OMB criticisms apply to Ontario’s Environmental Review Tribunal

Judge says OMB offers limited justice—is the same true for the ERT?

ERT hearing in Ameliasburgh: citizens paying to protect the environment from well-funded developers and the Ministry of the Environment.

Recently, lawyer and retired Ontario judge Peter Howden published a book on the Ontario Municipal Board, titled, The Ontario Municipal Board: From Impact to Subsistence 1971-2016.

Howden, a judge for 20 years, also served for 10 years with the OMB.

According to a review of the book by Ottawa Citizen columnist David Reevely, Howden’s opinion of the OMB is that killing it off would be better than leaving it to function as it is.

In our view many of Howden’s comments about the OMB (which was a key factor in approval of Ontario’s early wind power projects against community wishes) can also be applied to the Environmental Review Tribunal or ERT. Both are administered under ELTO or the Environmental and Lands Tribunal Ontario branch of government.

Howden says:

The people who staff the OMB are “unknown entities, people largely without any public profile who seem to do whatever they want without criteria, limiting elements, or ability to define why one group won and the others lost.” Further, Howden says, OMB members’ decisions may be one-page rulings that are issued after days of detailed testimony, or they are rambling documents in which rationale is buried.

“The price to be paid,” Howden writes, “…is the continued progressively worsening public cynicism and the record over the past 10 years of insufficient deliberation and writing time, inconsistency in policy and outcomes, reliance on part-time members …”

Howden also says the set-up of these tribunals is a problem and interferes with their mandate: the adversarial nature of the hearings, not unlike court battles, is unfair for residents fighting well-funded developers.

“Most homeowners these days are simply trying to maintain their homes and families. They do not have the thousands of dollars it takes to round up a team of professionals….This kind of inequality erodes any sense of justice.”

Lack of justice is emblematic of the hearings before the Environmental Review Tribunal where Ontario citizens spend hundreds of thousands of after-tax dollars to protect their communities and the environment, ironically from the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, which has a special, supportive relationship with the wealthy wind power developers it appears alongside in the hearings.

Countless appeals were mounted in Ontario by well-meaning dedicated citizens who took their fight for their community and environment to the Tribunal, without benefit of legal counsel at all, while wind power developers were represented by lawyers from Canada’s top law firms.

Millions spent by citizens

A recent informal poll of Wind Concerns Ontario member community groups reveals that communities have spent over $3 million in legal costs to mount appeals before the ERT, and that number is almost certainly understated.

Moreover, citizen evidence presented at the hearings, paid for by citizen dollars, is often critical to wind power project operations—even in appeals that have been unsuccessful, the evidence presented has resulted in changes to the proposed power projects. This evidence is usually indications of risks to the environment, facts that the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change would have been aware of, if they did any oversight or checking on Renewable Energy Approvals … which they do not.

For example, the evidence presented on the danger to species such as the Blandings Turtle and the Little Brown Bat –paid for by citizens who raised money through spaghetti suppers and garage sales—won the day for the environment in several appeals. The appeal of the Ostrander Point project, which took years of work by Prince Edward County naturalist and community groups, not only resulted in overturning the approval for the project in a fragile environment, but also caused the Tribunal to refocus its aims, and conclude that, contrary to claims by the MOECC and developer lawyers, wind power was not necessarily a “greater good” that outweighs everything—balance must be achieved in protecting the environment.

In the fight at Clearview, citizen evidence showed not only was there danger to wildlife from the proposed wind power project, but there was a clear danger to human life from a project planned close to not one, but two airports.

Judge Howden concludes that the OMB should be a body worthy of respect.

We say, the ERT should be that, too.

Jane Wilson

President

Wind Concerns Ontario

The bluster about Ontario’s ‘community’ wind farm

February 6, 2017

Last week, the wind power communications machinery was touting the virtues of the Gunn’s Hill wind power project which they claim is Ontario’s first real “community” wind power project, half-owned by the local community.

The project’s success was owed to its partners, the Oxford Community Energy Cooperative, a (non-local) First Nation, and Bullfrog Power as well as the Germany-based power developer, Prowind.

The story was repeated on CBC’s Ontario Morning.

Community-based? Not so fast.

Retired engineer William Palmer wrote to correct the CBC on their assumptions, with this letter.

I listened with interest this morning as Wei Chen spoke with Miranda Fuller, Communications Director of the Gunn’s Hill Wind Project about this “community project” of the Oxford Community Energy Cooperative.

We learned:
– it is a project with 49% community ownership
– 33% of the members of the cooperative live in Oxford County

We heard also learned of the other owners, ProWind Canada, and Six Nations of the Grand River Development Corporation.

Let’s look a little deeper at this community involvement.

The Cooperative Web Site says, “The present membership consists of 160 individuals and organizations that live in the project vicinity, Oxford County and all of Southern Ontario,” to whom $9 million in shares and debentures were sold.  Yet, to be a member of the cooperative the minimum share is $100, so not every member needs to be a major investor. It is interesting to read who some of the other members of the cooperative are – including the project developers. Elsewhere the website says there are 186 members.

So that means there are about 33% of 186 = 62 members of the cooperative that live in Oxford County … which Wikipedia tells us had some 105,719 residents in 2011, so we can see that 0.06% of the county population are supporters. It’s not exactly a wide support base in the county.

You might be interested in knowing that at the Environmental Review Tribunal the Township of Norwich Councillor for the impacted ward, Mr. Wayne Buchanan spoke of the Township of Norwich’s past and ongoing objections to the Project. He presented three letters to the Tribunal, one from the Township to Premier McGuinty asking for a moratorium on wind turbine developments, one to the Approval Holder (developer) asking for a delay in the development until noise and health studies are available, and one to Premier Wynne noting that the Township of Norwich was an unwilling host of industrial wind turbines.

You might also be interested in knowing that the office of the participating Six Nations of the Grand River Development Agency is located over 50 km from the wind turbines. It is a financial investment, but not exactly in their neighbourhood.  (A similar case occurred in the community of Dutton Dunwich, where the participation of First Nations groups included First Nations located near the Manitoba Border or James Bay, but not the local First Nation.) “Points” are received by the Ontario Renewable Energy Approvals process for “community involvement, or for First Nations involvement, even if they are not from the impacted community.

Now, why would folks invest in such a development?  Well, the 10 turbines of Gunn’s Hill will be paid some (10 x $135 a MWh x 1.8 MW x 8760 hours a year x 24% capacity factor) = $5,108,832 a year for the estimated 37,843 MWh they will produce – whether the electricity they produce is needed or not (as wind developers can be paid to curtail operation or not produce when the electricity is not needed).  Interestingly, had the power been produced instead by Bruce Power, the payment would have been less than half as much.  That $5 million a year for a 20 year contract, is pretty good return for a project with a total investment of perhaps $40 million. Few other (government supported) investments will return some 12.5% a year on a guaranteed basis for 20 years. Sadly, the power consumers of Ontario, including those who cannot afford to pay their electricity bills, are the payees of that investment return.

Wei Chen started to ask a question that deserved an answer … about how people will think when their electricity bills arrive. Ontario simply cannot keep paying twice as much for a product that is delivered best at times when it is not needed … and then pay Michigan or New York State to take the excess off our hands (or at the very least give them the electricity for free to power their industries) without adversely impacting power rates in Ontario. It is no wonder that Ontario rates are climbing so rapidly.

I thought that Wei Chen or other Ontario Morning staff might be interested in scanning  what concerns I would have presented to the Environmental Review Tribunal where I was accepted as an expert witness, had they chosen to accept all my testimony. (They did not, and what was presented was only a fraction of what was initially prepared for them). A copy of my presentation as initially offered to the Environmental Review Tribunal is attached, and signed as a Professional Engineer.  I note that many others in the community also made presentations – again with only partial acceptance by the Environmental Review Tribunal.

I have blind copied a few of the local participants and interested bodies who may not have heard your interview this morning and who may wish to contact you to confirm if what you were told was accurate that “once the turbines are in operation the project is accepted” or as Miranda Fuller noted, people see the turbines as “majestic.”

One of the Gunn’s Hill wind turbines. Photo taken from a non-participating, non-consenting and not happy neighbour’s home.

Power developer proposes untried remedies to save endangered species in Prince Edward County

January 28, 2017

ERT panel Hugh Wilkins and Marcia Valiante [Photo CountyLive]
The “remedy” hearing for the White Pines wind power project by wpd Canada was held in Wellington, Ontario before a standing room only crowd in the village community centre.

The purpose of the hearing was to allow the power developer to propose mitigation for the endangered Blandings Turtle and the Little Brown Bat, which the Environmental Review Tribunal found earlier would be seriously and irreversibly harmed by the wind power project. This is the first hearing in Ontario at which “remedy” or mitigation has been proposed for the bat species.

A news story by County Live summarizes the day’s events (though not quite the end-of-day fireworks between counsel and the ERT chair), and can be found here. (Fate of County’s South Shore)

The wind power developer was accused by counsel for appellant the Alliance to Protect Prince Edward County (APPEC) of filing too much material as a reply submission, which constitutes “bolstering,”* lawyer Eric Gillespie said. At issue was a new supposed scientific article which was not in original evidence; after an hour of wrangling, the lawyers agreed to remove the article except for one explanatory chart.

The measures proposed by wpd (which is scheduled to propose similar mitigation measures in the case of the Fairview appeal) included special road construction and monitoring for turtles, and heretofore untried methods of altering “cut-in” speeds for turbines, to avoid killing the bats, which are on the edge of extinction in Ontario.

The only real proposal is to cancel the project, Gillespie said: “The only real prevention is zero deaths, that’s what prevention is.”

A key strategy was to institute measures so that animal deaths dropped below the “irreversible” level, the power developer’s lawyers said, and the onus was on the appellants to prove what that is. Not so, said Mr. Gillespie.

Mr. Gillespie was also disturbed that rules of evidence and reply were being ignored; he told the ERT panel that accepting the power developer’s submissions as they were meant the panel was creating new rules, which would affect every other appeal in Ontario, and would certainly be discussed in Ontario Divisional Court.

In the final hour, the lawyers for wpd reviewed for the panel what the wind power developers’ counsel thought their job was, while Mr Gillespie referred to the decision at Ostrander Point and said that environmental protection was a key issue, and the panel’s real role. Gillespie was so insistent on adhering to the rule of law as regards the approval holder’s submissions (“So far from being proper it is not even in the ballpark”) that at one point wpd lawyer Patrick Duffy stood up and exclaimed “Mr. Gillespie, just STOP!”

As the submissions and reply concluded the Chair Marcia Valiante said “We are adjourned” and then wpd counsel interrupted and demanded to know when the decision would be rendered as “we have an important date in April”(if the project is not begun, the contract will end). The Chair said they would do their best to render a decision soon, and she then adjourned the hearing, again.

 

*Bolstering Law and Legal Definition. Bolstering means to build up or support. Bolstering testimony is generally improper. Bolstering testimony is improper when it relates to the witness’s truthfulness on a specific occasion and when the foundational requirements of evidentiary rules are not met.

 

 

Wind farm contract gag clauses prevent release public health info, say C-K residents

Water from Dover area wells showing sediment. [Photo: Sydenham Current]
A resident of Dover Centre in Chatham-Kent is calling for leaseholders in wind turbine projects to be released from the non-disclosure or “gag” clauses that are preventing full awareness of the situation regarding contaminated well water in the region, says a resident writing in the Sydenham Current.

When the recent appeal of the North Kent 1 wind power project was dismissed, the only expert advice offered was the technical report completed by Golder & Associates, paid for by the wind power developer.

“What if accepting the wind developer’s Golder report the Mayor and Mr. Norton put all of Chatham township’s property at risk from an environmental stigma?” asks letter writer Peter Hensel.

” A stigma that the aquifer below would be contaminated with vibrations and is no longer capable of providing safe clean water. You think your property won’t drop like a stone in value? Think again.

“What if accepting the Wind developer’s Golder report the Mayor and Mr Norton allowed pile driven turbine foundations that increased the heavy metal concentrations in the source water – the water in the aquifer below Chatham township? What price do you put on your families’ health?”

The Environmental Review Tribunal refused appellant Kevin Jakubec time to have other experts review the Golder report, which jeopardized his appeal.

“It was only because the MOECC [Environmental] Tribunal Branch refused a time extension to let Mr. Jakubec bring in well test results from Dover into the Trubunal’s final hearing did Mr. Jakubec make the best of Tribunal process and took what gains he could get from the mediation.

“Ask Mr. Jakubec if he stopped investigating Dover,” says Mr Hensel. “Ask Mr. Jakubec if the Tribunal process is fair and that everything is neatly wrapped up now as Mayor Hope and [C-K legal counsel] Mr. Norton would want you to believe.”

Read the entire letter here.

Wind power approval process must change, says Wind Concerns Ontario

Devastation in Prince Edward County as power developer proceeded with unauthorized construction activity while approval under appeal. That appeal was eventually partially successful. [Photo: APPEC]
Wind Concerns Ontario says Ontario’s Renewable Energy Approval process is not protective of the environment. Pictured, devastation in Prince Edward County as power developer proceeded with unauthorized pre-construction activity while its power project approval was under appeal. That appeal was eventually partially successful.  [Photo: APPEC]
November 1, 2016

Comments filed on Renewable Energy Approval process

“The litany of failures is astounding,” says president of community group coalition

Wind Concerns Ontario filed comments with Ontario’s EBR yesterday, with recommendations on revisions to the Technical Guide for the Renewable Energy Approval process for industrial-scale or utility-scale wind power projects.

Basically, WCO said, the guidelines for the power industry are not protective of the environment … and there is plenty of evidence to prove it.

In short, the requirements in place for companies to get approval are not adequate, there is not enough proper oversight by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (or even, capacity to do fulfill that role), and there is no check on compliance with Renewable Energy Approvals post-operation.

  • Findings from the ERT decisions and other legal activities have shown that the current process is not adequate to assess the expansion of renewable energy generation while upholding the government’s commitment to protecting the environment.
  • The process contains no provisions to discuss the creation of clean energy jobs and encouraging energy conservation.
  • The proposed process does not reflect decisions from the Environmental Review Tribunals (ERT)

“The fact is, almost every single wind power project that received an approval in Ontario has been appealed on the basis of protecting the environment and human health,” says Wind Concerns Ontario president Jane Wilson. “And four of those appeals have been successful. The Ministry should be embarrassed that ordinary citizens are not only taking on this protective role, but that they find information about these projects and the damage they will cause, that Ministry staff were not aware of.”

Wind Concerns not only recommended more stringent requirements for a Renewable Energy Approval, the coalition of community groups and Ontario families repeated its call for municipal support to be a mandatory requirement for wind power project approvals.

“Municipal governments are the local voice of the people and communities,” says Wilson. “And they know best what kind of development is appropriate and sustainable. They are also aware of conditions locally that logically should prevent a wind power project — but those voices are not listened to under this process.”

Thousands of noise complaints have been made to the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change, Wind Concerns Ontario says, which is a clear indication of the failure of the REA process. Moreover, MOECC protocols for measuring wind turbine noise emissions – when they do measure at all as follow-up – are not adequate and do not capture the full range of problematic environmental noise.

“In fact, the litany of failures of this process is astounding,” says Wilson.

The method in which projects are announced to communities is secretive and municipalities are forced to approve with almost no information on the impact of the power projects. Public “meetings” are a sham, consisting mainly of poster presentations and incomplete project information.

Post-operation, the numbers of bat deaths and bird kills far exceed what was expected from the wind turbines, noise complaints are being made more frequently as a result of more powerful turbines, and wind power companies have abused their approvals by removing trees from protected woodlands, for example, or placing turbines on sites not consistent with the approvals.

“Premier Wynne professed to be surprised recently at the removal of over 7,000 mature trees in the Niagara area for the huge power project there,” Wilson says. “Does the government not know what is really going on? The people of Ontario see the environmental damage being done and the effects on people’s health from high-impact wind power development — this process has to change.”

Wind Concerns Ontario

November 1, 2016

Trees being cut down along  1 km of the former old unopened road allowance and pioneer nature trail  known as Wild Turkey Road on the Oak Ridges Moraine in an area designated High Aquifer Vulnerability, a Significant Recharge zone, where two streams that support trout habitat and 12 species at risk as well as species at risk butternut trees adjacent to the Fleetwood Creek natural area are being destroyed and/or endangered to make way for new access roads for the Sumac Ridge wind facility. Photo sent to Kawartha Lakes Councillor Heather Stauble.]
Trees being cut down along 1 km of the former old unopened road allowance and pioneer nature trail known as Wild Turkey Road on the Oak Ridges Moraine in an area designated High Aquifer Vulnerability, a Significant Recharge zone, where two streams that support trout habitat and 12 species at risk as well as species at risk butternut trees adjacent to the Fleetwood Creek natural area are being destroyed and/or endangered to make way for new access roads for the Sumac Ridge wind facility. Photo sent to Kawartha Lakes Councillor Heather Stauble.]

Aviation safety, endangered wildlife win Fairview appeal

In January 2014, John Terry, the lawyer for the well-funded wind power development lobbyist the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) told the panel of judges in an Ontario court at the appeal of a decision at Ostrander Point, that their decision was very important for the future of wind power development in Ontario because, he said, “This [a successful appeal] was never supposed to happen.”

One might think that he meant the approval process was so rigorous that wind power projects should pose no danger to the environment or to people and that’s why “this,” the successful Ostrander appeal shouldn’t have happened. But no, what he meant was, the rules and procedures attached to wind power development were supposed to be so iron-clad that mere citizens acting on behalf of the environment, wildlife and their own health, could have no hope of success. Lawyers acting for appellants have said, the test set up by Regulation 359-09 to prove serious harm to human health and serious and irreversible harm to wildlife was impossible to meet.

Except, now, that test has been met.

Four times.

The successful appeals at Ostrander Point, White Pines, Settlers Landing and yesterday, Clearview, show that when proper attention is paid to the requirements to preserve the environment and actually balance development against potential harm, the wind power developments can be demonstrated to be in the complete wrong place.

But the wind power development industry, coached and encouraged by their huge lobbyist and the very compliant Ontario government, felt entitled to propose wind power projects wherever they found willing landowners. Such was the case at Clearview where the eight, 500-foot turbines were to be located near not one, but two aerodromes, the Collingwood Regional Airport and a private airstrip. WPD Canada felt so entitled to success and money that it believed it could locate huge turbines even where pilots’ safety would be in danger and where wildlife would almost certainly be killed.

The Environmental Review Tribunal decision was released Friday, October 7: yes, there would be serious harm to human health because of the risk to aviation safety and yes, there would be serious and irreversible harm to the endangered Little Brown Bat.

Paragraphs [149-151] are interesting: the appellants’ expert witness arguments were “informed and reasoned” the panel wrote, finding they had established “the evidentiary base to support their qualitative assessments.”

Although a remedy hearing is possible, the Tribunal expressed doubts as to the effectiveness of any measures proposed.

The Tribunal used very strong language in places in the decision, saying “it would be trite to say …” or “it is obvious …” and they noted the federal Ministry of Transport’s carefully crafted opinion letter on aviation safety at the airport.

The people of Ontario have despaired at times as wind power projects have been put in fragile environments, too close to people’s homes and workplaces, without any real demonstration of environmental benefit. Millions have been spent by ordinary citizens as they took on corporate Big Wind to defend—what? The environment against their own Ministry of the Environment.

One lawyer for the Ministry has often been heard to say “wind trumps everything.” She is wrong, as this latest decision demonstrates.

Actions taken in the name of preserving the environment must really do that, and not rely on ideology-based trite statements for justification. Ontario has still never done a cost-benefit analysis on its wind power program even though clearly, wind power has a high impact on the natural environment, on communities, and on the economy, without actual demonstrated benefits.

Clearview was a victory for all Ontario, and the environment.

Jane Wilson

(Volunteer) President

Wind Concerns Ontario

Wynne government reverses on airport wind turbines

The Ministry of Environment and Climate Change has insisted that there is no danger to two Collingwood airports from a wind power project, despite expert testimony at an appeal that danger was certain. Suddenly, the government has reversed its position. Is it enough?

The owners and pilots association can't believe anyone would put turbines at an airport
The owners and pilots association can’t believe anyone would put turbines at an airport

Simcoe.com, October 3, 2016

Wasaga Sun

The Ministry of Environment and Climate Change is pulling its support for two turbine locations at the Fairview Wind project because of safety concerns at the Clearview Aerodrome.

Dr. Raymond Cox, a risk assessment expert in public safety, energy, and transport, as well as fluid dynamics and turbulence, testified during the hearing in June the two locations were without a five-rotor-diameter distance from the Clearview Aerodrome approach centreline.

“As it was the opinion of all expert witnesses, who opined on turbine wake … that there was an unacceptable safety risk where turbines are located within five rotor diameters from the centreline approach, the director can no longer support the locations of turbines 3 and 7 as currently approved,” wrote MOECC counsel Sylvia Davis and Andrea Huckins in their closing submission to the tribunal in August.

Clearview Aerodrome owner Kevin Elwood, who is one of the appellants to the MOECC’s  decision to approve WPD Canada’s renewable energy application, said it calls to question all eight turbines.

Elwood said in his correspondence with the ministry prior to the project’s approval, he was assured that Transport Canada and Nav Canada were being consulted, and a thorough technical review would be conducted to ensure there were no risks to human health through aviation.

“That’s what they always said, over and over. Now, they can no longer support two locations due to the risk to human health through an aviation accident; what assurances does the public have the remaining six turbines are not also a safety risk,” Elwood questioned. “If two were missed through that comprehensive review by the director, the other six were assessed the same way, in my mind, I question whether the ministry did a risk analysis of all eight turbine locations respecting Clearview Aerodrome and the Collingwood Regional Airport.

“All eight impact my airport; they just went for the two closest.”

As to the other turbine locations, Davis and Huckins wrote there was no risk to human health.

“The appellants have argued that the turbines combined with bad weather, poor visibility, a distracted or inexperienced pilot, and\or mechanical difficulties, will combine into a tragic confluence of events,” the lawyers stated. “However they have not provided any quantitative analysis of the probability of each of these events occurring during the lifetime of the project, either separately or together.”

Otherwise, the province stated in its closing argument, the appellants have failed to meet the test the turbines pose a health or environmental risk.

“The appellants have offered nothing more than a series of concerns and hypothetical situations which, if a number of variables align, may result in a collision or crash. That is not the test,” wrote Davis and Huckins. “Evidence which merely speculates rather than providing a quantitative risk analysis does not meet the burden of proof facing the appellants.”

WPD Canada has not yet responded to Simcoe.com for a request for comment.

A decision by the tribunal is expected in October.

Wind turbines may close busy airport: pilots launch political campaign

This is an excerpt from the August edition of COPA Flight, provided by a member of the Canadian Owners and Pilots Association.

So ridiculous, pilots can't believe anyone would put turbines at an airport
So ridiculous, pilots can’t believe anyone would put turbines at an airport

Windmills may close airport

By Russ Niles

The owner of an Ontario airport that will be in the shadow of a proposed wind turbine project fears Transport Canada [TC] will close his strip if the windmills are built.

Kevin Elwood says he’s been told by a senior TC official that the department will not intervene to prevent construction of the windmills but it will act to ensure public safety after the fact by restricting or even stopping operations at the affected airport.

“He said that if [the province of Ontario] chooses to put green energy before airports, that’s their choice,” he said. “We will respond by restricting airport operations and we will go so far as to close airports,” he {Elwood] quoted the official as saying.

That would seem to fit with the scenario now playing out over the so-called Fairview Project, a group of eight, 152-metre turbines planned for farmland adjacent to Elwood’s Clearview Aerodrome (also known as Stayner Airport). The huge windmills will be directly in the flightpath of aircraft in the circuit for his airport and the nearby Collingwood Airport.

TC has declined to oppose the project and that means the only hope Elwood and other opponents of the windmills have is the rarely used power on the Minister of Transport to unilaterally stop the project on safety grounds.

Minister Marc Garneau has so far been silent on the issue and COPA is calling on its 17,000 members (and voters) to apply their significant political influence to nudge him out of that complacency.

COPA has launched a full-scale letter writing campaign to draw attention to the issue that Elwood is convinced is an immediate threat to both airports and will set a precedent that could affect airports across the country.

The turbines would be in blatant violation of Transport Canada’s airport obstacle guidelines and Garneau, a long-time pilot and COPA member, has the power to stop their construction. In fact, because of the protection afforded such projects by Ontario’s Green Energy Act, Garneau is probably one of the few who can stop them. He won’t even talk about the issue, however.

“We really have a good working relationship with Transport Canada, very open and collaborative,” [says COPA President Bernard Gervais]. “As part of our regular discussions I presented the situation and possible course of action,” Gervais said. “Section 6.41 of the Aeronautics Act authorizes the minister to make an interim order to deal with such threats to aviation. If the minister is of the opinion that the windmills are hazardous to aviation safety, he (or his deputy) has the authority to stop such construction. … the lack of feedback from TC and knowing this is a very sensitive political issue, drives me to think that our only course of action at this point is to go on the political front.”

ERT members unfamiliar with aviation safety

COPA appeared at the original [ERT] hearings in the approval* process along with many other opponents, and all of the arguments were essentially ignored. … Complicating that process is the fact that the two members hearing the health arguments have no aviation background at all and have had to be schooled on airport operations and aviation terminology.

… [Elwood] says that if it plays out as he thinks it might, TC will either close his airport or make it so difficult and inconvenient to use that it might as well be closed. The aerodrome is home bas to Elwood’s business, an aircraft management and business charter operation. Over the years he’s invested heavily in hangars and other infrastructure and if the windmills go ahead, a lifetime of work might go down the drain.

[The wind turbines] will prevent pilots from using the recently re-invigorated [Collingwood Airport]. Ironically, the federal government has spent millions on improvements to the field, including a new terminal and lots of new pavement.

“Even people who don’t fly, [says Collingwood based pilot Austin Boake], they realize it’s just common sense …It’s just so ridiculous I can’t even believe it.”

*The author means the “appeal process.”

For more information on the COPA appeal go to: http://www.copanational.org/FeedFeds.cfm

The ‘treachery’ of Ontario’s wind power program

Independent newspaper publisher Rick Conroy of The Times reviews the decisions by the Environmental Review Tribunal to uphold the approval of the wind power project on little Amherst Island. The facts when laid out this way are shocking … and shameful.

Planned devastation of Amherst Island, wildlife and Ontario economy
Planned devastation of Amherst Island, wildlife and Ontario economy

The Times, August 12, 2016

From Amherst Island, you can see the Lennox gas-fired generating station sitting idle most days. The plant sits just across the narrow channel. It burns both oil and gas to produce steam that, in turn, drives generators to create electricity. The plant has the capacity to generate 2,100 MW of electricity—enough to power more than a million homes. But that electricity is rarely ever used. Over the last decade, the Lennox station has operated at less than three per cent of its capacity. That means it is idle much more often than it runs. Yet it earns more than $7 million each month—whether it runs or doesn’t. Such is Ontario’s hyperpoliticized energy regime.

Last Thursday was a warm day across Ontario— one of the warmest in a hot summer. With air conditioners humming, electricity demand across the province peaked at 22,312 MW. Meanwhile, Lennox sat idle all day. As it does most days.

So it seems odd that yet another gas-fired generating plant is emerging from the ground next to the mostly-idle Lennox station. It will add another 900 MW of generating capacity to a grid that clearly doesn’t need any more.

From Amherst Island, it must seem cruel. Within a couple of kilometres, there is enough unused power generating capacity to light millions of homes, yet island residents are being forced to give up their pastoral landscape— for the sake of an intermittent electricity source that nobody needs.

Last week, an Environmental Review Tribunal rejected an appeal by Amherst Island residents seeking to stop Windlectric, a wind energy developer, from covering their island home from end to end with industrial wind turbines, each one soaring 55 storeys into the sky.

Amherst Island is tiny. Just 20 kilometres long and 7 kilometres wide, there is no place, no horizon, no home that can avoid being transformed by this out-ofscale industrialization.

The treachery gets worse. Amherst Island is administered by a council that presides over the larger Loyalist Township from the mainland. Last year, council made a deal with the wind developer, agreeing to recieve a $500,000 payment each year the wind turbines spin. It is a lot of money for a municipality that operates on a $12-million budget annually.

But perhaps the most disappointing bit of this story is the damage that has been done to friendships and families on Amherst Island. Just 450 people live here. It swells to about 600 in the summer. It was a close community in the way island life tends to be.

Industrial wind energy has, however, ripped this community in two. Property owners hoping to share in the windfall from the development are on one side and those who must endure the blight on the landscape for a generation or more on the other.

Lifelong friends no longer speak to each other. At St. Paul’s Presbyterian service on Sunday mornings, the wind energy benefactors sit on one side of the church, the opponents on the other. A hard, angry line silently divides this community.

The Environmental Review Tribunal concluded not enough evidence was presented in the hearings to say the project will cause serious and irreversible harm to endangered species including the bobolink, Blanding’s turtle and little brown bat.

The decision underlines the terrible and oppressive cruelty of the Green Energy Act—that the only appeal allowed for opponents is whether the project will cause serious harm to human health or serious and irreversible harm to plant life, animal life or the natural environment. It is a profoundly unjust restriction on the right of people to challenge the policies and decisions of their government as they directly impact their lives.

The folks on Amherst Island weren’t permitted, for example, to argue that the power is unneeded— that this project is a grotesquely wasteful use of provincial tax dollars. Their neighbourhood already boasts enough electricity capacity to power a small country, yet it sits idle—at a cost of millions of dollars each month. It might have been a useful addition to the debate—but this evidence wasn’t permitted.

Nor were island residents allowed to appeal the fundamental alteration of their landscape. Nor the loss of property value. They can’t undo the broken friendships and the hollow feeling that hangs over the church suppers or the lonely trips across the channel.

Wide swathes of reason and logic have been excluded in the consideration of renewable energy projects in Ontario.

To the extent that urban folks are even aware of what green energy policies are doing to places like Amherst Island, they console themselves by believing it is the cost of a clean energy future—that diminishing the lives of some rural communities is an acceptable trade-off for the warm feeling of doing better by the planet.

Yet these folks need to explain to Amherst Island residents how decimating their landscape, risking the survival of endangered species and filling the pockets of a developer with taxpayer dollars for an expensive power supply that nobody needs makes Ontario greener.

Visit Amherst Island. Soon.

Remember it as it is today. Mourn for its tomorrow.

 

rick@wellingtontimes.ca

Read the full opinion here.

 

Amherst Island appeal dismissed: community to meet soon on next steps

Amherst Island: a David vs Goliath fight, say residents defending their community, environment, and health
Amherst Island: a David vs Goliath fight, say residents defending their community, environment, and health

Almost a year after the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change approved the project planned by Windlectric/Algonquin Power on Amherst Island, the Environmental Review Tribunal has dismissed an appeal of the power project.

The appeal was based on the impact on the natural environment, heritage features, and human health.

While the Tribunal was complimentary in a number of areas on the evidence presented by the Appellant, the Association to Protect Amherst Island, it did not find that the evidence of harm put forward was irreversible or met the standard of the legislation. For the Blandings turtle, for example, the Tribunal allowed that turtles did inhabit the Island but that their habitat would not be affected by the power project, and that the number fatalities likely would not result in irreversible harm to the species.

APAI has said it will meet this weekend and discuss next steps; the community has already considered for a Judicial Review of the power project approval.

For more information please see the APAI website here, and note the need for funding assistance. http://www.protectamherstisland.ca/sad-day-amherst-island/