Wind ‘farms’ no success story: Fisherville letter

n this week’s edition of the Hill Times, following last week’s feature, the following letter to the Editor:

Ontario’s wind farms not a success

Published: Monday, 08/19/2013 12:00 am EDT
Last Updated: Monday, 08/19/2013 3:37 pm EDT

Bob Chiarelli is quoted in The Hill Times as saying “wind power produces no greenhouse gases and is part of a program of modernization of Ontario’s power system. It’s a tremendous success story” (“Critics call Ontario’s wind farms ‘a disaster’ in rural areas but Energy Minister Chiarelli says government is working with municipalities,” Renewable Energy Policy Briefing, Aug. 12),
I beg to differ with that statement. Mr. Chiarelli is either uninformed or very disingenous and he is totally wrong. It takes several thousand tons of coal to produce one industrial wind turbine. How is that modernizing the system? Coal produces greenhouse gasses.
Ontario has spent millions of dollars ($60-million in 2009) for the Bruce Power Plant not to produce power. We do not need nor can Ontario afford IWTs. It is all a financial disaster for Ontario.
IWTs were forced on us by the McGuinty/Wynne Liberals. They turned our rural area into an industrial zone.
As a result, we are “enjoying” our senior years surrounded by IWTs. We have tried to sell and move to a smaller property but no one is looking. The whole area is in turmoil as family members, neighbours and friends are about to start a class action law suit against the land owners and wind proponents. Many are suffering health problems related to IWTs and Mr. Chiarelli calls this a “success story?”
Frank and Helen Belbeck
Fisherville, Ont.

Environmental hearings on DWP limited to serious health risks

The Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) will consider only whether the Dufferin Wind Power project and its transmission line pose serious risks to human, animal and plant health or would cause irreversible damage to the environment, among similar considerations, the preliminary hearing was told Monday.
The actual hearing is set for Aug. 20 in Grace Tipling Hall, Shelburne. There’ll be a few familiar faces participating along with several lawyers of note who’ll be acting for some parties to the hearing.
Toronto lawyer Eric Gillespie is representing Dennis Sanford of Melancthon in opposition to the project. Mr. Gillespie gained turbine recognition in Chatham-Kent proceedings a couple of years ago, and is currently waging a multi-million-dollar battle over turbine leases near Stayner, among other actions.

Joan Lever, also an opponent of turbines since the development of Melancthon Phase 1, is representing herself as a participant. In a somewhat lengthy and impassioned presentation

A Niagara Escarpment Commission manager appeared Monday to lodge an objection to the proximity of the wind farm to the escarpment. In part, the NEC’s opposition is to visual impact.
Amongst the heavy hitters, DWP is represented by Toronto’s Torys LLP, and Conserve Our Rural Environment (CORE) by the Toronto office of Davis LLP.
Davis lawyer Laura Bisset made representations for Dr. Crysdale of Mulmur whose property adjoins that of the most northerly farm within the DWP area at issue. She didn’t outline the doctor’s credentials but said his concerns are for human health.

Read the entire article at the Orangeville Citizen

Longer setback requirements in Germany

A new post on the German Energy Blog notes a number of German states with more stringent setback requirements than Ontario’s.
The latest being 1 km.

On 12 July 2013 representatives of the Saxon State Ministries of Economics and of the Interior signed a joint “Decree on Minimum Distances between Residential Housing and Priority Areas and Other Areas Suitable for Wind Power”. The decree essentially stipulates a general minimum distance of 1,000 metres between residential housing and wind power plants, a press release issued by the State of Saxony says.

This would help to “reduce conflicts between immissions and adverse affects on the landscape on the on hand and the need for a moderate and sensitive expansion of wind power”, the statement says.

Judging from the press release (the decree is not available yet), the minimum distance seems to refer mainly to immission control law and seems stricter than in other German states. The Bavarian wind power decree points out that the Federal Immissions Control Act does not stipulate a minimum distance, pointing out that below a distance of 800 metres an expert opinion on the noise caused by the wind power plant (Lärmschutzgutachten) would have to be submitted. The wind power decree of the State of Baden-Württemberg states that regional planning authorities should observe a minimum distance of 700 metres from areas in which housing can not only be permitted by way of exception when designating priority zones for wind power.

The State of Saxony also informed that it plans to submit an amendment of the Federal Building Code (Baugesetzbuch) together with the State of Bavaria that would allow the federal states to set minimum standards to residential housing depending on the height of the wind power plant.

The entire article may be read at the German Energy Blog

Wind-power projects as harmful as cancelled gas plants, critic contends

OTTAWA —The same process that led to Ontario’s “gas plant fiasco” is being used for wind-generation projects with disastrous results, says the head of a group concerned about a proposed wind farm in rural southern Ottawa.
“The gas plants got all the attention, but the wind-power projects are more widespread — and causing real problems for communities in terms of health problems, social disruption, lost property value and harm to the natural environment,” wrote Jane Wilson in a submission to the Ontario Power Generation and the Independent Energy System Operator as part of a “dialogue” about the way the province locates large power projects.
The consultation process stemmed from the political controversy around the location, and cancellation, of planned gas plants in southern Ontario. The Liberal government’s handling of the costly gas plant issue is the subject of an inquiry and a criminal investigation.
Ottawa Wind Concerns, which Wilson heads (in addition to Wind Concerns Ontario) wants a new system for planning and siting all large energy projects, including wind, that gives local communities more control.

Continue reading at the Ottawa Citizen

Ontario Energy Ministry or the Freedom of NO Information

For some time the interest in the release of the Ontario Electricity Finance Corporation’s (OEFC) annual report has been on the minds of many of Ontario’s ratepayers. The OEFC’s year-end is March 31st and in line with the annual budget an audit of the OEFC is a requirement of the Electricity Act 1998 (Act). According to part” 81. (1)” of the Act; “The Financial Corporation shall, within 90 days after the end of every fiscal year, submit to the Minister of Finance an annual report on its affairs during that fiscal year, signed by the chair of its board of directors. 1998, c. 15, Sched. A, s. 81 (1).”

By this date (mid July 2013) the public should have had acess to the March 31, 2012 and March 31, 2013 annual report but we don’t. Now if one delves further into the Act we note that: “The Minister of Finance shall submit the annual report to the Lieutenant Governor in Council and shall then table the report in the Assembly. 1998, c. 15, Sched. A, s. 81 (3).” Insofar as the March 31, 2012 annual report is concerned the Minister responsible would have been our now retired and private sector employed former Finance Minister, Dwight Duncan and for the March 31, 2013 report it would have been the current Finance Minister, Charles Sousa. Needless to say neither of the past and current Finance Ministers have, as suggested in the act, submitted “the annual report to the Lieutenant Governor in Council” nor have they followed up by “then table[ing] the report in the Assembly.”

With the foregoing in mind I submitted a request to the “Freedom of Information Coordinator” of the Ministry of Energy, on June 24, 2013 in which I asked for the copy of the annual report for the year-end March 31, 2012 for OEFC. As the letter preceded (by 6 days) the “90 days” applicable to the 2013 annual report I thought that the FOI request would carry more weight.

As it turned out my request was forwarded to the FOI Coordinator at the Finance Ministry Office and I received a phone call on July 9th alerting me to that fact. During my conversation with that individual I was offered a choice of future actions; the first was that they could return my cheque for the $5.00 and I would get no information or they would cash my cheque and send a letter that would tell me that under “Section 22” of the Ontario FOI Act they would respond that: “(b) the head believes on reasonable grounds that the record or the information contained in the record will be published by an institution within ninety days after the request is made or within such further period of time as may be necessary for printing or translating the material for the purpose of printing it. R.S.O. 1990, c. F.31, s. 22.”
I opted for the latter and then checked Hansard to determine the next “Legislative sitting” which has been scheduled for September 13, 2013 or 81 days after the date of my letter. Presumably the hope of the FOI officer responding to my letter is that Finance Minister Sousa will in fact table the March 31, 2012 OEFC annual report to the Lieutenant Governor before Sunday September 22, 2012.

While I appreciate that bureaucrats, no matter their political stripes are concerned about their job I find it appalling that the new Wynne Liberal Government who claim to want a “conversation” do not wish to table these annual statements from OEFC that annually bill 4.5 million Ontario ratepayers for approximately $1 billion. Two full years have passed and the take on the “stranded debt” from the ratepayers of the province is about $2 billion and we have had no accounting.

It begs the question where has our money gone and why are they keeping it a secret?

Parker Gallant, 

July 18, 2013

Prince Edward County and their Super Turtles: Renewable Energy Approval overturned

The headline in the Belleville Intelligencer of July 5, 2013 read “Turtles win wind battle”!

Apparently turtles (particularly those of the “Blandings” variety) not only outrace rabbits but they can sway power over lawyers in quasi-judicial positions as the results of the Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) for the Ostrander Point Wind Energy LP recently disclosed. Despite over 40 days of hearings with numerous witnesses called on behalf of the Prince Edward County Field Naturalists (PECFN) and the Alliance to Protect Prince Edward County (APPEC) it was the Blandings turtle that was the hero to the numerous Prince Edward County residents who opposed the erection of 9 industrial wind turbines at the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources owned land known as Ostrander Point.

The costs, measured as; harm to humans that might be affected by industrial wind turbines or the rare alvar vegetation didn’t play into the decision by the two ERT panel members! As it turned out it was the slow moving endangered Blandings turtle that swayed them to make the first ever ruling against the Ministry that handed out the REA. A huge win, after numerous losses that places the “Blandings” turtle on a pedestal akin to a war hero or an Olympic gold medalist in the 100 meter dash.

The win by this slow moving reptile didn’t come cheaply as the efforts by both PECFN and APPEC to raise the funds necessary to sponsor their appeal are measured in the hundreds of thousands of dollars and the appeal to complete their fundraising activities continue, as both try valiantly to close the gap to ensure that Eric Gillespie and his legal team’s costs are covered.

The other side; Gilead Power was represented by the legal team of one of Canada’s biggest law firms; McCarthy Tetrault and supported by the taxpayer financed legal team from the Ministry. Attending the hearings usually saw a minimum of two lawyers from both McCarthy Tetrault and two from the Ministry. On several days the McCarthy Tetrault group would number three so the costs to the REA holder were considerably more. Having personally had experience in dealing with some of the big “Bay Street” law firms, this writer would estimate that Gilead were on the hook for a mimimum of $1,000 per hour for at least 8 hours in each of those 40 or so days. The focus of the Gilead counsel was principally in attempting to make the PECFN and APPEC experts and common folk (those testifying about health issues caused by wind turbine noise) look bad. They didn’t and the ERT panel generally found all of the PECFN and APPEC witnesses very credible. In the end however, the hero was the Blandings turtle who came through and won the race.

The cost to the taxpayers over the 40 days was nominal as a percentage of the Ministry budget, but as a casual observer I was distracted each day I attended the hearing in Demorestville, by the fact that the lawyers for the Ministry arrived in their “hybrid” cars with the Ministry logo on the side and by the large SUV that the Gilead people would sometimes arrive in. Were the “hybrids” meant to sway the tribunal members proving that the Ministry lawyers were truly “green”? I never saw the cars that the McCarthy Tetrault people drove but there was always at least one BMW parked near the community centre which may have been their mode of transport.

Putting aside the mode of transport, it is interesting to speculate on the cost of legal fees that Gilead will be stuck with. Those fees will be tax deductible by Gilead whereas the legal fees paid for by APPEC and PECFN were all donated after tax dollars made by locals and many others throughout the province who saw the Ostrander Point project as the “line in the sand” for industrial wind turbine developments and supported the efforts of APPEC and PECFN by donating their hard earned money.

Examining the probable cost to Gilead and their partners (including OPSEU as a part owner), this writer’s estimated cost of their defence of the appeal was that it was close to the $1 million mark, considering; three lawyers attended the hearing for many days, the travel time to Demorestville, preparation time, research, expert witnesses, etc. The cost of the taxpayer paid legal team, was probably in the $100,000 range and for the tribunal members a similar cost would probably apply.

In total the overall cost of the tribunal hearing was in all likelihood, in the $1.5/$2 million range whereas the cost, had the REA been denied; would have been zero (0). Whatever possessed the MNR and the Environment Ministry to allow this to proceed is way beyond the scope or ability of this writer to either determine or comprehend, but, perhaps the reasoning might be found in a deleted e-mail. Anything beyond that would be pure speculation on the part of this writer.

The lesson, from the results of the foregoing is that no one on this planet should discount the value of a life, even those of an endangered reptile, and those who should give that lesson considerable thought are the bureaucrats entrusted to protect those lives. The dollar costs described above to the potentially injured parties would never have occurred without the Ontario Power Authority first granting the contract for the marginal electricity that the 22.5 megawatts may have provided. Power that would present itself to the grid 80% of the time when it is not needed. [refer: Fraser Report; Environmental and Economic Consequences of Ontario’s Green Energy Act] Why the OPA granted the contract to Gilead in the first place is unknown and why Gilead were granted an REA is another unknown. If and when, a judicial enquiry is ever held in respect to the GEA, the reasons behind those approvals and the many others, in my opinion, may well open some eyes on how the regulatory system was one sided while attempting to give the appearance that the appellants had rights.

The Green Energy and Economy Act is truly the rabid (not rabbit) act that is working to destroy what has taken Ontarians decades to achieve!  We should all be thankful that Ostrander Point has been blessed with the Blandings turtle who, so far, is the only real winner.

Parker Gallant,
July 11, 2013