Public has “no right” to know what’s in wind power contracts: IESO lawyer

Citizens packed a courtroom in Belleville Monday: too bad they were unaware they have no rights [Photo: Wind Concerns Ontario]
January 31, 2018

 

There were so many people attending the hearing at the Ontario Superior Court in Belleville Monday that there was a half-hour delay in the proceedings so a larger courtroom could be found.

That was just the beginning of the changes that day, as the Alliance to Protect Prince Edward County (APPEC) took on the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) over its awarding a new contract to Germany-based wind power developer wpd Canada and the White Pines project. The power project was diminished from 29 to 27 then nine turbines in various citizens’ appeals, and it was thought since the power developer had not only missed all its milestones stipulated in the contract it also now failed to meet the 75% of power required, the contract might be null and void.

That’s where things changed.

The public has “no right” to know what’s in multi-billion-dollar contracts that are the result of public policy. Not in Ontario. Not where “wind is green, wind is good” and citizens’ voices don’t matter, nor do communities, or democracy. No: instead, the IESO simply cut the developer a new contract. And the public? You have “no right” to know anything.

Our favourite quote of the day came from APPEC lawyer Eric Gillespie who said, “The contract [for White Pines] was made public, but some pretty important changes weren’t.”

Here is a formal report by APPEC.

APPEC Report on

APPEC v. IESO and WPD

Belleville Superior Court

January 29, 2018

Mr. Justice Kershman presided over the hearing of final submissions at the Belleville Courthouse.  The turn-out was excellent with Mayor Quaiff, Councillor Ferguson, Wind Concerns Ontario President Jane Wilson and about 75 County residents attending.  In fact, the Court Clerk was forced to find a larger courtroom to accommodate the crowd.

APPEC Final Submissions

Eric Gillespie began by pointing out that this case raises broader public policy issues of access of information from the IESO.  On June 12, 2017 APPEC contacted the IESO for information about the status of WPD’s FIT contract.  The IESO indicated in its reply that it could not disclose this information, citing confidentiality.  Mr. Gillespie argued that this information should have been disclosed for the following reasons: (1) the IESO describes the FIT program as a standardized, open and fair process; (2) APPEC and Ontario communities are affected by the FIT Program; and (3) the information APPEC was seeking, and the IESO withheld, could not have been confidential at all as it was ultimately disclosed to the Court in November 2017.

Mr. Gillespie clarified that contrary to what the IESO contends, this is not about how to interpret clauses in the FIT contract.  The clauses are negligent misrepresentation, in that APPEC was led to believe that the generation capacity of the White Pines project could not go below 75% of the generation contracted for in 2010, when the FIT contract was signed.  The central issue for APPEC is that information that became known to the IESO was not made publicly available.  The IESO had a choice, when it became clear that WPD could not meet the 75% condition in the contract.  It could have said that things had changed, that WPD’s FIT contract would need to be amended, that WPD was in default of contractual milestone dates, etc.  Mr. Gillespie noted that it’s what the IESO and WPD did with their choices that has brought us here today.  WPD’s first public announcement that it was proceeding with the 9-turbine project was September 21, 2017.  The IESO informed Councillor Ferguson that it had agreed to amend the FIT contract on October 12, 2017.  APPEC only obtained the information it had sought in June when the IESO disclosed it to the Court on November 30.

IESO and WPD Closing Submissions and APPEC’s Reply

Alan Mark, IESO’s legal counsel, criticized APPEC’s “assumption” that it has some right to insert itself into the contractual relationship between the IESO and WPD.   Mr. Mark stated that any rights are owed exclusively to WPD, the IESO’s contractual partner; there’s nothing in the statutory framework that gives APPEC “the right to anything”. Mr. Mark went on to suggest that a contract is just a statement at a point in time with no guarantee that it won’t change in the future and members of the public don’t need to know about that either.   Mr. Mark added that “with all respect to APPEC, APPEC is just made up of members of the public that feel strongly about wind power projects.”

Mr. Mark indicated that the IESO has made no representations to APPEC at any time, so it could not have made a negligent representation. When Judge Kershman asked whether APPEC’s allegation is that the IESO made a representation in 2010 that the Project would not be able to proceed if the project’s generation capacity fell below 75%, Mr. Mark responded that this isn’t the case APPEC is making.

Mr. Mark noted a statement in the Skypower Decision that the FIT contract is a bilateral commercial contract between two parties. Mr. Gillespie noted that in the same Skypower Decision, Judge Nordheimer rejects this characterization of the FIT program, and says that the suggestion that this is a commercial nature entirely and not a matter of public policy is fictional.

Mr. Mark said that APPEC had all the information it needed and ignored this information at its peril.  In reply, Mr. Gillespie asked why APPEC would base its ERT appeal rights on a complete unknown, i.e., would the IESO amend the FIT contract, or not?

Patrick Duffy, legal counsel for WPD, also took up the argument that APPEC had no right to insert itself into the contract between the IESO and WPD. Mr. Gillespie replied that if that was so, then why did the IESO make FIT contracts available on its website for public viewing in the first place?  Mr. Duffy stated that the terms “open” and “transparent” only apply to FIT Program Applicants, not to members of the public to which Mr. Gillespie replied that we still have not been told what there was about the information APPEC sought that was privileged.  Mr. Duffy noted that  FIPPA (Freedom of Information and Privacy Act) is the law that applies to disclosure.  However, Judge Kershnan reminded Mr. Duffy that Mr. Gillespie had already noted in his submissions how long the FIPPA process takes.  Mr. Gillespie also noted that there was nothing in any of the other Party’s materials about FIPPA.

Mr. Gillespie concluded by noting the right of County residents to natural justice and procedural fairness. The IESO has not told the whole story to the community that will be affected by the White Pines wind project.

Justice Kershnan thanked the Parties and stated that he would reserve his decision. The hearing was adjourned at about 5:30 p.m.

***

To learn more, or to donate to APPEC’s legal fees, please visit their website here: https://appec.wordpress.com/

Unnecessary hardship: community groups speak out on legal action vs MOECC

Citizens’ groups head to court over MOECC failure to protect safety, health

January 29, 2018

Following the announcement last Thursday that four citizens’ groups* in Ontario are taking legal action against the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) over the noise from planned wind power projects, the groups involved have issued statements relative to each of their own local situations.

“We’re not taking this step lightly,” commented Bonnie Rowe, spokesperson for Dutton Dunwich Opponents of Wind Turbines, the applicant in this suit. “We estimate that these five proposed wind power projects will be out of compliance with noise levels as soon as they go online. In the Dutton Dunwich case, the majority of the proposed turbines, as well as the transformer, will likely produce noise over the MOECC maximum allowable levels. That is just unacceptable, especially to the many citizens living nearby, who will be forced to endure that noise.”

 “The Concerned Citizens of North Stormont are in complete support of this legal challenge,” said spokesperson Margaret Benke. “Protection of the health and safety for more than 1,200 local residents is our main concern. We feel that the MOECC must be held to account.”

Julie Leroux, spokesperson for Save the Nation, says “By allowing the construction of the Eastern Fields project and using only outdated noise regulations, the MOECC would deny protection of health and wellbeing for hundreds of local residents, for the next 20 years. We strongly feel that this is unacceptable.”

“Based on what information the public has been provided so far, it appears most of the turbines [in the Otter Creek project] will be out of compliance” said Wallaceburg Area Wind Concerns spokesperson, Violet Towell. “We believe many Wallaceburg and area citizens will suffer unnecessary hardship if this project is allowed to continue, and we fully endorse this judicial review.”

For more information on the legal action, contact lawyer Eric Gillespie at 416-436-7473 (phone/text)

 

See a news report from the CBC here.

 

* The four community groups launching this legal action are members of the Wind Concerns Ontario coalition

 

 

Wallaceburg citizens demand public meeting for answers on Otter Creek wind power project

With few details on how a fragile geology will be affected by wind turbine construction, and no information on noise assessments of turbines that are just prototypes, citizens are worried about water supply, health and safety

Water from Dover area wells showing sediment. The same geology is present for the Otter Creek project. [Photo: Sydenham Current]
January 21, 2018

 Wallaceburg Area Wind Concerns

News Release

Community Group demands a reset of the Otter Creek application

Citizens’ group Wallaceburg Area Wind Concerns (WAWC) has asked the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) to halt the Otter Creek application process until all the missing data is complete, to follow the REA process for public input, and to hold another public meeting to present this information to the community.

The group sent a letter to the MOECC Tuesday via its lawyer.

Executive members of WAWC met with representatives of power developer Boralex and members of CK council December 7. At that meeting, WAWC learned that the noise assessment data for the as yet untested Enercon turbines was not complete, and there was no timetable for when it would be available.  Boralex also indicated that the developer is considering another option for the turbine foundations, and that geo-technical testing was being planned, but again there was no date for the testing.

“We’re very concerned that there is not enough information for two critical aspects of this power project, noise and the foundations,” says Violet Towell , WAWC spokesperson. “We have asked repeatedly for the facts about the effect of the noise from these huge turbines on residents, and what the impact on water wells will be from construction and vibration during operation.”

In spite of the lack of information that is clearly required for the Renewable Energy Approval for this power project, requests for a public meeting have been denied.

Last week, residents in the Wallaceburg area were shocked to learn that pile driving had begun at a number of sites for the Otter Creek project. The developer had sent letters to a handful of residents with limited information and even more limited notice.  Most of the larger community was uninformed of the activity by Boralex.

WAWC has questioned the choice of project site in an area where the soil conditions are not conducive to wind turbine construction, and also so near a town of 10,000 people. The developer’s response to WAWC was to confirm that the site was “far,far from ideal” but the company proceeded because Chatham-Kent was so accommodating.

“The Otter Creek power project must not be approved until residents of our community have accurate information about this project,” says Towell.   “There are many compelling questions not answered, key information that is missing, and changing project details. In order to protect our health, our homes and our community, we want answers now.”

Contact: WAWC@kent.net

Wind power exec accused of defamation against expert witness

October 28, 2017

Citizens of Dutton Dunwich oppose the Invenergy wind power project: is the company engaging in slander in the U.S.?

A qualified professional real estate appraiser in Illinois alleges that an executive with U.S. wind power developer Invenergy is conducting a campaign of defamation and slander against him, in an effort to have him disqualified from testifying as an expert witness on wind turbines and property values.

Michael McCann wrote a letter on October 20th to the County Supervisors in Palo Alto, Iowa, to counter statements made about him by the Invenergy employee, Michael Blazer, who is both a company vice-president and chief legal officer.

Apparently, Blazer filed an online complaint with the Illinois licensing board that governs the practice of real estate appraisers in that state, then took a screenshot of his complaint and filed that as proof that Mr McCann was “under investigation” by the licensing board. There was no public documentation of any complaint.

The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation did process the online submission but found it to be without merit, and dismissed any complaint against Mr. McCann. His license is not in fact under review.

Nevertheless, McCann alleges in his letter, months later Invenergy and Blazer continue to repeat the story that McCann is under suspicion, in an attempt to prevent McCann’s testimony about “injurious” effects of the presence of wind turbines on property values.

“This was a blatant attempt by an Invenergy officer and attorney acting as complainant, judge, jury and firing squad to advance his corporate interests by sullying my reputation, and apparently to try to prevent me from testifying regarding my well documented findings regarding the significant impact of wind turbines on neighboring values.”

Read the letter by Michael McCann to the Palo Alto County government here. McCann letter to Palo Alto County Iowa October 20 2017  Mr. McCann is currently seeking legal advice on future actions.

“This attempt to discredit an expert witness by a wind power developer is very worrying,” says Wind Concerns Ontario president Jane Wilson. “It is hard enough for ordinary citizens and community groups to achieve any kind of justice against these huge, wealthy power developers, without active campaigns to slander and discredit witnesses.”

“Gasping in despair”: Ontario’s rural communities, victims of Wynne government wind power cabal

In aiding wind power corporations, the Ontario government has essentially released wild dogs onto Ontario’s landscape without oversight, or means of bringing them to heel

“To despoil the environment. To slaughter endangered species. To make folks sick.” From the independent Wellington Times, a powerful overview of what the McGuinty-Wynne governments have done to Ontario while aiding huge corporations to build wind power plants

 

Ontario gothic

Posted: October 6, 2017 at 9:03 am   /   by   /   comments (4)

It begs the question: what was Kathleen Wynne and her government smoking when they let loose their own man-made monsters across rural Ontario—in the form of industrial wind developers and speculators?

Even if you buy the sentiment that their motivations were well-intentioned, the undeniable outcome of the Green Energy Act is that Kathleen Wynne and Dalton McGuinty have spawned armies of amoral monstrous corporate creatures and have let them loose to roam unfettered across the province. To wreak havoc in rural communities. To despoil the environment. To slaughter endangered species. To make folks sick.

Worse, our government has paved the way, clearing hurdles and slashing regulations to enable these creatures to prey upon vulnerable communities, natural habitats and endangered species. Now they have lost control of their grotesque creations. Even Kathleen Wynne must know how this story ends.

Near Chatham, folks believe the wind developer working nearby has poisoned their wells—allowing toxins into their drinking supply. They have done the testing. They have spoken out. They have protested. Marched on Queen’s Park. Kathleen Wynne has ignored them.

Wynne, her government and her supporters comfort themselves believing the scourge they have unleashed—though ugly and abusive— is a necessary evil. That the greater good is being served. They ignore the folks holding up jars of black liquid, pleading with the province to test their water, drawn from wells that have become undrinkable since the wind developer began driving piles into the bedrock to secure its massive wind turbines. Even Chatham- Kent’s mayor has demanded Kathleen Wynne intervene to protect these residents. It has made no difference.

Left without the protection of the province—without the safeguards that would protect them from any other development— these folks took matters into their own hands. In August, they began blockading the construction site— neighbours joining together to form a line against the threat to their drinking water.

On Monday, in a cruel blow, the developers— a Korean conglomerate and its American partner—won a court injunction barring any further blockades of the project. The judge said he wasn’t trying to muzzle opponents, but to “prohibit unlawful acts”.

People have to prove their water has been poisoned

In Ontario’s perverse hunger for industrial wind turbines, it turns out Chatham-Kent residents must first prove they have been poisoned by the developer, before they may seek justice. By then, of course, the damage will have been done. Recourse will expensive and, for most, unattainable.

Four years ago, the giant American wind developer Next Era sued Esther Wrightman for defamation. On her website she had altered the company’s logo to NextError and Next Terror. They wanted the logos removed or they would litigate the mother of two young children into oblivion. All these years later, the legal action is still pending. Wrightman wakes up every morning with the weight of this action still weighing on her head.

In Prince Edward County, a wind developer has been barred from constructing a nine-turbine project near Milford between May 1 and October 15. This was done expressly to protect the nesting grounds and habitat of the Blanding’s turtle, an endangered species in the province.

Nevertheless, crews have been busy these past few weeks clearing vegetation, preparing the site and delivering heavy equipment onto these protected lands. There are no consequences for ignoring the rules.

Families have left homes–no one will help

So, a developer ruins drinking water without penalty, another bullies a young mother into silence, and yet another crushes rules meant to save an endangered species. This is our Ontario. There are dozens more distressing stories just like these. Too many sad accounts of families forced to leave their homes because the noise and vibration from the massive machines proved intolerable.

No one is coming to help the folks in Chatham-Kent. No one from our government—those we entrust to protect us—is intervening between Next Era (market capitalization of $68 billion) and Esther Wrightman. And no one is coming to protect endangered species in South Marysburgh.

Wynne has lost control of her destructive and unscrupulous brutes. When the Liberal government eliminated the safeguards that once protected us from these threats, and cut municipalities and communities out of decision-making, they may have believed they were just streamlining processes. Instead, they unleashed wild dogs onto the Ontario landscape without oversight or the means to bring them back to heel.

Untethered by moral, ethical or community concerns, these corporate beasts consume and ravage everything they can get away with. Folks who have fought for years to protect the things our government was supposed to safeguard, have been left gasping in despair. Lacking legal remedies or protection, some have begun considering other means to protect their families, their communities and their land. If the government won’t protect them, they will do it themselves.

This is the horror Kathleen Wynne and Dalton McGuinty have wrought.

 

rick@wellingtontimes.ca

 

Black well water protest continues in Chatham-Kent

September 6, 2017

Residents of Chatham-Kent who are concerned about reports that as many as 12 water wells may have been affected by pile driving activity during construction of the North Kent II wind power project continue their demonstration at the site today.

The power developer filed for an injunction against them last week, citing concern for the safety of construction workers. The demonstration has been peaceful, and was conducted through the Labour Day holiday weekend.

The campaign has been organized by local community group Water Wells First, which filed an appeal against the power project. The appeal was withdrawn when the appellants were not allowed time to have experts review a hydrology report submitted by the developer.

Chatham-Kent has asked the Ontario government to halt construction until the situation has been reviewed, and property owners affected have been offered free water testing by independent laboratories.

The Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change has taken no action.

For more frequent updates on the demonstration, please check on our Facebook page, and/or at Water Wells First.

Wind developer threat spurs emergency council meeting in Prince Edward County

Power developer threatens legal action while contract status is in doubt. Citizens are rallying [Photo Wayne Prout]
The Canadian Wind Energy Association or CanWEA, the wind power trade association/lobbyist/influencer has a document on community engagement for its developer members in which it advises, people have a right to object to your project.

Germany-based power developer WPD seems to have missed that page. Not only has the company faced the fact the community in Prince Edward County by and large does not want a huge wind power development as evidenced by a Not A Willing Host designation and numerous resolutions at council, but it has also seen its project decline from 29 turbines to 27 then virtually razed of 18 more by the Environmental Review Tribunal.

Undaunted in its quest for revenue from its rich contract with the Ontario government, the company now threatens to begin construction on the remaining nine turbines on Sunday, September 10. And in a move tantamount to walking into a room and putting a gun on the table, WPD sent a letter to Prince Edward County Council threatening legal action and substantial costs should the municipal government try to obstruct its project.

Mayor Robert Quaiff has called an emergency meeting at Shire Hall in Picton on Thursday at 1 PM, and Councillor Steve Ferguson is hosting a Town Hall in Milford, next week.

Here is a notice from the Alliance to Protect Prince Edward County:

Update on White Pines wind project in Prince Edward County

The Tribunal’s decision of last April to remove 18 turbines from the White Pines wind project — two thirds of the total Project — seems not to have deterred wpd in the slightest.  On the last day of July wpd served Notice to the County that it intends to start construction on the 9 remaining turbines in the project as of Sunday, September 10th.  

In response to this Notice, South Marysburgh Councillor Steve Ferguson is calling a town hall meeting in Milford on September 5th to provide information about the wind project and to answer questions about the project’s implications to Milford residents and the surrounding area. Mayor Robert Quaiff and other Council members as well as municipal staff, will be on hand to answer questions.   

Also on the meeting’s agenda is a Notice of Dispute that was issued to the County on August 23.  wpd has given the County 10 days response time on a number of permit applications that were delivered to the County along with the Notice:  

“In accordance with the terms of the RUA (Road Users Agreement), please advise of your decision on these applications within 10 days of this correspondence. . .The County’s failure to issue the permits to which wpd is entitled under its REA (Renewable Energy Approval) will be taken by wpd to be an act of bad faith and an attempt to frustrate its wind energy project.  If we do not hear from you on or before September 7th, 2017, we will engage our external counsel to take all steps necessary to enforce our rights before the Divisional Court on an urgent basis and to seek our costs for doing so.”

 

While wpd blusters about others’ bad faith, its own actions tell a different story.  

The company made no effort to comply with the REA condition to set up a Community Liaison Committee within three months of receiving its REA and has made no effort in the two years since receiving the approval. 

To make things worse, wpd has wrapped itself in a cloak of silence.  All pretense of public consultation has been dropped.   wpd now declines to respond to any questions from members of the public.  While everyone realizes there must be major repercussions after such a significant down-sizing, everything is now handled by wpd out of the public eye. 

This has only fuelled speculation about the status of wpd’s FIT (Feed-In-Tariff) contract, the OEB approval for leave to construct a (now non-existent) 28-kilometre, 69-kv transmission line, the change from a transmission to a distribution project and all that involves, Hydro One’s potential involvement and rumours that wpd may be opting to hang power lines above-ground on poles in direct contradiction to their REA commitment to bury the lines (with two minor exceptions where overhead lines were required).  

 

As September 10th draws closer, members of the public of Prince Edward County are looking for answers.

 

How did a dangerous wind farm idea get so far?

 

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

 

The approval for proposed Fairview Wind power project has finally been revoked by the Environmental review Tribunal, on the basis of serious harm to human health and risk to aviation safety — the project was close to two airports.

Our question is, HOW did this power project get as far as it did? How could Transport Canada not block this? Why should taxpayers have had to pay out hundreds of thousands of dollars to protect safety and the environment from their own Ontario Ministry of the ENVIRONMENT and Climate Change?

In the original decision issued last fall, the Environmental Review Tribunal accepted the appellants’ aviation expert testimony, which included a rejection of any “mitigation” proposed by the wind power developer, wpd.

In specific the panel noted:

[156] For these reasons, Tribunal accepts that the margin for error posed by introducing the proposed wind turbines at their proposed locations would be inadequate to either prevent collision with a wind turbine, or prevent a crash due to wind turbine-induced turbulence.

and

[163] The Tribunal finds that Mr. Cormier has provided informed criticisms of the proposed mitigation measures that were not contradicted by the Director’s or Approval Holder’s experts, and, therefore, the Tribunal accepts Mr. Cormier’s evidence in this regard. As such, the Tribunal finds that there is insufficient evidence that mitigation measures will be effective.

The reason for the delay in revocation of the approval was because a secondary issue was harm to the Little Brown Bat and the Tribunal felt it necessary —despite the clear risk to human health — to review and evaluate the mitigation procedures proposed. The Tribunal in its decision released this week, did find that the mitigation measures were acceptable but in any event, the risk to human health was sufficient to cancel the approval.

In the October decision, the Tribunal noted that documents from the power developer referred to Transport Canada in an apparent claim that that government agency was OK with proposals for new approaches for pilots to avoid the turbines. However, the Tribunal noted that the Transport Canada letter was “carefully worded” and did not, in effect, provide approval for the power developer’s notion of how to avoid plane crashes.

At “the end of the day” as lawyers say, we are left scratching our head as to how such a proposal could get so far when common sense would seem to dictate otherwise, and why our own government could be so blinded by its “green” ideology that it is more than willing to defend the proposal?

Victory for turtles, environment and community in Prince Edward County

“…in the public interest … to remove from the REA turbines … in Blandings turtle habitat”

Blandings turtle: to allow “remedy” would be to allow extirpation of the endangered species

The Environmental Review Tribunal released its long awaited decision on the remedies proposed by wind power developer WPD for its White Pines project in Prince Edward County Ontario to protect the endangered Blandings turtle and Little Brown Bat.

Relevant sections of the decision:

[163] In light of all of the circumstances, based on the evidence provided and taking

into account the purposes of the EPA in support of environmental protection and

renewable energy, the Tribunal finds that it is in the public interest to alter the Director’s

decision by amending the REA in part. The Tribunal finds that it is in the public interest

to add the Approval Holder’s proposed Condition L2 to the REA, but to alter that

condition by removing Tables 3-1 to 3-3, in the NRSI Plan. The Tribunal further finds

that it is in the public interest to remove from the REA the turbines proposed to be

accessed by the proposed upgraded secondary and tertiary municipal road segments

and by the intersections in Blanding’s turtle habitat, specifically Turbines 12, 13, 14, 15,

16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28 and 29.

 

and

Condition J7.1. The Company shall implement the Mitigation Plan

for Operation of the White Pines Energy Project, dated July 21,

2016 prepared by Stantec Consulting Ltd., including:

1. Implement the monitoring and mitigation measures as

outlined in Table 2 of the Mitigation Plan;

2. Adjust cut-in speed to 5.5 m/s between sunset and sunrise

from May 1 to September 30 at all turbines for the operating

life of the Project; and

3. In the event of a mortality of a bat species that is a species

at risk, successively increase the operational mitigation as

detailed in Table 2 of the Mitigation Plan.

The question that remains is, with 60 percent of the project effectively removed, how can WPD meet its obligation to provide 75 percent of the power in its contract?

The entire project may have to be reformulated…it remains to be seen whether the company will opt to do that by using 4.1 MW turbines perhaps, or by finding other locations, but the company may have run out of time to do that.

The decision is here:ERT15068-White PInes

Here is a recording of lawyer Eric Gillespie’s closing remarks at the remedy hearing held in Wellington, last January. “The only remedy is to revoke [the approval]. … the result of mitigation will be to extirpate a species.”

EricGillespieClosingRemarksWhite PInes

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