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 water flows are the circulatory system for the entire ecosystem, biologist tells Tribunal.
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
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—
On Monday, a NAFTA arbitration panel will start oral hearings in Toronto arising from a dispute between the Delaware-incorporated renewable power developer, Windstream Energy, and the Government of Canada (notice how awkward it is for the public to attend). At stake is Windstream’s claim for damages of $475 million plus interest and costs over an alleged breach of NAFTA obligations by the Ontario government. Windstream had a Feed-In Tariff (FIT) contract granted by the Ontario Power Authority in 2010 to develop a 300 megawatt, 130-turbine offshore wind project west of Wolfe Island, but says it was thwarted by the Ontario government prior to construction.
My main interest in the Windstream litigation is how it illuminates the chaos inside official Ontario’s administration of the province’s electricity future. The case also illustrates how international trade agreements can leave the federal government on the hook when provincial government engage in shenanigans, an important but previously known fact of life in our imperfect federation. (As if our provincial governments need more incitement for irresponsibility.)
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
The Thunder Bay area project was opposed by the Fort William First Nation and the community
Wind farm dead, but law suit alive
Chronicle-Herald, February 10, 2016
BY CARL CLUTCHEY NORTH SHORE BUREAUchroniclejournal.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. …
STELLA — Approximately 30 residents of Amherst Island will get to testify before the Environmental Review Tribunal about the presence of endangered Blanding’s turtles on the island.
In a conference call Wednesday, the tribunal rejected an attempt from lawyers for Windlectric Inc. to have the witness statements excluded from the proceedings.
Instead, the residents are to be presented during three days of hearings on the island next week.
Algonquin Power’s subsidiary Windlectric Inc. is proposing to build about 26 wind turbines on the island. The company’s lawyers had argued that the citizens’ statements about seeing Blanding’s turtles on the island had been falsified and photographs of the turtles were staged.
“It is important for us and we are happy that the tribunal recognized that, in fairness, that if Windlectric is allowed, through their expert, to say that people on the island are lying to oppose the project, well, we’re really, really happy that the tribunal recognized the fairness, or unfairness of that procedure,” said Michele Le Lay, spokesperson for the Association to Protect Amherst Island.
In a 2013 species at risk report prepared for Windlectric, Stantec Consulting Ltd. stated there are no Blanding’s turtles on Amherst Island.
“Over the course of all field surveys, no observations of either Blanding’s turtle or eastern musk turtle were made,” the report stated.
The opposing sides are to talk by telephone on Thursday to decide how the 30 residents could testify in three days of hearings in a manner that is fair to both sides.
Evidence that Blanding’s turtles live on the island could be critical to the project’s opponents.
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/
The hearing of final oral submissions in the White Pines appeal (appellant: Alliance to Protect Prince Edward County) scheduled for tomorrow in Wellington has been cancelled, due to insufficient time to prepare reply submissions.
Details on further hearings or teleconferences to come. For more information check with the APPEC website.
WEST LINCOLN — With some of the largest industrial wind turbines in North America rising from the rural West Lincoln landscape, two citizens groups are asking the local government to begin monitoring noise.
“We want the township to appreciate the scope of the risk we are about to run with one of the largest wind projects in North America next to such a densely-populated area,” said Mike Jankowski, chair of the West Lincoln Glanbrook Wind Action Group (WLGWAG), which made a joint presentation to West Lincoln’s planning, building and environmental committee Monday with Mothers Against Wind Turbines (MAWT). “There are some risks that aren’t mitigated and we require the township to start collecting data both before and during the turbines.”
Jankowski, who said he has personally experienced health effects related to the HAF Wind Energy project already in operation in West Lincoln, said it’s a matter of when, not if, those living near the Niagara Region Wind Farm currently under development will experience adverse health effects. The groups say the noise data will help establish a clear picture of what residents are dealing with.
“This data can be used for a number of things,” explained Jankowski. “First and foremost, it can be used to aid in a response if necessary. To indicate what people are being subject to.”
What began as a mild ringing in the ear turned into dizziness and decreased mental capacity for Jankowski. His teenage daughter has also suffered debilitating migraines with stroke-like symptoms. The problems have been ongoing for the past year and a half.
WLGWAG and MAWT came before committee with several asks Monday, the main of which was for a commitment from the municipality that it will protect the community.
“The township should act immediately to manage risks by collecting measurement data about noise emissions in our community,” Jankowski said. “We need to monitor full range noise on an ongoing basis to provide an understanding of what people are subject to in their homes.”
The groups are requesting the township immediately look into ways of establishing and collecting noise data, to establish an advisory committee to hear turbine-related concerns and that it presses the government to purchase more sound measuring devices.
Coun. Joanne Chechalk, vice chair of the planning committee, said she was all for collecting noise information but wanted to take the request one step further.
“My concern is that if we do all of this, we monitor all … the municipality can’t do anything, as we all know,” said Chechalk. “There is no mechanism, nothing to say or do. It’s akin to drinking water. After Walkerton happened, we now have policies in place and councils have been trained. So now when water levels are unsafe they are declared that way and we have boil water advisories. There is nothing for wind turbines. If this says that we get to 40 or 60 decibels, what do we do?”
On top of asking for a staff report addressing the concerns of the citizens groups, Chechalk asked that the township request the province to develop and implement a process to handle events where wind facilities exceed the 40 decibel regulation outlined in the Green Energy Act. She also requested the township begin working with opposition critics and establish a province-wide advisory committee, which would pool representatives from municipal governments across Ontario who are dealing with the same issues.
“If it’s a concern, I’m looking for the province to give us a stiff remedy,” said Chechalk. “What happens if it exceeds the levels? Is it safe for humans, for chickens or whoever is in the proximate? We need to know.”
A staff report is expected at the Feb. 8 planning committee meeting which will outline next steps the township can take.
The groups also encouraged committee to follow on the heels of other municipalities in the province that seek a stall on projects until important questions are answered.
MAWT, specifically, has concerns with numerous changes to the NRWF project currently under development. The Township of Wainfleet has sent a letter to Ontario’s minister of energy questioning why there was no public process on major changes to the project. Both groups pressed West Lincoln committee to send correspondence to that same effect to the province.
“The township should press for answers,” said Jankowski.
Ontario’s desire for total control over all aspects of the electricity sector is nearly fulfilled.
The push to eliminate dissent and independent review of the province’s energy monopolies has been a decade in the making. Since 2004, many of the province’s largest and most expensive policies were implemented with little to no oversight — at great cost to ratepayers, as the Auditor General forcefully highlighted in her recent annual report.
But Queen’s Park is set to fully take over all decision-making regarding the province’s energy monopolies by solidifying its control over the province’s energy regulator, the Ontario Energy Board (OEB), with the recent passing of Bill 112. In doing so, Ontario is shutting down the last arena of independent public review of the billions of dollars being spent by the province and its many publicly owned utilities.
The legislation, “Strengthening Consumer Protection and Electricity System Oversight Act,” would deny independent intervenors the funds needed to hire the lawyers and experts needed at these hearings, effectively blocking their participation.
Prior to this legislation, any individual ratepayer or organization representing ratepayers — ranging from big, industrial groups to cottage associations or low-income organizations — could apply for funding and act as an intervenor in any rate application. The government would instead replace the independent intervenors with a new government-appointed consumer representative.
In other jurisdictions where this has occurred, the direct cost of this new bureaucracy has been far more expensive than the cost of reimbursing intervenors for their lawyers and consultants. The indirect costs of losing the ability to hold the utility monopolies to account by forcing them to justify their proposed rate increases before the OEB could be much greater still.
One study found that intervenors have been highly successful at paring back the monopolies’ rate requests, their lawyers and consultants costing ratepayers just 2 cents annually while helping to reduce rate increases by $28 per customer. Other studies found that intervenors account for 1 per cent or less of overall regulatory costs, which themselves are a small amount of total electricity costs borne by ratepayers.
Replacing these groups with a government-appointed consumer representative charged with questioning government-owned monopolies eliminates the last remaining voice of independent review of proposals by public monopolies to spend billions of dollars on capital projects.
The province’s new legislation also ensures that any new transmission line can be deemed a “priority project” by the ministry of energy and automatically approved by the OEB. In the past, the OEB would analyze such projects to determine whether they were necessary or cost-effective. Furthermore, the province is considering more legislation that will exempt all government-directed energy plans or projects to be exempt from the Environmental Assessment Act.
The province’s previous moves to sidestep independent review have been costly for ratepayers. The smart meter rollout — which cost ratepayers $2 billion and counting and still isn’t fully functional — was done without any review from the OEB or other regulators. Billions of dollars in contracts have been — and continue to be — given to renewable energy and natural gas generators without any review by the OEB or intervenors. And the long-term energy plans developed by the province’s own energy planning experts — the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) — were never implemented and, instead, were replaced with plans written by the ministry of energy that were, again, never fully reviewed at the OEB and were later criticized by the Auditor General as overly expensive.
More recently, the province collapsed the OPA into another energy agency, the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO), which is in charge of operating the province’s wholesale electricity market, ensuring that even more political control is embedded in ever more parts of the electricity sector. There is no longer anything “independent” about the Independent Electricity System Operator.
In the end, the OEB and the intervenors were the last voice of criticism that wasn’t on the payroll of the province. By replacing them with a government-led consumer advocate, the province will control every step of decision-making on electricity policy and spending, those pesky checks and balances eliminated at last.
Brady Yauch is an economist and Executive Director of the Consumer Policy Institute (CPI). He has acted as an intervenor at the OEB.