Noise complaints, health impacts dominate St Columban meeting

Complaints about St Columban noise mounting: Veresen's desktop predictions say, no problem
Complaints about St Columban noise mounting: Veresen’s desktop predictions say, no problem

Developer tells community to call them, not the government

Wind power developer Veresen held its third community liaison meeting for the St Columban project last evening. The meeting was “facilitated” by consulting firm Stantec.

Residents were able to ask questions of the company about the project, provided they were submitted by last Friday; the public was allowed to “observe.”

Noise complaints dominated the evening but the company’s response was that they are “in compliance” so no action will be taken. Residents from the nearby K2 project area attended the meeting and recounted problems with intrusive noise there.

Officials advised the community that noise complaints should be addressed to the company and not the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change Spills Line.

THIS IS FALSE.

The MOECC confirmed for Wind Concerns Ontario this morning that calls from that project should go to the Guelph district office at 1-800-265-8658. (Callers should provide their location, the time of the call, weather conditions at the time of the call, and their identity and contact information.)

A community member asked about the $32 million in liens on leaseholder properties and was told that these are legal matters and will not be discussed.

 

 

 

Wind power developer tries to disqualify McMurtry evidence

Former University Dean of Medicine, member of the Order of Canada, and published researcher owns property in Prince Edward County, WPD counsel says, alleging conflict of interest

WPD sought to disqualify respected physician Dr Robert McMurtry. What are they worried about?
WPD sought to disqualify respected physician Dr Robert McMurtry. What are they worried about?
Report on Environmental Review Tribunal Hearing on the White Pines Wind Project

November 17, 2015

Day Seven of the Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) began expert witness testimony on the health effects of the White Pines wind project.

The first order of business, however, was the Tribunal’s decision on the two environmental reply witnesses proposed by appellant APPEC.  Chair Marcia Valiante ​ruled the witness statements partially admissible subject to objections over “bolstering” and “originality” of evidence.

Then the hearing turned to the first of the health experts called by APPEC.  Christopher Hanning, MD, qualified as “a physician with expertise in sleep medicine and physiology,” said wind turbines are “inherently noisy and cause sleep loss” because the characteristics of amplitude modulation and low-frequency sound make them much more annoying than aircraft, railways, and road traffic.  Citing anecdotal and epidemiological studies, he explained that 15 percent of the population is sensitive to noise and “people are caused serious harm with current minimum setbacks.”  He argued that the level of proof which dissenting experts require is inappropriate and that the Precautionary Principle should be used to protect public health.  If adverse effects occur up to 1.5 km, this is incontrovertible evidence that the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) setback is inadequate.

After completing the examination in chief, Eric Gillespie, APPEC’s counsel, asked how the Tribunal would assess 118 sources in a 69-page witness statement since Dr. Hanning had been able to comment on only a few due to the Tribunal’s tight timelines.

​Chair Valiante replied that the Tribunal had established rules based on standard practice and Gillespie would have to appeal these in a judicial review.

In cross-examination Sylvia Davis, MOECC counsel, questioned the relevance and credibility of Dr. Hanning’s sources, in which statements by wind project residents are taken at “face value.”  Dr. Hanning clarified that in the practice of medicine people’s statements are generally accepted but followed by medical histories and clinical tests.  He asserted that the studies cumulatively show the existence of a health problem as well as the need for research.

​James Wilson, WPD counsel, questioned Dr. Hanning’s qualification to testify as he is not an acoustician.  Dr. Hanning told the ERT that having spent his entire professional life studying sleep it is apparent to him that any noise causing an adverse health effect constitutes serious harm to human health.  He said he relies on the World Health Organization definition of annoyance.  If people are annoyed to the extent they are forced to leave their homes or are too tired to drive, the annoyance is serious harm.

The second health expert called by APPEC was Dr. Robert McMurtry, whom Gillespie sought to qualify as a physician and surgeon with expertise in the delivery of health care, heath care policies and health policies.  Gillespie noted that Dr. McMurtry had been so qualified at previous ERTs, and he pointed to a long and distinguished career in medicine, invited testimony this year before the Australian Senate, and peer-reviewed publication in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine on health effects in the environs of wind turbines.

But Wilson objected to the qualification of Dr. McMurtry.  He submitted that as a homeowner in the White Pines project area Dr. McMurtry was not an independent witness, had a personal financial interest, and should not be permitted to give opinion evidence. Gillespie responded that at this time Dr. McMurtry has no financial interest in anything.  He noted further that Dr. McMurtry’s opinion has been relevant at other hearings and is important for the Tribunal to hear.

The Tribunal agreed to qualify Dr. McMurtry as an Expert Witness and decided that due to the lengthy process of qualification his testimony would be given the next day.

The ERT resumes Wednesday, November 18, 10 a.m. at the Essroc Centre, Wellington.

-Henri Garand and Paula Peel, Alliance to Protect Prince Edward County

Horizon not giving up on $50-million wind power project despite environmental concerns

"Which way to Highway 61? I'm looking for something to eat..."
“Which way to Highway 61? I’m looking for something to eat…”

Power developer failed to meet First Nations concerns; claims wildlife will “benefit” from roadways

The Chronicle-Journal, November 17, 2015

Horizon Wind is to appeal a provincial decision to deny its application to build a wind farm on the Nor’Westers escarpment. The Ministry of the Environment said Monday the company announced its intention to appeal on November 12, just a few days before the deadline. The appeal is to be heard by the Environmental Review Tribunal. A date for the hearing has yet to be set, an MOE spokesperson said Monday.

In it decision released by letter last month to Horizon Wind Inc., the ministry found that the company’s proposal for 16 turbines did not provide “certain specific information in response to the ministry’s detailed inquiries on the potential impacts on moose and moose habitat.”

The ministry said it needed that information to address concerns “that the potential impacts on moose, moose habitat, and the traditional moose-hunting practices of members of Fort William First Nation had been adequately addressed and mitigated.”

“It’s what we’ve been saying all along, “Fort William First Nation Chief Peter Collins said in an earlier interview. Collins said that, among other things, the First Nation hunters felt that a proposed requirement to stay about three kilometres away from the turbines was too restrictive.

Horizon Wind could not be reached for comment Monday. The company has been trying to develop the $50-million, 32-megawatt Big Thunder Wind Park for several years.

Horizon has argued that moose wouldn’t have been negatively affected by the turbines because the animals would benefit by having additional pathways to browse for food.

 

Environmental groups “shockingly silent” on wind farm bird slaughter: Senator

Senator Bob Runciman. (FILE PHOTO)

The Kingston Whig-Standard, November 16, 2015

A Conservative senator is calling out large environmental groups for their silence on the impact of wind turbines on bird populations.

Ontario Senator Bob Runciman, who in 2011 introduced a motion that was unanimously passed by the Senate calling for a moratorium on wind turbine developments in Important Bird Areas, said large environmental groups, such as the World Wildlife Fund and the David Suzuki Foundation have not addressed one of the biggest criticisms of wind energy.

“Thousands of birds are being needlessly slaughtered simply because these industrial wind farms are located in the wrong places,” Runciman wrote in a letter Monday. “Yet the very organizations dedicated to protecting wildlife have been shockingly silent. I’d like to know why.”

In an interview with the Whig, Runciman said the impacts on bird and bat populations has been ignored by groups such as the World Wildlife Fund Canada and the David Suzuki Foundation.

“Organizations that have essentially been silent on this. I think that has had a positive political impact for the government,” Runciman said. “There’s simply not the recognition levels raised and no real effort to make people aware of it or express concern themselves as an organization.”

Runciman said those groups do not want to be appear to be opposed to green energy and do not want to get on the wrong side of the Liberal government. Runciman also said larger environmental groups are based in large urban centres, such as Toronto, while wind energy projects are being proposed or built mainly in rural areas.

“I’m not talking about green energy itself, I’m talking about putting these turbines in these areas where they are going to kill thousands and thousands of birds and bats and jeopardize a significant amount of endangered species,” Runciman said.

Gideon Forman, a climate change policy analyst with the David Suzuki Foundation, agreed that wind turbines shouldn’t be placed in sensitive bird and bat areas. But Forman said the impact on bird and bat populations should not be used to derail efforts to introduce more renewable energy in Ontario.

“Windmills do kill some birds but you need to put that in context,” Forman said. “The greatest threat to birds, and indeed other wildlife, will be climate change so we absolutely need to ramp up properly sited renewables. We need to transition away from fossil fuels to renewable energy source, among them wind.

“We do need to put them in the right places. An important bird area is not the right place.”

Forman said research has indicated the number of birds killed by windmills is “tiny” compared to the number killed by flying into buildings and high tension power lines, pesticide use, vehicles and house cats.

“You need to put it in that context.”

Forman said the Suzuki Foundation is a charity and is non-partisan and has members in all areas of the country.

The provincial government is currently evaluating proposals from more than 40 companies bidding for large renewable energy contracts. Of the 565 megawatts of renewable energy the contracts are expected to produce, 300 megawatts is to come from wind energy.

Wind energy projects have been proposed, approved or built for areas stretching from Prince Edward County, Greater Napanee, Amherst Island, off shore near Main Duck Island and on Wolfe Island.

by Eliot Ferguson

Tribunal to decide on bird expert witnesses at White Pines appeal

Will bird experts be able to testify at White Pines appeal? Ruling expected today
Will bird experts be able to testify at White Pines appeal? Ruling expected today

Report on Environmental Review Tribunal Hearing on the White Pines Wind Project

November 16, 2015
by
Henri Garand, Alliance to Protect Prince Edward Count
On Day Six, the Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) of the White Pines wind project considered a procedural motion to exclude two environmental witnesses, heard testimony from four health case witnesses, and then ruled on the proposed schedule of expert witnesses.
Eric Gillespie, counsel for appellant APPEC, proposes to call Dr. Michael Hutchinson, a director of the American Bird Conservancy, and William Evans, a nocturnal bird migration monitoring expert, in reply to two witness statements provided by wind developer/approval holder WPD.  James Wilson, WPD counsel, claimed these witnesses would either repeat evidence given by another APPEC witness or introduce new facts outside “proper reply.”  Gillespie argued that APPEC, bearing the onus of proof, has the right to reply to WPD’s experts, and the expertise of the reply witnesses does not duplicate that of primary witness Dr. Shawn Smallwood, an ecologist.
The Tribunal reserved its decision until the next day.
The afternoon was taken up by four witnesses who reside near the proposed wind project.  Each witness described pre-existing medical conditions and provided corroborative OHIP and physicians’ records.
Nora Bowlby, whose house would be 800 m from the nearest turbine, is concerned that annoyance, stress, sleep disturbance, fatigue, headaches, and vertigo, all symptoms attributable to wind turbines, will worsen her psychological and neurological disorders.  She also worries that project construction and road traffic will damage the stone foundation of her 125-year-old wood-frame house.  She said that due to her medical conditions the house is a refuge, which she fears will be lost.
Ann McLurg, a South Bay resident, fears that low-frequency sound, shadow flicker, and vibration will exacerbate her post-traumatic stress. She said she has spent all her retirement savings in renovating a 160-year-old house where she feels calm and safe, and the wind project now threatens her health.
Deborah Cermack, a Royal Road resident who would live 650 m from the nearest turbine, believes that noise and infrasound would aggravate the migraines from which she has suffered since childhood.  The migraines would become intolerable in both number and severity.  Cermack said she moved to the County for peace and quiet and control of her migraines, and to “have all that taken away would be devastating.”
Andrei Sulzenko, whose County Rd. 13 house would be 600 m from turbine T 29, has suffered for nine years from periodic insomnia that triggered adverse health effects.  He submitted a letter from his sleep doctor stating that low-frequency sound from nearby turbines could cause sleep disturbance and insomnia.  He said the only remedy would be to leave his house.
All the witnesses reported that they had contacted WPD and the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change but received no response to their concerns.
The day concluded with the Tribunal decision on the schedule for the balance of the hearing dates.  All parties had previously made written submissions, with the key difference being that APPEC had scheduled one expert witness per day and WPD wanted two.  The Tribunal ruled in favour of two witnesses per day.  The chair explained that it was the common ERT practice and the evidence is “nothing different from other proceedings.”
The ERT resumes Tuesday, November 17, 10 a.m. at Essroc Centre, Wellington.

Subsidies for renewables “least effective” for the environment: economist

The Montreal Economics Institute, a non-partisan non-profit organization engaged in education and research, has published a document in advance of the Paris climate change talks, entitled A Practical Guide to the Economics of Climate Change.

In it, the authors discuss various measures that might be considered. Of particular note is Chapter 2 Governmental measures and their effectiveness and the discussion of Feed In Tariff subsidies for “renewable” sources of power. Here is an excerpt:

These subsidies are among the most expensive, and
therefore the least efficient, ways of reducing GHG
emissions. In particular, they have significant economic
and social consequences. By raising the costs of electricity
for the consumers who finance them, these
subsidies generate energy poverty among the most vulnerable
households. They also hurt the competitiveness
of companies that see their rates go up. The European
experience is telling. Several countries have had to
shrink the subsidies they give out to producers of renewable
energy.

In an interview on November 13 with journalist Rob Snow at radio CFRA, co-author Youri Chassin named Ontario as an example of how FIT subsidies don’t work, and actually cause hardship for citizens. If you do a cost-benefit analysis, Chassin said, you will see, they are the least efficient way to go. (Listen to the interview here, in the first half hour.)

This is in line with what Wind Concerns Ontario has been saying: Ontario NEVER did a cost-benefit analysis for its renewables program, particularly wind (it sure won’t do one now) and, whatever your goals are for the environment, wind power is not the way to achieve them.

Proposed wind farm area should be a nature conservancy, says ERT witness

Prince Edward County's South Shore meets Environment Canada's criteria for protection. Ontario says, build the power plants! [Photo courtesy Point2Point Foundation]
Prince Edward County’s South Shore meets Environment Canada’s criteria for protection. Ontario says, build the power plants! [Photo courtesy Point2Point Foundation]
For almost 30 years, citizens of Prince Edward County have been trying to get all three levels of government to come together and create a protected area for wildlife, in this Important Bird Area which is a major stopover point for migratory birds in North America.

It never happened.

And now, Ontario has given approval for not one, but two, wind “farms” in the area, which is generally agreed will be a disaster for the environment.

Here is a report of testimony at the appeal of the White Pines project by WPD Canada, a Germany-based wind power developer. Emphasis is ours. The hypocrisy is theirs.

Report on the Environmental Review Tribunal Hearing on the White Pines Wind Project
November 12, 2015
by Henri Garand and Paula Peel, APPEC

The Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) of the White Pines wind project devoted Day Five to hearing six members of the public previously awarded status as Presenters rather than expert witnesses.

Christopher Currie also sought to be qualified as an expert witness because he would be commenting, as a professional land use planner, on WPD’s application reports. But the Tribunal denied the request because Currie’s focus was on water bodies and he has no credentials in hydrology or related subjects.

As a Presenter, nonetheless, Currie gave a detailed review of the deficiencies in WPD’s assessment of water bodies on the project site. He pointed out that two fisheries biologists, not hydrologists, had carried out all the field work from June to mid-October, never during the wet season of November through April, and had used assessment standards inappropriate for alvar. Due to these and other numerous flaws in methodology, the final report was incomplete and unreliable. Excavation, drilling, and hydrofracking for wind turbine bases would cause serious environmental harm to animals and plants by permanently altering the South Shore watershed.

Area meets Environment Canada criteria for protection

Cheryl Anderson, president of Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory (PEPtBO), described how White Pines would jeopardize the millions of birds which migrate each year through the Prince Edward County South Shore Important Bird Area (PECSSIBA). Soaring birds like eagles, hawks and vultures are especially vulnerable, and a dozen species at risk breed in the project area. Moreover, PECSSIBA, which is globally significant for waterfowl and nationally significant for endangered bird species, meets all Environment Canada criteria for a location unsuitable for wind development. In light of high mortality at the nearby Wolfe Island wind project, Anderson called on the ERT to apply the Precautionary Principle.

Richard Bird of the Hastings and Prince Edward Land Trust (HPELT) told the Tribunal about the 490-acre Miller Family Nature Reserve on Hill Top Road in South Marysburgh. A 2013 Baseline Documentation Report completed for Ontario Heritage Trust identifies natural heritage features including plants, animals, wetlands, alvar and migratory stopover habitat, as well as the endangered Blanding’s turtle. Wind turbines T21 and T22 are on the lot directly adjacent to the Reserve. A proposed transmission corridor on Hill Top Road will require blasting and/or digging and leveling of trees and vegetation. Mr. Bird said that HPELT considers the Miller Family Nature Reserve a model for what should take place on the PEC South Shore. The ERT requested a copy of the Report.

Roxanne MacKenzie focused on the adverse effects of wind turbines on human health. She noted that sound travels in rural areas and the White Pines wind project is close to many homes. People living near wind turbines have suffered sleep disturbance, vertigo, and tinnitus. Shadow flicker is a serious concern, especially with children. MacKenzie also mentioned the negative impact of White Pines on the local tourism industry, property values, and even increased electricity rates due to high transmission costs and subsidized export sale of electricity.

Doug Murphy described his 200-acre century farm and its roots going back six generations to United Empire Loyalists. He told the Tribunal that Stantec data is inaccurate: T4 is 97m from his property line, and shadow flicker will be an ongoing issue between April and September. Murphy also noted the project location within Black Creek Valley Area of Natural and Scientific Interest (ANSI) and the prevalence of crevices up to one foot wide and 10 feet deep that in some cases go for miles. The crevices make the area potentially unstable and unsuitable for turbines. Any blasting and/or drilling will cause problems on other properties including effects on water supply. Murphy provided the ERT with a 2012 document from WPD indicating that it plans to put 80 more turbines on 4000 acres.

Potential for adverse health effects

Brian Flack, who lives west of Lighthall Road where nine of WPD’s wind turbines are proposed, said that since the Renewable Energy Approval was granted there is increased stress in the community over property devaluation and potential adverse health impacts, including physical, physiological, and psychological harm. He noted that the Council of Canadian Academies found sufficient evidence of a causal relationship between exposure to wind turbine noise and the medical condition of annoyance. Mr. Flack asked the ERT to consider why the province did not expropriate land instead of denying responsibility for impacts on residents.

Since the Tribunal weights evidence on the basis of source and credibility, there’s no way of knowing what effect any of the non-expert Presenters will have on the ERT decision. The hearing continues next week on November 16, 10 a.m., in the Wellington and District Community Centre.

Map of Prince Edward County and South Shore where two wind power projects are approved.
Map of Prince Edward County and South Shore where two wind power projects are approved.

Endangered species expert alters opinion on wildlife deaths at appeal

ToughonNature

The MNR’s at-risk species expert is OK if turtles die; says “driver training” might help

What the heck happened to Joe Crowley? Seasoned herpetologist, at-risk species expert for the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, and mild-mannered scientist who just weeks ago testified at the Ostrander Point that it was his recommendation a permit not be granted for a wind power project there because the risk to wildlife was too great.

Joe Crowley as of November 10: everything is A-OK. His testimony was so at odds with what he said at the Ostrander Point appeal that appellant lawyer Eric Gillespie sought to have him declared an “adverse” (hostile) witness.

Here is this extremely polite report by Henri Garand and Paula Peel of the Alliance to Protect Prince Edward County (APPEC).

Report on the Environmental Review Tribunal Hearing on the White Pines Wind Project

 The Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) of the White Pines wind project focused, on Day Four, on Joe Crowley, a species-at-risk expert in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forests (MNRF).  Due to numerous procedural disputes, however, the hearing lasted from 10 a.m. till 8:30 p.m.

Crowley was summoned to testify on the basis of his evidence at the Ostrander Point ERT, and he was similarly qualified as an expert witness, specifically as a “herpetologist with expertise in Blanding’s turtles.”  At MNRF he is employed in the Species Conservation Branch, where his work includes assessment and review annually of some 70 projects affecting reptiles and turtles.  He confirmed he is the only MNRF employee with special expertise in the Blanding’s turtle, though other biologists may have general knowledge.

However, Crowley was never consulted about White Pines despite its adjacency to Ostrander Point.  Nor did he know just who was consulted in MNRF.
APPEC counsel Eric Gillespie asked Crowley whether the White Pines project could have similar impacts on the turtle population.  Crowley made clear he knew nothing about White Pines, but after reviewing a project map he admitted that Turbines 12 – 24 and 26 – 29 might be in suitable Blanding’s turtle habitat.
At several points Crowley recanted testimony made a month earlier at the Ostrander Point ERT and repudiated his own previously-held opinions:
  • Crowley said he overestimated turtle numbers at Ostrander Point and is no longer confident there is a “healthy and viable” population.
  • Crowley supposed it is “conceivable” that Blanding’s turtles could be moving along the shoreline.   Gillespie reminded Crowley of his Ostrander ERT testimony that Blanding’s turtles were known to range both along the south shore and inland 2 to 6 kilometres.
  • Despite his own references in MNRF documentation to a
    ​n interconnected

    wetland complex

    ​ on the south shore​

    , Crowley now considers that it’s only possible turtles move off the Ostrander property because their home range is typically 2 kilometres.

  • Crowley identified two critical habitats for Blanding’s turtles at Ostrander Point.  When reminded of the ERT’s finding that the entire site is critical habitat Crowley responded that it would depend on the definition of critical.
Due to nest predation and other threats, Crowley explained that a female turtle may have only one surviving offspring over 20-30 years of reproduction.  Given this low survival, he had considered at one time that Blanding’s turtle populations could only withstand mortality rates of up to 2%.  However, he now believes that as much as ​5% mortality is sustainable.
Due to the number of reversals from his testimony at the Ostrander Point ERT, Crowley was required to leave on two occasions while lawyers and the ERT panel discussed how to proceed.   Gillespie asked the Tribunal to declare Crowley an adverse witness because his testimony was couched with imprecise words such as “could,” “possibly,” and “may.”  This request would allow Gillespie to ask leading questions and speed up the process.   But the Tribunal denied the request even though counsels for the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) and wind developer WPD had been pressing Gillespie to reduce the time of his examination.During cross-examination by Sylvia Davis, counsel for the MOECC, Crowley discussed the need for mark-capture surveys in order to assess population size.  After further questioning by Gillespie he agreed that such studies were not done for either the Ostrander Point or White Pines projects.

Crowley also informed the Tribunal of a study demonstrating that driver training could have good results in decreasing road mortality.  When asked about this study by Gillespie, Crowley clarified that it concerned the Eastern Foxsnake and not Blanding’s turtles.

There were some positive points that came out of the testimony.   Blanding’s turtles will move from Ostrander Point into the White Pines project area.  Crowley’s 2011 statement from the Ostrander project, where he refers to interconnected wetland complexes throughout southern Prince Edward County is now on record.  The number of turtles and the quality of their habitat cannot be in dispute given the conditions set out within the Renewable Energy Approval.

The ERT resumes on Thursday, Nov. 12, 10 a.m. at the Essroc Centre, Wellington.
Map of Prince Edward County and South Shore where two wind power projects are approved. Not pictured: the magic line which Blandings turtles will not cross, according to the MOECC, MNR, and the power developer WPD
Map of Prince Edward County and South Shore where two wind power projects are approved. Not pictured: the magic line which Blandings turtles will not cross, according to the MOECC, MNR, and the power developer WPD

Ontario at-risk species expert to testify at wind farm appeal today

ToughonNature

We received word late last evening that Joe Crowley, at-risk species expert with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry is to testify at the appeal of the White Pines wind power project in Prince Edward County today.

The hearing is being held at the Essroc Community Centre in Wellington, Ontario.

Mr. Crowley was an expert witness at the Ostrander Point appeal, currently in its fifth phase, and testified that it was his professional recommendation that the danger to the Blandings turtle and other species at the Ostrander site was so great, a permit should not be granted. Mr Crowley has also commented the Blandings turtles range over the South Shore of Prince Edward County, the site of the other proposed wind power project, White Pines by wpd Canada.

The wind power developer denies this, and the endangered turtle was not even on the company’s permit regarding the Endangered Species Act.

At issue in these proceedings, for both appeals, is the fundamentals behind the Ontario government’s approval process for wind power plants. Documents have been withheld, expert advice ignored, and government staff have been shown to play the role of supporting and encouraging the power developments, not protecting the environment or wildlife.

The Ostrander Point appeal is on hiatus but may resume at the end of November; White Pines continues this week.

The little turtle that is exposing Ontario's nasty wind power approval process
The little turtle that is exposing Ontario’s nasty wind power approval process

 

Wind farm environmental assessment missing key information, appeal hearing told

Developer's environmental assessment incomplete and incorrect, says biologist
Developer’s environmental assessment incomplete and incorrect, says biologist

Project contravenes development guidelines set by Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry and Environment Canada for protection of wildlife

November 5, 2015

Report from the Alliance to Protect Prince Edward County on Day 3 of the appeal of the White Pines power project:

On Day Three of the Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT)  John Hirsch, one of the appellants, and Jim Bowlby, a Participant in the appeal testified that the White Pines Wind Project will cause serious and irreversible ​harm to the ​environment.

Opening Statement and Presentation of Mr. John Hirsch
Mr. Hirsch told ERT co-chairs Marcia Valiante and Hugh Wilkins of his long-time active community involvement and interest in environmental stewardship.

Mr. Hirsch informed the ERT panel that the government’s conclusion that no serious and irreversible harm would result from the White Pines Wind Project is based on incomplete, outdated and faulty information. The following issues were identified by Mr. Hirsch in his presentation:

  • No accurate accounting of bird and bat mortality as the prescribed method has been proven to dramatically understate the numbers;
  • Overall Canadian global population levels are used by WPD / Stantec as opposed to local or regional counts. The harm needs to be adjusted to the local project area;
  • Cumulative effects are not considered;
  • Lack of consideration of over lake migration route;
  • The siting of the White Pines Wind Project goes against documented MNRF and Environment Canada guidelines;
  • No remedies when mortality thresholds are exceeded;
  • No evidence provided by the MOECC (Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change) of independent verification of environmental facts;
  • There is no basis in fact that avoidance measures (read: “mitigations”) by WPD to prevent serious and irreversible harm to Blanding’s turtle as this matter is still before the ERT hearing on Gilead Power’s wind project at Ostrander Point.

No questions were raised to Mr. Hirsch by Sylvia Davis, counsel for the MOECC, Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change or Patrick Duffy, counsel for the approval holder / wind developer WPD.

Presentation of Mr. Jim Bowlby
The Tribunal accepted Mr. Bowlby as qualified to give evidence as a fisheries biologist. The Tribunal noted Mr. Bowlby’s employment with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) as a Fisheries Assessment Biologist and more recently as a Coordinator for the Lake Ontario Management Unit.

Mr. Bowlby gave evidence of the presence of spawning runs of White Suckers and Northern Pike in the Black Creek tributary, which is known as an exceptionally high quality spawning habitat. White Suckers spawn within 120 m of a proposed access road and transmission line.   Northern Pike migrate downstream of the REA area but these pike are dependent on streamflow that originates within the REA area.  Mr. Bowlby gave his opinion that if road and transmission line construction disrupts the aquifer supplying water to this stream and reduces streamflow, then the fish habitat and fish spawning in the stream will suffer serious and irreversible harm.

Mr. Bowlby also advised the Tribunal of five fissures or cracks in the ground within 120 m of Turbine 2. Some of the fissures are more than 2 m deep and form caves that are consistent with the MNRF descriptions of bat hibernacula. According to REA regulations the presence of potential bat hibernacula triggers requirements for further study before approvals can be made.

While Mr. Duffy might contend that the White Pines Wind Project is totally different than the Ostrander Point Wind Project and not only with respect to size, the process that ended with the approvals of these projects hasn’t changed. As Mr. Hirsch summed up today: “Quite simply, the entire conclusion by the MOECC that serious and irreversible harm will not be caused. . .is based on four MNRF (Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry) sign-off letters and highly questionable and biased reporting by the approval-holder’s consultant, Stantec.” This statement is as accurate now as it would have been three years ago.

Plans for next week

  • Monday, November 9 – Site Visit (not open to the public)
  • Tuesday, November 10 – ERT starting at 10:00 in Essroc Centre, Wellington – Summonsing of Joe Crowley, MNRF expert on  reptiles
  • Thursday, November 12 -ERT starting at 10:00 in Essroc Centre, Wellington – Testimony by the Presenters
By Paula Peel, APPEC