March 5, 2018
“All the rules are made to be broken”
Representatives of three community groups where wind turbine projects are currently under construction, addressed the Wind Concerns Ontario conference in Kingston this past weekend, and told hair-raising stories of violations of Renewable Energy Approvals, disobedience of municipal orders, ignoring conditions of road use agreements, and more.
Anne Dumbrille, chair of the County Coalition for Safe Appropriate Green Energy (CCSAGE-Naturally Green) and Orville Walsh of the Alliance to Protect Prince Edward County (APPEC), both based in Prince Edward County, detailed the abuses of the Renewable Energy Approval and IESO contract by Germany-based wind power developer wpd in construction of the contentious White Pines wind power project.
The White Pines project was originally planned to produce electricity for Ontario’s surplus-laden power grid via 29 huge wind turbines. A successful appeal based on heritage aspects of The County reduced the turbine number to 27; another appeal (Hirsch v. MOECC) was partially successful and saw the project reduced from 27 to 9 turbines, based on harm to endangered species.
“We had been operating under the belief that having to meet the 75 percent of power requirement in the contract with the IESO [Independent Electricity System Operator] actually meant something,” said Walsh. “It turns out, it doesn’t. Contracts don’t mean anything — they can do whatever they want.”
Dumbrille echoed that with a litany of abuses. The White Pines project is way past its specified commercial operation date, she said, which should mean the IESO could terminate the contract, but it hasn’t. “The Long Stop Date has no meaning or relevance, despite being in the regulations,” she said. “The decision appears to be political.”
The public also expected that while the power project was being appealed, construction work would not be allowed, particularly in the areas presented as habitat for the endangered Blandings turtle, but in fact, both the MOECC and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry allowed it. Only when citizens took action in court was a stop work order achieved.
“Why must citizen groups rather than government protect habitat destruction?” Dumbrille asked.
The land clearing in turtle habitat continued after the appeal for the nine remaining turbines outside the limits imposed by the Environmental Review Tribunal. Again, citizens went to court, and again a stop order was issued, but not before habitat was destroyed. A transmission station is planned to be built in a stream bed which is against regulations and will require the taking of water. Again, the MOECC appears to side with the power developer on all issues.
“All the rules are made to be broken,” said Dumbrille, “to benefit the wind power developer. And the public has no right to information, apparently.”
Janet Grace, past chair of the Association to Protect Amherst Island (APAI), described numerous violations of the Renewable Energy Approval, road use agreements, and provincial safety regulations by “Windlectric” a shell company developing a power project on the island for Algonquin Power. Construction staff and vehicles are supposed to be using a barge to get to the island, she said, but they’re not: instead, they use the passenger ferry which is resulting in delays for Island residents, many of whom work across the water in KIngston, and concerns about safety.
Roads are blocked without notice, and construction throughout the winter has virtually destroyed roads, so much so that the municipality Loyalist Township issued a stop work order. Resident photographs indicate however, that the order was ignored, with the power developer construction firm continuing work. In addition, Grace said, the company is supposed to stop work at 7 PM, but in reality is working until 11 PM.
“The sad thing is, Grace said, “we know this is just the beginning of what is being done to our Island. There are rules being broken, and violations … the MOECC gives them exemptions. They’re just getting away with it all.”