conducted inside ministry walls. The Tribunal could conclude only whether the tests of harm had been met.

But Tribunal adjudicators Wright and Gibbs weren’t satisfied with this constriction. Nor were they comfortable that the risks, posed by the project to the Blanding’s turtle, were acceptable or the plan to create replacement habitat would work to protect the endangered species. This was much further than some legal experts believed was contemplated by the GEA.

Faced with the probability that the project was likely to damage the Blanding’s turtle population at Ostrander Point, the Tribunal overruled the provincial government and its ministries.

“Legally, it is significant for its ruling that once ‘serious and irreversible harm’ is found and the Tribunal moves into a consideration of appropriate remedy, the Tribunal will step into the Director’s shoes to fashion an appropriate remedy,” wrote Jack Coop et al in June, in an analysis of the decision for Osler, a law firm.

For the first time, an Environmental Review Tribunal had defined the measures it deems, based on the evidence and expert opinion presented before it, necessary to protect the species at risk. It concluded the only remedy demonstrated to work was to revoke the permit—to prevent the project from being built.

The decision, in some instances, will now enable Tribunals to consider concepts as the precautionary principle— that, based on a balance of probabilities, the risk posed by the proposed project is simply too great.

The Ostrander Point decision has the potential to return relevancy to the Tribunal review process, according to Gillespie.

“If the system was to maintain any credibility in the eyes of many across the province, something had to change,” said Gillespie.

He adds it is critical to this sense of faith people have in their regulatory processes that advances made in Ostrander Point are reflected in future decisions.

“If ultimately, appeals to White Pines and Amherst Island fail then arguably, we are back to where we were three years ago,” predicted Gillespie. “People will conclude that the right to appeal such projects is completely hollow.”

Ontario experience shows noise rules don’t work for wind turbines, WCO tells World Health Organization

3-MW wind turbine and house near Brinston, south of Ottawa. Ontario's guidelines were set with reference to WHO guidelines which are not adequate for wind turbine noise. [Photo: Ray Pilon, Ottawa]
3-MW wind turbine and house near Brinston, south of Ottawa. Ontario’s guidelines were set with reference to WHO guidelines which are not adequate for wind turbine noise. [Photo: Ray Pilon, Ottawa]

The World Health Organization recently announced that it is revising its guidelines for environmental noise, for Europe, and this time will include consideration of the noise emissions from utility-scale or industrial-scale wind turbines.

Wind Concerns Ontario has provided a comment document to the WHO.

“We told them, the current guidelines for environmental noise have been adopted and used by other countries to apply to turbine noise,” said Wind Concerns Ontario president Jane Wilson. “The problem is, they don’t work. Our experience in Ontario is that they are not sufficient to protect health, and they need to be updated with the results of recent research.”

While Health Canada claims its 2014 study is the most “comprehensive” in the world, WCO says, the study was criticized from the outset for its design and was in fact never supposed to determine a cause-and-effect relationship between turbine noise and health problems. That said, Wilson explains, the Health Canada study does show an association between the noise emissions and reports of distress.

“There’s a lot of other research, like the Cape Bridgewater study in Australia, for the WHO committee to consider,” Wilson, a Registered Nurse and health writer/editor.

“For example, we now know that simply using dBA to measure turbine noise is only giving part of the picture. More needs to be done to protect health.”

The WHO guidelines for Europe are important because other world jurisdictions, like Ontario, rely on them for their own policy decisions.

The following points are based on the learning from the Ontario experience, says WCO:

  • Application of the WHO Night Time Noise Standard to wind turbines is not appropriate.
  • Limiting exposure to audible noise above 40 dBA is not sufficient to protect health
  • Standards for low frequency noise and infrasound noise emissions from wind turbines, using appropriate measures, are required.
  • The current models used to estimate noise emissions are not accurately predicting the actual noise emissions produced by wind turbines. Different and more complex models are required but these need to be validated with real life experience before they are certified for use in regulatory processes.

See the Wind Concerns Ontario comment document here. WHOStandardsCommentJuly12

contact@windconcernsontario.ca

No appeal in Ostrander Point wind farm case

The Prince Edward County Field Naturalists, who brought the appeal against the Gilead Power wind project at Ostrander Point in Prince Edward County, released this information tonight.

Media Release

Prince Edward County Field Naturalists

PECFN breathes out

July 6, 2016 Picton, Ontario — On June 6, 2016 we reported that “The Tribunal in the Ostrander Point ERT hearing has found that the remedies proposed by Ostrander [Gilead] and the Director are not appropriate in the unique circumstances of this case.  The Tribunal finds that the appropriate remedy under s.145.2.1 (4) is to revoke the Director’s decision to issue the REA [Renewable energy Approval]. ”

Following that decision both the Director (Minister of Environment and Climate Change) and Gilead Power had the right to to appeal to the Divisional Court based on legal errors in the decision of the Environmental Review Tribunal. The proponent had thirty days to submit their appeal and today was the deadline.  As of 5 pm today no notice has come of that request to appeal.

In early 2012 Myrna Wood, Pamela Stagg and I started a blog on Countylive to try to let people know how important the habitat at Ostrander Point Crown Land Block was to migrating birds, bats, and butterflies.  We also spent time writing about reptiles and amphibians at risk and the important imperilled alvar habitat.

At the same time Nature Canada, Ontario Nature and PECFN were writing comments to the Environmental Bill of Rights about the proposed project which the government claimed was public input under the Green Energy Act.  All organizations pointed out the importance of this site to migrating birds, bats, monarchs and species at risk such as the Whip-poor-will and the Blanding’s Turtle.  In spite of all this input the Ministry of the Environment approved a project on December 20, 2012 to install 9 turbines and their associated roads and ancillary equipment at Ostrander Point Crown Land Block.  Given 15 days to appeal, PECFN moved forward, solid in the knowledge that Ostrander Point was the wrong place for wind turbines.

This action has been described as a David versus Goliath battle.  PECFN, a rural organization of about 60 members was up against the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change and a large oil company-owned business.  It is particularly wonderful to finally realize that the battle is over and that “David” has prevailed.  Myrna Wood comments “This was a long and hard battle, but totally worth it – important habitat has been conserved and we are very happy.”

Myrna Wood

Cheryl Anderson

For more information go to: www.savethesouthshore.org

Decision time this week on Ostrander Point wind power project

July 6 is the final date for the proponent of the Ostrander Point wind power project to file an appeal of the Environmental Review Tribunal decision that revokes approval by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change.

Here is a summary of the situation by Charles Birchall of environmental law firm Willms & Shier. There is a lot riding on what happens this week, the lawyer says …

The first appeal where the environmental test was met: will Big Wind let it stand?
The first appeal where the environmental test was met: will Big Wind let it stand?

Wind Farms vs. Blandings Turtles — a decision at last?

Charles Birchall

On June 6, 2016 the Environmental Review Tribunal (“ERT”) released its decision determining the appropriate statutory remedy respecting the Director’s approval of the construction and operation of a nine turbine wind farm at Ostrander Point. The remedy hearing decision takes account of proposed mitigation measures for preventing serious and irreversible harm to the Blanding’s turtle population.

Introduction

Summer is here. Trips and cottage time are being planned. Summer camps will be in full swing shortly. And, Canada Day is fast approaching.

As people prepare to spend a little less time in front of computers, iPads, and cell phones, it may be easy to miss an important date – at least in the context of the three and a half year battle over a renewable energy approval (the “REA”) issued by the Director, Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (the “Director” and “MOECC”) on December 20, 2012, to Ostrander Point GP Inc. as general partner for and on behalf of Ostrander Point Wind Energy LP (“Ostrander”). The REA would permit Ostrander to install nine wind turbine generators (the “Project”) at Ostrander Point near Picton, Ontario.

July 6, 2016 is the last date on which Ostrander can appeal a decision rendered by the ERT to once again revoke the Director’s decision to issue the REA. This is the first REA appeal proceeding where an appellant has met the environmental harm test in s. 145.2.1(2)(b) of the Environmental Protection Act (the “EPA“) – namely a renewable energy project that will cause “serious and irreversible harm to plant life, animal life or to the natural environment”. It is also the first hearing solely on the matter of remedy in the history of renewable energy approval appeals in Ontario.

Read the full article here.