Testimony at Port Ryerse appeal: turbine noise effects ‘devastating’

Port Ryerse residents protested as members of an environmental tribunal hearing into the case of wind turbines proposed for a field next to their village visited the site on Wednesday, June 3, 2015. From left to right are: Mary Goodlet, Bill Irvin, Stew Smith, and Shana Greatrix.  (DANIEL R. PEARCE Simcoe Reformer)

L-R Mary Goodlet, Bill Irvin, Stew Smith and Shana Greatrix, residents of Port Ryerse: Can’t build a chicken coop but a developer can invade with huge wind turbines

Simcoe Reformer, June 3, 2015

PORT RYERSE – Port Ryerse residents fighting against wind turbines slated to go up beside their village are protesting because of the certainty the project will harm them, an environmental tribunal hearing heard.

Sleeplessness, sickness, loss of birds, and falling real estate values have hit every community that has ever hosted turbines, Port Ryerse resident Heather Walters testified.

“These are not guesses,” she said. “It is 100% predictable.”

Walters said she is not normally an outspoken advocate for causes and only took up the case against wind power once she heard about the project and started researching it.

“We are not activists,” she said. “I’ve never been involved in anything like this.”

Wednesday’s hearing was held in the council chambers at town hall in Simcoe in front of lawyers representing residents and the project.

The two-person panel hearing the case has the right to put a halt to the project. Last fall, construction was pushed back after a barn owl, an endangered species, was spotted next to the site.

The hearing also heard from Cayuga resident Grant Church, who cited a number of international studies that suggested wind turbines cause illnesses in people, even well beyond the 550 metre setback the Ontario government has set.

A tool and die maker by trade, Church said there are numerous examples of people being made sick by infrasound created by turbines, sometimes from as far away as 2.2 kilometres.

In one case, he said, a group of French scientists found they were being made sick by an improperly installed fan motor in their workplace. They then started to develop weapons based on their findings.

People made ill by “sick building syndrome” often experience the same thing as living next to turbines and the infrasound they emit, he said.

“You can’t hear it, see it, taste it, or smell it, although you might feel it, but its effects can be devastating,” Church testified.

“Not everyone is affected (by infrasound), but is that a reason for this tribunal to not halt the project?”

Sharon Wong, lawyer for the Port Ryerse Wind Farm Limited Partnership, asked Church why he didn’t include in his witness statement a Health Canada study that determined there was no connection between noise from winds turbines and ill health.

“It conflicted with the reality of what I was seeing on the ground,” Church replied.

He also said he read the report and noted it reported 16.5% of people living near turbines were “affected” by them.

Walters said residents of her village were “shocked” when the project was announced a few years ago and they learned that town hall had no control over it.

She said she was unable to get approval to build an eight-by-ten chicken coop on her property yet the Norfolk County planning department didn’t even know about the wind turbines: approvals for green energy projects rest entirely with the province.

Earlier in the day, the hearing moved to the proposed site of the turbines east of the village where a number of protesters with signs were waiting.

The hearing continues at town hall on Monday.

Daniel R. Pearce

Ontario OK with killing endangered species: Big Wind gets a pass

Turbines or turtles: Hudak to natural resources minister

Photo: Glen Lowson, Niagara This Week.

Two recent news items have pointed out the Ontario government’s stance toward endangered and at-risk species. If they’re in the way of “progress,” it’s OK to kill them. Ontario Ministry of the Environment lawyer Sylvia Davis told a court last year during an appeal related to Ostrander Point, habitat to endangered Blandings turtles (but also a site for migratory birds, and a rare, fragile alvar environment) : “So what if a few turtles die?” she said. “Wind power is important public infrastructure…”

A recent court decision has upheld the government’s ability to grant industry a pass when it comes to protecting endangered and at-risk species. Ontario Nature put out a news release last week to express its disappointment: “This is a disappointing decision for Ontario’s endangered and threatened wildlife,” said Ecojustice lawyer Lara Tessaro. “The Endangered Species Act is intended to put species first — not to let their survival be balanced against competing industrial interests. That would tip the scale towards extinction.”

The Environmental Review Tribunal also recently dismissed an appeal of the approval of the Niagara Region Wind power project, where as many as 20 turbines would be in established Blandings turtle habitat. The Tribunal would not even hear the evidence about the endangered turtles. MPP Tim Hudak protested in the Legislature last week, saying the government needs to “do the right thing” and protect the turtles.

Both these events underscore the simple reality of utility-scale wind power and all its promises to be a tool to save the environment, while producing “clean” power for Ontario. It is, as consultants to the Suzuki Foundation noted in a report on 2002, a high-impact form of power generation for low benefit.

We prefer turtles, thank you. And birds, and little red-sided fishes, and ancient maples, and yes, bats.

Once again, no cost-benefit analysis of ALL the impacts of Ontario’s rush to wind power has ever been done, despite recommendations from two Auditor General.

Ontario, and its unique environment deserves better.

Where were you in protecting endangered species? MPP Hudak asks Minister of Natural Resources

Where were YOU MPP Tim Hudak asks Minister of Natural Resources
Where were YOU? MPP Tim Hudak asks Minister of Natural Resources

Yesterday, MPP Tim Hudak rose to ask a question about the Blandings turtle, which is an officially endangered species in Ontario, and whose habitat is now threatened by the approved Niagara Region wind power project.

Here is the record of the exchange:

Mr. Tim Hudak: My question is for the Minister of Natural Resources. Minister, Blanding’s turtle is a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. Where it exists in Ontario, it lives in shallow waterways and wetlands, including the Niagara peninsula. They are uniquely vulnerable to extinction because it takes 20 years before females start to reproduce.

The Ontario courts made the decision recently that set a precedent: When choosing between industrial wind turbines and a threatened species, Blanding’s turtle, they sided with the turtle, tossing out a wind farm application. It was the right decision. It was the right thing to do.

My question simply is, if it’s right in Prince Edward county, shouldn’t we protect the Blanding’s turtle environment everywhere in the province of Ontario?


The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Be seated, please. Thank you.

Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry.

Hon. Bill Mauro: I want to thank the member for the question. Before he concluded, I was gathering my thoughts—and the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, who I know would love to weigh in on this as well was having a similar thought and lobbed it over to me. He found it, I think, as I did, very interesting that the official opposition is asking a question in this regard.

The member posed a question. He seems to be supportive of what has happened in this case. I would assume that in the supplementary, he’s going to come forward with some information that suggests that in another instance the Blanding’s turtle did not carry the day. I would assume that’s the point of the question that’s coming forward. I look forward to hearing exactly what he has to say.

I’m happy to hear that in the first question he was happy that the Endangered Species Act, which we brought into place, actually did have an effect to protect endangered species. I’m happy to hear that you’re pleased with the legislation, although I don’t think it’s legislation that you supported when it was originally introduced into the House.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary.

Mr. Tim Hudak: I thank the minister for anticipating my question. I just would hope to get a single answer from the minister about how he’s going to protect the threatened species in the province.

You got it exactly right: The courts have determined in the decision that steel turbines 500 metres tall cemented in 40 truckloads of concrete in a wetland should lose out to a threatened species, the Blanding’s turtle. I agree with that decision; I’m sure you agree with that decision as well.

My point is, Minister, why was it that it was the courts that had to force your hand? Where were you? You’re the minister. You need to know your role and play it. You have the lead on the Endangered Species Act in the province of Ontario. Instead of waiting for the courts to intervene in the Niagara peninsula, will you do the right thing? Your choice is between the turtle or more steel. What should be in the wetlands, the endangered species or—

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Thank you.


The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Be seated, please. Thank you.


Hon. Bill Mauro: Speaker, with the legislation in place, there is a committee called COSSARO, the Committee on—


The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): It’s never too late.

Finish, please.

Hon. Bill Mauro: Under the legislation—that I don’t think the opposition supported and they seem to be loving now—COSSARO stands for the Committee on the Status of Species at Risk in Ontario. They make a decision on when a species is listed. Once it’s listed, it receives protection, and the habitat for the species also receives protection. Through that—


The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): The member from Niagara West, I’m standing. You should know that.

Finish, please.

Hon. Bill Mauro: Through that process, once the species is listed and the habitat is protected and a project is overlaid on that particular species and its habitat, there is a process in place called overall benefit, where if the contractor or the proponent can come forward and provide a way to accommodate the species—

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Thank you.

Wind farm opponent legal team to update community Tuesday

Sarnia Observer, May 23, 2015

By Paul Morden

Lawyers battling wind energy projects in Ontario are set to speak at a town hall event Tuesday evening at the Camlachie Community Centre.

The citizens’ group We’re Against Industrial Turbines, Plympton-Wyoming (WAIT-PW) has arranged for Julian Falconer and Asha James to speak at the public information meeting arranged as construction of Suncor and NextEra’s 46-turbine Cedar Point wind energy project has begun in Lambton.

The meeting is set to begin at 7 p.m.

“There are a lot of outstanding questions, and we’re going to try and answer some of them at the town hall,” said WAIT-PW member Santo Giorno.

Falconer and James have been involved in legal challenges of wind projects around the province, including an Aberarder family’s ongoing challenge of the Cedar Point wind farm.

Falconer also spoke at an earlier town hall meeting organized by the citizens’ group that formed after Suncor began planning the wind project.

“He’s going to try and answer the question, ‘Just where are we now, and what are the next steps,'” Giorno said.

WAIT-PW continues to raise money to help fund legal battles against the wind project.

Aberarder residents Kimberley and Richard Bryce unsuccessfully appealed the Cedar Point project’s provincial approval to Ontario’s Environmental Review Tribunal, and have since appealed to the Division Court for Ontario.

“Some people will say, ‘Well, it’s too late,’ but we feel that it’s never too late,” Giorno said.

“We can’t just let them walk all over us. We have to continue the struggle.”

Giorno said the start of construction on the wind turbines in Plympton-Wyoming, Lambton Shores and Warwick Township could generate more opposition to the wind project.

He also pointed to an incident April, being investigated by Ontario’s Environment Ministry, where 3,000 square metres of protected trees were cut down during land development for the Cedar Point project.

Suncor has said removal of the trees near Fuller Road and Proof Line in Lambton Shores was a mistake and has apologized.

“I think a number of people are actually a bit more upset now than they were initially, when they see what’s going on,” Giorno said.

“The destruction of trees on protected wetlands has really angered a lot of people.”

Giorno said WAIT-PW members will also be on hand at the town hall meeting to provide information and answer questions from the public.

“We’re going to talk about some of the more current research that has gone on this field,” he added.

Decision to protect endangered turtle upheld-wind farm would cause serious harm

Protection of wildlife in Ontario in the hands of the people, not the government or the wind industry
Protection of wildlife in Ontario in the hands of the people, not the government or the wind industry

Here is a statement from the Prince Edward County Field Naturalists:

The Ontario Court of Appeal reversed a lower court ruling regarding a Renewal Energy Approval of the 9-turbine Ostrander Point industrial wind project. The decision reinstates the key initial finding of the Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) that serious and irreversible harm to threatened Blanding’s Turtles will occur if the project operates as approved.

“We’re very pleased. The court has ruled in favour of protecting the environment, which is what we’ve asked for throughout“ said Myrna Wood of the successful appellant Prince Edward County Field Naturalists.

“The decision is undoubtedly important” said Eric Gillespie, its legal counsel. “This is the first renewable energy case to reach the Court of Appeal. The Court has supported our client’s fundamental concerns and affirmed a number of legal principles that clearly will be relevant to other appeals.”

The question of remedy has been directed back to the ERT.

For further information contact Myrna Wood 613-476-1506 myrna@kos.com or Eric Gillespie 416-436-7473 (voice/text) egillespie@gillespielaw.ca

And, more detail from Cheryl Anderson, spokesperson for PECFN:

The Prince Edward County Field Naturalists have finally won their appeal against an industrial wind turbine project at Ostrander Point.  The Decision by the Appeal Court of Ontario found that the project will cause serious and irreversible harm to the Blanding’s turtle and its habitat.

It also found that Gilead Power and the Ontario Ministry of the Environment did not get a hearing of their proposal for a different remedy and that the Environmental Review Tribunal should hear that proposal.  The ‘remedy’ proposed was to put gates on the access roads to stop public traffic. PECFN is more than willing to show the Tribunal how putting gates on the very access roads, which will cause the irreversible harm, is no remedy at all.

This decision shows that with careful thought the Court of Appeal has recognized the serious consequences that would result in the development of Ostrander Point Crown Land Block.  The court has referred back to the Environmental Review Tribunal the matter of gates on the turbine access roads, which is described as a remedy to the serious and irreversible harm to the Blanding’s Turtle.  The consideration of this matter was not allowed by the Divisional Court.

The decision also shows that even though the structure of the Green Energy Act imposes almost impossible odds against environmental protection, determined people can succeed in making their case heard.


Durham Citizens to appeal court decision on endangered species

Endangered Redside Dace: Ontario's environmental legislation is supposed to protect, not aid destruction
Endangered Redside Dace: Ontario’s environmental legislation is supposed to protect, not aid destruction

News Release from DACES/Durham Citizens for Endangered Species

The DACES (Durham Area Citizens for Endangered Species) Inc. judicial review of the MNRF (Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry) was heard in Brampton, Ontario, on March 19th, 2015.

The judicial review alleged that the MNRF failed to protect sensitive endangered species habitat from wind turbine construction in a protected area of Ontario. Primarily at issue was whether the Ontario Government, through its Ministry, allowed a for-profit corporation to “self-regulate” with regards to determining whether its construction activities would harm the habitat of an endangered species, the Redside Dace.

Judgement was handed down on March 25, 2015. The Court dismissed the DACES Inc. application, on the grounds that the decision made by the MNRF did not constitute a “statutory power of decision” which the Court could review judicially.

Respectfully, DACES Inc. disagrees with this finding, as in DACES Inc.’s view, amongst other concerns, it appears to contradict the Mandate of the MNRF as stated by Premier Kathleen Wynne (detailed below).

DACES Inc. will be filing a “Leave to Appeal” application within 15 days from March 25th. It is the hope of DACES Inc. that leave will be granted, which would allow the Ontario Court of Appeal to hear DACES Inc.’s concerns. DACES Inc. firmly believes this issue is one of concern to all Ontario citizens, who share a legacy of natural heritage that deserves to be protected.

The Committee on the Status of Species at Risk in Ontario (COSSARO) listed the Redside Dace as endangered in 2009 under Ontario’s Endangered Species Act, 2007.  Redside Dace was assessed as endangered in Canada by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) in April of 2007. The Redside Dace is currently being considered for listing as endangered under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA)

Premier Kathleen Wynne, in her September 2014 Mandate Letter to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, included the following directive: Implementing the Endangered Species Act. I ask that you continue to implement the act in a way that protects and promotes the recovery of species at risk in Ontario.

Respectfully, the decision of the MNRF, and subsequently the Court, does not appear to be fulfilling this mandate.

DACES v Ontario-Final Decision-March 25 2015

Ontario gov’t misleads public on environmental, economic benefits of wind farms: Algoma residents

A wind turbine operates at Red Rock. The 126 turbines at Prince, 11 at Goulais and another 26 at Bow Lake, form what is referred to by opponents as the cumulative effect, impacting, the view of the natural landscape and human health and wildlife.

Wind turbine at Red Rock joins 11 at Goulais Bay and 26 at Bow Lake in despoiling Algoma environment, says community group

Sault Star, March 13, 2015

ALGOMA – The Goulais Wind Farm north of Sault Ste. Marie, is in its final stages of construction with towers and turbine blades being hoisted into place with huge cranes.

Although weather especially winds and cold has impacted this phase of the project, it will be operational this spring.

Not everyone is blown away.

Goulais River resident Gillan Richards believes the province has misinformed the public by providing them with biased information in its move to generate energy from the wind as a renewable and green resource.

“When the Ontario government decided they were going to get into big wind as a green alternative to dirty coal, which isn’t all that dirty after all, they put out these messages that have not been fair,” she said in a recent interview at her home.

If the people of Ontario decide they can endorse and live with wind farms, then that’s a democratic society at work, “but the people have never been given that opportunity, they’ve been given a biased picture of it,” said Richards.

Richards is a retired high school English teacher. As an educator she believes “it is important to present both sides of the case and let the public talk about it and decide what they can live with.”

When speaking about Northern Ontario as opposed to the south, she wonders why they would want turbines anymore than we would. Is it because the region up here is less populated?

The huge geographical region between Sault Ste. Marie and Wawa, excluding Prince Township, is unorganized and without local governance.

“The difficulty here for us; I can’t think of any area, any county in Southern Ontario which is unorganized,” Richards said. “Between here and Wawa there is no organized governance.”

Unorganized townships have Local Services Boards (LSB) and Local Roads Boards (LRB), which have no allowance in the statute to become involved in electricity or its transmission.

Board members are elected by the community and have specific responsibilities, such as volunteer fire services, roads and recreation.

“But there’s nothing in the law that allows these groups to act in lieu of a municipal council,” said Richards.

Richards had attended several meetings about whether or not Goulais residents wanted recycling pick up to continue

“It became evident and they were very outspoken that they did not want to become an organized township,” Richards said. “This is something they held very dear, this is why they live here.”

She agrees with this choice fully because “we are living as close as we can to the wilderness that is left and that is what we want.”

What residents want and what they end up with could well be beyond their control if the Catherine Wynne’s government continues to push on with big wind as a renewable and sustainable resource for energy production.

Wynne said that she would allow a community council to declare itself an unwilling host to industrial wind turbine (IWT) development, “she would presumably not develop turbines in that area,” said Richards.

If a municipality declares itself an unwilling host, there is a mechanism to do that through governance, but that mechanism does not exist in the unorganized areas between Wawa and the Sault.

“What we value is the wilderness here, it’s not pristine as it’s already been mined and logged. We want to keep what’s left not just for the locals but for everyone,” she said.

The tourism industry is vital in Algoma and along the route between the Sault and Thunder Bay as many well established businesses promote the “naturally gifted” and “it’s that spectacular” beauty of the area.

“But you put industrial turbines that go 500 feet in the air and you don’t really think you are in the wilderness anymore, it’s really visually jarring,” said Richards.

“Tourism is critically important. The Sault is the gateway to the Lake Superior route and one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world.”

Businesses and organizations are promoting ecotourism as a viable, year-round sustainable industry.

“All that carries absolutely zip weight with the Ontario government and the Environmental Review Tribunal … It is simply not allowable as a part of argument even though Premiere (Kathleen) Wynne says you can object,” Richards said.

“We are unorganized here in this region and can’t do that. It leaves us disadvantaged.”

Whether it be wind, hydro, solar, coal or nuclear, the consequences must be weighed, researched and followed. All energy sources have downsides, but many are terrified of nuclear, even though it has become safer, experts say.

“But they have to realize that without nuclear power backing up renewables in Ontario, there wouldn’t be sufficient power to meet consumer needs,” said Richards, who estimates almost 60% of the province’s power is produced by nuclear.

The planet does not have an infinite supply of rare metals to supply those commodities necessary for the production of solar panels. Eventually these metals will be gone because they aren’t renewable.

“The point I was trying to make is that there are actual, and potential, consequences to the environment no matter what present means of power generation are used as some resources on planet Earth are limited,” said Richards.

Educating consumers about energy conservation and financing research into power generation production which are not damaging to environment, humans and wildlife, is tantamount, she said.

“In my opinion, the Ontario government did not do its homework. In trying to correct an economic problem, it has in fact created a greater problem,’ Richards added.

Then there’s the issue of migratory creatures, such as insects, birds and bats. That is irreversible harm.

There is no migrant bird observatory between St. Joseph Island and Wawa, “or maybe Manitoulin Island, but there is evidence coming from Whitefish Point in Michigan,” said Richards.

The Whitefish Bird Observatory in Chippewa County, Mich., is a non-profit affiliate education and research facility of the Michigan Audubon Society, established in 1978.

Whitefish Point is a narrow peninsula that goes several kilometres into Lake Superior. Canada is about 27 kilometres away, but according to their website “the geography of this location makes it a natural funnel for migration.

Birds of all kinds migrate between their northern breeding grounds in Canada and their warmer wintering grounds to the south.

“It was considered out of scope and not acceptable to the tribunal,” said Richards. “Once you kill X number of birds per turbine, they’re dead and they’re gone forever,” she said, adding she believes is irreversible harm. You will never remove 500 tons of rebar and concrete per turbine and that is irreversible harm as far as I know, I don’t know how you would reverse that because even if nature in itself is destructive, we as humans do not have the right to damage the life of other creatures.”

Causing irreversible harm is unethical, she said. Soon, there will be an accumulated effect of 126 wind turbines between Prince 1 and 2, and another 11 at Goulais Wind Farm. Add another 26 at Bow Lake in Montreal River.

Richards said in her closing statement as a participant for the Environmental Review Tribunal hearing in December 2013, that a map published by consulting firm Stantec indicates proposed wind projects for Northland Lake, Heyden, Island, Ranger Lakes and Stokely Creek.

Should another development come to fruition, the Lucinda Project on the north side of Goulais Bay, it would “literally surround the residents with turbines.”

“You come to one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world and it has turbines along the coast and in the water,” Richards said.

“And if you think that’s a dead issue, think again.”

Having attended all open houses and information sessions, she said there was an overwhelming rejection of industrial wind in Algoma.

Each presenter and participant in the ERT hearing who appeared on behalf of appellant Doug Moseley, “emphasized helplessness, hopelessness, frustration and despair, associated with the building of IWT in the iconic wilderness of the Algoma District.”

Joanie and Gary McGuffin, well known adventure/photojournalists, work tirelessly to develop Algoma as a sustainable year-round ecotourism economy, argued turbines would seriously mar the landscape.

Gary has taken aerial photos of the developments “and it is visual reminder to the people that you may think not much is happening, until you see the infrastructure, roads being built.”

In the Environment Review Tribunal hearing, Karen Streich, an economist who has experience in economic development in First Nations and rural areas, said, “as long-time residents of Goulais River, both she and her husband feel their rights have been violated.”

She said the Ontario government is not heeding the plea of local people to determine their own economic destiny in a lifestyle in keeping with the rural north, and no real objective long-term assessment has been done locally.

For 32 years, Richards taught English at the former Bawating C&VS, a state-of-the-art facility closed and demolished several years ago to make way for Superior Heights C&VS.

She also worked as co-ordinator of secondary programs with Algoma District School Board.

“It was my responsibility to assist teachers to prepare their students for the Grade 10 reading and writing test,” Richards said, adding she realized that 70% of a student’s performance was not based on his or her ability to read and write but an ability to think.

“My point is that where you live can be an important factor in conditioning how you think,’ Richards said.

Many of her students came from the Heyden, Searchmont and Goulais areas.

“What I noticed over the years, and I was acutely aware that students who came from Bawating’s feeder schools, were sensitive to the features of the wilderness world they inhabited.”

They tended to be physically active, hardy, resourceful and practical.

It has been documented that proximity to IWTs can cause sleep disruption.

The issues raised in Moseley’s notice of appeal of the GWF, “are the potential health effects from exposure to infrasound, low-frequency noise, audible noise, visual impact and/or electromagnetic fields.”

“As an educator I have noted that any one, or a combination, of these factors may interfere with memory and concentration to the point where someone says, ‘I can’t hear myself think,’ ” Richards said.

Richards demonstrated the impact noise has on adolescent learners and questioned the effect of turbine noise and visual impact on “teenaged learners to concentrate, memorize and sleep.”

On April 17, 2014, ERT dismissed Moseley’s appeal of the approval of the Goulais Wind Farm. Richards said that everyone who put themselves forward as presenters, participants and expert witnesses throughout the appeal process, are not against change, but are rather looking at the fact that decisions have consequences.

Nothing is free, everything has a trade off, “and the imposition of IWTs is not a solution to the Ontario government’s perceived need to procure a greener energy and it is certainly not a solution which has its regional needs and agendas.” Richards said she believes the government’s need for green is not a solution to be imposed “on rural Ontario who’s needs and agendas have been ignored and trampled on by the Ontario government.”

Save Ontario’s Algoma Region or SOAR is a Wind Concerns Ontario community group member.

Manvers appeal dismissed

Image result for City of Kawartha Lakes

Tribunal rules in favour of wind farm

February 19,  Peterborough Examiner

A bid by an area group to stop the construction of a wind turbine facility southwest of Peterborough has failed.

Ontario’s Environmental Review Tribunal ruled Thursday that the appeal by Manvers Wind Concerns and Cham Shan Temple to stop the planned wind farm would not go forward.

In a 207-page written ruling, the tribunal stated that concerns raised about the facility were not enough to stop its development.

“In summary, the tribunal finds that the evidence does not demonstrate that the project will cause serious and irreversible harm to plant life, animal life or the natural environment of the traditional lands of the First Nations participants,” the ruling states, rejecting the complainants’ arguments.

Sumac Ridge Wind Inc. was granted a licence to operates a Class 4 wind facility at 801 Ballyduff Rd., Pontypool in 2012. The project is to have five turbines, with access roads, cabling and a switching station.

The appeal was filed in 2013.

Wind developer ‘pleased’

“We’re obviously pleased with the decision from the ERT,” stated Ian MacRae, president of wpd Canada, the company behind the project. “Sumac Ridge has gone through months of review and scrutiny, both through the Ministry of Environment approval process and the ERT appeal.”

The tribunal heard evidence at hearings in Pontypool, Curve Lake and Toronto on several days over the past few months – Nov. 17-20 and 24, Dec. 2-5, 9-12 and 19, and Jan. 5 and 23.

Other participants in the process included Cransley Home Farm Ltd., Hiawatha First Nation, Curve Lake First Nation, the City of Kawartha Lakes and the Save the Oak Ridges Moraine Coalition.

These opponents to the plan claimed the project would cause harm to human health, plants, animals and the environment.

Diane Chen of Cham Shan Temple told the tribunal that the wind farm would affect the under-construction temple on Ski Hill Rd. The Buddhist temple is intended to be a major tourism draw for the region once constructed, but the wind farm would lead to distraction as visitors try to meditate, she said.

The tribunal also heard from other experts who talked about the impact of the facility on groundwater and natural wildlife habitats. However, the tribunal rejected those concerns.

Testimony ‘sincere’

“While raising an important concern that the “balance of life” would be disrupted, the participants did not provide any specifics about how this would occur because of the project,” the ruling states. “Their testimony was sincere and heartfelt, but it does not constitute evidence demonstrating that the project will cause the harm they allege.”

MacRae said the project, which is expected to generate 26,497,200 kWh, will now go ahead.

Building credibility for wind power: more persuasion ahead

Orchestrating the "right" message to the people of Ontario: wind is good (and if you object, there is something wrong with you)
Orchestrating the “right” message to the people of Ontario: wind is good (and if you object, there is something wrong with you)

Previously, I reviewed the first three steps Nanos Research recommended to CanWEA for future messaging on wind energy as “cleaner, healthier and more sustainable” and “humanizing” the industry by engaging celebrities and using “children and young families” as the face and voice of the industry.

Nanos Research recommended three more steps CanWEA together with examples of past successes.

Step Four:

“Further strengthen industry-government relations through joint communications opportunities around wind-related educational programs, contests and events engaging schools, youth and young families.”

This recommendation is simply a reiteration of what CanWEA have successfully done since their inception with great success.  Examples of their success include:

  • CanWEA joined OSEA as a member.  OSEA’s predecessor, the GEAA (Green Energy Act Alliance) convinced the Liberals to develop the Green Energy Act.
  • CanWEA teamed up with Toronto Hydro to sponsor events aimed at promoting wind to kids.
  • CanWEA’s press release of September 2009 indicates the group’s relationship with the Ontario Liberal government when an announcement was made by then Energy and Infrastructure Minister George Smitherman at the opening ceremonies of CanWEA’s annual conference.  “We welcome the Ontario government’s plan to upgrade this province’s electricity grid,” said CanWEA President Robert Hornung. “This is a huge boost to the continued development of wind energy as a viable renewable energy source in Ontario. This plan opens the door for the wind industry to grow…”
  • CanWEA successfully influenced the science curriculum in schools as noted in a series of articles I wrote, “Ontario’s Green Religion.” CanWEA hosts an annual contest for students, and sponsors bursaries, as well as monitors and rewards students’ blogs.

CanWEA has already been out front to ensure their message reaches the OLP and our children; it is hard to imagine they could actually do more to strengthen their government relationships or influence “youth and young families” but we should expect renewed efforts to do so.

Step Five:

“Continue to build comfort and credibility in wind energy through creative social media products aimed primarily at diminishing public misapprehensions of wind turbines, repositioning turbines as merely the latest version of wind energy devices to have evolved over centuries of mankind’s harnessing the wind.”

This next step from Nanos is really a recommendation to continue the “spin” by ignoring issues related to: human health, killing birds and bats, unreliability and intermittent production, shadow flicker and the economic costs and creation of “energy poverty” for people on fixed incomes, with disabilities or stay at home parents.  CanWEA generally does this by insuring their supporters and their media activities focus only on the perceived “positives” about industrial wind turbines.

  • In order to foster “comfort” and “credibility” CanWEA welcomes organizations to join; a Tweet on January 26 links to a new YouTube video which extols the virtues of corporate membership.
  • Twitter has also been used in recent weeks to tout the idea that a fundamental change in thinking is occurring (“Energy shift requires a shift in conversation,” January 12) and that wind power is a positive for the economy (“Guelph emerging as leader in renewable energy sector with 2,000 jobs tied to alternative energy sources,” January 7). Again, this refers back to earlier advice to portray wind power naysayers as “backwards” and “out of touch.”
  • Pew Research recently noted in a report that 71% of adults who are regularly online use Facebook. CanWEA has a presence here too, with an adult and corporate focus. Recent posts include promotion of 2015 corporate events and news stories such as “Wind offers a healthy way to generate power” December 22, 2014.

From the foregoing it becomes obvious that the activity aimed to build “comfort and credibility” has focused on those who are already sold on the concept, so we should expect to see the focus shift to the general population with an emphasis on youth and young families.   That appears to have started as the CanWEA website has three short Fact Sheets on Health, Property Values, and Price in which it is claimed “experts” have dispelled any negatives on those issues.

No fact sheet exists to dispel bird and bat deaths caused by industrial wind turbines, but we should expect CanWEA will locate an expert to do that.  Noted in a 2012 press release: “As the Environmental Commissioner has clearly stated, wind turbines are not a major cause of bird fatalities, but the industry is working diligently to reduce and mitigate impacts. In Canada, we have partnered with the Canadian Wildlife Service, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Bird Studies Canada to create and maintain the Wind Energy Bird and Bat Monitoring Database that provides the information required to assess the impact of wind turbines and inform the development of appropriate regulatory frameworks and mitigation requirements,” said Robert Hornung, president of CanWEA.”  The database is not linked or publicly available on the CanWEA website—could it be that it shows Ontario’s kill rate of birds and bats (including several “species at risk”) is the worst in Canada?

Step Six:

 “Use survey data and benchmarking to measure progress and fine-tune the narrative, and provide the data to government and other stakeholders to further enhance support.”

This is calculated advice for CanWEA because the survey respondents were “blinkered”! A significant proportion of the respondents were city-dwellers, and many admitted they were not well-informed on wind power issues. The report failed to detail the knowledge level of respondents, or poll those who actually reside in affected communities, failed to focus on health, failed to focus on property value losses, and failed to focus on issues affecting nature.

As the Ontario government prepares to accept new applications for as much as 300 megawatts of new wind power capacity in 2015, this type of industry persuasion will continue. It will fall to those of us who care about Ontario’s rural communities and the economic health of this province to present all sides to these persuasive arguments.

©Parker Gallant

January 2015