Wind power site “poorly chosen” : Environmental Review Tribunal

Power developer admits it was unaware of degree of risk to endangered wildlife

Toronto Star, February 29, 2016

By:

John Hirsch, a board member of the Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory, filed an appeal of the Environment Ministry’s White Pines wind turbine approval. The appeal was upheld.
John Hirsch: appellant with Alliance to Protect Prince Edward County against WPD wind project
Blessed are the small and humble, for they, it seems, shall halt wind turbines.

In the latest instalment of the epic machine vs. nature struggle being played out in Prince Edward County, environmental activists have scored another victory against construction of wind turbines they say will do serious and irreversible harm to already endangered species.  This time, in a ruling released Feb. 26, an Environmental Review Tribunal upheld an appeal against a turbine development it concluded posed serious risk to the Little Brown Bat and the Blanding’s Turtle.

Last July 16, the Ontario Environment Ministry issued an approval to White Pines Wind Inc. to install and operate a facility of 27 turbines on the pristine south shore of what locals call the County. As it happens, a man named John Hirsch was scouting property in the County at the time for he and his wife to move to after wrapping up a career in customs consulting.

Hirsch had already become a board member of the Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory, one of the most important bird-banding stations in Canada. He suspected — even before eventually buying property in another part of the County — that the White Pines proposal would profoundly alter the south shore. He was also, owing to his career in customs administration, quite familiar with tribunals.

By July 29, Hirsch had filed an appeal — “it’s not all that complicated” — of the Environment Ministry’s White Pines approval, getting in a day ahead of the Alliance to Protect Prince Edward Country.

“It turns out a case gets named after whoever gets in first,” he told the Star on Monday. “That’s why the case is named Hirsch v Ontario.”

“We didn’t think we were going to win”

While Hirsch, 66, might have got top billing, the alliance “came to the rescue,” he said, with funding, legal representation and recruitment of expert witnesses. During November and December, Hirsch, who now works part-time at Home Depot in Belleville, sat through 21 days of hearings, after which he wasn’t terribly confident of the outcome.

“Were we expecting this? No!” he said. “We didn’t think we were going to win. We didn’t get the birds. But we got the bats!”

The tribunal dismissed appeals on the grounds of human health risks. It also rejected appeals on the threat to birds, although it did call the project site “poorly chosen from a migratory bird perspective.”

The panel upheld the appeal because of the risk of serious and irreversible harm to the Little Brown Bat and Blanding’s Turtle.  …

Read the full story here.

ToughonNature

 

Wind farm will cause serious irreversible harm to wildlife, Tribunal finds

South Shore of Prince Edward County: [Photo Court Noxon, courtesy Point To Point Foundation]
South Shore of Prince Edward County: [Photo Court Noxon, courtesy Point To Point Foundation]
The decision on the appeal of the White Pines wind power project in Prince Edward County was released yesterday: the Environmental Review Tribunal found for the appellant and the environment (in part), in that serious and irreversible harm would result to the endangered Blandings turtle and the little brown bat. The Tribunal also noted risk to migratory birds.

This is a victory for a very hard-fought battle as members of this community fought to save the environment from Ontario’s own Ministry of the Environment.

See the decision in various formats here.

Statement from Orville Walsh, president of the Alliance to Protect Prince Edward County:

We are pleased to announce that APPEC’s appeal of wpd’s White Pines Wind Project has been upheld in part.  The Tribunal has found that the White Pines project will cause serious and irreversible harm to Little Brown Bats and to the Blanding’s turtle.   
 
The Tribunal did not find serious and irreversible harm to human health, to hydrology or to migratory birds. However in regards to the latter the Tribunal did note that this wind project presents a significant risk of serious harm to migrating birds and that the project site was poorly chosen from a migratory bird perspective.
We are cautiously elated!  The Tribunal acknowledges that engaging in this wind project in accordance with the REA (Renewable Energy Approval) will cause serious and irreversible harm to animal life.  Therefore wpd no longer has an REA to stand behind.  
 
The ERT has ordered a hearing of submissions with respect to potential remedies. 
 
The board will be studying the decision over the weekend and following consultation with our legal counsel Eric Gillespie, will have more information to give you next week. 
 
Orville Walsh
President, APPEC
Please go to the Save the South Shore website for information on how to donate toward the legal costs of this fight for the environment. The work done by the community groups in Prince Edward County, Eric K. Gillespie’s legal team, and the witness statements benefit everyone in Ontario.
ToughonNature

Collingwood fears for aviation safety, to appeal wind farm

A plane hitting a turbine or being blown off course would meet [the test] for serious harm to human health, says lawyer

Simcoe.com February 18, 2016

Collingwood Regional Airport

Collingwood Regional Airport: an appeal will cost more than $100,000

The Town of Collingwood will be appealing the province’s decision to approve a wind farm south of Stayner near the Collingwood Regional Airport.

In a unanimous decision on Thursday evening, council instructed its legal counsel to draft and file a notice of appeal of the decision to the Environmental Review Tribunal. Last week, the province approved WPD Canada’s plan to construct and operate eight turbines west of Stayner.

Council received a presentation from its lawyer, Richard Butler of Willms & Shier. He said of the 199 renewable energy projects in Ontario, only two have been rejected. He said 120 have been appealed and only two have been overturned.

“The vast majority of appeals are either abandoned or unsuccessful,” he said.

The Environmental Review Tribunal is an arm’s length body that has the authority to confirm, amend or revoke a decision. He said appeals must be based on two criteria: the decision will cause serious harm to human health, or cause serious and irreversible harm to plant life, animal life or the natural environment.

“I think applications and approvals really speak to the uphill battle that opponents of wind projects face,” he said.

Butler said Collingwood would likely be appealing on the basis the turbines would cause harm to human health.

“A plane hitting or blown off course would meet serious harm to human health,” he said.

Butler said the municipality would likely need a risk assessment completed, which would determine the likelihood of a plane hitting a turbine. He said this could be done within a matter of weeks.

The town would need to prove “more likely or not, during the lifetime of the turbines, there would be a collision.”

Read the full story here.

Amherst Island raises funds to protect environment

Citizens engaged in an appeal of the approval of a huge wind power project that will threaten wildlife and change a heritage landscape

Owls, Blandings turtle, and migratory birds all at risk from Amherst Island power project
Owls, Blandings turtle, and migratory birds all at risk from Amherst Island power project

February 17, 2016

The Association to Protect Amherst Island has formally launched a fund-raising campaign to assist with its legal actions against the huge Windlectric wind power project. An appeal is underway, with more hearings scheduled before the Environmental Review Tribunal in coming weeks, and a Judicial Review has been filed, based on details of the approval of the power project despite clear inaccuracies and inadequacies in the application.

More details:

The MOECC approved Windlectric’s Renewable Energy Application on August 24, 2015. Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry, Bill Mauro, approved an Overall Benefit Permit on the same day to allow Windlectric destroy the habitat of grassland birds on the Island.


Turbines are planned beside the world famous Owl Woods. Located on the Atlantic Migratory Flyway, the Island is a refuge for 11 species of Owls, wintering raptors, and grassland birds. 34 Species at Risk will be impacted.


The Ontario government claims to be a leader in environmental action but approval of a huge wind power project on Amherst Island will harm, not help the environment, say community leaders. “Approval of this turbine project indicates the hypocrisy of the government’s wind power program,” says Michele Le Lay, spokesperson for Association to Protect Amherst Island. “Constructing and operating wind turbines here will do great harm to the natural environment.”

 

After just one day, the group had raised over $2,600 toward its goal of $200,000.

Go to the fund-raising website here.

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

Marine safety an issue in Amherst Island appeal

The water flows are the circulatory system for the entire ecosystem, biologist tells Tribunal.

AI-interior-wide-1-
Aquatic biologist Les Stanfield testifies before the Environmental Review Tribunal hearing of an appeal to 26-turbine project on Amherst Island. Stanfield was critical of a consultant’s report examining water flow on the small island. “You must understand how the water flows to assess the risk of such a project on wetlands, plants, reptiles and amphibians,” said Stanfield. “These are vital corridors. They are the circulatory system of the entire ecosystem.” Photo: Wellington Times

The Wellington Times, February 12, 2016

Amherst Island residents see industrial wind turbines as an assault on their way of life

It is surely an understatement to say life on Amherst Island is highly dependent on the ferry that steams across the channel twice an hour between Millhaven and this teardrop of land situated just a few kilometres east of the tip of Cressy Bayside.

There is no gas station. No place to buy bread or milk. For some the 400 residents who live on this small island (20 kilometres long and seven kilometres wide), the isolation is an acquired lifestyle—bearing the promise of quiet and solitude. For others, it is all they have ever known.

Everyone relies, in one way or another, on the ferry for the essentials of life. So when an Oakville-based industrial wind developer first proposed constructing dozens of the massive machines on the island, the first searing concern was what a major industrial project would mean to their connection to the mainland.

They were assured that part of the approval process would include a Marine Safety and Logistics Plan—detailing how turbines would be transported across the channel and the measures established to protect the ferry lane.

But no Marine Safety and Logistics Plan was ever produced. Nevertheless, the developer Windlectric—a subsidiary of Algonquin Power—obtained a Renewable Energy Approval (REA) from the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change.

Residents and members of the Association to Protect Amherst Island (APAI) appealed the REA. Currently, an Environmental Review Tribunal is hearing the matter in a country church on the island. But they won’t hear about the lack of a marine safety plan—

Read the full story here.

Amherst Island ferry:If the power project proceeds, it will be accompanied by barges carrying fuel and construction material
Amherst Island ferry: If the power project proceeds, it will be accompanied by barges carrying fuel and construction material

WPD contentious Fairview wind power project approved at 11th hour

Ontario was hours away from a court hearing when it granted approval for the Fairview wind power project
Ontario was hours away from a court hearing when it granted approval for the Fairview wind power project

The Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change yesterday announced the approval of the Fairview Wind “Farm” in Clearview Township, Simcoe County (EBR 012-0614). The power developer is WPD Canada, a division of the WPD group, headquartered in Germany.

The Fairview project was hours away from a hearing as a result of a writ of mandamus, in which a request is made of the court to order a government body to perform a duty. In this case, WPD wanted the government to issue an approval of the project, which it had not done. The FIT or Feed In Tariff contract had actually expired in December, but the writ was filed earlier in 2015.

WPD threatened legal action in the case of the White Pines project in Prince Edward County, where approval took many years due a number of environmental issues associated with the power project.

The Fairview power project was the subject of a consultants’ report which concluded that the wind power project would pose a danger to aviation safety, and would have a negative impact on the economy locally. The power project would only serve “narrow private interests,” the consultants wrote.

The power project was also the subject of private litigation several years ago, when local property owners tried to sue for loss of property value and nuisance. The court found that there was some substance to their concerns, and that property values might have already been affected simply by announcement of the proposed project,  but in any event, ruled that the property owners could not properly sue until the project was actually approved.

That would be now.

Insiders say that the government had expressed concerns about the Fairview project which is why approval had been delayed. Has the government “blinked” against the power wind industry and actually thrown this fight to the public to deal with via appeal to the Environmental Review Tribunal, and the courts?

Ontario’s energy management policy reveals itself to be more convoluted and bizarre, every day.

Simcoe-Grey MPP Jim Wilson was quick to comment on the danger to public safety posed by the Fairview power project.

At present, only the North Kent I and Henvey Inlet projects remain without approval. For the list please see the project tracking document by Alliance to Protect Prince Edward County (APPEC) executive member Orville Walsh here: REA Status Update Feb 11 2016

Wind power developer sues Ontario over contentious project

The Thunder Bay area project was opposed by the Fort William First Nation and the community

Another beautiful Ontario location: perfect for power machines, right?
The Nor’Wester Escarpment–Another beautiful Ontario location: perfect for power machines, right?

Wind farm dead, but law suit alive

Chronicle-Herald, February 10, 2016

BY CARL CLUTCHEY NORTH SHORE BUREAU chroniclejournal.com

The Toronto energy company that proposed to build an ill-fated wind farm on the Nor’Westers escarpment is proceeding with a $50-million lawsuit against the Ontario government, despite having dropped an appeal of a provincial decision against the project.

“Upon careful consideration, we have decided to not appear before (Ontario’s) Environmental Review Tribunal, and instead pursue a remedy at the Ontario Superior Court of Justice,” Horizon Wind spokeswoman Nhung Nguyen said Tuesday in an email.

Horizon withdrew its appeal to the tribunal on Jan. 25. The appeal had been launched last fall, after the Ministry of Environment said the proposed 16-turbine wind farm south of Thunder Bay couldn’t go ahead over lingering concerns over potential impacts on moose habitat.

In its lawsuit against the ministry, Horizon claims the province committed “negligent misrepresentations and misfeasance of public duty.”

None of the allegations in the suit’s 33-page statement of claim have been proven in court.

The lawsuit alleges that the ministry was “unlawfully influenced by the Ontario cabinet and the premier’s office” when it delayed the issuing of the project’s approval. …

Read the full story here.

New witness statements on endangered species delays Amherst Island appeal

The 133-year-old St. Paul's Presbyterian Church on Amherst Island is the setting for this week's hearings by the Environmental Review Tribunal hearings for an appeal to the approval of a wind energy project on the island. (Elliot Ferguson/The Whig-Standard/)
The 133-year-old St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church on Amherst Island is the setting for this week’s hearings by the Environmental Review Tribunal in the appeal of a wind energy project on the island. (Elliot Ferguson/The Whig-Standard/)

“I don’t want to short-change any witnesses,” says Tribunal chair Robert Wright in extending the hearing

The Whig-Standard, February 2, 2016

By Elliot Ferguson

STELLA — A late influx of witness statements from Amherst Island residents had lawyers appearing before the Environmental Review Tribunal manoeuvring to find a way to incorporate them into this week’s hearings.

On the weekend, 14 more factual witness statements were submitted by lawyers representing the Association to Protect Amherst Island. They joined 30 other statements already filed.

Many of the statements include descriptions of sightings of the endangered Blanding’s turtle.

Additional expert witness statements and disclosure from the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change were also submitted.

“We haven’t even had the chance to read these,” association lawyer Eric Gillespie said.

The tribunal had scheduled three days of hearings on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday to deal with the resident witnesses, with the first residents to testify Tuesday morning.

The delay caused by the added witness statements, however, meant no residents took the stand Tuesday. Instead, Gillespie and Arlen Sternberg, a lawyer for Windlectric Inc., agreed that the tribunal would start an hour earlier on Wednesday and Friday to make up the lost time.

What was not agreed upon was the exact procedure for questioning and cross-examining so many witnesses in the shorter time frame.

Tribunal member Robert Wright encouraged both sides to figure out a way to both speed up the process and allow the witnesses to testify.

Please read the full story by Elliot Ferguson here.

Endangered turtle sighting testimony to be allowed in Amherst Island appeal

Spotted! (and by a lot of people) Endangered Blandings turtle
Spotted! (and by a lot of people) Endangered Blandings turtle

In spite of a move by the proponents’ lawyer to block testimony by expert witnesses called by the appellant, the Association to Protect Amherst Island, and further to disallow testimony of 30 residents of Amherst Island who have logged sightings of the endangered Blandings turtle, the Tribunal ruled today that the witness testimony would be heard.

The hearings in this matter have already begun, with a site tour on Monday and proceedings yesterday; the appeal will now likely take longer than the four days originally allowed.

The tribunal ruling is an important step in that allows actual residents of the affected community to be heard during the appeal.

For more information on the wind power project and Amherst Island, check the APAI website here: http://protectamherst.yolasite.com/

Amherst Island appeal resumes

Amherst Island is a favoured spot for owls, and other birds
Amherst Island is a favoured spot for owls, and other birds

Community alleges wind power project will harm environment and wildlife, and impact residents’ health

Kingston Whig-Standard, January 25, 2016

by Elliot Ferguson

STELLA — After more than a month-long hiatus, the Environmental Review Tribunal’s hearing into the Amherst Island wind energy project resumed Monday.

The tribunal began three days of hearings in Stella this week and included a tour of 16 points around the island.

Read the story here