Australia’s first Wind Commissioner has ties to renewables industry

Australia's wind industry says appointing a commissioner to ensure complaints are dealt with is a waste of time
Australia’s wind industry says appointing a commissioner to ensure complaints are dealt with is a waste of time

The Guardian, October 9, 2015

The Turnbull government has appointed an academic and company director with strong ties to climate and renewables research as its new “wind commissioner”, in a move the clean energy industry says should help return the wind energy debate to “sensible”.

Andrew Dyer serves on the boards of Climateworks Australia and the Monash University sustainability unit. The government says his primary role will be to “refer complaints about windfarms to relevant state authorities” – which are already responsible for dealing with them.

The wind commissioner was promised by the former prime minister Tony Abbott in response to a Coalition and crossbench-dominated Senate committee report into the alleged health effects of windfarms. The senators demanded moves against wind energy in return for their essential votes on changes to the renewable energy target, which went beyond the deal the government had struck with Labor.

The Clean Energy Council’s chief executive, Kane Thornton, said he hoped Dyer’s appointment – and appointments to a new scientific committee on wind – would “return a more sensible tone to the debate, which had entered some strange territory during the recent Senate inquiry into windfarms.

“We expect that these new appointments will help to blow away some of the conspiracy theories about windfarms that have been championed by a small number of federal senators over the last few years.”

Dyer serves on multiple boards including Climateworks – a body that aims to facilitate substantial reductions in Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions over the next five years – and the Monash University sustainability institute. The institute brings together academics from all disciplines to tackle “climate change and sustainability, and their intrinsic multiple crises”, as well as the question of how the Australian economy can become carbon neutral.

Dyer will sit in Hunt’s federal environment department. His role does not appear to involve determining the veracity of any complaints but rather passing them on to the state authorities and collating scientific information.

When Abbott pledged to appoint a wind commissioner, he told the radio announcer Alan Jones he found windfarms visually awful, agreed that they might have “potential health impacts” and said the deal on the renewable energy target was designed to reduce their numbers as much as the current Senate would allow.

“What we did recently in the Senate was to reduce, Alan, capital R-E-D-U-C-E, the number of these things that we are going to get in the future … I frankly would have liked to have reduced the number a lot more but we got the best deal we could out of the Senate and if we hadn’t had a deal, Alan, we would have been stuck with even more of these things …

The Australian Conservation Foundation’s chief executive, Kelly O’Shanassy, said it was “sad to see the federal government continuing to contribute uncertainty to Australia’s burgeoning clean energy industry.

“There have been no less than eight studies conducted at the federal level in the last five years into wind energy and every single one has found no evidence of wind farms making people sick.”

………..

In other news, the government also appointed the first independent science committee:

The government has also appointed an independent scientific committee to conduct research into potential medical impacts of turbines which will be headed by acoustician and RMIT Adjunct Professor Jon Davy. The other members are:

Associate Professor Simon Carlile, Head of the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory, School of Medical Science, University of Sydney and Senior Director of Research at the Starkey Hearing Research Centre, University of California Berkeley, USA.

Clinical Professor David Hillman, Department of Pulmonary Physiology and Sleep Medicine at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital Perth, WA.

Dr Kym Burgemeister, Acoustics Associate Principal, Arup.

Natural Resources approved wind farm permit, endangers Wood Turtles

ToughonNature

Soo Today, October 7, 2015

Wood turtles are known for their sculpted shells, colourful legs and equally colourful personalities.

They are highly valued as pets.

Formally known as Glyptemys insculpta, the wood turtle is classified as endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species.

It’s similarly listed as endangered under Ontario’s Endangered Species Act.

Ontario’s wood turtles are at risk from international pet poachers, habitat loss and degradation, skunks, foxes and household pets, to say nothing of the threat of being rendered into road kill by motor vehicles.

Add to this the wood turtle’s late maturity, slow growth and its poor reproductive success, and you have a serious situation.

There are, apparently, wood turtles in the vicinity of the Bow Lake Wind Farm.

So far as your provincial government is concerned, these are secret turtles.

So much so, that SooToday is designating them as Bow Lake Windfarm Ninja Turtles (BLWNTs).

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry doesn’t want you to see them, know how many there are, where they are, where they aren’t, what they eat for breakfast or even anything about the methods used to look for them.

When someone tried recently to learn more about the BLWNTs, ministry officials fought beak and claw to prevent release of the information.

The original decision to withhold information about the turtles was appealed.

Ontario’s Freedom of Information and Privacy Commissioner finally ordered the government’s herpetologists out of their shells.

Last month, as Batchewana First Nation and BluEarth Renewables, Inc. were preparing to commission the 36-turbine Bow Lake project, Sherry Liang, Ontario’s assistant commissioner of information and privacy, was at a workshop at Sault Area Hospital, discussing the Bow Lake turtle decision as a recent precedent in provincial information-access law.

Here’s what the requester asked for:

“Produce a copy of any data collected or reports produced, including photographs or other visual evidence, by [the ministry] from 2008 to 2013 with respect to populations of wood turtles, snapping turtles, or Blanding’s turtles, including but not limited to any ‘tag and release’ program, in the 38 Mile Road area north of Chippewa Falls, Ontario and the area known as Bow Lake, Ontario, including the area of [details regarding four] townships…”

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry released little of the requested data, citing sections of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act and the Endangered Species Act that allow information to be withheld if it “could reasonably be expected to lead to killing, harming, harassing, capturing or taking” a living member of an endangered species.

“Poaching is one of the most insidious threats facing wood turtles,” the ministry argued. “While the populations within Sault Ste. Marie District have been fairly stable, warnings have been issued by local enforcement officers for possession of species-at-risk/ non-species-at-risk turtles, as well as one charge laid for the illegal possession of wood turtle within the district.”

“Sharing the specific location information of this population could reasonably be expected to result in the taking or harming of wood turtles…” the ministry said.

But the data withheld by ministry officials went far beyond specific location coordinates.

They also refused to disclose information about:

  • information about where wood turtles were not found
  • a description of the use of dogs in locating turtles
  • a description of river and road terrains
  • transmitter details
  • information about bird nesting sites or actual sightings of birds
  • information describing other species
  • information about camera locations
  • information about vegetation
  • approximate location of a turtle sighted by a local person with no indication as to how this relates to the actual location of wood turtles
  • positions where weather observations were recorded
  • codes or acronyms severed from email chains

The Freedom of Information and Privacy Commissioner’s office wasn’t having any of it.

“The ministry also withheld charts, photographs and maps, without providing representations as to how disclosure of these records could reasonably be expected to lead to the locating of wood turtles,” snapped adjudicator Diane Smith. “Nor is it apparent to me that these documents reveal the specific location of wood turtle populations.”

Smith pointed out that much of the ministry’s data was old, dating from 2006 to 2012, with no explanation of how it might adversely affect turtles in 2015.

The ministry didn’t indicate how many turtle-possession warnings it issued, when it issued them, or the turtle species involved, Smith said.

As for the single charge laid for illegal possession of a wood turtle in the Sault Ste. Marie area, the ministry offered no further information about the charge or the outcome of court proceedings.

“I find that the ministry has not provided sufficient evidence that disclosure of the information at issue in the records could reasonably be expected to lead to the killing, harming, harassing, capturing or taking a living member of the wood turtle population,” said Smith. “Most of the information is vague locational information referring to general, imprecise locations.”

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry was ordered to release its BLWNT data by May 29 of this year.

UK pilots worry about wind farms and aviation safety

Sunday Express, October 4, 2015

Pilots warn of a disaster as wind farms flourish

LIGHT aircraft pilots have warned it is “just a matter of time” before wind farms cause a “disastrous” accident in Scotland.

Scottish wind farm

SG

The aviation industry is struggling to deal with the pace of change in the industry

Small planes along with helicopters, gliders, microlights and other hobbyists make up the biggest user group of the UK airspace in terms of low level flying and contribute some £3billion to the economy supporting close to 40,000 jobs. Member organisations admit the fast-growing renewables sector has created some “fairly significant” issues which they have fought hard to resolve.

Their main concerns relate to downwind turbulence from the turbine blades plus problems with visibility especially in poor conditions. The fast pace of development mean maps and charts are often well behind of the size of existing farms and new developments with anenometer masts springing up to scout potential development sites.

Last month this newspaper revealed RAF pilots had reported a catalogue of near misses with wind farms and are making over 1,000 manual corrections to their charts every month to try and keep up with the changes.

However, general aviation industry is also struggling with the pace of development.

Last night the Light Aircraft Association (LAA) warned there was potential for a mid-air disaster.

LAA inspector Neil Geddes, of Bridge of Weir, Renfrewshire, said: “Certainly there is a risk.

“You only really understand how cluttered parts of Scotland are with wind turbines when you are flying a light aircraft – you won’t really get the picture tens of thousands of feet high on board a passenger plane.

“They cause downwind turbulence which can be an issue but at least we can spot them and take evasive action.

“It is the anenometer masts put up to measure wind speed and such like that are the real problem. They are practically impossible to see because they are so tall and slim. If you don’t know there is one on your flight path – and lets face it, it takes maps a year to catch up and by then there will be more of them – there is little you can do.

“In certain weather and light conditions they will be impossible to detect. It’s only a matter of time before we have a disastrous accident in our hands.”

If Whitelee decided to expand eastward and was given the planning permission to do so we’d be out of business

Colin MacKinnon, Microlight aircraft instructor

Microlight aircraft instructor Colin MacKinnon, who operates Scotland’s oldest airfield in Strathaven, Lanarkshire, near to Whitelee wind farm which is among the largest in Europe, said new developments had the potential to put people out of business unless they were willing to put up a fight.

He added: “For about four years, I spent at least one day a week to respond to wind development planning applications and despite promises of community benefits we never received a penny of any funds, which is a bit frustrating.

“If Whitelee decided to expand eastward and was given the planning permission to do so we’d be out of business.

“While millions of pounds have been spent to investigate the impact and guarantee the safety of commercial aviation such as relocating radars to avoid problems with readings, very little has been done for the general aviation sector which is us.

“One of the issues is turbulence. There is no research done as to how close to a turbine it will be safe to fly. We do not have the resource to fund such studies unlike the wind industry which has millions.

“So we err in the side of caution. None of us is brave or stupid enough to be a test pilot to see how close to a turbine you can fly before your plane is ripped to shreds.

“I think we are among the most experienced in the world when it comes to flying safely in the vicinity of turbines with Whitelee so near to us.”

Over the past five years there have been around 10,000 applications to construct approximately 24,000 turbines across the UK. With prime locations already in use developers are looking at alternative sites, many of which are closer to population and activity centres. A UK Government report to general aviation from earlier this year admitted some airfields had their operations threatened by wind turbine developments.

The LAA also admitted some energy companies were eyeing “inappropriate” spots for their structures. CEO Stephen Slater said: “I would say that more than 90 per cent of the turbines run no aviation issues.

“The general aviation sector is the main user of low level air space. It’s not just light aircrafts we are talking about but also helicopters, gliders, microlights, parachuters and so on.

“But we do have certain factors that have to be considered. There is the risk of potential collision especially in poor, deteriorating conditions when turbines or masts near an airfield may limit the pilot’s options of approach and we know of the radar issues with turbines interfering with readings.

“We are also aware of the concerns over turbulence with anecdotal evidence from pilots

“But I would say that over the years we have developed a good working relationship with the wind energy industry to mitigate any problems that may occur.”

Meanwhile campaigners opposing wind farms have drawn information from abroad to highlight issues to aviation.

Christine Metcalfe, of Loch Avich, Argyll, has requested confirmation under Freedom of Information legislation from Civil Aviation Authority that turbines and turbulence from them do not impact emergency landings at airports such as Prestwick in Ayrshire and Glasgow after receiving evidence from Australia, USA and Europe on safety issues.

She raised concerns Whitelee was constructed without appropriate safeguards in place and now wants to know what sort of radar and safety impact studies were carried out prior the vast development went up.

Ms Metcalfe also wants to know why there has been no studies into the effect turbulence from wind farms has on planes when the organisation itself said in 2012 there was an “urgent need” for an assessment.

CAA has issued guidance to aerodrome operators saying a “large number of turbines in an area” will have a cumulative effect that is “of far more significant concerns” but it is yet to respond to the FoI request in more detail.

The anti-wind farm campaigner said: “I have learned that during the early 90s the management of the CAA were very supportive of the campaign involving resistance wind turbines as they had real and valid concerns even then. It is a great pity that times appear to have changed somewhat – almost certainly due to governmental pressures.

Read more here.

Searching for truth on the wind power issue

Float at an Ontario fall fair: talk to the people actually living with wind turbines
Float at an Ontario fall fair: talk to the people actually living with wind turbines

Letter to the Editor of Ontario Farmer, September 29, 2015

(Excerpted)

Ian Cumming’s search for truth about wind turbines attracted my interest. A longtime admirer of his critical thinking skills, his ability to uncover the hidden, and his talent for research, tells me he is onto uncovering the great untruths of industrial wind turbines.

In his article “Looking for truth” of September 15, 2015 [not available online], he presents several truths. However, he makes some grave basic research mistakes. Having spent six years going to meeting[s] to learn about wind turbine issues, informing myself through knowledgeable people, travelling backroads to talk to people living next to turbines, I can tell Mr. Cumming is in the early stages of his research.

In his article, he identifies the most apparent truth of all: energy companies and the farmer/leaseholders are in this purely for the money, read “greed”, with no regard for neighbours or state. Cumming’s area of growth: what is the neighbor of the leaseholder getting out of this arrangement? I question how that farmer is manipulating or ignoring the truth, the truth that 550 meters away, a 170-meter (approximately 525 feet) structure is towering over my home.

…He contradicts himself by telling people to speak the truth and then when they do he calls them hypocritical, through his reference to a meeting beginning with the swooshing sound of a turbine. He suggests that the sound is exaggerated. Interestingly, a day before I read his article, a farmer who lives within 800 meters of two turbines said, “Tom, you won’t believe it. I was standing beside my tractor, engine running and the jet-sounding turbine was louder than theb tractor.”

That was my first-hand research.

Later [in his article], Mr. Cumming presents an inverse error by stating that he heard nothing standing beside a huge windmill in a county in New York. The inverse error: if I am standing beside a turbine, I do not hear any sound, therefore turbines do not make any sounds. My research would ask, how long were you beside that turbine? The people I have talked to who live around the turbines say that wind direction and speed, atmospheric pressure, and time of day all influence the amount and kind of sound. *

Several people have told me the sound is the worst between 3 am and 6 pm when the usual ambient noise is the least. Sound travels the farthest at night–when people are trying to sleep. Mr Cumming was probably not doing his sound research at that time of day.

His concluding example demonstrates that he is a novice wind turbine researcher when he referred to New York veterinarians with multiple problem-free herds next to 28 wind turbines for over a “decade.” My research tells me that 10 years ago, the largest turbine was about .6 to .8 megawatt. The local ones are 2.2 megawatts, newer ones proposed 3 megawatts, over twice the size of the ones 10 years ago!

I suggest that he find several herd with turbines of that magnitude within 55 meters, operated by sleep-deprived farmers and find out the health problems on those farms.

His concluding statement, “Is demanding the truth from either side too much to ask?” is the saddest part of the article.

The Truth: the misguided deceptive Smitherman-McGuinty-Wynne Ministry of the Environment are aware of human health problems, bird and bat killing, infrasound noise, transient voltage, yet they continue to approve new projects, with cost-benefit analysis or regard to local municipal planning. That is the truth.

I encourage Cumming to continue his research for he is good at questioning the right people for the answres he seeks. The easiest place to start: go to a farming community that has wind turbines and talk to as many people as possible who live near them. That is what I did. That research is solid. But remember when researching the truth from the wind companies, 50 years ago we wondered if the truth was that smoking caused cancer. Not possible, said the tobacco corporations.

Tom Melady

Stratford Ontario

  • Editor’s note: the quietest place is right under a turbine.

A note about writer Ian Cumming; he is himself a farmer, not a journalist, who farms in Glengarry County. glengarryfarms@sympatico.ca

 

Wind power developer records protesters in Prince Edward County

WPD’s slogan: “Wind has no limits.” Apparently, greed doesn’t either

MILFORD Ont., September 28, 2015—

As more than 300 residents of Prince Edward County gathered on Sunday to protest the assault on their community and the environment by two wind power projects (Ostrander Point and White Pines, both being appealed) Germany-based wind power developer wpd Canada recorded the event, including speeches given by various presenters.

“Shame on them,” says Paula Peel, secretary for the Alliance to Protect Prince Edward County (APPEC).

If the power developer’s presence recording people was meant as an intimidation tactic, it didn’t work, Peel says.

The organizers did a brisk business selling T-shirts and protest signs, she says. “If you didn’t come to the rally with a T-shirt or sign, it’s likely you left with one.”

“The one thing wpd will take away from our rally is that the fight is only just beginning.”

 

Contact APPEC and read more here.

Fighting for the environment in Prince Edward County

More than 30 people gathered at historic Mount Tabor in Prince Edward County to protest wind power projects
More than 30 people gathered at historic Mount Tabor in Prince Edward County to protest wind power projects

County Weekly News, September 28, 2015

PRINCE EDWARD COUNTY – They’ve fought the fight for 14 years and pledge to fight another 14 and then some.

A couple of hundred people gathered Sunday afternoon at Milford Fairgrounds for a rally organized by the Alliance to Protect Prince Edward County (APPEC) in the continued effort to keep wind turbines away from the municipality’s south shore.

With two developments slated for Athol and South Marysburgh wards, including 36 turbines, rally-goers heard from a number of local politicians, they must continue the battle in an effort to keep the region turbine free.

South Marysburgh Coun. Steve Ferguson told the crowd the developments equated to a loss of democratic rights.

“In 2012 Steve Campbell wrote an article… the article went on to explain the resolve of the people of South Marysburgh to take a stand against the loss of democratic rights in this ward – a vote was held and an overwhelming majority voted against industrial turbines,” he said. “But we came together as a group and a community and expressed an opinion – we’ve made an impression.”

Ferguson said it was important to have as many local residents as possible show up for appeal hearings for the wpd Canada White Pines (27 turbines) and Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) hearings for Gilead Power’s (nine turbine) Ostrander Point development.

“The pre-hearing for wpd set for earlier this month was set back because residents had not received proper correspondence indicating how they could participate,” Ferguson said. “The ERT, which begins again for Ostrander Point on Oct. 27, — it’s crucially important that we fill every seat in that (Demorestville) hall every day and ditto for (White Pines) when that resumes in Wellington in November. We have to have a strong presence to let the Tribunal know just how the people in South Marysburgh feel.”

Prince Edward Field Naturalists president Myrna Wood said the developments threaten wildlife and natural habitat in the region.

“Today, the endangered species list in Ontario stands at 217 and the main reason of species decline is habitat loss,” she said. “We humans take over the lands and waters they need and now is the time for us to preserve the remaining habitats for their survival – that is Prince Edward County’s south shore which is one of the last remaining habitats. It provides food and shelter for millions of birds that travel from South America to Canada’s north and back again every year. Constructing these turbine projects will destroy hundreds of hectares of shrubs, trees and wetlands on which the birds depend.”

Prince Edward – Hastings MPP Todd Smith agreed, telling the crowd he was disappointed to see the effects of another development in Ontario.

“I was visiting Huron County where they have hundreds of turbines erected and I was shocked not to see a single bird flying there,” he said. “There was nothing – it was dead and that’s exactly what is going to happen in Prince Edward County if these (projects) proceed. What it has done is rip apart the community with friends no longer being friends and families even being torn apart. It’s doing the same thing here and on top of all that – we don’t need the power.”

As a sign of solidarity and protest, rally-goers joined hands and formed a circle around Milford’s beloved Mount Tabor Community Theatre.

APPEC chairman Gord Gibbons said if a planned turbine is erected just south of the theatre, it will damage the village’s heritage forever.

“It’s planned for just behind the property here and it would have devastating effects on this community,” he said. “It simply cannot be allowed to proceed.”

 

Environment Canada wins right to have turbines stop during extreme weather

Environment Canada Exeter weather radar station. (JOHN MINER, The London Free Press)

(Photo: John Miner, Exeter radar station)

Radar operations affected by the turbines

London Free Press, September 27, 2015

Environment Canada can’t block wind farms from being built close enough to throw off its weather radar readings, but it’s won the right to order turbines curtailed during severe weather in Southwestern Ontario, documents obtained by The London Free Press show.

Under a 32-page agreement negotiated with NextEra Canada, Environment Canada can order the Florida-based wind energy giant to reduce wind farm operations in extreme weather that could jeopardize public safety.

Following a call from Environment Canada to its operation centre in Juno Beach, Fla., Next­Era has 20 minutes to “feather,” or adjust, turbine blades back in Ontario so they won’t contaminate radar readings, according to the agreement provided to The Free Press under the federal Access to Information Act.

The curtailment can last up to an hour, but can be extended by Environment Canada if dangerous weather conditions — Southwestern Ontario is located in a tornado alley and heavy snow belt — persist.

Ground Zero for industrial turbines in Ontario, with the biggest and largest number of wind farms in the province, Southwestern Ontario has been a hotbed of rural opposition to the highrise-sized installations, which took off after the Liberal government began signing sweetheart deals with energy companies — paying them far more for their electricity than consumers pay — under its Green Energy Act in 2009.

But while much of the opposition to wind farms has come from activists concerned about health, land values and control over where the towers can be built, which the province took away from municipalities, the contamination of weather radar readings by spinning turbine blades — known as “clutter” — is an international concern.

Scientists in United States and Europe have shown that a weather radar signal bounced off a spinning turbine blade can appear to be a rotating cloud or tornado.

The wind farm operations can also distort precipitation estimates.

“It is an issue worldwide,” said Anne-Marie Palfreeman, manager of Environment Canada’s national radar program.

While Southwestern Ontario depends on Environment Canada’s only radar station in the region, in Exeter, north of London, for severe weather alerts, the agency has no jurisdiction over where potentially distorting wind farms are built, Palfreeman said.

“All of the decision-making as far as where wind farms are, is provincial legislation,” she said.

Wind turbines located within five kilometres would be a major concern, since the towers themselves can block the radar signals, she said.

“What we do is ask them, ‘Please, do not build within five kilometres’,” Palfreeman said.

Wind farms built within 50 km show up on the weather radar and can distort what meteorologists see on their screens, she said.

The closest wind farm to the Exeter radar station is NextEra’s Goshen Wind Energy Centre. One of the Goshen turbines is about 14 km west of the weather radar.

When Ontario’s Energy Ministry green-lighted the Goshen project, it made the approval conditional on NextEra reaching an agreement with Environment Canada on measures to reduce the wind farm’s radar interference.

In addition to Goshen, a spokesperson for NextEra said the company has now reached agreements with Environment Canada covering its Bornish, Jericho and Bluewater wind farms, all north of London and within 50 km of the radar station.

“We can assure you that in case of a severe weather event, as determined by Environment Canada, we would abide by the terms in these agreements,” Joselen Bird of NextEra said.

Palfreeman said it’s the weather forecaster’s call if the wind farms need to be curtailed during a severe weather event such as a tornado.

“If they think they need the proponent to feather their blades for us to be able to properly see what is going on, they will ask for it,” she said.

While the Goshen wind farm started operation earlier this year, none of the severe weather events since has required Environment Canada to make the call to NextEra.

Palfreeman said Environment Canada is testing two software packages to see if the distortion caused by wind turbine blades can be reduced.

As part of the agreement between Environment Canada and NextEra, NextEra was required to provide Environment Canada with a performance bond.

The amount of the bond was removed from the copy of the agreement provided to The Free Press by Environment Canada, which cited sections of the Access to Information Act that allow it to withhold financial and commercial information provided by a third party, and contractual details that could interfere with negotiations.

Ontario Tough On Nature: OK to kill endangered species for wind power

Wildlife treasured in other countries; in Ontario, OK to kill for wind power
Wildlife treasured in other countries; in Ontario, OK to kill for wind power

The Wellington Times, September 25, 2015

End to the Green Energy Act can’t come soon enough

Social media lit up. Suddenly, if you were anywhere near Ostitional Beach in Costa Rica earlier this month, you had to get down to the shoreline to observe an amazing natural phenomenon. Hundreds of thousands of olive ridley turtles were crawling out of the ocean to lay their eggs in the sand. Soon, vacationers and daytrippers lined the beach. So many in fact, there was little space left for the turtles. Gleeful tourists waded into the surf to frollick among the landing party of large turtles. They snapped selfies and filled Facebook pages with images of the determined, purposeful animals. But with virtually all of the sandy beach occupied by gawkers and pests, many of the turtles turned back, retreating into the Pacific Ocean.

The incident has served to chasten Costa Rican conservation authorities about their stewardship of the vulnerable species. They are acting swiftly to improve their protection for the animal. Another wave of turtles is expected in early October. The Tempisque Conservation Area, which covers Ostitional Beach, plans to use security guards, police and the Coast Guard to secure the shoreline for the nesting turtles. It is unknown what long term effect, if any, the disruption of olive ridley turtles nesting behaviour will have on the species.

We are a bit less queasy about destroying the habitat of vulnerable turtles in Ontario. Despite warnings by its own expert that an industrial wind project would wreak havoc on a species considered at risk, Ontario’s Minstry of Natural Resources and Forestry issued the developer a permit to ‘harm, harass and kill’ the Blanding’s turtle.

Why is wildlife expendable?

The question we all must ask is: Why? Why does the Ontario government consider this vulnerable turtle to be expendable? Is it money? Can’t we afford to protect species at risk in this province? Costa Ricans earn about $10,000 per capita annually. In Canada, gross national income is about five times greater. Why is Costa Rica poised to act to protect its species at risk, while Ontario grants permits to kill them?

The town hall in Demorestville was expected to be full this morning as the Environmental Review Tribunal was scheduled to resume with Joe Crowley in the witness chair. On Tuesday the hearings were cancelled and rescheduled for the end of October.

Crowley is an at-risk specialist with the MNRF. He is the ministry’s turtle and snake expert. The Tribunal was nearing the end of a two-year-long appeal with the Prince Edward County Field Naturalists (PECFN), a small but devoted group of conservationists arrayed against the province and a developer hoping to construct nine 50- storey-high industrial wind turbines and carve a road network into a rare alvar habitat on Crown land at Ostrander Point on Prince Edward County’s south shore.

This Tribunal had, after 40 days of hearings in 2013, revoked the developer’s permit because it was persuaded that the Blanding’s turtle would suffer serious and irreversible harm. A series of court court challenges has put the matter back on the Tribunal’s table.

In three days of hearings earlier this month, the Tribunal heard evidence regarding the developer’s proposal to erect gates on the service roads. This, they argued, would ensure only the company’s vehicles would use these roads. It would train its technicians to look for turtles and all would be fine. That was their pitch.

The hearing plodded through three days of evidence and testimony. Then came Joe Crowley’s bombshell. Not only did he dismiss the artificial habitat proposed by the developer as futile—the road system, in his expert opinion, would prove too attractive to the nesting Blanding’s turtle— he revealed that he had advised his masters at the ministry against issuing a permit to ‘harm, harass and kill’ the species to the developer in the first place.

Crowley’s revelation brought the hearing to a standstill. The Tribunal ordered Crowley to find and produce all correspondence and documents related to this recommendation.

Next month, perhaps, we will learn what Crowley found. We should learn who knew what and when.

PECFN’s lawyer Eric Gillespie will want to know who Crowley told. Was it written down? With whom did he correspond or discuss the matter? What did they do with the recommendation? Why was Crowley’s advice ignored? On whose authority? One can imagine the questions blossoming like buttercups on the alvar.

Attacking the Green Energy Act

While that drama plays out in Demorestville, elsewhere in the County and at Osgoode Hall Law School, a handful of folks are preparing an full-on assault of the Green Energy Act. The County Coalition for Safe and Appropriate Energy (CCSAGE) intend to show that the GEA is an offensive piece of legislation designed specifically to enable renewable energy developers to override regulations erected to protect and safeguard our communities, environment and economy. See story here.

The GEA strips communities of their right to decide how many and where such projects will be permitted. It compels grid operators to take the intermittent power these projects produce, despite the risks and cost to their systems. It obscures the examination of the impact of these projects on heritage, the local economy and the environment behind closed doors. And then it restricts the sole public review of these massive and complex projects to two absurd questions: will the project cause serious harm to human health and will it cause serious and irreversible harm to plant, animal and habitat?

The World Trade Organization has already struck down illegal protectionist provisions in the GEA. Now a brave group is putting the rest of this foul legislation on trial. Bit by bit the Green Energy Act is unravelling. For the Blanding’s turtle, other species at risk, the residents of South Marysburgh and Amherst Island and many other communities in rural Ontario—the unwinding of this destructive and oppressive law cannot come soon enough.

rick@wellingtontimes.ca

Maine wind developer sets up conservation fund: strong message to Big Wind

Portland Press Herald, September 25, 2015

A $2.5 million fund for conservation projects across western, central and northern Maine has been set up as part of an agreement between the company building a wind farm in Bingham and a group that had sued to stop it.

SunEdison, a renewable energy development company, and Friends of Maine’s Mountains announced details of the deal in a statement Friday.

The first $1.5 million of the fund will go to projects being done by Maine conservation and environmental groups including the Trust for Public Land, Appalachian Mountain Club, Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust, Forest Society of Maine, the Atlantic Salmon Federation and the Mahoosuc Land Trust.

Projects are spread across the state, from the western mountains through the Moosehead and Hundred Mile Wilderness regions to Katahdin. A second round of awards from the conservation fund will be disbursed in 2017.

The fund was created as part of the agreement reached by SunEdison and the Friends of Maine’s Mountains after the Bingham project got approval from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection last year. The Friends group later dropped its lawsuit to stop the project.

The agreement also stipulates that SunEdison will not use some sections of Maine for wind farms, that $250,000 will be dedicated to research for turbine bat deterrent technology and SunEdison will increase the decommissioning fund for the Bingham project by 50 percent.

In an telephone interview, Friends spokesman Chris O’Neil said the exclusion zone covers more than half of the state, including a 15-mile buffer on either side of the Appalachian Trail and around Baxter State Park.

“It sends a powerful message to any other wind developer that comes to Maine,” O’Neil said, adding that while this contractual agreement is only between the Friends and SunEdison, his organization is seeking to embed such restrictions in state law to preserve Maine’s scenic mountain vistas.

Construction of the $420 million 56-turbine Bingham wind farm started in July and is expected to be completed by the end of 2016. The project is designed to generate 185 megawatts of electricity, enough to power the equivalent of 60,000 homes.

According to the statement, the Friends agreed to stop litigation against the wind farm in exchange for the provisions of the agreement.

“FMM is committed to preserving Maine’s unique natural resources, particularly its prized mountains,” Rand Stowell, founder and board chairman of Friends of Maine’s Mountains, said in the release. “Working with SunEdison on this agreement has allowed us to advance those efforts and fund important conservation projects in the state.”

The Friends group doesn’t benefit from the conservation fund, according to the statement.

“We have deep roots in Maine, many of us live here and we value the state as a special place that is worthy of protection,” Kurt Adams, SunEdison’s senior vice president and chief development officer, said in the release. “With the creation of the fund, we are excited to be able to work together with Friends of Maine’s Mountains and a number of Maine conservation and environmental organizations to preserve the state’s open spaces so they can be enjoyed for generations to come.”