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.
The decision of the Environmental Review Tribunal to revoke the approval of a wind power generation project at Ostrander Point in Prince Edward County is key, says a leading law firm, because it provides insight into how the Tribunal will now exercise its powers.
In an opinion published on the Osler Hoskin Harcourt LLP website, lawyers Jack Koop, Richard Wong and others say that the Tribunal can now step into the Ministry of the Environment’s Director to approve a remedy to environmental challenges but, more important, “it may consider the general purpose of the EPA, the general purpose of REAs, the public interest under section 47.5 of the EPA, and the principles set out in the Ministry’s Statements of Environmental Values (including the ecosystem approach and the precautionary principle).”
The Precautionary Principle, which had been deemed irrelevant to appeals of wind power projects is now back in play, says Osler Hoskin Harcourt: “With the Ostrander decision, the Tribunal now appears to be saying that once the more stringent harm test has been met, and the Tribunal moves to a consideration of ‘remedy’, it has licence to consider a much broader range of factors, including the precautionary principle. This raises the question of whether the decision has opened a backdoor for the Tribunal to relax the stringent harm test imposed by the statute.”
This is a highly significant finding as it has long been surmised that the test imposed under the regulations for wind power project approvals was virtually impossible to meet. In fact, as lawyer for the industry trade association CanWEA or the Canadian Wind Energy Association said in court in January, 2014, “this [the Ostrander Point decision in favour of the Appellant] was never supposed to happen.”
Read the full opinion here but it appears the little, endangered, smiling Blanding’s turtle will go down in history for more than just being in the way of an inappropriate power development.
The top executive for Gilead Power, the firm that was seeking to develop Ostrander Point in Prince Edward County into a wind power generation project, confirms what Wind Concerns Ontario has known for some time: there are projects in Ontario that are approaching, or have even passed, their key contract date to be supplying power to the grid.
The Wynne government has the option of now cancelling these contracts.
In an interview with the Picton Gazette, interim Gilead president Dan Hardie said the company is now “in limbo” with the decision by the Environmental Review Tribunal going against the project, and the “drop-dead” date approaching. (Actually, Wind Concerns Ontario’s information is that the key contract date was May 12, 2016.)
“We were supposed to be up and running by a certain date this year,” Hardie told the Gazette. “We are running out of time and that’s due to the Blanding [sic] turtle problem that we had.”
Asked if the ERT decision could mean the end of the company, Hardie replied, “Probably.”
According to WCO information, the cost to the government of getting out of the Ostrander Point contract would be $420,000 at most to terminate.
FIT Contract status: estimated from FIT contract source documents
The public waits for the Amherst Island hearing to begin June 7th. Photo: Elliot Ferguson/Whig-Standard
STELLA — The two sides in the legal battle over the Amherst Island wind energy project laid out their final submissions Tuesday.
The Association to Protect Amherst Island (APAI) is seeking the revocation of a conditional approval of Windlectric’s wind power project.
The hearing comes after the association appealed an August decision by the Ontario government that gave the project conditional approval. The Amherst Island Island Environmental Review Tribunal is expected to be the largest such hearing since the process was established.
Island resident Amy Caughey led off the final submissions by arguing that the negative effects on children’s health have not been studied collectively.
Caughey said the proximity of a proposed concrete batch plant near Amherst Island Public School would hurt pupils’ health.
But Caughey said such effects can’t properly be studied unless the children are first exposed to the dust and noise from the plant and the changes in their health documented.
“In Canada, in 2016, we do not permit such trials on children,” she said. “The burden of proof cannot fall on a parent.”
APAI’s lawyer, Eric Gillespie, said the evidence has met the burden of proof needed to show wind turbines are detrimental to human health.
“This case advances the health claims further than any other case this tribunal has heard,” he said, before outlining the key evidence his witnesses presented about the potential negative impacts of the wind turbines.
Gillespie said expert testimony showed Amherst Island is home to many species — birds, bats and turtles — that could be negatively affected by the project.
“This island is a stronghold for species that is under pressure,” he said of the local bobolink population.
Gillespie saved his final submission for the Blanding’s turtle, which has taken a special place in ERTs in this area.
The closing of the Amherst Island ERT came the day after a similar process rejected a wind energy plan for Prince Edward County.
On Monday, an ERT upheld an appeal of a nine-turbine project by the Prince Edward County Field Naturalists (PECFN), saying the installation of gates on access roads won’t adequately protect the population or habitat of Blanding’s turtles.
Gillespie said island residents called as witnesses have testified to have seen the turtle on the island. …
The people of Prince Edward County have been battling a wind power project planned for–and supported by the Ontario government–for more than six years. An Important Bird Area and staging area for hundreds of thousands of migratory birds, and home to endangered species, Ostrander Point was a fragile environment— not suitable, most thought, for a huge, utility-scale, wind power project.
The Environmental Review Tribunal released its decision today, prepared by co-chairs Robert Wright and Heather Gibbs.
Here is a news release from the Prince Edward County Field Naturalists and their lawyer, Eric Gillespie.
TORONTO, June 6, 2016 /CNW/ – The endangered Blanding’s turtle has come out ahead in its race to protect the species and its habitat in Prince Edward County.
The Ontario Environmental Review Tribunal ruled today that the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change permit related to proposed industrial wind turbines on the Ostrander Point crown lands should be revoked.
“This is a great outcome for everyone involved and for the environment” said Myrna Wood of the Prince Edward County Field Naturalists, the appellant. “It’s taken some time, but with this result the effort has clearly been worthwhile” said Eric Gillespie, legal counsel.
SOURCE Eric K. Gillespie Professional Corporation
A key point in the decision was the concepts that there must be balance between preserving the natural environment and wildlife and the goals for “renewable” power generation.
The Ontario government has approved wind power projects in other areas where environmental protection is a concern.
Will the government of Ontario do the right thing and now cancel contracts for utility-scale wind power in these locations?
Further proof that Ontario’s Green Energy Act was not based on any real scientific evidence, or that its setbacks and other regulations were really created for public safety. Former Energy Minister George Smitherman’s testimony is revealing.
Reevely: Ontario’s wind-power decision makes it look like a ‘banana republic,’ ex-deputy premier tells tribunal
“Every time there’s a decision of significance it’s coming with an intervention from the centre,” George Smitherman testified. That could have meant the premier, it could have been meant his chief of staff or principal secretary. Maybe the premier’s office would have initiated it, maybe a minister would have. “(B)ut the central command and control would be a consistent element, no matter the pathway.”
That’s directly opposite to the way the Ontario government says it decided to abandon a big chunk of its green-energy plan.
Smitherman was the energy minister and deputy premier who pushed that plan through but was no longer in with government when the decision was made to call off the plan. The plan included ways to let private companies install hundreds of windmills several kilometres out in the province’s big lakes.
Since then, the government has commissioned zero research on the subject. Wilkinson lost his seat later in 2011 but the moratorium he imposed is still in place.
The government is being sued by one would-be wind-farm builder and has been taken to an international court by another, which claims it was specially harmed because it’s American — a no-no under the North American Free Trade Agreement. The two companies are demanding about $500 million each in compensation for their blown projects.
Both of them were very large wind farms that would have been built at the eastern end of Lake Ontario, off Kingston. Either would have generated as much power as a nuclear reactor.
Both companies allege the premier’s office had to be involved in the decision to cancel their projects, and numerous others elsewhere in the province, all in one February 2011 announcement, and the fact that it’s produced almost no documentation of that involvement shows deceit and impropriety. The Ontario Provincial Police are investigating it as a criminal matter.
The Permanent Court of Arbitration, based in The Hague, heard that NAFTA case between Windstream Energy and the Canadian authorities over two weeks in February and three arbitrators are working on a decision. The court posted transcripts of the sworn testimony on Wednesday.
In Smitherman’s testimony, he said that if Wilkinson decided personally to ball up a whole section of the province’s green-energy plan, that was like no other decision he saw in six-plus years in government. The environment minister would have had that authority but in real life ministers simply did not make calls that important on their own.
Smitherman was not involved in the decision to scrap Great Lakes wind projects, which came after he quit provincial politics to run for mayor of Toronto in 2010, he acknowledged.
“I wasn’t there at the time,” he testified, “but I can say that in every other decision of a similar circumstance or magnitude, the person that declares the consensus is the head of the government, that’s the premier or one or two of his most senior staff.”
Wilkinson testified that the decision to cancel all the lake wind projects was his alone.
“I did not discuss the issue of offshore wind development with the premier or seek his counsel before I made the deferral decision, and he did not attempt to influence my decision in any way,” Wilkinson testified.
The premier’s office was told and backed him up, Wilkinson said, and McGuinty’s chief of staff Chris Morley was involved in planning how to communicate the decision — including vetoing a draft of a press release from Wilkinson’s ministry — but Wilkinson wasn’t acting on any orders, he said.
(Neither McGuinty nor Morley testified in the case.)
Wilkinson reached the decision abruptly when his deputy minister couldn’t assure him the government had enough science on hand to be sure that dozens of foundations for windmills could be sunk into lake bottoms without swirling up toxic metals and fertilizer residue that could lead to dangerous algae blooms, he said.
Nobody ever brought that up while Smitherman worked for years on Ontario’s Green Energy and Green Economy Act, the ex-minister of energy said. Nobody objected that the province lacked the scientific expertise to approve wind projects safely. Everyone knew for years that the government was planning to pay high prices for all sorts of wind-based projects — through a thing called a feed-in-tariff — to boost Ontario’s renewable-energy industry.
“The rollout of the Green Energy and Green Economy Act was lengthy,” Smitherman testified. “At no time whatsoever did colleagues of mine, formally or informally, raise concerns with me with respect to the implementation of wind power as one of our chosen fuel sources for the feed-in-tariff.”
An aviation safety expert says the location of wind turbines as proposed by WPD Canada would be “unwise.”
Charles Cormier also told an Environmental review Tribunal hearing on an appeal of the province’s approval of a renewable energy application (REA) for the Fairview Wind project that the eight turbines could have a negative impact on growth at the Collingwood Regional Airport.
Collingwood, Clearview Township and Simcoe County have joined Kevin Elwood, Preserve Clearview, and John Wiggins in appealing the approval by the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC).
“It’s a growing airport, a very busy airport,” Cormier told the tribunal during four hours of testimony.
Cormier has reviewed the turbine issue several times on behalf of the Collingwood Regional Airport, and rebutted the opinion of experts hired by WPD Canada that the turbines would have a negligible effect on aircraft movements.
Poland has adopted a new law banning construction of wind farms close to dwellings and hiking project costs in a move which the industry says could hobble Poland’s move to renewables and away from coal.
Wind farms must be built at a distance from housing of at least 10 times the height of the turbine, or about 1.5 to 2 km, under the law which was adopted by the lower house of parliament on Friday.
projects in Poland, said that if the law was enforced it would be forced to write down the value of some of its Polish assets and would consider seeking potential compensation.
Representatives of Poland’s ruling conservative Law and Justice party (PiS), which designed the new regulations, said that it had to reform regulation of the industry and address citizens’ complaints about noise from wind farms.
“Because of the renewable energy madness we are reducing our GDP growth,” Energy Minister Krzysztof Tchorzewski said, referring to subsidies granted to renewable energy sources.
European Union rules call for Poland, which generates most of its electricity from highly polluting coal, to produce 15 percent of it from renewable sources by 2020 versus around 12 percent currently.
PiS says the new regulations will not pose a risk to Poland attaining that target.
(Reporting by Agnieszka Barteczko; editing by Jason Neely)
Three municipal governments are among the appellants fighting the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change and wind power developer, Germany-based wpd Canada. At issue, aviation safety and the economic survival of Collingwood (the latter not allowed as basis for an appeal.)
May 16, 2016
Six tables of lawyers make up the front of the room as the appeal against the Fairview Wind power project begins in Collingwood, Ontario. The Environmental Tribunal members for this appeal are Dirk Vanderbent and Hugh Wilkins.
Already there are problems as both the Ministry of the Environment and the power developer have missed deadline for their evidence submissions related to aviation safety issues.
The power developer is claiming it cannot force the federal government to provide information for this appeal.
More details when available.
Hearings are scheduled for May 16, then 18-20, at the Collingwood Curling Club.
The Ontario Provincial Police has launched another investigation into allegations that provincial government officials illegally destroyed documents concerning an aborted contract to supply electricity to the provincial grid.
This time, it’s a green-energy contract with a company that builds wind farms.
A previous investigation into the disappearance of files, in the last days of Dalton McGuinty’s premiership, about the decisions to cancel two gas-fired generating stations has already led to charges against McGuinty’s then-chief of staff, David Livingston, and his deputy, Laura Miller. They are charged with breach of trust, mischief in relation to data and misuse of a computer system. Both of them deny any wrongdoing and are awaiting trial. McGuinty himself was never the subject of any investigation.
This investigation is new.
“An investigation was launched after allegations were made by a third-party vendor, Trillium Power Energy Corp.,” OPP Det.-Supt. David Truax said in response to questions from this newspaper. The vendor made a formal complaint and the police examined it and found it worthy of a full exploration, which has been underway for a couple of weeks. Truax did not say whether the investigation had a specific target.
“The investigation is being led by a major-case manager from the criminal investigation branch of the OPP,” Truax said. “The investigative team will be comprised by members of the anti-rackets branch as well as the technological crime unit.”
Truax wouldn’t confirm any potential connection to the Livingston and Miller case. Trillium claims in its court filing that its project got caught up in the same electoral worry before the 2011 election that led the McGuinty government to cancel the two gas plants. Those two gas plants, in Oakville and in Mississauga, were locally unpopular and might have put Liberal-held seats at risk. Ultimately McGuinty won a third term with a minority.
The cost of the gas-plant cancellations ballooned from an early estimate of $40 million to about $1 billion, according to the provincial auditor general, once you factor in all the ripple effects.
Trillium’s allegation against the government arose in the middle of a gigantic civil lawsuit it filed over a moratorium the government put on wind-energy projects on the Great Lakes in early 2011. Trillium was working on five such projects, including one in Lake Ontario, more than 25 kilometres off Kingston, that would have been the biggest in Canada.
The company was on the brink of signing a financing deal when the province decided to halt all such projects for further scientific study. The company sued for $2.25 billion, alleging that the decision was political, not scientific, meant to appease voters living close to completely separate wind projects on Lake Huron and Lake Erie.
As it sought documents from the provincial government to build its case, Trillium’s lawyer Morris Cooper said in an interview, Trillium found a hole in the archives where documents related to Trillium’s contract with the province should have been.
“We discovered that in fact the documents that one would expect from the premier’s office or the cabinet office were not there,” Cooper said. “We noticed the pattern was they were only produced if other ministries were on the paper trail.”
Ultimately the courts threw out most of Trillium’s legal claims; the government has a lot of freedom to make and change policy decisions, even if people suffer as a result. But a claim for $500 million in damages from “misfeasance in public office” remains (over allegations the government deliberately timed its moratorium on Great Lakes wind projects to ruin Trillium so badly it couldn’t afford to sue) and now Trillium has added one for “spoliation,” destroying documents relevant to the case. Neither has been tried in court yet.
The government compensated the builders for the gas plants it cancelled. It didn’t compensate Trillium. The company filed its lawsuit in September 2011.
In defending itself against Trillium’s civil case, the government filed court papers saying that no files related to the deal were “intentionally” destroyed.
Cooper alleged that Trillium-related documents disappeared in February 2013 at the same time as the files relating to the decision to cancel the gas plants.
The investigation that led to the Livingston and Miller charges took the OPP’s anti-rackets branch 2 1/2 years. This one is just getting started.
“This type of investigation will involve the interviewing of witnesses, involved persons. It will involve an extensive review of documentation, both in electronic and hardcopy formats. I’m not able to speculate how long it might take to conduct this kind of investigation,” Truax said.
One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship.- George Orwell
They didn’t come to talk about industrial wind turbines. Rather, the two emissaries from the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC)—an agency of the province of Ontario—came to apologize.
MPAC is the government agency that determines the value of your home or property for municipal taxation purposes. They know they do a poor job of it. They have such low confidence in their ability to assess the value of your home, particularly in rural, heterogeneous neighbourhoods, one phone call is often all it takes to have an assessment reduced.
So the MPAC folks came to Shire Hall to say they are sorry and want to do better. Part of a dog-and-pony-apology tour across Ontario. They came with plans to improve the way they, and clerks in municipalities across the province, might work together better.
County council members, however, wanted to know about industrial wind turbines. Specifically, they wanted to know the impact on property values of 50-storey machines erected in a scenic rural shoreline. The MPAC folks were prepared for the question. They get it a lot.
Leaning heavily on MPAC’s own study based on 2012 data, the representatives assured council industrial wind turbines nearby had “no statistically significant impact on sale prices.” When it conducted the analysis, the provincial agency knew its findings would meet with a skeptical reception, so it hired an American consultant to examine the data too. It, however, found a statistically significant impact lowering the sale prices of homes near industrial wind turbines, but that the impact was small.
That was the information shared with council. Council believed it was true.
Ed and Gail Kenney have been battling MPAC for seven years. In 2008, the couple’s Wolfe Island home was valued at $200,000. The following year, 86 industrial wind turbines sprouted around his home. Fluctuating pressure caused by the turbines makes Ed uncomfortable and edgy—he finds it difficult to sleep. Yet he doesn’t want to move.
That same year MPAC determined the value of the Kenneys’ home had risen to $375,000—driving their municipal taxes much higher. They appealed. If anything, the value of their home was less because of the turbines, not more. It took several years and a small fortune, yet they lost their appeal.
“The board found that based on the evidence, in this case, there appeared to be no evidence of any negative impact to the value of the property,” concluded the MPAC appeal panel.
The case raised serious questions about how MPAC conducts its evaluations. The hard data appeared to contradict its conclusion. A small corps of amateurs pored over the data. They found a correlation between a decline in sale prices and proximity to industrial wind turbines. But they were just raising more questions. There was no hard evidence or academic research contradicting MPAC. Until now.
A new study prepared by Clarkson University and Nanos Research paints a very different picture of what happened as a result of the industrial wind turbines on Wolfe Island.
The Clarkson-Nanos study concludes that a massive wind project proposed for Galloo Island— part of a chain of islands that includes the Duck Islands stretching from Prince Edward Point to Henderson, New York—will likely depress property values of homes with a view of the turbines. The researchers calculate the impact is likely to be more than $40 million while providing the community with little value in return.
But surely the most surprising aspect of their research, for Ontario residents at least, was what they learned about property values directly across from Wolfe Island.
Clarkson-Nanos found that properties with a view of the western side of Wolfe Island, in and around Cape Vincent, prior to turbines being built, commanded a premium of about 10 per cent relative to similar properties. After the turbines were constructed, however, they found a “strong negative impact” on property values. Further, their analysis determined that industrial wind turbines reduce property values on the American mainland by about 15 per cent.
So let’s get this straight. MPAC and its consultant couldn’t detect a significant impact on property values on homes in the shadow of these looming mechanical giants—yet across the channel, an independent research body found homes are worth far less because their view includes industrial wind turbines.
It is obvious to those with eyes that industrial wind turbines impair property values. It is surely why the province wouldn’t tolerate an appeal based on economic or property losses as a result of an industrial wind project located nearby.
Yet the provincial government continues to compel its agencies to tell the public a different story.
The last shreds of credibility MPAC may have once had, now lie in tatters. …
Read Rick Conroy’s stunning conclusion and the rest of the storyhere.