Ontario Tough On Nature: OK to kill endangered species for wind power
The Wellington Times, September 25, 2015
End to the Green Energy Act can’t come soon enough
Social media lit up. Suddenly, if you were anywhere near Ostitional Beach in Costa Rica earlier this month, you had to get down to the shoreline to observe an amazing natural phenomenon. Hundreds of thousands of olive ridley turtles were crawling out of the ocean to lay their eggs in the sand. Soon, vacationers and daytrippers lined the beach. So many in fact, there was little space left for the turtles. Gleeful tourists waded into the surf to frollick among the landing party of large turtles. They snapped selfies and filled Facebook pages with images of the determined, purposeful animals. But with virtually all of the sandy beach occupied by gawkers and pests, many of the turtles turned back, retreating into the Pacific Ocean.
The incident has served to chasten Costa Rican conservation authorities about their stewardship of the vulnerable species. They are acting swiftly to improve their protection for the animal. Another wave of turtles is expected in early October. The Tempisque Conservation Area, which covers Ostitional Beach, plans to use security guards, police and the Coast Guard to secure the shoreline for the nesting turtles. It is unknown what long term effect, if any, the disruption of olive ridley turtles nesting behaviour will have on the species.
We are a bit less queasy about destroying the habitat of vulnerable turtles in Ontario. Despite warnings by its own expert that an industrial wind project would wreak havoc on a species considered at risk, Ontario’s Minstry of Natural Resources and Forestry issued the developer a permit to ‘harm, harass and kill’ the Blanding’s turtle.
Why is wildlife expendable?
The question we all must ask is: Why? Why does the Ontario government consider this vulnerable turtle to be expendable? Is it money? Can’t we afford to protect species at risk in this province? Costa Ricans earn about $10,000 per capita annually. In Canada, gross national income is about five times greater. Why is Costa Rica poised to act to protect its species at risk, while Ontario grants permits to kill them?
The town hall in Demorestville was expected to be full this morning as the Environmental Review Tribunal was scheduled to resume with Joe Crowley in the witness chair. On Tuesday the hearings were cancelled and rescheduled for the end of October.
Crowley is an at-risk specialist with the MNRF. He is the ministry’s turtle and snake expert. The Tribunal was nearing the end of a two-year-long appeal with the Prince Edward County Field Naturalists (PECFN), a small but devoted group of conservationists arrayed against the province and a developer hoping to construct nine 50- storey-high industrial wind turbines and carve a road network into a rare alvar habitat on Crown land at Ostrander Point on Prince Edward County’s south shore.
This Tribunal had, after 40 days of hearings in 2013, revoked the developer’s permit because it was persuaded that the Blanding’s turtle would suffer serious and irreversible harm. A series of court court challenges has put the matter back on the Tribunal’s table.
In three days of hearings earlier this month, the Tribunal heard evidence regarding the developer’s proposal to erect gates on the service roads. This, they argued, would ensure only the company’s vehicles would use these roads. It would train its technicians to look for turtles and all would be fine. That was their pitch.
The hearing plodded through three days of evidence and testimony. Then came Joe Crowley’s bombshell. Not only did he dismiss the artificial habitat proposed by the developer as futile—the road system, in his expert opinion, would prove too attractive to the nesting Blanding’s turtle— he revealed that he had advised his masters at the ministry against issuing a permit to ‘harm, harass and kill’ the species to the developer in the first place.
Crowley’s revelation brought the hearing to a standstill. The Tribunal ordered Crowley to find and produce all correspondence and documents related to this recommendation.
Next month, perhaps, we will learn what Crowley found. We should learn who knew what and when.
PECFN’s lawyer Eric Gillespie will want to know who Crowley told. Was it written down? With whom did he correspond or discuss the matter? What did they do with the recommendation? Why was Crowley’s advice ignored? On whose authority? One can imagine the questions blossoming like buttercups on the alvar.
Attacking the Green Energy Act
While that drama plays out in Demorestville, elsewhere in the County and at Osgoode Hall Law School, a handful of folks are preparing an full-on assault of the Green Energy Act. The County Coalition for Safe and Appropriate Energy (CCSAGE) intend to show that the GEA is an offensive piece of legislation designed specifically to enable renewable energy developers to override regulations erected to protect and safeguard our communities, environment and economy. See story here.
The GEA strips communities of their right to decide how many and where such projects will be permitted. It compels grid operators to take the intermittent power these projects produce, despite the risks and cost to their systems. It obscures the examination of the impact of these projects on heritage, the local economy and the environment behind closed doors. And then it restricts the sole public review of these massive and complex projects to two absurd questions: will the project cause serious harm to human health and will it cause serious and irreversible harm to plant, animal and habitat?
The World Trade Organization has already struck down illegal protectionist provisions in the GEA. Now a brave group is putting the rest of this foul legislation on trial. Bit by bit the Green Energy Act is unravelling. For the Blanding’s turtle, other species at risk, the residents of South Marysburgh and Amherst Island and many other communities in rural Ontario—the unwinding of this destructive and oppressive law cannot come soon enough.