Victory for turtles, environment and community in Prince Edward County

“…in the public interest … to remove from the REA turbines … in Blandings turtle habitat”

Blandings turtle: to allow “remedy” would be to allow extirpation of the endangered species

The Environmental Review Tribunal released its long awaited decision on the remedies proposed by wind power developer WPD for its White Pines project in Prince Edward County Ontario to protect the endangered Blandings turtle and Little Brown Bat.

Relevant sections of the decision:

[163] In light of all of the circumstances, based on the evidence provided and taking

into account the purposes of the EPA in support of environmental protection and

renewable energy, the Tribunal finds that it is in the public interest to alter the Director’s

decision by amending the REA in part. The Tribunal finds that it is in the public interest

to add the Approval Holder’s proposed Condition L2 to the REA, but to alter that

condition by removing Tables 3-1 to 3-3, in the NRSI Plan. The Tribunal further finds

that it is in the public interest to remove from the REA the turbines proposed to be

accessed by the proposed upgraded secondary and tertiary municipal road segments

and by the intersections in Blanding’s turtle habitat, specifically Turbines 12, 13, 14, 15,

16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28 and 29.

 

and

Condition J7.1. The Company shall implement the Mitigation Plan

for Operation of the White Pines Energy Project, dated July 21,

2016 prepared by Stantec Consulting Ltd., including:

1. Implement the monitoring and mitigation measures as

outlined in Table 2 of the Mitigation Plan;

2. Adjust cut-in speed to 5.5 m/s between sunset and sunrise

from May 1 to September 30 at all turbines for the operating

life of the Project; and

3. In the event of a mortality of a bat species that is a species

at risk, successively increase the operational mitigation as

detailed in Table 2 of the Mitigation Plan.

The question that remains is, with 60 percent of the project effectively removed, how can WPD meet its obligation to provide 75 percent of the power in its contract?

The entire project may have to be reformulated…it remains to be seen whether the company will opt to do that by using 4.1 MW turbines perhaps, or by finding other locations, but the company may have run out of time to do that.

The decision is here:ERT15068-White PInes

Here is a recording of lawyer Eric Gillespie’s closing remarks at the remedy hearing held in Wellington, last January. “The only remedy is to revoke [the approval]. … the result of mitigation will be to extirpate a species.”

EricGillespieClosingRemarksWhite PInes

New Ontario wind turbine noise compliance protocol falls short

Way short.

As in, little or no understanding of the problems with wind turbine noise emissions.

New noise protocol misses all the problems

 

On Friday, April 21, the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change released a new protocol document intended for “assessing noise from wind turbines that have already been built. It is used by industry and ministry staff to monitor compliance.”

While in the absence of guidance for staff, and the complete lack of compliance audit information from wind power developers and operators, this is a step forward, the truth is, the protocol doesn’t change much.

Here’s why:

  • the protocol still relies on audible noise only, when many of the complaints registered with the MOECC concern effects that are clearly linked to other forms of noise
  • the protocol does not take into account lower wind speeds, which is where problems are being experienced, particularly with newer, more powerful turbines
  • there is no comment on any sort of transition between the protocol that existed before and this one

Improvements:

  • the Ministry’s action in producing this protocol is an indication that they know they have a problem
  • the description of Ministry response is a good step forward
  • requiring wind power companies to actually have, and to publish, compliance audit documents could be a sign of expectations of greater accountability among the power developers/wind power project operators.

This table outlines the critical gaps in the new protocol document.

 

Issue     Protocol Requirements Actual Experiences
Wind Speeds Assessment of noise at wind speeds between 4 m/s and 7 m/s MOECC testing indicates problem noise starts below 3 m/s which is outside of wind speeds involved in the protocol.
Ambient Noise Narrow time period assessed Wide seasonal variations while wind turbine noise constant
Location Only test outside of home Very different inside noise conditions
Tonal Assessments Uses criticized techniques Narrow band analysis shows tonal noise present.
Resident Input None Resident concerns drive other MOECC procedures
Frequencies Excludes Infrasound Elevated levels of infrasound in homes

 The Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change needs to acknowledge that there is a problem with wind turbine noise, and accept that it must play a role as a government agency charged with protecting the environment and people in it — preparing an industry-led document may look like a positive step, but this document does not meet the needs of the people of Ontario forced to live with wind turbines, and their noise emissions.

Wind Concerns Ontario

 

Rebuttal to wind turbine noise and sleep disturbance paper published

“A careful reading of this paper shows that the conclusions are not supported by the data provided …”

A paper by Jalali et al was published in the journal Environmental Research last year, concluding that psychological factors contributed to distress and changes in sleep pattern, not the actual wind turbine noise emissions. Many people already living close to wind turbines were disappointed (not to say, astonished) by its conclusions, particularly those who trusted the research team and allowed them into their homes in the hopes of a meaningful and accurate research study.

Engineer and Ontario resident William Palmer did a detailed analysis of the Jalali paper; his comments have just been published by Environmental Research.

It remains a continuing disappointment that ideology (wind power is good and trumps all other concerns) seems to underlie research into the growing public health/environmental health issue associated with industrial-scale wind turbines and the noise emissions they produce. It is also disappointing that researchers continue to look for “psychological” factors instead of taking a public health approach to doing real-world investigation into a real-world health effect.

We say, BELIEVE the complaints from people. Then look for the cause of the problems.

The link to Mr Palmer’s comment is here.

Short-Communication: Revisiting conclusions of the report titled, “The impact of psychological factors on self-reported sleep disturbance among people living in the vicinity of wind turbines”.

by Leila Jalali, Mohammad-Reza Nezhad-Ahmadi, Mahmood Gohari, Philip Bigelow, & Stephen McColl, published in environmental research, volume 148, July 2016, 401–410

Abstract

The research report concluded, “It appears that self-reported sleep reported of participants may be associated to the indirect effects of visual and attitudinal cue and concern about property devaluation rather than distance to the nearest WT’s or noise as itself.”

Careful reading of the report shows that the conclusions presented are not supported by the data provided in the report.

 

Wind power developers failing to respond to noise reports: Australia wind farm commissioner

Australian Wind Farm Commissioner Andrew Dyer: wind power developers need to follow procedure, doctors need to report, and people need to keep calling. [Photo Sydney Morning Herald/Eddie Jim]
The Office of the National Wind Farm Commissioner recently released its first full Annual Report to the Parliament of Australia.

In the Summary, the Commissioner reported:

With regard to complaints received, our Office has received a total of 90 complaints about wind farms during the period up to 31 December 2016.

Of these 90 complaints received, 46 complaints were about operating wind farms and related to nine wind farms. As at 31 December 2016, a total of 32 of these complaints have been closed by our Office.

A further 42 complaints received by our Office were about proposed wind farms and related to 19 wind farms. As at 31 December 2016, 33 of these complaints have been closed by our Office.

The remaining two complaints did not specify a wind farm and have been closed.

Almost immediately, pro-wind forces in Australia claimed that the number of complaints noted was very small relative to what had been expected, and noted further that a significant number of the complaint files were closed because the individuals reporting chose not to pursue the matter further.

An obvious explanation for that is, like Ontario, people file complaints with the wind power developers and government but when their reports of adverse health effects and disturbance are met with inaction, they give up.

Conflict of interest

The Commissioner noted that the practice of using acoustics experts so developers may provide reports to government indicating compliance with noise regulations is open to  a conflict of interest.

It is very common that the experts engaged to perform the design assessments and reports during the planning phase are the same experts engaged by the developer to perform the post-construction assessments. Developers often use the same experts on multiple projects.

The selection and use of the same expert in both the design and then operating phases of a wind farm may give rise to perceived or real conflicts of interest between the developer and the expert. As a compliance with the noise standard and is then engaged to assess the operating wind farm for actual compliance, may be placed in a difficult situation if the acoustician discovers the operating wind farm is in fact non-compliant, particularly if areas of non-compliance may be a result of errors made in the original acoustician’s pre-construction assessment.

There is certainly scope for a better separation between the experts used for the predictive assessments versus the experts used for the post-construction assessments of a wind farm, along with peer review of the expert’s work so as to minimise errors, maximise transparency and better manage perceived or real conflicts of interest. (page 28)

Wind power companies not managing complaints properly

What the pro-wind forces fail to point out too, is that the Commissioner was harsh in his criticism of how wind turbine noise complaints are managed by the wind power companies.

… our observations are that many wind farms are not following their own documented procedures when handling complaints, leading to situations including:

• multiple complaints from a resident about the same issue with no action being taken by the wind farm operator to investigate or resolve

a lack of rigour in investigations and correspondence, and

• a lack of clarity regarding next steps in the process leading to numerous complaints that remain unresolved and/or have not been closed.

Even if the endorsed complaint handling procedures were being followed, there is also a wide range of wind farm complaint handling procedures in place that vary by developer and project, resulting often in a lack of consistency in the quality and effectiveness of the procedures. Although wind farm operators possess a wide range of complaint handling skills, there are further opportunities to improve the capability of staff and effectiveness of the wind farm industry’s complaint handling procedures.

We have encouraged a number of wind farm developers and operators to voluntarily publish their complaint handling procedures on the wind farm’s website… (page 29)

Moreover, the Commissioner said, noise emission audits are not covering the full range of noise produced by the turbines, including “tonal” or “low frequency noise.”

In assessing noise-related complaints, the objective ‘tests’ currently in place do not necessarily capture the tonal character of noise emissions that a complainant may be experiencing. For instance, insufficient maintenance of infrastructure (for instance, a turbine or a substation transformer) may lead to harmonic frequencies that produce a harsher tone to the human ear. While this is not typically represented in noise assessment data, contemporary noise measurement or recording devices can be used to indicate that the tonal character of a particular noise emission may reasonably be considered to be disturbing or offensive to a complainant. (page 29)

Adverse health effects

As to specific adverse health effects reported, the Commissioner said that in the absence of actual medical reports it was difficult to make any conclusions.

Complaints regarding health concerns received by our Office, to date, have provided only anecdotal evidence regarding stated health issues and causality. It has therefore been difficult to confirm whether or not the stated health conditions reported by complainants are a direct result of the wind farm’s operations or from some other cause.

It is possible that stated health conditions may be caused by other known causes not related to the wind farm’s operations. Of concern is the potential situation whereby a resident may fail to seek and obtain appropriate medical advice for a treatable condition due to the possibly incorrect assumption that an operating wind farm is perceived as the cause of the health condition.

Health conditions may also arise as a result of stress, annoyance or anxiety related to the presence of an operating wind farm or concerns about the effects of a proposed wind farm. Further, uncertainties in relation to whether a proposed wind farm will actually proceed (a period which may extend for several years) may also contribute to stress and anxiety. Again, affected residents may need to seek appropriate medical treatment for their health conditions as well as seek ways to resolve their concerns.

The Commission recommended:

9.2.1. Federal and state governments should continue to assess the outcomes of research into wind farms and health, including outcomes of the two NHMRC funded wind farm health studies and recommendations of the ISCOWT. Environmental standards should be monitored and reviewed in line with any recommendations arising from these programs.

9.2.2. Residents living in the vicinity of an operating or proposed wind farm that are experiencing health conditions should be encouraged to seek appropriate medical advice to properly diagnose and treat any health-related conditions accordingly.

9.2.3. Medical practitioners who identify causational links between a patient’s health condition and their proximity to the operation of a wind farm should report such incidences in an appropriate way to the relevant professional body, association and/or government agency.

9.2.4. Residents who are experiencing unacceptable noise levels from a wind farm should be encouraged to report such incidents to the wind farm operator, the compliance authority and/or the appropriate regulator.

 

Don’t stop reporting

People wishing to report excessive noise or vibration from industrial-scale wind turbines should call the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change at 1-800-268-6060; if the call is placed during business hours, the caller may be referred to the local District Office.

The caller should receive an INCIDENT REPORT NUMBER.

The MOECC has told Wind Concerns Ontario that callers should be prepared to provide:

  • name and telephone number
  • location
  • direction of the wind
  • wind speed (this is available from the weather network on TV or on your “smart” phone)
  • location relative to the nearest turbine(s)
  • a rating of the noise and/or vibration/pressure on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being most severe.

 

Wind power cost Ontario $20 million for just 3 days

Parker Gallant and Scott Luft have put together the numbers for the electricity sector over the Easter weekend … and it’s nowhere near as pretty as an Easter bonnet.

Demand is so low that 99,000 megawatt hours (MWh) of wind power had to be “curtailed” or constrained at a cost of $11.9 million for the three days, and the total cost of wind power was estimated to be $20 million. That brings the cost of delivered wind power to 33.5 cents per KWh.

Here is the article from Parker Gallant, posted today on his Energy Perspectives blog.

Wasted, unneeded power

 

The nice weather on Easter weekend in Ontario disguised the fact that April 14th, 15th and 16th were really bad days for electricity customers.

Scott Luft’s daily reports detailed the bad news, even before the Independent Electricity System Operator or IESO got out their daily summary for April 12th.   Some of the information in Scott’s reports are estimates, but they have always proven to be on the conservative side. These three reports paint a disturbing picture of what’s going on, and how badly the Ontario government is mismanaging the electricity file.

Here are a few of the events that our Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault and Premier Wynne should find embarrassing. They also confirm what many of us have been telling them for several years.

First, Thursday April 13th saw a disclosure from the Energy Ministry that Ontario paid out $28,095,332 including about $240,000 in interest to Windstream Energy to satisfy the award made to them under the NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) tribunal, due to cancellation of  a 300-MW offshore industrial wind turbine project.

Wasted, unneeded wind power

Second, the HOEP (hourly Ontario electricity price) market, traded all of Ontario’s generation over the three days at “0” (zero) or negative value. While total demand for electricity was 1,031,448 MWh over the three days the HOEP market valued it at -$869,220 or an average of -.84 cents/MWh.  The “0” and negative values for the HOEP lasted 77 continuous hours, breaking a prior record of 62 hours.

Third, during the three days, ratepayers picked up the bill for 99,109 MWh of curtailed wind which exceeded the transmission (TX) and distribution (DX) connected wind by 60.2%. Curtailed wind at an estimated $120/MWh alone cost ratepayers $11.9 million, driving the price of delivered wind (61,882MWh) to a cost of $335.34/MWh or 33.5 cents a kWh.  Total wind costs were $20.8 million.

Fourth, solar power over the three days generated and curtailed (1,124 MWh) 35,539 MWh at a cost of   $16.8 million, which works out to $472.86/MWh or 47.3 cents/kWh.

Fifth was the cost of gas which in three days produced 18,433 MWh, but the cost was $12.5 million and $676.56/MWh or 67.7 cents/kWh.  The 9,943 MW of IESO grid-connected gas operated at 2.6% of actual capacity during the three days.

Sixth was the generosity shown to our neighbours in New York, Michigan and Quebec who took delivery of 157,768 MWh of free power along with a payment of $132,525.

The quick math on the above indicates a cost of wind, solar and gas generation plus the payment for exported power comes to $50.2 million.

Nuclear and hydro was all we needed

That’s bad enough, but if you look at nuclear and hydro generation during those three days, clearly the $50.2 million was “money for nothing” paid for by Ontario’s ratepayers.  Nuclear (including steamed-off of 49,118 MWh) was 688,981 MWh and combined with hydro generation of 324,001 MWh of could have provided 1,012,982 MWh versus Ontario’s demand over those three days of 869,232 MWh leaving 143,750 MWh of surplus.  Three days of nuclear and hydro cost $61.9 million or 6.1 cents/kWh.

Bottom line? Ontario ratepayers picked up the bill for not only the $28.1 million paid to Windstream for a canceled offshore wind project, but also another $50.2 million, making the past four days very expensive for everyone.

The $78.3 million could have been better spent on health care or so many other pressing needs!

It’s time to kill the Green Energy Act and cancel any uncompleted wind and solar contracts before all our weekends turn out like this one!

(C) Parker Gallant

 

New noise audits recommended for K2 wind farm neighbours

MOECC admission of ‘tonality’ a step forward but more action needed

K2 Wind: testing shows noise above regulations … and more? [Photo by Owen Sound Sun-Times]
April 8

(C) Wind Concerns Ontario

Residents living near the K2 wind power project in the Township of Ashfield-Colborne-Wawanosh have received a report from the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change following noise testing done at their property, Wind Concerns Ontario has learned.

WCO received a copy of the MOECC report and other correspondence from the residents, who are members of the coalition of Ontario community groups and individuals in Ontario concerned about the impact of wind turbines on the economy, natural environment, and human health.

The noise testing was done at their request, connected to complaints made to the MOECC about excessive noise and sound pressure or vibration being emitted from industrial-scale wind turbines at the K2 power project.

The MOECC report’s Executive Summary states that

Based on the results of the analysis, it is acknowledged that sound from the wind turbines was audible during the measuring campaign at levels that appear to exceed the applicable sound level limits, and based on C3 measurements conducted at a nearby receptor (the distance is about 1250 m from R876; where the same turbine(s) within 1500 m distance impact both receptors) it was further concluded that there is a possibility that sound from the nearby turbines could be tonal. To confirm compliance, it is recommended that a tonal audibility assessment and detailed noise audit be undertaken in accordance with Part D of the draft Compliance Protocol for Wind Turbines Noise, NPC 350, 2017.

This is remarkable as it is the first time MOECC supervisory staff have admitted to “tonality” in wind turbine noise emissions. And also because, in previous noise testing by the MOECC, the Ministry claimed results were “inconclusive” due to other noises such as birds chirping and tree leaf movement.

A tonal audibility assessment is a step forward.

Is it enough?

No.

The Ministry needs to acknowledge that there is a problem with wind turbine noise emissions, and in the case of this particular report and recommendation, immediate action is required, including comprehensive testing including for infrasound which was excluded by the equipment used for these tests.

It is time for government to accept responsibility for its wind power program and the impacts on people who were given no choice but to live with them.

Wind Concerns Ontario

 

 

 

MPPs from all parties speak to wind turbine resolution at Queen’s Park

The sitting Liberal government persists in “green” ideology despite energy poverty, no environmental benefit from industrial-scale wind turbines

Sam Oosterhoff, MPP for Niagara-West Glanbrook, put forward a Private Member’s Bill in the Legislature yesterday, proposing the government halt all wind power approvals in unwilling host communities.

Oosterhoff: the government has made mistakes

An excerpt from his speech:

Industrial wind turbines are one of the reasons people are facing a choice between heating and eating. Expensive and counterproductive power subsidies for turbines we don’t want or need have contributed to the soaring hydro prices that are among the greatest burdens the people of Ontario have to face.

Whether they are spending billions of dollars to stretch out future debt payments or handing out rich subsidies to industrial wind turbine operators, this government will always stick Ontarians with the bill.

I’m not just tilting at windmills like Don Quixote, but a comparison is in order. Cervantes, in his famous novel, wrote about a dreamer of no substance who could not perceive reality—sounds a lot like the Liberals and their hydro plan. This government’s scheme does nothing to address the root cause of the Ontario energy affordability crisis: the Liberals’ Green Energy Act. We call it the bad contracts act because it was designed to benefit Liberal corporate donors, and locks taxpayers into a 20-year contract for overpriced wind and solar power. It’s also for energy we don’t need.

Since 2009, Ontario has given away $6 billion—$6 billion—in surplus energy to US states. States that have lower energy costs than Ontario are getting electricity from us at discount prices. We’re giving businesses across the border a competitive edge over our own Ontario businesses. Truly, Premier Wynne is the best Minister of Economic Development the United States has ever had.

Speaker, I’d like to remind everyone that although the NDP also like to complain about high hydro costs and say that they too are on the side of local communities, they were complicit in setting the stage for industrial turbines being forced down the throats of rural municipalities across Ontario. The NDP joined the Liberals to pass the bad contracts act that enabled the government to sign contracts with big hydro companies that aren’t transparent and can’t be examined. Municipal governments also say that their planning authority was eliminated by this provincial legislation. …

The Minister of Energy has acknowledged that this government has made mistakes with the energy file. The Premier has acknowledged that there are serious issues on the energy file that her government is going to be working on. Yet they don’t seem willing to address the fundamental reasons behind those mistakes. Today, I’m giving them a chance, and I hope they’ll take up the chance that this government can make remedy. If they’re actually sorry, they will vote for this motion. If the Liberal government is actually willing to listen to rural residents, to listen to municipalities and to follow up on the words of their throne speech, I hope their caucus will vote in favour of my motion.

 

Several other MPPs spoke as well, including Jim McDonell, PC Energy Critic Todd Smith, and Michael Mantha and Gilles Bisson for the NDP.

Read the transcript and the results of the recorded vote here.

Read the letter from Mothers Against Wind Turbines (Inc.) here: MAWTI letter of endorsement Oosterhoff Motion to halt IWT 2017

Municipalities support calls for MOECC to do testing for turbine noise

Testing being done for audible noise alone–residents’ symptoms indicate other problems

Two Ontario municipalities are supporting the call for the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change to do comprehensive testing for the full range of noise emissions from wind turbines.

Last night, Kincardine Council supported residents Norma and Ron Schmidt, who have been forced from their home because of adverse health effects from the noise and pressure produced by turbines near them, in sending a letter to the Ministry.

The situation echoes that of Port Elgin where hundreds of complaints have been filed with the Ministry about the turbine on the property owned by Unifor. The municipality of Saugeen Shores has repeatedly asked the Ministry to conduct the necessary investigations, to no avail.

“The government said they were safe”

See the video by CTV London reporter Scott Miller here.

http://london.ctvnews.ca/video?clipId=1095468&binId=1.1137796&playlistPageNum=1

 

Amherst Island group demands wind project cancellation after harbor accident, pollution

Prince Edward County remains in a state of emergency today following an accident in which a barge being used to transport materials to the Windlectric wind power project on Amherst Island sank, polluting the waters of Picton Bay with diesel fuel. At the time of the incident, Windlectric had no Marine Logistics Plan in place.

The Association to Protect Amherst Island has called for cancellation of the power project, and issued this statement today.

Please Save Amherst Island - Write Hon. Glen Murray MOECC Today!  minister.moe@ontario.ca

Dear Premier Wynne:

Prince Edward County Mayor Robert Quaiff has declared a water emergency as a result of contaminants approaching the Picton-Bloomfield water intake due to a partially sunken barge in Picton Harbour under contract to McNeil Marine and ultimately under contract to Algonquin Power/Windlectric for the proposed Amherst Island Wind Project.
The silence from Algonquin Power/Windlectric is deafening.
Indeed Algonquin/Windlectric had the audacity to attempt to continue aggregate delivery from Picton Terminals to Amherst Island yesterday (Tuesday March 28 2017) but was thwarted either because either the water was too low or the dock too high, yet another example of the comedy of errors associated with this ill-conceived project.
The Association to Protect Amherst Island reiterates its request for MOECC to issue an immediate stop work order for the Amherst Island Wind Project until such time as a comprehensive report is available for the Picton Harbour incident and a preventative action plan is is place to address the high risk to public and environmental safety of all aspects of the project. and to address the need for a Major Design Modification to address the changed project location to include Picton Terminals.
 
At the same time, the Association reaffirms its request to reject the proposed amendment to the Certificate of Property Use for the contaminated  Invista Lands on Bath Road (EBR 012-9749) designated as parkland.  Similar to the Picton Harbour situation, a water intake exists in proximity to the proposed mainland dock for the Amherst Island Wind Project and serves a local industrial park.  Algonquin/Windlectric in its Marine Safety Plan now advises that fuelling of barges is proposed at the mainland dock location.  Not only is the land contaminated with the possibility of pollution of Lake Ontario, the company plans to fuel in proximity to a water intake.

The same “Marine Safety Plan” fails to address any aspect of transport of materials from Picton terminals except for a vague reference that “The bulk barge and the ATV (Aggregate Transfer Vessel)  will approach and leave the island dock area from the west, . . . ” as if from the Land of Oz.  The Association is in the process of reviewing this “too little, too late” document and will have further comments about use of barges in ice conditions, the lack of traffic volume, lack of simulation of barges crossing the ferry path, incomplete information about the installation of the high voltage transmission line from the mainland to the Island and the total lack of risk assessment, failure to mention Picton Terminals,among other matters.

The use of an “Aggregate Transfer Vessel” was not identified in the REA submission and no stockpiling of aggregate was proposed other than in immediate proximity to the proposed cement batching plant by the Island school.
The Association has emphasized the importance of marine safety since this project was proposed and has pleaded with politicians, MOECC, Ontario’s Chief Drinking Water Official and the Chief Fire Marshall and Head of Emergency Preparedness.
Please take immediate action to stop the Amherst Island Wind Project before a tragedy occurs.
Thank you.
Sincerely
Michèle Le Lay
President
Association to Protect Amherst Island

 

OMB criticisms apply to Ontario’s Environmental Review Tribunal

Judge says OMB offers limited justice—is the same true for the ERT?

ERT hearing in Ameliasburgh: citizens paying to protect the environment from well-funded developers and the Ministry of the Environment.

Recently, lawyer and retired Ontario judge Peter Howden published a book on the Ontario Municipal Board, titled, The Ontario Municipal Board: From Impact to Subsistence 1971-2016.

Howden, a judge for 20 years, also served for 10 years with the OMB.

According to a review of the book by Ottawa Citizen columnist David Reevely, Howden’s opinion of the OMB is that killing it off would be better than leaving it to function as it is.

In our view many of Howden’s comments about the OMB (which was a key factor in approval of Ontario’s early wind power projects against community wishes) can also be applied to the Environmental Review Tribunal or ERT. Both are administered under ELTO or the Environmental and Lands Tribunal Ontario branch of government.

Howden says:

The people who staff the OMB are “unknown entities, people largely without any public profile who seem to do whatever they want without criteria, limiting elements, or ability to define why one group won and the others lost.” Further, Howden says, OMB members’ decisions may be one-page rulings that are issued after days of detailed testimony, or they are rambling documents in which rationale is buried.

“The price to be paid,” Howden writes, “…is the continued progressively worsening public cynicism and the record over the past 10 years of insufficient deliberation and writing time, inconsistency in policy and outcomes, reliance on part-time members …”

Howden also says the set-up of these tribunals is a problem and interferes with their mandate: the adversarial nature of the hearings, not unlike court battles, is unfair for residents fighting well-funded developers.

“Most homeowners these days are simply trying to maintain their homes and families. They do not have the thousands of dollars it takes to round up a team of professionals….This kind of inequality erodes any sense of justice.”

Lack of justice is emblematic of the hearings before the Environmental Review Tribunal where Ontario citizens spend hundreds of thousands of after-tax dollars to protect their communities and the environment, ironically from the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, which has a special, supportive relationship with the wealthy wind power developers it appears alongside in the hearings.

Countless appeals were mounted in Ontario by well-meaning dedicated citizens who took their fight for their community and environment to the Tribunal, without benefit of legal counsel at all, while wind power developers were represented by lawyers from Canada’s top law firms.

Millions spent by citizens

A recent informal poll of Wind Concerns Ontario member community groups reveals that communities have spent over $3 million in legal costs to mount appeals before the ERT, and that number is almost certainly understated.

Moreover, citizen evidence presented at the hearings, paid for by citizen dollars, is often critical to wind power project operations—even in appeals that have been unsuccessful, the evidence presented has resulted in changes to the proposed power projects. This evidence is usually indications of risks to the environment, facts that the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change would have been aware of, if they did any oversight or checking on Renewable Energy Approvals … which they do not.

For example, the evidence presented on the danger to species such as the Blandings Turtle and the Little Brown Bat –paid for by citizens who raised money through spaghetti suppers and garage sales—won the day for the environment in several appeals. The appeal of the Ostrander Point project, which took years of work by Prince Edward County naturalist and community groups, not only resulted in overturning the approval for the project in a fragile environment, but also caused the Tribunal to refocus its aims, and conclude that, contrary to claims by the MOECC and developer lawyers, wind power was not necessarily a “greater good” that outweighs everything—balance must be achieved in protecting the environment.

In the fight at Clearview, citizen evidence showed not only was there danger to wildlife from the proposed wind power project, but there was a clear danger to human life from a project planned close to not one, but two airports.

Judge Howden concludes that the OMB should be a body worthy of respect.

We say, the ERT should be that, too.

Jane Wilson

President

Wind Concerns Ontario