The Whig-Standard, December 7, 2015
BATH — The appeal of the approval of a controversial wind energy project on Amherst Island is underway.
The Association to Protect Amherst Island is appealing to the Environmental Review Tribunal the decision by the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change to approve Windlectric’s application to build 26 turbines on Amherst Island.
In late August, the provincial government approved the project subject to more than two dozen conditions.
The appeal began on Friday and is to include a series of hearings between then and Dec. 22.
The association has hired environmental lawyer and University of Toronto adjunct professor Eric Gillespie to represent it.
On Friday, the tribunal heard testimony from Tom Beaubiah from the Cataraqui Region Conservation Authority, who spoke about potential impact on Owl Woods, wintering raptors and avian habitat.
Beaubiah requested that if the appeal is rejected and the project goes ahead, that additional conditions be placed on it to further investigate wildlife areas, relocate turbines and include the conservation authority in post-construction monitoring.
Island resident Amy Caughey also provided comment about health and safety concerns related to locating industrial components of the project, including a cement plant, laydown area, transformer station, mobile fueling, a maintenance building and construction office close to the Amherst Island Public School.
Bill Evans testified on behalf of the Kingston Field Naturalists about the project’s potential impact on bobolinks, of which there are about 2,800 on the island.
The Amherst Island project would kill more than 32 bobolinks each year, casualties that, when combined with loss of breeding habitat, would seriously threaten the bird’s population in Ontario.
Among the experts still to be called upon to testify for the association are epidemiologist Carl Phillips and biologist Christina Davy, who are to be backed by experts in hydrology, hydrogeology, ecology and biology.
The appeal comes in the wake of Ontario auditor general Bonnie Lysyk’s annual report that showed deficiencies in the province’s electricity system that have cost taxpayers billions of dollars.
Lysyk’s report showed the long-range plans from the Ontario Power Authority have not been reviewed and approved by the Ontario Energy Board.
Between 2006 and 2014, the electricity portion of the hydro bills of residential and small-business consumers increased by 70 per cent, according to Lysyk’s report. Included in that cost are fees paid to power-generating companies over the market price that cost consumers $37 billion over that time period. Those fees are expected to increase to $133 billion between 2015 and 2032.
Between 2009 and 2014, Ontario’s average annual electricity surplus was equivalent to the power-generating capacity of Manitoba, and the Independent Electricity System Operator predicts the power-generating capability of Ontario will exceed the province’s demand by an amount equivalent to Nova Scotia’s power needs for about five years.