Wind Concerns Ontario is a province-wide advocacy organization whose mission is to provide information on the potential impact of industrial-scale wind power generation on the economy, human health, and the natural environment.
Report on Environmental Review Tribunal Hearing on White Pines Wind Project
On Day 21 the Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) heard the last witness in the appeal of the White Pines wind project.
APPEC tried to call three Reply Witnesses: Dr. Shawn Smallwood, an expert in avian wildlife behaviour and conservation; Robert McEwen, P. Eng., a structural engineer; and Kari Gunson, a road ecologist. Mr. McEwen and Ms. Gunson were intended to respond to WPD’s witness Shawn Taylor, who had done a survey of municipal roads on the day before he testified. Eric Gillespie, counsel for APPEC, asked the Tribunal either to disallow the new evidence collected at the eleventh hour or to allow APPEC an opportunity to respond. Mr. Gillespie argued that each party should have an equal opportunity to reply to the full submission of the other.
Both MOECC counsel Andrew Weretelnyck and WPD counsel Patrick Duffy objected to the admissibility of Mr. McEwen and Mrs. Gunson as Reply Witnesses. The Tribunal agreed with their submissions and found that of the three witnesses only Dr. Smallwood’s evidence was proper reply.
Dr. Smallwood told the ERT he disagreed with WPD witness Dr. Strickland that pre-construction bat surveys have no value. He directed the Tribunal to graphs showing a plausible correlation between pre-construction bat activity and post-construction bat mortality. He noted that when more data is added the more the relationship is strengthened. This suggests there is value in doing pre-construction surveys to estimate bat fatality rates.
Dr. Smallwood also noted that avoidance is not the same as displacement. While avoidance on a large scale will equal displacement, it might just as well involve manoeuvres to evade turbine blades, wind turbines, or an entire wind project. Repeated avoidance that leads to habitat loss is displacement.
Today was the last day for evidence. The ERT will next hear submissions of the parties as follows:
Appellant Written Submissions – January 5, 2016 Respondent Written Submissions – January 15 Reply Written Submissions – January 19 Oral Submissions – January 20 in Prince Edward County
ERT co-chair Marcia Valiante noted that this schedule leaves insufficient time for the Tribunal to meet the regulatory six-month deadline. As a result the Tribunal found that stopping the clock on the proceedings is required. Following the oral submissions the ERT will adjourn for four weeks and issue a decision on February 19, 2016.
BRINSTON, ONT. • Jason Cardinal fiddles with his baseball cap, leans back on the wall and mockingly counts his gripes with the latest energy project imposed on his eastern Ontario township.
“It’s an eyesore, it disturbs their cows, kills their birds and makes whistling sounds, blah, blah, blah,” he deadpans.
Cardinal lives near Brinston, a tiny agricultural community in the municipality of South Dundas roughly 70 kilometres south of Ottawa, where TransCanada Corp. last week hosted an open house for its proposed Energy East crude oil pipeline.
Cardinal and his friends Lloya Sprague and Mike Vanallen are more vocal about the wind turbines installed in the South Dundas municipality than the Energy East proposal. The 30-megawatt South Branch Wind Farm installed by Madrid-based EDP Renewables Canada Ltd., connected to utility distributor Hydro One, is part of Ontario government’s Green Energy Act plan to raise the contribution of renewable sources in the province’s energy mix.
The three firefighters serving the community were at the open house not representing the South Dundas fire department, but “were interested as a person” in the Energy East project, says Sprague.
But it’s not the $12 billion proposal to reverse the existing natural gas pipeline and convert it to take bitumen from Western Canada to East Coast that has Cardinal uneasy.
TransCanada Corp.’s 4,600-kilometre crude oil pipeline proposal aims to connect Hardisty, Alta. to a brand new export terminal in Saint John, N.B., connecting the oilsands to eastern refineries, and crossing hundreds of rural areas such as South Dundas along the route.
The 1.1 million barrels per day project was submitted to the National Energy Board last year, but the Calgary-based company will file an amendment to the application before the end of the year after scrapping plans for a marine terminal in Quebec.
The plan involves repurposing an existing 3,000-kilometre natural gas pipeline that runs from Alberta to Ontario with the Iroquois pump station 12.4 kilometres from Brinston marking the end of that line. As such, most landowners along the line are already familiar with the concept of a fossil fuel conduit running through their backyards.
TransCanada has been holding these open houses across Canada since 2013, as part of it community engagement agenda, but not each event has gone as quietly as Brinston. TransCanada spokesman Tim Duboyce says there have been protests at some of the 116 open houses the company has hosted, while general protests have not been uncommon. In May, hundreds of people marched through Red Head, N.B. to protest the project that ends near that community. Montreal, Kenora and Thunder Bay have also seen protests against the pipeline over the past year.
But it’s hard to find any opposition on this night in Brinston.
Famous for Caldwell towels and Mcintosh apples in nearby Dundela, South Dundas is primarily a town focused on growing soyabean, corn and dairy farming, where residents are more likely to be rattled by solar farms and wind turbines.
South Dundas mayor Evonne Delegrade says she has heard “nothing” on Energy East from her 33 communities that make up the township of roughly 11,000 people. Indeed, the 24 or people who showed up last Monday evening, many with children in tow, were there mostly out of curiosity about, not in opposition to, the pipeline project.
In contrast, Delegrade got an earful from the community last year when 10 wind turbines were installed after approval from the provincial government.
“For the wind turbines, we are not a supporting municipality in that the majority of council did not agree with the Green Energy Act,” Delegrade said, noting that an expansion of the project was voted down by her council.
Once it’s done [with construction], you will never hear about it again
While the Ontario Ministry of Energy is supportive of wind projects, “that’s not happening, to my knowledge, with this (Energy East) project,” Mayor Delegarde says.
Ontarians are paying a price for the Ministry of Energy’s push for wind turbines and solar farm projects, she says. “And this (Energy East) isn’t going to nickel and dime or add any taxes to our residents.”
Indeed, the province has come under sharp criticism for its zeal in pursuing expensive renewable energy projects. In a report this month, the provincial auditor general estimated that the Liberal Government’s decision to ignore its own planning process would cost electricity customers as much as $9.2 billion more for new wind and solar projects.
The wind turbines looming large over the community is part of its problem, says Sprague, noting that in contrast Energy East would be “out of sight, out of mind.”
“Once it’s done [with construction], you will never hear about it again,” says Vanallen.
A model of a pipeline construction on display in Brinston, Ont., one of the communities across Canada where TransCanada held information sessions on the Energy East pipeline for local residents. [Photo Dave Chan]
The latest round of “safety and emergency response days” has taken TransCanada to Prairie cities and towns in Ontario and Quebec. More are planned in Quebec before the end of the year where TransCanada may find a more frosty reception. Unlike much of Ontario, Quebec towns will see new pipes being laid and farmers largely unaccustomed to dealing with pipeline companies. In November, Premier Philippe Couillard sounded an early alarm by noting that the scrapping off the Quebec marine terminal would “complicate” the project’s approval by the province.
To be sure, the criticism is not as vitriolic as it often was during TransCanada’s own Keystone XL pipeline and Enbridge Inc.’s Northern Gateway pipeline campaigns.
Indeed, last year, the Northwestern Ontario Municipalities Association (NOMA), comprising districts of Kenora, Rainy River and Thunder Bay that make up two-third of the province’s land mass, voted in support of the conversion of natural gas pipelines for the Energy East project.
South Dundas mayor Evonne Delegarde. [Photo Dave Chan]
“The majority of the community is fine with the conversion as long as the safeguards are put in place,” says David Canfield, mayor of Kenora and president of NOMA.
“But if they were trying to pull a wool over our eyes, as the saying goes, with Energy East, I will be the first one to come down on them,” Canfield adds. “So far they have been very open to our concerns.”
Fearing a repeat of a crude-laden train exploding as happened at Lac Megantic, Que., the municipality association’s largely symbolic vote was driven by a desire to rid the communities of 32,000 petroleum laden rail cars that regularly roll through the towns each year.
“Those tracks don’t bypass the communities — in most cases they go straight through,” said Iain Angus, a member of the Thunder Bay Council and member of NOMA council.
NOMA is also seeking assurances from TransCanada that the communities’ drinking water and hunting and recreational facilities will be protected.
“If things happen that we didn’t like, we would modify our position,” Angus said in a phone interview.
While the umbrella association is in agreement, the city of Thunder Bay, the most populous municipality in Northwestern Ontario, is divided on the project, with mayor Keith Hobbs “totally opposed” to the pipeline. Another council member was not convinced that the pipeline would reduce crude-by-rail traffic.
“At this juncture, [I’m] totally opposed to this pipeline,” Hobbs said in September, according to a CBC report. “Lake Superior, to me, is more important than any jobs. I want jobs in this city, but water comes first. Water is life.”
Local residents of South Dundas look at a map of the region with TransCanada staff at an information session on the Energy East pipeline. [Dave Chan for National Post]
In September, the city council agreed to delay a vote on the pipeline after Angus — who supports Energy East — put forward a motion to defer it.
“The pipeline is 70 kilometres north of the city,” Angus says dryly. “It’s well outside of our municipal boundaries.”
Separately, a volunteer organization headed by Angus has launched an Energy East task force, seeking National Energy Board funding to do its own consultation with First Nations and the general public.
Awareness of the pipeline will likely rise among communities once the the review process gathers momentum, but for now visitors to Matilda Hall in Brinston are merely intrigued passers-by.
One man from Morrisburg, with a worn-out cap taming his long, graying hair, brought his three young daughters to the event. After spending about 20 minutes in the hall, he stepped out of the centre and lit a cigarette that he had rifled from a small ziploc bag.
A TransCanada employee started explaining the company’s spill response, and the man punctuated his response with a slightly bored “Is that right?” line. Did he get all his concerns addressed, he is asked. He sucks on his cigarette: “Yeah, I wasn’t concerned, just curious.”
Wind Concerns Ontario note: the Financial Post photographer had to work hard to get a pic of Brinston without a turbine in it. Here is a photo from Ottawa photographer Ray Pilon of a house and a 3-MW turbine, at Brinston.
Wind power developer wildlife consultant never visited Prince Edward County, used Google Earth to inspect the site, and dismisses “Important Bird Area” designation (that’s for bird-watchers, he says in testimony)
Report on Environmental Review Tribunal Hearing on White Pines Wind Project
On Day 20 the Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) on the White Pines wind project heard APPEC witness Rick James and an expert witness for developer WPD, Dr. Dale Strickland.
Mr. James, qualified previously as an acoustician, presented new evidence in reply to Denton Miller, witness for the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MOECC). Following new ministry guidelines and omitting disallowed wind turbines T7 and T11, he calculated that 13 “points of receptions” (i.e., homes) would suffer noise above 40 dBA.
Both MOECC counsel Andrew Weretelnyck and WPD counsel James Wilson questioned Rick James on 40 dBA as a measure of serious harm. James said the MOECC had set this compliance limit and the World Health Organization (WHO) had found health effects, specifically annoyance and sleep disturbance, start at 40 dBA.
In re-examination APPEC counsel Eric Gillespie confirmed with James that WHO had reported noise complaints during nighttime begin at 35 dBA.
Dale Strickland, Ph.D., founder and president of Western EcoSystems Technology, a Wyoming consulting firm with business and government clients, has published over 150 scientific papers and technical reports during a 40-year career. The Tribunal qualified him as “a zoologist with expertise in ecological research and wildlife management, including assessing the impacts of wind turbines on wildlife.”
WPD counsel Patrick Duffy asked Dr. Strickland about the appropriate scientific measure for serious and irreversible harm. He said it is based on the overall genetic and demographic status of a species’ population.
According to Dr. Strickland, the White Pines surveys of birds and bats are “adequate,” conform to established methods and published guidance, and are similar to those for other wind projects. Bats would not be high in number without the presence of hibernacula. Acoustical surveys are not necessary because they record bats at ground level and the results do not correlate with bat deaths at wind turbine rotor level.
Dr. Strickland also said the effects on habitat would be minimal. Loss from access roads and other construction is relatively small, and displacement from habitat would not be significant because of the project size.
Regarding collisions, Dr. Strickland predicted 5-15 bird deaths annually per turbine, the same as at other North American sites. He defended the Wolfe Island monitoring records, stating the mortality rates are reasonable for a searched radius of 50m, an area commonly used at other wind projects. Considering the project location and size, he concluded that White Pines would not cause serious and irreversible harm to wildlife.
In cross-examination Eric Gillespie confirmed that Dr. Strickland had not visited the White Pines site but had based his opinions on WPD’s reports and on Google Earth images. Although aware of Prince Edward Point National Wildlife Area and Point Petre Provincial Wildlife Area, he did not know their proximity to wind turbines. However, he dismissed the “globally significant” South Shore Important Bird Area because the IBA designation reflects convenient public access and use of the site for bird-watching.
Dr. Strickland did not know of an “activity report” by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forests finding five threatened bird species and three bat species in the White Pines area. He agreed with Mr. Gillespie that such information might have influenced his opinions. Similarly, he conceded that if there had not been adequate surveys for karst, then one needed more information to estimate the bat population. He also admitted that the cumulative effects of wind projects must be considered to determine local impacts on birds.
When asked by ERT co-chair Marcia Valiante about a proposed 31ha compensation property, Dr. Strickland said it would have little measurable effect on the populations of displaced bobolinks and eastern meadowlarks.
I invite you, and your readers in Niagara Region to take a drive through West Lincoln township and view the INDUSTRIAL wind turbines that are being installed there. You will be awed by the size of these turbines, so much so, that you will never again call them “windmills”.
You do not need a map: just start at the Transmission Station just past Wellandport and follow the orange stakes down Canborough, Port Davidson Road, Sixteen and Tober Road, Road 6, Twenty hwy, Road. 5 , Young Street, Walker Road, and Mountain View Road. (The stakes can always be found opposite existing transmission lines). These stakes are placed in the road allowance to mark the location at which the transmission poles will be placed.
You will also notice, on Canborough, Port Davidson, Tober and many of the side roads, the construction of the connector lines, which are to be buried and eventually, bring the raw power from the turbines to the transformer station where they will be transformed into 230mw of power which will travel on the 115kw lines down the transmission lines. Realize that all 77 turbines will be connected by connector lines. There will be miles of these lines criss-crossing along most of the county roads in the township. Plan your trip to include Vaughn Road to get a really good taste of the mess that the residents of these roads have to put up with, on a daily basis, knowing that the process will take until August 2016 at the earliest.
Notice I did not tell you where to find the turbines. You will not be able to miss them. From kms
away you will see the activity. If you want to see construction, visit Gee Road where the turbines are located close enough to the road for you to get a good look at what is happening at each and every turbine construction site. The security people can not prevent you from taking a good look from these two sites.
This past week a brand new interest has been added. Drive the proposed transmission line from the proposed Transformer station on Canbourgh and you will see bright green florescent ribbons on just about every tree on the opposite side of existing transmission lines.
Each and every tree that is marked is slated for demolition for building of the transmission line.
The irony of it will almost make you laugh: trees are natures best defense against climate change. Trees produce CO2 which is Natures air purifier, and hundreds and hundreds of trees are being removed for a transmission line which will produce Radon emissions and stray voltage, as well.
Trees create an ecosystem to provide habitat and food for birds and other animals. Trees absorb carbon dioxide and potentially harmful gasses, such as sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide from the air and release oxygen. One large tree can supply a days supply of oxygen for four people.
Our trees, and the health of our community is being sacrificed for Industrial Wind Turbines which are not efficient, not green, not economically feasible or affordable, not nature friendly and riffed with controversy.
After you have taken your drive in the (newly industrialized) countryside, can you still say that it is worth the sacrifice of rural Ontario for the “common good”. Does this Industrialization of rural Ontario make any sense to you? Please contact your municipal officials and the MOECC and express your opinions and concerns to them.
REPORT ON AMHERST ISLAND APPEAL OF WINDLECTRIC PPOWER PROJECT
Location: St John’s Hall, Village of Bath
Tribunal: Mr. Robert Wright & Mr. Justin Duncan
Appellant: Eric Gillespie, Graham Andrews, EKG, LLP
Approval Holder : John Terry, Torys, LLP
MOECC: Andrea Huckins
The parties agreed on the schedule for the day. Mr. Welbanks would be heard first and then the Panel would hear the evidence from Dr. Mundt ’s response to Dr. Phillips’ Witness Statement.
The Tribunal gave a partial ruling on the December 8 motion by the Approval Holder to exclude the reply witness statements of Les Stanfield, Daryl Cowell, Kari Gunson, Roy Nagle, Shawn Smallwood, Carl Phillips and much of the reply witness statements of Christina Davy.
The Tribunal allowed Dr. Phillips, APAI’s witness, to reply to both Dr. McCunney and Dr. Mundt ’s responses to his Witness Statement. As the Panel is still conferring on the rest of the Motion, the full ruling and the reasons will be given later.
Citizens of Amherst Island for Renewable Energy
Mr. Eric Welbanks was granted presenter status on behalf of Citizens of Amherst Island for Renewable Energy (“CAIRE”). He read from his Witness Statement.
After introducing himself, Mr. Welbanks talked about the organization of which he is the President and spokesperson. He explained that for the last 8 years, its mission has been to be ‘’the perpetual and sole voice for the proponents. Mr. Welbanks told the Tribunal that CAIRE, an unincorporated organization, was made up of approximately 120 people who support the wind project and that virtually all of them lived on Amherst Island. He added that all of the landowners who will have turbines on their properties are members of the group,
He gave a brief perspective of the evolution of Amherst Island’s demography as well as his opinion on the agricultural and cultural development of the Island.
Mr. Welbanks described his organization’s involvement with the project and the actions they took to educate the members on the advantages and disadvantages of the project. He explained how they reassured themselves on health and the environment issues. He stated that he was satisfied with how their concerns were addressed by the Proponent. He added that they worked with the company on every aspect of any matter that related to their properties and raised issues of concern. He trusted that the proponent spent a significant amount of money to respond to their concerns. He said that one member of his group had been actively supporting and promoting the protection of the habitat in the Owl Woods and that some members were participants in the program to replace bird habitat. He concluded that his group had entire confidence in Algonquin Power.
The Tribunal asked questions about the financial compensation of its members and also asked clarification about the composition of the group and the different status of 120 members of the non-incorporated group. Mr. Wellbanks confirmed that they were receiving remuneration for turbines and that members of his group were direct or indirect family members and that there were all non-solicited and volunteer members. He added that all the members of the community would benefit significantly because of Windlectric’s generous contribution to the Benefit Agreement Fund. When the Panel asked his opinion on what the 120 members significance in terms of support for the project, Mr. Welbanks extrapolated on some provincial statistics to answer that according to him it would be 80% of support for the project.
Mr. Welbanks responded to a question form APAI’s lawyer by admitting that the community was divided on the issue but overall islanders were all friends. When asked if he agreed that there were better location than others for siting of the turbines, he defended the stating that the size of the project was greatly reduced.
Dr. Kenneth Mundt
Dr. Mundt who was qualified as an epidemiologist, listed his current and past employment. The Approval Holder’s lawyer walked him through some parts of his Witness Statement and asked him to elaborate on specific area.
After defining epidemiology, he talked about epidemiological study approaches versus other approaches. He described the many variations of both cohort and case-control studies with different strengths and weaknesses. He then discussed the differences between the case reports and case series and the use of self-reported accounts of symptoms or disease experience.
He was then asked to explain the determinants of the quality of epidemiological studies. He stated that in epidemiological studies, disease in a population is preferably characterized using measures of disease incidence vs. prevalence. He then talked about bias which refers to systematic (or methodological) errors that lead to inaccurate and potentially invalid or even misleading study results. He explained the different types and bias and the effects on studies.
In a second part he referred to his role in the Review of Epidemiology literature on wind turbines. He referred to a comprehensive review and synthesis of the peer-reviewed, published epidemiological literature specifically addressing potential health impacts of noise emissions from industrial wind turbines. He gave details of a total of 29 peer-reviewed published reports.
Finally he was asked to give his opinion on Dr. Phillips’ Witness Statement.
He concluded that based on his comprehensive review and synthesis of the published peer-reviewed epidemiological literature on the impact of industrial wind turbine noise emissions on human health identified only some inconsistent statistical correlations between the presence of industrial wind turbines and self-reported “annoyance,” but not that such exposures cause any disease or that exposure to wind turbine noise causes harm to human health, let alone serious harm to human health.
He added that while the literature inconsistently associates turbine noise with “annoyance,” the medical literature does not equate annoyance with disease or “serious harm to human health”. He added that he was unable to find the term “annoyance” in any medical dictionary, and when this term was used in the medical literature it was usually to describe the opposite end (i.e., the lowest extreme) of the spectrum of complaints. Furthermore, the 10th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10) – the current compendium of all classified diseases – does not include “annoyance” as a disease entity.
On his systematic review and synthesis of the published, peer-reviewed
epidemiological literature, he concluded to a reasonable degree of scientific and epidemiological certainty that it is more likely than not that the operation of the wind turbines associated with the Amherst Island Wind Project will not cause “serious harm to human health”.
In cross-examination, he admitted never have been on Amherst Island and not having done an analysis of its population and other potential factors. He also acknowledged that he was not aware of the Island demographic. He disputed that the fact that a study that he co-authored in 2014 was biased even though a study footnote indicated that the study was funded by the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA)
Report on Environmental Review Tribunal Hearing on White Pines Wind Project
On Day 19 the Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) of the White Pines wind project heard the testimony of Dr. Robert McCunney, an expert witness for developer WPD.
Robert McCunney, MD, has a Boston clinical practice and is a research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Funded by the Canadian and American Wind Energy Associations, he headed teams in both 2009 and 2014 that produced status reports such as the recent “Wind Turbines and Health: A Critical Review of the Scientific Literature.” Though not licensed to practice medicine in Ontario, Dr. McCunney has testified on behalf of the wind industry at other ERT hearings.
The Tribunal qualified Dr. McCunney as “a medical doctor specializing in occupational and environmental medicine, with the particular implications of noise exposure.”
WPD counsel James Wilson asked Dr. McCunney to comment on wind turbine sounds. He said that noise is characterized by loudness and pitch, low frequency is associated with vibrations, and infrasound is inaudible below 107 db(A). The last feature also occurs in the natural environment (e.g., wind and waves) and in actions of the human body such as breathing. Turbine infrasound cannot be distinguished beyond 300m.
Dr. McCunney’s 2014 literature review, based on 162 published papers, concluded that “(1) infrasound sound near wind turbines does not exceed audibility thresholds, (2) epidemiological studies have shown associations between living near wind turbines and annoyance, (3) infrasound and low-frequency sound do not present unique health risks, and (4) annoyance seems more strongly related to individual characteristics than noise from turbines.” Nothing Dr. McCunney has read since publication changes his opinions.
In cross-examination, APPEC counsel Eric Gillespie established that Dr. McCunney has never treated anyone complaining of turbine-related symptoms or conducted any original field research. Though he lives near a wind turbine, his home is 1500m away.
Mr. Gillespie asked Dr. McCunney to confirm the findings in several studies cited in his literature review that turbine sounds annoyed 7-18 percent of nearby residents. But Dr. McCunney said this is similar to other environmental noise. Moreover, he does not accept the concept of “wind turbine syndrome,” in which a number of symptoms are associated with wind turbines and disappear in their absence.
Dr. McCunney was then asked to consider the 2015 Australian Senate inquiry, which received almost 500 worldwide submissions on wind turbine noise. He said he had not read it, but he was critical of its reliance on a range of unverified reports rather strictly published studies. He did accept, however, the finding that the “distinction between direct and indirect effects is not helpful.”
Finally, Mr. Gillespie asked at what distance from turbines complaints would cease. Dr. McCunney expressed confidence in Ontario’s 550m minimum setbacks.
In re-examination WPD’s Wilson asked about sleep anxiety and deprivation, which can lead to serious medical conditions. Dr. McCunney said no study shows a causal relation between these symptoms and wind turbines. His 2014 literature review identifies “longitudinal assessments of health pre- and post-installation” and “enhanced measurement techniques to evaluate annoyance”—but not sleep problems—among “further areas of Inquiry.”
BATH — The appeal of the approval of a controversial wind energy project on Amherst Island is underway.
The Association to Protect Amherst Island is appealing to the Environmental Review Tribunal the decision by the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change to approve Windlectric’s application to build 26 turbines on Amherst Island.
In late August, the provincial government approved the project subject to more than two dozen conditions.
The appeal began on Friday and is to include a series of hearings between then and Dec. 22.
The association has hired environmental lawyer and University of Toronto adjunct professor Eric Gillespie to represent it.
On Friday, the tribunal heard testimony from Tom Beaubiah from the Cataraqui Region Conservation Authority, who spoke about potential impact on Owl Woods, wintering raptors and avian habitat.
Beaubiah requested that if the appeal is rejected and the project goes ahead, that additional conditions be placed on it to further investigate wildlife areas, relocate turbines and include the conservation authority in post-construction monitoring.
Island resident Amy Caughey also provided comment about health and safety concerns related to locating industrial components of the project, including a cement plant, laydown area, transformer station, mobile fueling, a maintenance building and construction office close to the Amherst Island Public School.
Bill Evans testified on behalf of the Kingston Field Naturalists about the project’s potential impact on bobolinks, of which there are about 2,800 on the island.
The Amherst Island project would kill more than 32 bobolinks each year, casualties that, when combined with loss of breeding habitat, would seriously threaten the bird’s population in Ontario.
Among the experts still to be called upon to testify for the association are epidemiologist Carl Phillips and biologist Christina Davy, who are to be backed by experts in hydrology, hydrogeology, ecology and biology.
The appeal comes in the wake of Ontario auditor general Bonnie Lysyk’s annual report that showed deficiencies in the province’s electricity system that have cost taxpayers billions of dollars.
Lysyk’s report showed the long-range plans from the Ontario Power Authority have not been reviewed and approved by the Ontario Energy Board.
Between 2006 and 2014, the electricity portion of the hydro bills of residential and small-business consumers increased by 70 per cent, according to Lysyk’s report. Included in that cost are fees paid to power-generating companies over the market price that cost consumers $37 billion over that time period. Those fees are expected to increase to $133 billion between 2015 and 2032.
Between 2009 and 2014, Ontario’s average annual electricity surplus was equivalent to the power-generating capacity of Manitoba, and the Independent Electricity System Operator predicts the power-generating capability of Ontario will exceed the province’s demand by an amount equivalent to Nova Scotia’s power needs for about five years.
Report on Environmental Review Tribunal Hearing on White Pines Wind Project
On Day 18 of the Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT), APPEC expert witness Dr. Daryl Cowell testified that there is substantial evidence of karst in the White Pines study area and that serious and irreversible impacts will occur if this project proceeds. WPD witness Ronald Donaldson and Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) witness Mark Phillips disputed this.
Dr. Cowell told the ERT that he has appeared as a karst expert witness before eight Ontario Municipal Board hearings, done work for municipalities across Ontario, and authored or co-authored hundreds of technical documents, including peer-reviewed papers. He has spent 40 years studying karst, with the past 20 years focused on hazard assessment. Dr. Cowell was qualified as a professional geoscientist with expertise in karst.
Dr. Cowell said that a major karst area runs through Black Creek Valley ANSI (Area of Natural and Scientific Interest). Physical evidence of karst includes sinkholes and crevices (as identified earlier by area resident and presenter Doug Murphy), an artesian-like stream, year-round springs that go underground, dry wells, and extensive limestone pavements. Turbines would be located in epikarst, the upper boundary of a karst system, close to the edge of the valley. The access road to wind turbines T02 and T03 crosses Black Creek and proceeds through a zone of karst features including crevices one foot wide and ten feet deep.
However, none of WPD’s Renewable Energy Approval reports identified karst features, assessed potential impacts, or even surveyed water bodies except in September and October, known to be low-flow periods.
Dr. Cowell noted that mapping the watershed in a karst aquifer is extremely difficult when vertical and horizontal fractures make water flow unpredictable and boundaries are always in flux. A storm water management plan is out of the question because it is impossible to determine the high water mark, a basic requirement for construction activities.
According to Dr. Cowell, blasting and trenching for 16 kilometres of new access roads, collector lines, and turbine bases will cause serious and irreversible harm to shallow karst areas. Blasting and backfilling through the upper metre of bedrock will dam and divert flows resulting in permanent impacts to the surface water/groundwater regime.
WPD witness Ronald Donaldson was qualified by the Tribunal as a hydrologist. His testimony focused on potential interference with the quality and quantity of the local water supply aquifer and groundwater.
Donaldson reviewed aerial photographs, maps and literature that show no conclusive evidence of karst in Prince Edward County. He considers the Black Creek Valley a sub-glacial tunnel formed long ago by glacial melt-waters. Though predicting impacts such as sediment in shallow water wells and wetlands, he said there are mitigations for the temporary effects as well as for sinkholes or fractures opened during construction. Donaldson agreed with APPEC counsel Eric Gillespie, however, that alterations to the top three metres could impact wetlands.
Mr. Gillespie referred Donaldson to a 2013 study cited by Dr. Cowell, “Evaluating karst risk at wind power projects.” While agreeing that karst evaluations should be done early, Donaldson said he was not qualified to speak to the study’s number one mitigation—to move the turbines.
Mark Phillips, of the MOECC, was qualified as a surface water specialist with expertise in identifying risks to and mitigation of surface waters. Starting in October 2014, Phillips raised a number of issues about the lack of detail on project impacts on wetlands in WPD’s Construction Plan Report, the risk of impacts during construction on surface water, and the timing of surveys for water bodies. However, WPD chose to rely on existing MOECC records rather than carry out additional field work.
Nonetheless, Phillips considers that risks from erosion and sediment can be fully managed by the “mitigation toolbox” and the effects will be temporary. He confirmed with Mr. Gillespie that he did not review the wetlands near turbines T27, T28, and T29 or, indeed, the Natural Heritage Assessment on wetlands.
Report on the ERT Hearing on the White Pines Wind Project – Dec. 4, 2015
By Henri Garand, APPEC
On Day 17 the Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) of the White Pines wind project heard the testimony of WPD witnesses Shawn Taylor and Dr. Paul Kerlinger.
Mr. Taylor was qualified by the Tribunal as “an ecological restoration and construction mitigation specialist.” However, he testified at length about Blanding’s turtles because of his participation in a four-year study involving a Kanata road extension into their habitat.
After classifying the roads (paved, gravel, and access) required for White Pines, Taylor spoke about the risks from higher traffic, but he said these are minimal due to the “block-out period” on construction between April 15 and October 15, and the later infrequent maintenance visits. Mitigations such as staff training and 15km speed limits will protect turtles.
Taylor also felt that “new roads would not increase fragmentation of Blanding’s turtle habitat.” He described the access roads as “laneways” flush to the ground surface and therefore not a barrier to turtles. Similarly, turtles will readily move through the nine culverts to be constructed. The roads would also not interfere with water flow into deep wetlands, crucial overwintering habitat.
Predation of eggs and young by foxes, raccoons, and skunks is possible but could be mitigated by compaction and reduction of roadside gravel, though neither method is cited in the White Pines construction report.
During cross-examination by APPEC counsel Eric Gillespie, Taylor admitted that his witness statement is incorrect in describing most access roads as passing through ploughed fields instead of cultural meadow, alvar, and treed land. Only nine turbines are located within current agricultural fields. The access “laneways” would be 5m wide, with brush clearance as much as 5m on each side.
Taylor also conceded that two thirds of the White Pines project lies within primary Blanding’s turtle habitat. According to a map in WPD’s Natural Heritage Assessment, wind turbines T7, T11-24, and T27-29 all fall within known turtle egg excavation or spring foraging areas.
Paul Kerlinger, Ph.D., was qualified as “a biologist with specialization in bird behavior and expertise on the impacts of wind energy projects.” Once an Audubon Society director of the Cape May Observatory, Kerlinger redirected his career to studying avian risks from wind projects in Canada, Mexico, Spain, and the United States, and he has testified in 100 cases as an expert witness on behalf of developers.
Although stating that “all wind projects kill birds,” Kerlinger does not regard this as “serious and Irreversible harm” because the fatalities are not statistically significant at the species population level, whether measured as a percentage or by population viability models (which take into account reproductive rates, dispersal and mortality). He said studies show that mortality ranges from 6-9 birds per turbines per year, and the upper figure applies to Wolfe Island when its monitoring records are averaged over three years.
Under cross-examination Kerlinger admitted there are different views of the appropriate geographical scale to be considered for assessing risk to bird populations. He also conceded that monitoring results are dependent on search area size and terrain, number of predators, frequency of searches, and staff training. Data comparison across projects is complicated by differing turbine sizes and power output. Finally, though noting the effectiveness of such mitigations as flashing lights and turbine shutdowns, he said he had made no suggestions to WPD.
The ERT resumes Monday, December 7, 10 a.m., at the Prince Edward Community Centre, 375 Main St., Picton.