MNR witness: working for the wind developer, not environment
Friday October 30 was supposed to be the last day of the hearings in the Ostrander Point appeal, where a wind power project is planned (and approved by the province) for a location in habitat of the endangered Blandings turtle.
At issue up to this point has been the fact that the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources’ (MNR) own at-risk species expert, Joe Crowley, determined that there was significant risk to the turtle and that proposed mitigation strategies would not be successful. The MNR, headed by District manager Karen Bellamy, ignored Crowley’s advice and issued a permit for the wind power developer Gilead to proceed. The Tribunal demanded documentation be produced on the research and decision-making at the MNR.
Here is a report from the appellant, the Prince Edward County Field Naturalists on Friday’s proceedings:
Ostrander Point ERT in Demorestville Day 3
After much procedural wrangling about the documents that were disclosed by Karen Bellamy, finally Ms. Bellamy’s cross examination was begun in the late morning. There was a discussion about how to deal with the vast amount of material that had been disclosed. Normally each item would be entered as an exhibit as it was discussed with the witness, but this was deemed to be a cumbersome method in this case. It was decided to get started and see how things went.
Mr. Wright [Robert Wright, co-chair of the Tribunal panel] was quite insistent that it was necessary to get on with the cross examination. [Appellant lawyer] Eric Gillespie started through the 1,500 documents that were disclosed. Most of the information that Eric was taking Ms. Bellamy to was about the process of how the Endangered Species Act was to be implemented and the plans for the Impact Management Plan. It became obvious that the approach of going through 1,500 documents one by one was not a productive exercise. Eric suggested – with the agreement of Ms. Davis and Ms. Kromkamp — that the documents could be grouped into categories and that a representative document or two from each category would provide the information he wanted to relay to the Tribunal.
Over the lunch break we went through the three volumes of documents and categorized them into groups such as: articles that could be removed from the record; articles that had been previously referred to; and a broad category of newspaper articles, Powerpoints, draft ESA permits and EBR postings and a group of unclassified emails.
The gist of Eric Gillespie’s argument was that the documents showed clear indications that Ms. Bellamy’s role was to coordinate and promote the Ostrander Point development. The written notes that were released through a freedom of information request included a communication between Ms. Bellamy and Mike Lord of Gilead regarding a CBC interview that took place in 2011. It was revealed that the “House Notes” about Ostrander Point that were delivered to assistant deputy ministers and deputy ministers were reviewed and approved by her. There were 31 newspaper articles in the released documents that showed that she was regularly receiving media stories about Ostrander Point.
The final argument was about which documents would be entered into the record as exhibits for the Tribunal to consider when making their decision on the case. Ms Kromkamp continued to assert that none of the documents were relevant to the remedy case. Eric Gillespie’s argument was that although some documents were not relevant, most of them were and these documents went to the determination of credibility of Ms. Bellamy as a fact witness. In his final submissions he pointed out the lack of information about the Blanding’s Turtle in any of the documents.
The organization of documents that Eric Gillespie proposed was accepted because it allowed for the tribunal to have context of the arguments presented. All the documents he proposed that the Tribunal accept as exhibits were accepted.
Two witnesses remain to be heard. There will be a teleconference on Wednesday Nov 4 to determine further timing for the Ostrander Point Environmental Review Tribunal hearings.
So, what we have so far as regards the Ministry of Natural Resources’ role:
- the goal is to promote the wind power development, no matter what
- the goal is to help the wind power proponent through the process, no matter what
- actual science, i.e., evidence that serious and irreversible harm may come to the natural environment and wildlife is not to stand in the way
Note the Ministry’s mission statement below, taken from their website: the goal is to “protect biodiversity while promoting economic opportunities“…
These proceedings will be an eye-opener for those who thought the government’s role was to protect the environment and wildlife, not push through invasive power projects.
More news on this after the teleconference next week. Two more witnesses are to be heard from: Mike Lord of Gilead Power and Shawn Taylor, a “road ecologist” for the power developer.
In the meantime, if you wish to support this very important legal action, please go to www.saveostranderpoint.org