Wind Concerns Ontario is a province-wide advocacy organization whose mission is to provide information on the potential impact of industrial-scale wind power generation on the economy, human health, and the natural environment.
Ministry of the Environment lawyer steps in as Prince Edward County citizens appealed for a stay of unauthorized construction activities in endangered turtle habitat
April 6, 2016, Picton, Ontario —
STATEMENT FROM ALLIANCE TO PROTECT PRINCE EDWARD COUNTY (APPEC)
First and foremost our great thanks to everyone who responded to our call to attend the Court of Appeal hearing. The courtroom was filled to capacity with no seats left empty. The numbers left an impression on all present from the judge to the security guards who were curious about what case all the commotion was about. It was a packed courtroom by anyones’ standards and we thank all of you who made this possible. Our special thanks to Mayor Quaiff and Warren Howard of Wind Concerns Ontario.
However the outcome of today’s hearing is not what we had hoped for. On our arrival we had hoped that Justice Katherine van Rensburg would hear our appeal and our new evidence including aerial photography of the destruction that has occurred at the White Pines project site since WPD began clearing vegetation two days ago, as depicted in one photograph attached.
Instead Sylvia Davis, lawyer for the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change, cited a ruling from over fifty years ago that only a panel of three judges could hear an appeal of this nature. It became clear at that point that the motion would not be heard until after the legal matter of whether this was properly before the court had been dealt with, with a potentially unfavourable decision. Rather than spend considerable time and money on legal wrangling the decision was made to withdraw our motion for a stay on all physical activity at the White Pines project site. The motion was withdrawn on consent of all parties and without costs.
We have received the written reasons from the Environmental Review Tribunal for its original refusal of our stay motion. We will immediately be going to the Tribunal to once again request a stay. As the saying goes when one door closes, another opens. More information will follow soon.
Lastly, there is a short article on the Wind Concerns website with another photograph of the after-effects of vegetation clearing at www.windconcernsontario.ca
On Monday April 4, wind power developer WPD Canada began clearing trees for turbine sites for the White Pines project in southern Prince Edward County. This work began in areas known to be habitat for the endangered Blandings Turtle; the power developer is continuing even though there are reports that milder weather has resulted in the turtles emerging early from their winter hibernation, and are at great risk.
This clearing work is also taking place despite the recent decision by the Ontario Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) to reverse the approval for the project on the grounds that it will cause serious and irreversible harm to the endangered Blandings Turtles. The ERT has not yet scheduled the next phase for the appeal process, which is hearings on remedy to the situation for the wildlife.
Until the Tribunal has reached a final decision, the power developer cannot have full approval to proceed with this project.
Please see the aerial photos provided by the Alliance to Protect Prince Edward County (APPEC). APPEC will have a report shortly.
Court cannot rule when quasi-judicial Environmental Review Tribunal gave no reasons for decision
Ontario Divisional Court ruled yesterday that it cannot overturn a decision made by the Environmental Review Tribunal, on the motion for a stay in construction activities for the White Pines power project in Prince Edward County. White Pines’ approval was overturned at appeal, and the ERT is now waiting on submissions for “remedy” hearings.
Here is a statement from the Alliance to Protect Prince Edward County.
Late this afternoon we received word from the Ontario Divisional Court that our appeal of the motion for a stay has been dismissed.
APPEC provided evidence from four expert witnesses of serious and irreversible harm to Blanding’s turtles if WPD proceeds with vegetation clearing. What APPEC could not provide to the Court however was the ERT’s reasons for its decision of last week to dismiss our stay as the ERT never provided reasons. Justice Stewart noted in her decision that “the specific grounds of any such appeal are uncertain given the fact that reasons for the decision are still forthcoming.”
By not providing any reasons for dismissing our motion for a stay the ERT has handcuffed APPEC in appealing its decisions.
According to the Court this disposition is without prejudice to the entitlement of the Appellant (APPEC) to renew its motion if it so chooses “on a fuller record that will include the reasons for the Tribunal’s decision under appeal.”
To help with fundraising, or for more information on these proceedings and the fight in Prince Edward County, go to www.savethesouthshore.org
The White Pines’ wind power project by Germany-based wpd Canada had its approval overturned on appeal, and does not have a Notice To Proceed, but the developer has threatened to begin construction anyway.
This notice is from the Alliance to Protect Prince Edward County, on the Save The South Shore website.
March 25, 2016, PICTON —
Earlier today APPEC’s legal counsel Eric Gillespie notified WPD and the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change of APPEC’s intent to appeal the ERT’s dismissal of our stay motion.
This legal action is considered to be necessary following the ERT’s decision this week to not allow APPEC’s motion. WPD still plans to start construction on the White Pines wind project. In WPD’s own words: “We are entitled to begin vegetation clearing immediately.” We strongly disagree.
APPEC will be making an application as an urgent matter to the Ontario Divisional Court. Our intent is to submit the application at the beginning of next week.
During the past few weeks we have received many messages of encouragement. Your support is always appreciated but especially so when faced with a developer that is determined to destroy the natural and cultural heritage of our community for its own financial gain.
Approval was overturned in by Environmental Review Tribunal but wind power developer announced plans to clear vegetation anyway; the Tribunal has dismissed community groups’ motion for a stay
Here is the announcement from the Alliance to Protect Prince Edward County
As you know APPEC submitted a motion for a stay stopping all physical activity in the White Pines project area. The stay motion that was submitted to the Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) on March 5, was considered necessary after WPD notified APPEC that it would start clearing vegetation at the project site the following week.
We received notice from the Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) yesterday that our stay motion has been dismissed. The Tribunal did not provide any reasons for dismissal.
We are of course very disappointed with the decision. But we are also disappointed in the Tribunal itself. In denying APPEC’s motion for a stay the Tribunal is putting APPEC in the bizarre position of defending its successful appeal of the White Pines wind project at the ERT at the very same time the project is begin constructed.
APPEC is currently examining possible courses of action and will use all legal means available to prevent WPD from carrying out its plans. We will continue to work with the Prince Edward County Field Naturalists (PECFN) and CCSAGE-Naturally Green to prevent this destruction of the natural and cultural environment.
BATH — The two sides fighting it out at the Amherst Island Environmental Review Tribunal sparred over the qualifications of an expert witness Friday morning.
Andrew Taylor, an ecologist with Stantec Consulting, the company that performed environmental studies for the proposed wind energy project, had been called to testify on behalf of Windlectric, which has received conditional approval from the Ontario government to build up to 26 wind turbines on Amherst Island. Taylor was called to provide testimony about the impact the project could have on bats and turtles on the island.
Windlectric lawyer Arlen Sternberg said Taylor was qualified to testify about the project’s potential impact specifically on birds, bats and turtles.
“He’s got a lot of experience he has developed on those topics over the years,” Sternberg said.
Eric Gillespie, the lawyer for the Association to Protect Amherst Island (APAI), had opposed Taylor’s expert qualification and instead wanted him declared a witness with experience in wildlife.
In the end, tribunal member Robert Wright ruled Taylor could be considered an expert witness on the effects on wildlife of wind energy projects, but he did not specifically label him an expert on birds, bats and the Blanding’s turtle.
Sternberg had noted earlier in the morning that Taylor has testified at five other ERTs as an expert witness and has studied the impact on wildlife at the pre- and post-construction stages of wind energy projects.
Sternberg said Taylor was more qualified than many expert witnesses called by APAI.
Under questioning from Sternberg, Taylor said he has performed wildlife studies at 19 large construction projects, including nine wind energy projects, and had delivered testimony at previous ERTs.
“This tribunal has accepted him five other times as an expert witness,” Sternberg said.
Earlier in the hearing, Taylor provided expert testimony about the impact of wind energy projects on birds.
A 2013 study from Stantec stated there are no Blanding’s turtles on Amherst Island. Island residents have testified earlier in the tribunal that they have seen Blanding’s turtles on the island.
APAI’s lawyer Gillespie admitted that it is rare to challenge the qualifications on an expert witness, but he noted that Taylor was not accepted as an expert witness at the 2013 Ostrander Point ERT. Gillespie argued that little has changed in Taylor’s qualifications since then that would make him an expert witness in this hearing.
“We say nothing has changed,” Gillespie said. “It’s the same Andrew Taylor who is standing here.”
No stay decision yet, developer and ministry make plans
wpd Canada sent this photo to show what kind of machinery they’ll be using. Nice.
The Wellington Times, March 17, 2016
Many eyes will be watching the countryside south of Milford today, looking for signs of heavy equipment arriving to clear the land of not-yet-budding vegetation. As of Monday, there was no decision on a motion for stay in construction activity on the industrial wind project site.
The developer, wpd Canada, advised the Alliance to Protect Prince Edward County (APPEC) and John Hirsch, appellants of the project at an Environmental Review Tribunal that it intended to commence vegetation destruction this week—despite the Tribunal’s decision that the project would cause serious and irreversible harm to two endangered species, the Blanding’s turtle and the little brown bat.
APPEC responded immediately seeking a halt on all physical activity at the site. Other parties have said they wish to be heard on the matter so the Tribunal has allowed a few days this week to hear those submissions.
In the meantime, the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) has advised the developer it must complete a stormwater management plan before construction begins.
wpd Canada spokesperson Kevin Surette says that report has been completed and his company is awaiting the MOECC’s signal to begin clearing the land.
“The intent of the notice provided to APPEC on March 1st was to make them aware that vegetation clearing could occur anytime after March 14,” said Surette. “MOECC has indicated the Stormwater Management Plan must be approved prior to vegetation clearing; it has been submitted, and it could be approved at anytime.”
Remember that this is a project that has been stopped by a Tribunal—yet wpd Canada and the MOECC continue to go about development of this project as though nothing has changed.
But APPEC and a variety of conservation groups are sounding an alarm about the devastation that will result for the habitat of vulnerable species that reside in and around the targeted area.
“wpd Canada will be clearing significant wildlife habitat for endangered species such as the Blanding’s turtle and endangered grassland species such as the whip-poor-will, eastern meadowlark and bobolink,” said Orville Walsh, APPEC chair. …
Wind Concerns Ontario and member community groups meet this weekend
Wellington Times, March 9, 2016
Jane Wilson says a shift has occurred over the past five years in the way wind energy is talked about in Ontario. The chair of Wind Concerns Ontario, a coalition of groups opposed to wind energy in this province, senses greater awareness of the negative impacts of industrial wind energy among voters, the mainstream media, and politicians.
Wilson will be in the County this weekend, chairing Wind Concerns Ontario’s annual general meeting and speaking at the CCSAGE (County Coalition for Safe and Appropriate Green Energy) meeting on Sunday.
“Everyone wants the best for the environment,” said Wilson, “but the way the Ontario government has gone about it has been viewed as undemocratic and destructive to both the economy and to consumers’ pocketbooks.”
Soaring electricity bills, persistent charges of mismanagement by the province’s Auditor General, and mounting evidence of the toll industrial wind turbines are exacting on wildlife—particularly endangered bats and turtles — is changing the conversation. Nevertheless, the damage already inflicted on consumers and the natural environment will be long-lasting, predicts Wilson.
“This [the December 2015 report] was the second Auditor General report that found that Ontario failed to do any cost-benefit analysis before embarking down this path,” said Wilson. “Perhaps if that had been done we wouldn’t be paying among North America’s highest electricity rates, and we wouldn’t be enduring these harmful environmental effects.”
“What has been happening in Prince Edward County has been very instructive,” said Wilson. “The [Environmental Review] Tribunals have uncovered deep problems.”
Wind Concerns Ontario is holding its annual general meeting for members in Wellington on Sunday morning — a first for the County. In the afternoon, Wilson will speak to a gathering of CCSAGE at the Waring House in Picton.
The WCO chair laments the way renewable energy has been thrust into rural Ontario –and local decision-making removed.
“It is tearing some communities apart,” said Wilson, who lives in North Gower just outside of Ottawa. She points to once peaceful and quiet communities divided by the money developers use to lure municipal support.
“It’s not illegal,” said Wilson, “but developers are now dangling many thousands of dollars in front of small rural councils, essentially telling them that if they want this money, they must pass a resolution of support.”
“People wish Ontario had pursued renewable energy goals more cautiously,” says Wilson, “that they had started with small projects — and measured their impacts. They could have helped Ontarians with geothermal heating or innovative conservation steps.
“If they had put money into these types of projects rather than filling the pockets of huge corporate wind power developers, I think we would be in a different place.”
The Ontario government has betrayed rural municipalities by approving new wind farms in places that have explicitly voted against them, mayors say — including just east of Ottawa.
“Since we declared ourselves unwilling hosts, we thought we had it made,” says François St. Amour, mayor of The Nation Municipality. “Because there was some talk in the last provincial election that they would honour municipalities that declared themselves unwilling. But I guess that was just another electoral promise.”
The agency that makes the province’s deals for renewable power is readying a contract for a 32-megawatt wind farm there, one of a bunch of bids from private generating companies it’s just accepted. The other in Eastern Ontario is the biggest of the group, a 100-megawatt project in North Stormont.
Both Eastern Ontario councils took votes in 2015 to say they did not want the wind farms on their territories.
The province’s Green Energy Act, meant to kickstart an Ontario industry in manufacturing and maintaining renewable energy technology, gave virtually no say to local governments on where wind and solar farms might go. Many rural residents believed, and still do, they’re being sacrificed for the electricity needs of cities.
The government pulled back. Under the province’s new rules, municipalities don’t get veto power over renewable energy projects but they do formally get asked to say whether new wind or solar farms are welcome or not. Ottawa’s city council regularly votes its formal support for small solar projects, which is worth extra points when would-be operators submit their bids.
“It will be virtually impossible for a wind turbine, for example, or a wind project, to go into a community without some significant level of engagement,” energy minister and Ottawa MPP Bob Chiarelli told a legislature committee in 2013.
“Engagement.” Not “agreement.”
“We will not give a veto, and no jurisdiction gives a veto, to a municipality on any kind of public infrastructure. That should have been clear to them,” Chiarelli says. Wind farms in rural Ontario are like tall buildings downtown, he says: immediate neighbours may hate them but they’re still needed.
Thirteen of the 16 new contracts got local council approval. All of the ones that didn’t are wind farms — the two here and one in Dutton-Dunwich, between London and Windsor, where residents took the issue up in a referendum and voted 84 per cent against. Two wind farms are going to Chatham-Kent, whose council voted to support them.
“They’ve put municipalities on the sidelines. It seems, though, that municipalities get most of the grief,” St. Amour says. His council first voted in favour of the wind farm in The Nation without a whole lot of thought, he says, treating it like the solar farms councillors have welcomed in the past. Councillors changed their minds after hearing from residents.
“It was rough on council last summer. It was really, really rough. Especially because we can’t do much about it. We thought declaring unwilling hosts was it,” St. Amour says.
Mayor Dennis Fife of North Stormont says his council thought the same. “At one time, the government said that if you came out with something saying you were an unwilling host, that would be respected, but that wasn’t the case,” he says.