Government lawyer derails citizen appeal to protect environment, endangered wildlife

Ministry of the Environment lawyer steps in as Prince Edward County citizens appealed for a stay of unauthorized construction activities in endangered turtle habitat

Massive clearing of vegetation in Prince Edward County wetland area. This project is still under appeal, but the developer has gone ahead
Massive clearing of vegetation in Prince Edward County wetland area. This project is still under appeal, but the developer has gone ahead [Photo: APPEC]
April 6, 2016, Picton, Ontario —

STATEMENT FROM ALLIANCE TO PROTECT PRINCE EDWARD COUNTY (APPEC)

First and foremost our great thanks to everyone who responded to our call to attend the Court of Appeal hearing.  The courtroom was filled to capacity with no seats left empty.  The numbers left an impression on all present from the judge to the security guards who were curious about what case all the commotion was about.  It was a packed courtroom by anyones’ standards and we thank all of you who made this possible.  Our special thanks to Mayor Quaiff and Warren Howard of Wind Concerns Ontario. 
 
However the outcome of today’s hearing is not what we had hoped for.  On our arrival we had hoped that Justice Katherine van Rensburg would hear our appeal and our new evidence including aerial photography of the destruction that has occurred at the White Pines project site since WPD began clearing vegetation two days ago, as depicted in one photograph attached. 
 
Instead Sylvia Davis, lawyer for the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change, cited a ruling from over fifty years ago that only a panel of three judges could hear an appeal of this nature.  It became clear at that point that the motion would not be heard until after the legal matter of whether this was properly before the court had been dealt with, with a potentially unfavourable decision. Rather than spend considerable time and money on legal wrangling the decision was made to withdraw our motion for a stay on all physical activity at the White Pines project site.  The motion was withdrawn on consent of all parties and without costs.
We have received the written reasons from the Environmental Review Tribunal for its original refusal of our stay motion.  We will immediately be going to the Tribunal to once again request a stay.  As the saying goes when one door closes, another opens.  More information will follow soon.
 
Lastly, there is a short article on the Wind Concerns website with another photograph of the after-effects of vegetation clearing at www.windconcernsontario.ca
  
Regards,
Orville Walsh
President, APPEC

Wind power developer clears endangered wildlife habitat, without approval

ToughonNature
April 6—
On Monday April 4, wind power developer WPD Canada began clearing trees for turbine sites for the White Pines project in southern Prince Edward County. This work began in areas known to be habitat for the endangered Blandings Turtle; the power developer is continuing even though there are reports that milder weather has resulted in the turtles emerging early from their winter hibernation, and are at great risk.
 
This clearing work is also taking place despite the recent decision by the Ontario Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) to reverse the approval for the project on the grounds that it will cause serious and irreversible harm to the endangered Blandings Turtles. The ERT has not yet scheduled the next phase for the appeal process, which is hearings on remedy to the situation for the wildlife.
Until the Tribunal has reached a final decision, the power developer cannot have full approval to proceed with this project.
Please see the aerial photos provided by the Alliance to Protect Prince Edward County (APPEC). APPEC will have a report shortly.
For more information on the legal fight, go to www.savethesouthshore.org
SSHore-3
SShoreDestruction-2

Mayors, citizen groups meet with Environmental Commissioner on wind farms

Citizens, municipal and provincial politicians and environmental groups met with Ontario Environmental Commissioner yesterday, detailing environmental, health and economic impacts from wind power projects and thousands of complaints about turbine noise. The Commissioner says she can’t do anything

Prince Edward County councillor Steve Ferguson and Mayor Robert Quaiff, and Warren Howard of Wind Concerns Ontario at the meeting table in Toronto yesterday [Photo: Todd Smith MPP]

April 5, 2016 TORONTO—

Wind Concerns Ontario was one of the presenters at a meeting in Toronto Monday with Ontario’s new Environmental Commissioner Dianne Saxe. The meeting was organized and led by MPP Lisa Thompson,  environment critic for the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario.

Wind Concerns Ontario (WCO) introduced its presentation by stating that our members of the coalition of community groups and individuals are about the impact of industrial- or utility-scale wind power development on the economy, environment and human health. “That sounds like three things, but it isn’t,” President Jane Wilson told the Commissioner. “The environment is everything: it is the economy, it is the natural environment, and it is health.”

Warren Howard, in speaking for WCO, detailed the fact that Ontario’s noise regulations are inadequate to protect health, which is borne out by research including the Health Canada noise study and the Cape Bridgewater study, to name two. He said that WCO learned from the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change that there are more than 2,700 files of noise complaints. Details have been requested under Freedom of Information from the Ministry but not produced after a year; the matter is now in the hands of Ontario’s Privacy Commissioner.

Wind Concerns told the Commissioner that it is not merely audible noise that is the problem but infrasound/low frequency noise that produces unique sensation among some individuals exposed to the emissions. The group referred to several individual locations as examples of problems such as Prince Edward County where an eminent acoustics specialist testified before the Environmental Review Tribunal that virtually everyone in that community would be exposed to the turbine noise emissions. WCO also mentioned the Niagara project where thousands of homes will be within 1.5 km of 77 industrial-scale turbines. By conservative estimates, as many as 1,000 people could be affected by exposure to the noise emissions.

WCO concluded its presentation by asserting that the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change is not fulfilling its mandate of ensuring a “healthy environment” for Ontarians. Wind Concerns asked the Commissioner for a full review of Ontario’s noise regulations under Section 61 under the Environmental Protection Act.

Other presenters made striking presentations including Barbara Ashbee of Victims of Wind, City of Kawartha Lakes councilor Heather Stauble, Prince Edward County councilor Steve Ferguson and  Robert Quaiff, Mayor of Prince Edward County, and Deputy Mayor Dutton-Dunwich, Bob Purcell. Representatives of citizens’ groups from Bruce County and Huron County also presented reports of environmental and health problems. There have been so many complaints of poor health from turbine noise emissions in Huron County, people told the Commissioner that, where the Health Unit has launched a formal investigation .

Mayor Quaiff detailed several environmental concerns about the two wind power projects proposed for Prince Edward County, saying that not only were the power plants to be built on land where endangered Blandings turtles and Little Brown Bats are found, the sites are also on important migratory pathways for birds. “Questions are not being answered,” he said, about the effects of materials used in turbine construction such as the reinforced steel bars and concrete foundations, which will leach into the water table. He added that the turbines will have a negative impact on the wineries locally, and the bird-watching areas. “The South Shore is the last undeveloped shoreline on Lake Ontario,” he said. “I think it should stay that way.”

MPPs Todd Smith, Laurie Scott and Jeff Yurek were also at the meeting.

In her closing remarks MPP Lisa Thompson said that while everyone wants to do the right thing for the environment, key parts of the wind power process are “not working.” “What is working,” MPP Thompson said, “is we have an Environmental Commissioner and I hope we can move forward.”

Commissioner Saxe said that her office is dealing with hundreds of issues and can realistically handle only five or six a year. She acknowledged “the passion” expressed in the meeting today but in the short term, she couldn’t do anything, and in the long term “we’ll have to see.”

MPP Thompson said that this serious issue is affecting “so many communities” that she hoped the Commissioner’s office would review all the information in the submissions presented.

(C) Wind Concerns Ontario

contact@windconcernsontario.ca

 

Green energy done badly: stories from around the world

WEEKEND READING

April 2, 2016

We present a collection of stories that review the manner in which strategies that are supposedly positive for the environment have been enacted (usually without any sort of cost-benefit or full impact analysis), and what the results are to date.

From Terence Corcoran’s review in The Financial Post, to a review of German energy policy (this is a sad, sad story worthy of Dickens), an article in Prince Edward County’s Wellington Times (one of the last independent newspapers in Canada) on a wind power developer’s arrogance, and last, an opinion on what the real effect on the local environment green energy policies are in reality, the collection deserves a read … and consideration by the Ontario government.

Will they? In the words of the team of academics lead by the University of Ottawa’s Stewart Fast, writing recently about the disastrous implementation of the Green Energy Act on Ontario communities, “Our recommendations will unfortunately remain unaddressed, without further consideration or assessment of the lessons that could be learned.” [Fast et al. Lessons learned from Ontario wind energy disputes, January, 2016]

Terence Corcoran, The Financial Post, “Clean, green, and catastrophic.” (Note: our Parker Gallant provided some figures for this article.)

Handelsblatt (Global edition) “How to kill an industry”. (Thanks to energy economist Robert Lyman in Ottawa for sending this in.)

Rick Conroy, The Wellington Times, “There’s always a catch.” (“The wolf has been sent to find out what’s killing all the lambs …” Conroy writes.)

Last, this letter to the editor of Ontario Farmer, excerpted here.

“Off-grid will make a bad situation worse for reluctant grid payees”

A farming friend recently took me on a “crop tour” of rural businesses that are partially or fully off-grid. We saw a sawmill, a pressed-steel manufacturer, a maker of wood-burning stoves, a cabinet-maker and an ethanol plant. Finding it progressively more difficult to remain profitable in the agricultural business with skyrocketing electrical costs, my friend is seriously looking at more cost-effective alternatives. If going off-grid works for others, perhaps it will work for him.

“Off-grid” means that these business owners are no longer victims of usurious hydro rates the Ontario Green Energy Act (GEA) has imposed on the vast majority who obtain electricity from Hydro One and other such utility companies. Are these enterprises trailblazers illuminating a path to greater energy independence for other beleaguered hydro ratepayers?

Or are they creating an even greater financial burden for those who remain on the grid?

And what may be the environmental impact if a great many businesses follow suit?

Operating the Ontario power grid has become exorbitantly expensive under the GEA. It is becoming ever more expensive as greater numbers of windmills spring up to further sully our rural landscapes. … Operating costs of a centralized generation and distribution system are borne by all users. The more users there are, the less share of fixed costs each user pays. Businesses fleeing to off-grid energy alternatives leave fewer users on-grid bearing fixed costs; thus, each user pays more. While going off-grid may financially benefit those who do it, greater economic burden falls on those remaining on-grid, and most have no choice.

Fossil fuels are the primary energy source for off-grid users. Electricity to run their businesses must be generated by some sort of power plant, typically an internal combustion engine driving and electrical generator. It’s far removed from the most cost-effective or environmentally friendly way to generate and distribute electricity —the way we used to do it — but the GEA has made grid power so prohibitively expensive off-grid generation has become economically viable for major energy users.

Dave Plumb

Belmont, Ontario

 

 

 

Decision on White Pines construction stands: Ontario Divisional Court

Court cannot rule when quasi-judicial Environmental Review Tribunal gave no reasons for decision
Blandings turtles: endangered but not protected by Ontario government
Blandings turtles: endangered but not protected by Ontario government
Ontario Divisional Court ruled yesterday that it cannot overturn a decision made by the Environmental Review Tribunal, on the motion for a stay in construction activities for the White Pines power project in Prince Edward County. White Pines’ approval was overturned at appeal, and the ERT is now waiting on submissions for “remedy” hearings.
Here is a statement from the Alliance to Protect Prince Edward County.
Late this afternoon we received word from the Ontario Divisional Court that our appeal of the motion for a stay has been dismissed. 
 
APPEC provided evidence from four expert witnesses of serious and irreversible harm to Blanding’s turtles if WPD proceeds with vegetation clearing.  What APPEC could not provide to the Court however was the ERT’s reasons for its decision of last week to dismiss our stay as the ERT never provided reasons.  Justice Stewart noted in her decision that “the specific grounds of any such appeal are uncertain given the fact that reasons for the decision are still forthcoming.”   
 
By not providing any reasons for dismissing our motion for a stay the ERT has handcuffed APPEC in appealing its decisions.     
 
According to the Court this disposition is without prejudice to the entitlement of the Appellant (APPEC) to renew its motion if it so chooses “on a fuller record that will include the reasons for the Tribunal’s decision under appeal.”
Regards,
Orville Walsh
President, APPEC
To help with fundraising, or for more information on these proceedings and the fight in Prince Edward County, go to www.savethesouthshore.org
ToughonNature

Citizens to file appeal vs wind power developer over premature construction start

The White Pines’ wind power project by Germany-based wpd Canada had its approval overturned on appeal, and does not have a Notice To Proceed, but the developer has threatened to begin construction anyway.

Prince Edward County residents appeal to the court
Prince Edward County residents appeal to the court

This notice is from the Alliance to Protect Prince Edward County, on the Save The South Shore website.

March 25, 2016, PICTON —

Earlier today APPEC’s legal counsel Eric Gillespie notified WPD and the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change of APPEC’s intent to appeal the ERT’s dismissal of our stay motion.

This legal action is considered to be necessary following the ERT’s decision this week to not allow APPEC’s motion.  WPD still plans to start construction on the White Pines wind project.  In WPD’s own words: “We are entitled to begin vegetation clearing immediately.”  We strongly disagree.

APPEC will be making an application as an urgent matter to the Ontario Divisional Court.  Our intent is to submit the application at the beginning of next week.

During the past few weeks we have received many messages of encouragement.  Your support is always appreciated but especially so when faced with a developer that is determined to destroy the natural and cultural heritage of our community for its own financial gain.

Regards,
Orville Walsh
President, APPEC

appec.wordpress.com

– See more at: http://savethesouthshore.org/appec-will-be-making-an-application-as-an-urgent-matter-to-the-ontario-divisional-court-orville-walsh/#sthash.zfdjkJBb.dpuf

 

Stay motion against wind farm construction dismissed

Approval was overturned in by Environmental Review Tribunal but wind power developer announced plans to clear vegetation anyway; the Tribunal has dismissed community groups’ motion for a stay

On the side of the developers, not the environment or people
On the side of the developers, not the environment or people

Here is the announcement from the Alliance to Protect Prince Edward County

As you know APPEC submitted a motion for a stay stopping all physical activity in the White Pines project area.  The stay motion that was submitted to the Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) on March 5, was considered necessary after WPD notified APPEC that it would start clearing vegetation at the project site the following week.   
 
We received notice from the Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) yesterday that our stay motion has been dismissed. The Tribunal did not provide any reasons for dismissal. 
 
We are of course very disappointed with the decision.  But we are also disappointed in the Tribunal itself.  In denying APPEC’s motion for a stay the Tribunal is putting APPEC in the bizarre position of defending its successful appeal of the White Pines wind project at the ERT at the very same time the project is begin constructed.   
 
APPEC is currently examining possible courses of action and will use all legal means available to prevent WPD from carrying out its plans.   We will continue to work with the Prince Edward County Field Naturalists (PECFN) and CCSAGE-Naturally Green to prevent this destruction of the natural and cultural environment.
 
Regards,
Orville Walsh
President, APPEC

Stantec staffer qualifications questioned at Amherst Island appeal

Power developer says no turtles on Amherst Island; turtle experts and residents say there are.
Power developer says no turtles on Amherst Island; turtle experts and residents say there are.

Kingston Whig-Standard, March 18, 2016

By Elliot Ferguson

BATH — The two sides fighting it out at the Amherst Island Environmental Review Tribunal sparred over the qualifications of an expert witness Friday morning.

Andrew Taylor, an ecologist with Stantec Consulting, the company that performed environmental studies for the proposed wind energy project, had been called to testify on behalf of Windlectric, which has received conditional approval from the Ontario government to build up to 26 wind turbines on Amherst Island. Taylor was called to provide testimony about the impact the project could have on bats and turtles on the island.

Windlectric lawyer Arlen Sternberg said Taylor was qualified to testify about the project’s potential impact specifically on birds, bats and turtles.

“He’s got a lot of experience he has developed on those topics over the years,” Sternberg said.

Eric Gillespie, the lawyer for the Association to Protect Amherst Island (APAI), had opposed Taylor’s expert qualification and instead wanted him declared a witness with experience in wildlife.

In the end, tribunal member Robert Wright ruled Taylor could be considered an expert witness on the effects on wildlife of wind energy projects, but he did not specifically label him an expert on birds, bats and the Blanding’s turtle.

Sternberg had noted earlier in the morning that Taylor has testified at five other ERTs as an expert witness and has studied the impact on wildlife at the pre- and post-construction stages of wind energy projects.

Sternberg said Taylor was more qualified than many expert witnesses called by APAI.

Under questioning from Sternberg, Taylor said he has performed wildlife studies at 19 large construction projects, including nine wind energy projects, and had delivered testimony at previous ERTs.

“This tribunal has accepted him five other times as an expert witness,” Sternberg said.

Earlier in the hearing, Taylor provided expert testimony about the impact of wind energy projects on birds.

A 2013 study from Stantec stated there are no Blanding’s turtles on Amherst Island. Island residents have testified earlier in the tribunal that they have seen Blanding’s turtles on the island.

APAI’s lawyer Gillespie admitted that it is rare to challenge the qualifications on an expert witness, but he noted that Taylor was not accepted as an expert witness at the 2013 Ostrander Point ERT. Gillespie argued that little has changed in Taylor’s qualifications since then that would make him an expert witness in this hearing.

“We say nothing has changed,” Gillespie said. “It’s the same Andrew Taylor who is standing here.”

Read the full story here.

Prince Edward County on the ‘eve of destruction’ as power developer threatens to clear vegetation for unapproved wind power project

No stay decision yet, developer and ministry make plans

Tree-Mauler

wpd Canada sent this photo to show what kind of machinery they’ll be using. Nice.

The Wellington Times, March 17, 2016

Many eyes will be watching the countryside south of Milford today, looking for signs of heavy equipment arriving to clear the land of not-yet-budding vegetation. As of Monday, there was no decision on a motion for stay in construction activity on the industrial wind project site.

The developer, wpd Canada, advised the Alliance to Protect Prince Edward County (APPEC) and John Hirsch, appellants of the project at an Environmental Review Tribunal that it intended to commence vegetation destruction this week—despite the Tribunal’s decision that the project would cause serious and irreversible harm to two endangered species, the Blanding’s turtle and the little brown bat.

APPEC responded immediately seeking a halt on all physical activity at the site. Other parties have said they wish to be heard on the matter so the Tribunal has allowed a few days this week to hear those submissions.

In the meantime, the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) has advised the developer it must complete a stormwater management plan before construction begins.

wpd Canada spokesperson Kevin Surette says that report has been completed and his company is awaiting the MOECC’s signal to begin clearing the land.

“The intent of the notice provided to APPEC on March 1st was to make them aware that vegetation clearing could occur anytime after March 14,” said Surette. “MOECC has indicated the Stormwater Management Plan must be approved prior to vegetation clearing; it has been submitted, and it could be approved at anytime.”

Remember that this is a project that has been stopped by a Tribunal—yet wpd Canada and the MOECC continue to go about development of this project as though nothing has changed.

But APPEC and a variety of conservation groups are sounding an alarm about the devastation that will result for the habitat of vulnerable species that reside in and around the targeted area.

“wpd Canada will be clearing significant wildlife habitat for endangered species such as the Blanding’s turtle and endangered grassland species such as the whip-poor-will, eastern meadowlark and bobolink,” said Orville Walsh, APPEC chair. …

Read the full story here.

IESO tries to justify wind power contracts in CBC interview

Spokesman says process is fair and transparent, but Ontario mayors say they’ve been betrayed.

March 16, 2016

CBC Ottawa’s host of the afternoon show All In A Day yesterday interviewed  spokesperson Shawn Cronkwright for the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) on the backlash to the recent contract award announcement.

“How do you justify putting wind power projects into communities that don’t want them?” asked Alan Neal.

The answer is interesting.

Even better is the IESO answer to the question, is there anything communities can do now? The Renewable Energy Approval “provides communities to make comment,” the IESO’s Cronkwright said.

“But getting people to comment isn’t the same as addressing concerns,” said Neal.

“I understand the concern, but that’s not how the regulatory process works,” said Cronkwright. (Oh, we know, we know.)

Then he said, concerns have resulted in changes to wind power project and even, in some cases, halting of a project.

This is absolutely stunning: the IESO is pointing to the appeals of Renewable Energy Approvals, which are funded by Ontario taxpayers struggling to protect their health and environment from their own government, as proof the system works! No mention of the fact that the appeal process and indeed all the legislation was crafted with input from the wind power lobby so that, in the words of CanWEA lawyer at a hearing on Ostrander Point, “This [a successful appeal] was never supposed to happen.”

 

Listen to the March 15 podcast here.

http://www.cbc.ca/radio/podcasts/ontario/ottawa-all-in-a-day/