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.
“No pocket you can go to in 20 years”: Environmental lawyer says taxpayers and landowners could be responsible for costs
Farmersforum.com , January 2016
By Brandy Harrison
Toronto- With more wind turbines coming to Eastern Ontario, there has been a lot of talk about what happens when it comes time to take down the towers. While the provincial government may put the onus on wind project developers to pay for teardown, it’s far from certain they’ll be able to collect if a company goes bankrupt — which could mean taxpayers are on the hook, says a Toronto-based environment and municipal lawyer.
“Many of these companies are relatively small, or based outside of Canada, and that creates what appears to bea real risk as there will be no pocket you can go to 20 years from now when a cleanup is actually required,” says Eric Gillespie, who has represented landowners and municipalities with wind turbine concerns.
It’s anybody’s guess who would end up paying for decommissioning — the landowner, the municipality, or provincial taxpayers, he says.
Farmers shouldn’t underestimate what it takes to remove a single turbine, Gillespie warns. The nacelle — the central hub containing the generator — is 80 to 100 metres in the air and weighs as much as 70 tonnes. “It’s not something where you just call your neighbor and ask him to bring his tractor over.”
While Ontario costs are yet unknown, world-wide decommissioning has ranged from $30,000 to $80,000 per turbine.
But the worst case scenario can be avoided if funds are set aside as part of the approval process, suggests Gillespie.
Decommissioning plans are required to get renewable energy approval but they don’t have financial strings attached.
There is already a good model in place, says Gillespie. Under the Environmental Protection Act, the government will ask for financial assurance if there is a risk of adverse effects that could require remedial work. A letter of credit or security is required up front.
“Anything other than that might keep lawyers busy for a long time but won’t help communities. It’s about addressing the issue now rather than waiting for the end and crossing your fingers. It should be the companies that are earning the profits that have to pay the bill.”
The report, prepared by Malone Givens Parson at the behest of Clearview Township and the Town of Collingwood as part of their case against the turbines proposed by WPD Canada, determined the turbines would have a “significant negative impact on the operations” of the local airport.
The study is part of the two municipalities’ submission to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change and is intended to provide a thorough look at the potential economic impacts of the wpd Turbine Project, including the perception of the economic viability of the future of the airport for those looking to invest in the airport. The document was submitted to the ministry on Jan. 8, and released publicly on Monday.
“We conclude that the Collingwood Regional Airport is fulfilling its intended function as an economic engine and is attracting business expansion proposals that would deliver very substantial economic benefit to the South Georgian Bay region” Malone Givens Parson principal John Genest wrote in the letter to preamble the executive summary of the 190-page report. “Approval of the current wpd turbine project would be fatal to business expansion, such that, on balance, the offending turbines should be moved or wpd’s Renewable Energy Act Application denied.”
In the report, the consultants note the location of five turbines would “intrude, in several cases significantly, into the operating space” of the airport. While those ‘intrusions’ could be addressed to NAV Canada’s satisfaction by changes to operating procedures for pilots landing and taking off from the facility, the proposed changes “are expected to have consequences that are not reviewed as part of NAV Canada’s mandate, and were therefore not examined by that agency,” the consultant wrote.
The proposed turbine locations would have significant impact to the airport’s operating procedures that would significantly impair the airport’s attractiveness to the ongoing flight school, or any future aviation business operations, the report concluded.
“These impacts could be resolved by relocating the turbines to positions outside the airport’s air space, or by denying the wpd turbine project application,” the consultants stated. “The wpd turbine project, in its current configuration, risks the loss to the region of significant new investment in growing the regional economy and labour skillset.”
The consultants estimated the economic benefits of business expansion at the airport, which would notably include the Clearview Aviation Business Park, would create nearly 1,900 direct and indirect jobs, about $10.5 million in tax revenue and have a $152.6-million impact on the region.
The consultant’s report is particularly damning of a similar study submitted to the ministry last November by WPD Canada, noting it was of narrow scope and “narrowly executed by an author with no evident expertise or experience in economic impact analysis or economic development.
“It misses the single most important element in assessing the potential consequences of implementing the wpd turbine project – market and investor perceptions of the attractiveness of the facility as one enabling successful investment of risk capital, and its influence on current or prospective plans to invest.”
For the ministry to approve WPD’s renewable energy approval application in its current form, “would put a narrow and relatively small private interest ahead of the greater public interest in unimpeded operations at the [airport], and the future investment, job growth and related economic benefits the Airport could sustain in furtherance of local, regional, provincial and federal economic development objectives.”
WPD has acknowledged Simcoe.com’s request for comment, but has not yet responded to the comments in the report.
Ald. Betty Konc has requested a letter to be drafted from the Township of Wainfleet and sent to the Ontario Minister of Energy and the Deputy Minister of Energy.
“They need to hear from the municipalities,” Ald. Konc said in a later interview. “We need to stand up and fight for ourselves.”
This action is in response to a letter that was submitted to Wainfleet Township council from Shiloh Berriman, Project Coordinator – FWRN LP and J.A. (Al) Leggett, Project Manager – Stantec Consulting Ltd. The letter was in reference to proposed changes to the Niagara Region Wind Farm Renewable energy project.
“They are asking to change the entire project,” Ald. Konc said in the Jan. 5th Wainfleet Township Council meeting. “The whole 77 turbines, they’re asking to be switched out from E101’s and E82’s from a height of 135m down to 124m.”
“That may sound like it’s a win, but, it really isn’t,” she said. “It does have to do with sound power levels.”
“The province has stated in their EPR registry that taller turbines are quieter,” she said. “Though that’s not true, but that’s what they believe.”
“So this if particular project is allowed to go forward with these changes, which are massive, they have not submitted documentation for these changes,” she said. “It this is what they wanted to do why didn’t they ask for that when they were going through the REA process (Renewable Energy Approvals: http://www.ontario.ca/page/renewable-energy-approvals ).”
“So when they put the 135’s down to 124, you are actually increasing the sound power levels which means that people who are going to be closest to these turbines and affected by them are going to be listening to over 40dB of sound power which is against their own rules,” she said.
“We need to stand up as a community and stop being run over by these people,” she said.
The article goes on to say “Long-term psychosocial effects have been related to nocturnal noise. Noise annoyance during the night increases total noise annoyance for the following 24 hours. Particularly sensitive groups include the elderly, shift workers, persons vulnerable to physical or mental disorders, and those with sleep disorders.”
The article also draws this conclusion regarding low frequency sound and vibration: “Other factors that influence the problem of night-time noise include its occurrence in residential areas with low background noise levels and combinations of noise and vibration such as produced by trains or heavy trucks. Low frequency sound is more disturbing, even at very low sound pressure levels; these low frequency components appear to have a significant detrimental effect on health.”
According to an article in Environmental Health Perspectives, Wind Turbines: A Different Breed of Noise? by Nate Seltenrich, “Multiple recent studies, including one coauthored by Daniel Shepherd, senior lecturer at New Zealand’s Auckland University of Technology, have demonstrated that sleep interference gets worse the nearer residents are to turbines. ‘Sleep is absolutely vital for an organism,’ he says. ‘When we lose a night’s sleep, we become dysfunctional. The brain is an important organ, and if noise is disturbing its functioning, then that is a direct health effect.’”
According to this article “Wind turbines generate lower frequencies of sound than traffic. These lower frequencies tend to be judged as more annoying than higher frequencies and are more likely to travel through walls and windows. Infrasound, or sound frequency lower than 20 Hz—inaudible to the human ear—has been associated in some studies with symptoms including fatigue, sleeplessness, and irritability, as well as with changes to the physiology of the inner ear that have poorly understood implications.”
“Because I work so closely with Mothers against Wind Turbines and the West Lincoln Wind Action Group (wlwag), they notified probably about a month-and-a-half ago that the changes were being requested,” Ald. Betty Konc said in a later interview. “I just saw red when I saw this in our correspondence package because we’re one of the municipalities that are going to be affected by the proposed changes and we are one of the last to find out.”
“This is so typical of wind developers, they have been given ‘carte blanche’ to come in and walk all over the municipalities,” she said.
“When I saw this, I thought ‘Really you want to wait till the last minute to tell one of the three municipalities you are working in that you want these changes?,’” she said. “They aren’t little changes, they’re huge!”
“It’s a whole new project,” she said.
“What’s the motive behind the company wanting to change the turbines from 135m down to 124m? I don’t know, it’s probably cheaper to produce for them or something like that, we will probably never know,” she said. “They will also change the output level as well from 3 megawatt to 2.9, only .1 difference.”
“So they are changing the whole project, if this what they wanted to do, why didn’t they submit the paperwork in the original REA process?” she said.
“In my mind and in the minds of the Mothers against Wind Turbines and wlwag, this is a whole new project and it needs to go through the REA process and the current one needs to be null and void,” she said.
“According to the rules that are coming out for 2016 with regards to the next intake of projects this (if started as a new project) would not be allowed under the new rules this year, so they are trying to slide it in,” she said. “So they submitted their paperwork for these changes back in October but, still, we didn’t get the notice until Dec. 16.”
“Because of the way they’ve done this, there’s no real formal comment time,” she said. “With an REA, the public and the municipality get 60 days to comment on the project.”
“I agree with you (Ald. Konc),” Mayor April Jeffs said in the council meeting when drafting the letter was discussed. “It’s been verified and there are other people concerned, I think this is a good idea.”
At the conclusion of the issue it was voted unanimously that officially Wainfleet Township council will be drafting and sending a letter to the Ontario Minister of Energy, the Deputy Minister and the Region of Niagara (on the Mayor’s suggestion) and copies will be sent West Lincoln and Lincoln as they too will be affected by the proposed changes.
“We’re standing up and saying ‘Look this is a whole new project, they’re walking all over us and we don’t want to see this happen,’” Ald. Betty Konc said.
After 40 days of hearings, the Bureau County Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) recommended denial of all of the 127 applications of Walnut Ridge Wind LLC (WRW) to build industrial wind turbines. The ZBA considered the testimony of dozens of witnesses and experts on the impacts of such turbines. Six different people who live near projects in Illinois and Wisconsin testified the turbines cause extreme noise, flickering shadows, vibration and sleep deprivation. They suffered from symptoms commonly known as Wind Turbine Syndrome which involves feelings of motion sickness and vertigo. Three of the families abandoned their dream homes to escape the turbines.
An expert testified that neighbors will sustain up to a 50 percent loss in the value of their property. Nonetheless, WRW refuses to site turbines away from people’s homes nor will it agree to any property value protection plan. The ZBA unanimously found “the applicant has not produced sufficient evidence that the project will not diminish residential property values along the footprint.”
Project does not comply with noise regulations
The ZBA unanimously found “the applicant’s project does not comply with the noise regulations at the property lines as established by the Illinois Pollution Control Board and the Bureau County ordinance.” Two experts testified the data also showed the project will violate the maximum allowable noise levels at hundreds of homes.
Likewise, hundreds of homes in the area will be subjected to many hours of the strobe like effect caused by the shadows of the huge turning blades. The ZBA found WRW failed to design the project “to minimize shadow flicker,” and there was evidence that strobe effect can be particularly detrimental to children and adults with epilepsy, autism or those prone to motion sickness.
The Illinois Department of Natural Resources warned Bureau County the project is proposed to be built in an area containing several endangered species protected by both federal and state laws. Nonetheless, WRW refuses to move the project to avoid the endangered species or turn-off or curtail turbines as recommended by IDNR. Therefore, the ZBA unanimously found “the applicant has not produced sufficient evidence that the project would not affect endangered species native to the area.”
The evidence also showed the turbine company underestimated the cost to tear down the $400 million project by over $32 million, and the ZBA found “the decommissioning information presented (by the applicant) was insufficient.”
No real tax revenue for the community
A petition was presented by 245 people who own land in the footprint that oppose the project which is three times as many who favor the project. The only response by the turbine company to the overwhelming public opposition was to argue the project will create tax revenue. However, the law which allows the turbines to be taxed as real estate expires on Dec. 31, 2016. When the law expires, companies like WRW will argue turbines are actually personal property and not real estate resulting in no tax revenue.
The CKWS Newswatch team reported that “Loyalist Township stands to rake in some big bucks once 26 wind turbines are built on Amherst Island.”
Two key agreements with Windlectric have been authorized by the township related to the 74.3 MW (megawatt) project that will see 26 turbines erected on the island. While the project has been authorized by the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC), the Association to Protect Amherst Island has appealed the approval. The start date is therefore unknown as the developer must await the ruling of the ERT (Environmental Review Tribunal) which is not expected until the early Spring of 2016.
The term “big bucks” is relative to the size of the project and, perhaps, to the recipient of those “bucks”! In this case the community benefit agreed to is $500,000 annually for the next 20 years. On the surface it sure sounds like big bucks, but the really big bucks will wind up in the pockets of Windlectric’s shareholders.
If the 74.3 MW capacity development operates at the expected average of 30% of its rated capacity, it should produce almost 2 million megawatt hours (MWh)of electricity and deliver that to Ontario’s grid — whether it’s needed or not. The math is simple:74.3 X 30% X 8760 (hours in a year) = 1,952,604MWh.
We should assume the Windlectric contract was executed prior to the slight downward movement in the feed-in-tariff (FIT) pricing, so for each MWh produced, Windlectric will be paid $135.00/MWh. If you do the math on what their annual revenue will be you might be surprised at the really “big bucks” they will receive! The gross revenue for Windlectric will be about $26.4 million annually (1,952,604 MWh X $135 = $26,396,010) which most of us would consider “big bucks”!
Loyalist’s ‘big bucks’ is not even 2% of the developer’s revenue
The township will get $500,000 of the $26.4 million which amounts to 1.9% of the takeaway by Windlectic. If the Amherst Island residents are, as the Deputy Mayor suggested, put “at ease” they shouldn’t be; council should have bargained much harder.
As one resident suggested, the “big bucks” may not be sufficient to even repair the damage to Amherst Island’s infrastructure after construction. And that doesn’t even consider the devaluation1. of property close to the turbines, destruction to migratory birds, plant and animal life, and of course to the 15 to 20 % of people who may feel the effects of the audible and inaudible noise on their health.
Because “secrecy breeds mistrust,” Saugeen Shores Coun. John Rich wants “openness and transparency” from officials with the Ministry of Environment (MOE), and UNIFOR (formerly CAW), concerning previously undisclosed noise test results that “appear to reveal” the union’s Port Elgin industrial wind turbine has operated out of compliance with provincial noise regulations.
Through a Freedom of Information (FOI) request, Saugeen Shores Turbine Operation Policy (S.T.O.P) received data detailing 300 complaint-driven observations of noise emissions from the CAW/UNIFOR turbine. The Town’s Notice of Motion said “these observations appear to reveal several incidents where noise emissions from the UNIFOR turbine exceeded the noise standards set by the the MOE.. .which have not been previously disclosed either to the Town of the public at large.” The majority of complaints dealt with sleep disturbance, but also included reports of headaches, nausea, vertigo and other health-related issues.
S.T.O.P spokesman Greg Schmalz brought the information to Council in September at a community forum, and after a review of the data, Saugeen Shores Deputy-Mayor Luke Charbonneau, and Councillors John Rich and Mike Myatt, tabled a Notice of Motion at the Dec. 14 Council meeting to invite CAW/UNIFOR and the MOE to “share and review” the data at a meeting with the Town and S.T.O.P.
Regardless of support or opposition to wind energy, Coun. Rich said “you have to be in support of openness and transparency” by the MOE and CAW/UNIFOR, because “secrecy breeds mistrust.”
“What we want to see is more openness and opportunity for everyone to have discussion. If there is no problem, there is no issue, then things go the way they are. But if there is a problem, then it must be addressed at that time, but I think it’s important that we add a little sunlight to this and make sure we know what’s going on,” Rich said.
Deputy-Mayor Charbonneau said the “real nub” of their Motion is the existence of the FOI documents that “indicate, or at least gives the appearance, that the CAW/UNIFOR turbine has been operating in exceedence [sic] of its noise limits.”
He said that although the MOE required, and CAW/UNIFOR promised, third-party testing to verify turbine operation compliance, it is “concerning” that they have no evidence, and hopes the meeting will get the parties together to determine if the turbine is operating within the provincial guidelines.
Mayor Mike Smith recounted how CAW/UNIFOR had refused a past Town request for the resources to have independent testing done, and said there’s been no contact between the Town and CAW/UNIFOR for several years.
Speaking during the regular open forum prior to the Dec. 14 Council meeting, Schmalz said if the requested meeting occurs, S.T.O.P. will make “simple and reasonable” requests to address the main complaint of sleepless nights by shutting down the turbine from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.
S.T.O.P also wants the peak daytime noise limit set at 40-decibels, which is the nighttime level for the rest of the province where a 550-metre buffer is required between wind turbines and residences. The setback was not in effect when the CAW/UNIFOR turbine received approval and began operating in April 2013.
Schmalz alleges a “cover-up” by the MOE and CAW/UNIFOR officials who promised “open and transparent” sharing of noise tests, yet S.T.O.P. had to make a FOI application to get the data that showed non-compliance.
“In my books, that’s called cover-up. It leads us to believe that the information that we obtained – which is non-compliant tests – was the norm, and they did not want to have it made public that the turbine was operating out of compliance, and still is, as far as we’re concerned,” Schmalz said, adding S.T.O.P. spent approximately $100,000 for independent noise testing and the FOI request “to get the truth.”
He said they are not asking CAW/UNIFOR to tear down the turbine – the company’s symbol of support for Green Energy and climate change – but don’t want that “mission to interfere with how people enjoy their lives.”
In a Dec. 17 telephone interview, Ken Bondy, UNIFOR’s National Co-ordinator for Health, Safety and Environment, said the claims of non-compliant turbine operations are “unsubstantiated.”
He had a problem with the word “appear” in the Town motion that said the test results “appear to reveal several incidents where noise emissions from the UNIFOR turbine exceeded the noise levels standards set by the MOE…”
“Just because complaints have been filed doesn’t mean the turbine was non-compliant,” Bondy said.
“Is there compliance, or is there not? The only body that would make that determination is the Ministry of Environment, which has now been alleged [to be] in a cover-up operation with the union,” Bondy said, pointing to a 2013 Health Canada study that found there were no harmful effects from turbines, but that “people are annoyed by the sight of them,” Bondy said.
He said, at this point, he is willing to meet with Town and Ministry officials, but not S.T.O.P. officials because of CAW/UNIFOR officials have “concerns meeting with groups that want to portray or publish information that is not factual.”
Officials with the MOE were not immediately available for comment.
Community benefit fund no “windfall” says resident Peter Large. “The Township will need that money” to offset construction damage
LOYALIST TOWNSHIP STANDS TO RAKE IN SOME BIG BUCKS ONCE 26 WIND TURBINES ARE BUILT ON AMHERST ISLAND. THE TOWNSHIP HAS AUTHORIZED 2 KEY AGREEMENTS WITH THE POWER COMPANY. BUT RESIDENTS ARE CONCERNED THAT COUNCIL’S MOVE WAS PREMATURE — AND HOPING THERE’S STILL A CHANCE TO STOP THE GREEN ENERGY PROJECT. NEWSWATCH’S HEATHER SENORAN HAS THE DETAILS.
PETER LARGE HAS LIVED ON AMHERST ISLAND FOR 15 YEARS. HE SAYS THE TOWNSHIP’S PLAN TO PUT CLOSE TO 30 WIND TURBINES ON THE ISLAND WOULD RUIN THE EXISTING HERITAGE, BE DANGEROUS TO THE COMMUNITY AND THREATEN WILD LIFE.
“TO HAVE 50 STOREY TALL TURBINES, THRUST INTO THAT COMMUNITY WITHOUT IT’S CONSENT. IT’S JUST NOT RIGHT.”
WINDLECTRIC’S 74.3 MEGAWATT ENERGY PROJECT WAS CONDITIONALLY APPROVED BY THE PROVINCE BACK IN AUGUST. NOW LOYALIST TOWNSHIP COUNCIL HAS APPROVED A ROAD USE AND COMMUNITY BENEFITS AGREEMENT WITH THE WIND POWER COMPANY.
“With the approval, we now have the framework to proceed with a constructive dialogue with Loyalist regarding the project’s detailed construction planning.”
TO OFFSET THE IMPACT OF THE WINDFARM, WINDLECTRIC WILL GIVE OVER 500 THOUSAND A YEAR.
SOMETHING THE TOWNSHIP’S DEPUTY MAYOR IS HOPING WILL BRING MORE PEOPLE ON SIDE.
“I HOPE IT PUTS RESIDENTS AT EASE. IT CERTAINLY PUTS ME AND I BELIEVE THE TOWNSHIP COUNCIL AT EASE. BECAUSE IT DOES GIVE THE TOWNSHIP AN ELEMENT OF CONTROL. WITHOUT THAT, THERE’S NO ELEMENT OF CONTROL.”
BUT LARGE ISN’T SO SURE.
“THAT COMMUNITY BENEFIT WOULD BE NEEDED TO CLEAN UP THIS PLACE. REPLANT TREES, PUT ROAD SYSTEMS BACK THE WAY THEY SHOULD BE AND SO ONE. YOU CAN’T REALLY CALL IT A COMMUNITY BENEFIT. AMHERST ISLAND WILL NEED IT”
THE AGREEMENT STATES THE TOWNSHIP CAN DO WHATEVER IT WANTS WITH THE MONEY.
“The Benefit Fund can be used by Loyalist Township however it sees fit to benefit its residents.”
TOWNSHIP OFFICIALS ARE STILL WORKING THAT OUT.
“WE’LL WAIT AND FIGURE OUT WHAT TO DO WITH IT, ONCE IT ACTUALLY STARTS FLOWING — IF AND WHEN THE PROJECT GOES FORWARD.”
“THE DEPUTY MAYOR OF LOYALIST TOWNSHIP SAYS, THE EARLIEST THE WIND PROJECT COULD BECOME SHOVEL READY IS THE SPRING OF 2016. BUT WITH NUMEROUS APPEALS STANDING IN THE WAY, HE ADMITS PLANS WILL LIKELY BE STALLED FURTHER.”
THE ASSOCIATION TO PROTECT AMHERST ISLAND LAUNCHED AN APPEAL OF THE PROJECT APPROVAL IN SEPTEMBER BUT THEY DON’T EXPECT TO FIND OUT IF IT’S APPROVED BY THE ENVIRONMENT REVIEW TRIBUNAL UNTIL MARCH OF NEXT YEAR. HEATHER SENORAN CKWS NEWSWATCH, AMHERST ISLAND.
Climate change “solutions” must demonstrate effectiveness
Now that a second Auditor General’s Report has severely criticized Ontario’s electricity system, it is time to rethink a politically motivated energy policy. Action on climate change must not squander crucial time and resources on schemes that may be ineffective, economically unfeasible, or harm human health and the environment.
Why did the Government of Ontario choose to ignore the 2011 Auditor General’s Report that questioned the negligible ability of intermittent wind power to lower carbon emissions because natural gas-fuelled back up is required 24/7?
The Multi-municipal Wind Turbine Working Group, made up of councillors from jurisdictions where wind turbine development has been most intensive, is ideally positioned to observe first hand the effects of wind turbines on the local community. Adverse health effects are occurring to citizens exposed to wind turbines at approved setbacks. Noise and health complaints have been ignored by government officials. Restrictive Environmental Review Tribunal procedures under the Ontario Green Energy Act make residents’ participation meaningless. Biologists’ observations of degradation of significant habitat and loss of biodiversity near wind turbines have been disregarded.
Because of wind power’s difficulty in matching production with demand, a substantial amount of the emission-free electricity from hydro and nuclear plants is being dumped (in order to stabilize the grid) because the Government’s energy policy gives priority to nominally “green” wind energy. This results in throwing away a large portion of the “base load” electricity already paid for by consumers.
Our technical consultant, William Palmer, using IESO (Independent Electricity Supply Operator) data, found that in 2014 hydraulic generating stations (water power) were reduced by 3.2 TWh (Terra Watt Hours) due to surplus base load generation. Bruce Power nuclear units were reduced 588 times, each occurrence resulting in bypassing some 300 MW of electrical equivalent of high pressure steam directly to the turbine generator condensers. These transient adjustments result in accelerated wear on the condensers.
At the same time, much of the excess wind energy has to be sold outside the province at below production cost. This drives down the market price for electricity and means that Ontario is often forced to dump surplus electricity to our neighbours in New York and Michigan at negative prices – paying them to take it, further penalizing Ontario consumers.
The Auditor General’s 2015 report discloses that
excess payments to generators over the market price have cost consumers $37 billion between 2006 and 2014
are projected to cost another $133 billion from 2015 to 2032
electricity consumers will eventually pay a total of $9.2 billion more for renewables under the Ministry’s guaranteed-price renewable program
we are paying double the U.S. average to generators of wind power
the electricity portion of hydro bills has risen by 70%.
Not surprisingly the Government has now denied the Auditor General access to Hydro One finances, shielding the company from public scrutiny.
A recently published “Council of Canadian Academies Report: Technology and Policy Options for a Low-emission Energy System in Canada” is an example of policy recommendations that fail to recognize the adverse impact on the existing system that the transition in energy systems is already having. It would have been more useful if its authors had given thoughtful consideration to the IESO data and investigated more fully the consequences of wind turbines in Ontario.
The Multi-municipal Wind Turbine Working Group has written to the Federal Government, which provides substantial subsidies for wind turbines, requesting reality-based climate change policy decisions for solutions that are actually effective in converting to a low emission energy system without themselves resulting in adverse impacts.
Mark Davis, Chair, Multi-municipal Wind Turbine Working Group
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.