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Category Archives: Wind turbines & the environment

Ontario Environmental Watchdog Boosts Conservancy Campaign

 

This week a major boost was given to the South Shore Conservancy campaign to protect the south shore IBA in Prince Edward County.

Gord Miller, the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario, hit the headlines when he unequivocally stated that wind turbines do not belong in Important Bird Areas (IBAs). Mr. Miller went on to suggest that wind turbines do not belong in any ecologically sensitive locations. 

According to Mr. Miller “…the current guidelines do not go far enough to ensure that wind power development is compatible with Ontarians’ objective of protecting wildlife.  Given the importance of selecting sites that minimize the harm to birds and bats, it just makes sense to avoid building wind energy projects in these species’ most ecologically sensitive locations.”

Ontario Nature has added to these comments by saying that on Wolfe Island (also an IBA) with an 86 turbine project, a 2010 study found that on average 16 birds and 43 bats were killed per turbine, one of the highest recorded rates in North America.  The kill on that site is one of the worst in North America.   The Ontario governments’ reaction to the high bird and bat kill was to increase the number of acceptable kills per turbine and decrease the area around each turbine that must be searched for bird and bat kills.  Furthermore they have made no response to the mandatory reports required of raptor kills. 

In addition to eradicating the possibility of wind turbines in IBAs, Mr. Miller considers that the Ontario government needs to take into account the cumulative effect that wind turbines have on both birds and bats.  Ontario Nature agrees stating that “we. . .need to be aware of the cumulative impacts of all wind turbines on bird life, bats, other rare plants and animals, as well as sensitive ecosystems.”   With the millions of migrating birds and bats as well as other winged species like the Monarch Butterflies that pass through the south shore, the cumulative impact here will be many times worse than at Wolfe Island. 

The Canadian Senate, Nature Canada, the Audubon Society as well as the Royal Society for Birds and many other environmental groups both here and abroad have alerted the MOE to the fact that wind energy projects do not belong in our IBA. Now the provincial governments’ own Environmental Commissioner, is reinforcing this. 

As we have seen with Gilead Power and with wpd Canada, the Ontario government has given no consideration to the issue of the IBA factor. There is no better time for everyone to tell our Liberal government that they must protect major migratory pathways, sensitive ecosystems and all threatened species and habitats.  This is the only acceptable solution for the residents of this province.

We encourage you to protest the construction of wind turbine projects in Prince Edward County’s globally-significant South Shore IBA by responding yourselves and encouraging as many others, particularly other residents of Ontario, to respond as well.  Whether they focus on our IBA or on the one closest to them does not matter.  The important thing is that they inform their MPP and others on the list below that they agree with Gord Miller and expect them to do the same.   

Please tell the following politicians that you agree with Gord Miller and expect them to do the same:    

Premier Dalton McGuinty
dmcguinty.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org

Dwight Duncan, MPP
Deputy Premier
dduncan.mpp@liberal.ola.org

David Orazietti, MPP
Parliamentary Secretary to the Premier
dorazietti.mpp@liberal.ola.org

Michael Gravelle, MPP
Minister of Natural Resources
mgravelle.mpp@liberal.ola.org

Mike Colle, MPP
Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Natural Resources
mcolle.mpp@liberal.ola.org

 Jim Bradley, MPP

Minister of the Environment
jbradley.mpp@liberal.ola.org

Helena Jaczek, MPP
Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of the Environment
hjaczek.mpp@liberal.ola.org

Chris Bentley, MPP
Minister of Energy
cbentley.mpp@liberal.ola.org

Reza Moridi, MPP
Parliamentary Assistant to the Ministry of Energy
rmoridi.mpp@liberal.ola.org

Tim Hudak
Leader, PC Party
tim.hudakco@pc.ola.org

Laurie Scott, MPP
PC Critic Natural Resources
laurie.scott@pc.ola.org

Victor Fedeli, MPP
PC Energy Critic
vic.fedeli.pc.ola.org

Michael Harris, MPP
PC Critic, Environment
michael.harris.ola.org

Lisa Thompson, MPP
PC Deputy Critic, Energy (Green Energy Act)
lisa.thompson@pc.ola.org

Todd Smith, MPP
Prince Edward-Hastings
todd.smith@pc.ola.org

Andrea Horwath
Leader, NDP
ahorwath-co@ndp.on.ca

Peter Tabuns, MPP
NDP Energy and Environment Critic
tabunsp-qp@ndp.on.ca

Jonah Schein, MPP
NDP Environment Critic
jschein-qp@ndp.on.ca

Sarah Campbell, MPP

NDP Critic, Natural Resources

scampbell-qp@ndp.on.ca

 

Birds and Bats Need More Protection from Wind Power

Toronto, October 2, 2012 – The Ontario government should put additional areas of the province off-limits to wind power projects to safeguard birds, bats and their habitats, says Ontario’s Environmental Commissioner Gord Miller, who released Part 2 of his 2011/2012 Annual Report, Losing Our Touch, today.

“I fully support wind power. Together with energy conservation, renewable sources of energy such as wind are necessary to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and protect the environment,” says Miller.  “However, the use of wind power must be balanced by the equally important goal of protecting birds and bats. To accomplish that goal, we need to be smarter about where we place wind power facilities.”

The government has released guidelines for evaluating and reducing harmful effects on birds, bats and their habitats during the planning, construction and operation of wind power projects. The Environmental Commissioner praises the government for giving special attention to birds and bats as wind power development increases in the province, but notes “there are some significant shortcomings in the guidelines that continue to put birds and bats at risk.”

  • Lack of protection for migratory bat species: Approximately 75 per cent of documented bat fatalities at wind turbines in North America are migratory bats, yet the provincial guidelines lack any criteria for identifying and avoiding bat migratory stopover areas during the selection of wind power sites.  Three out of the eight species of Ontario’s bats are migratory.
  • Development in Important Bird Areas not prohibited: Important Bird Areas are designated, using internationally accepted standards, as key areas supporting specific groups of birds. There are no special rules to prevent wind power development in Ontario’s 70 Important Bird Areas.
  • No consideration of cumulative effects: Wind power project sites are evaluated and approved on an individual basis, with no regard for the potential cumulative effects on birds or bats from other nearby wind power facilities or other potential sources of bird and bat mortality.

Ontario’s Environmental Commissioner says “I am concerned that the current guidelines do not go far enough to ensure that wind power development is compatible with Ontarians’ objective of protecting wildlife. Given the importance of selecting sites that minimize the harm to birds and bats, it just makes sense to avoid building wind energy projects in these species’ most ecologically sensitive locations.”

“The Ministry of Natural Resources should rectify these shortcomings,” says Miller “and prohibit new wind power development within Ontario’s Important Bird Areas.”  Important Bird Areas, such as Point Pelee and the Leslie St. Spit, cover only about two per cent of Ontario in total.

12 Million Migratory Birds at Risk from Lake Ontario Wind Turbines

According to an article by journalist Paul Schliesmann, in the Kingston Whig-Standard on Friday, August 24, 2012,  a recent report by the Kingston Field Naturalists states that an estimated 12 million migratory birds will be put at risk if two large offshore wind turbine projects are built in Lake Ontario.

Three members of the volunteer organization who conducted a year-long, unpaid study are particularly concerned about two offshore projects that would see the a total of 268 turbines planted to the north and south of Main Duck Island, a natural stopping off point for hundreds of species.

“We think 12 million is low because it’s based on birds being studied at Prince Edward Point. The ones which don’t stop at Prince Edward Point aren’t being included yet,” said Chris Hargreaves, who worked on the report with Erwin Batalla and Barrie Gilbert.

Read the rest of this informative article in thewhig.com

Migrating Songbird Might Impede U.S. Wind Power Plans

A bird that ornithologists, birders and wind-power opponents say is at risk from developments ranging from mountaintop wind turbines to ski resorts could get federal protection.

The Bicknell’s thrush – a medium-sized migrating songbird – has cleared the first stage of a long route that could lead to it being declared a threatened or endangered species, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Tuesday.

At issue is the bird’s habitat as much as its numbers, because the terrain that the Bicknell’s thrush favors is almost exactly the same as that sought by wind-energy companies, foresters and tourism developers.

 

According to the International Bicknell’s Thrush Conservation Group, the bird’s numbers have declined to about 125,000 globally. Over the past 10 years, U.S. populations have been more stable than those in Canada, which have shown “steep declines … due to habitat loss,” the Fish and Wildlife Service reported.

Read more from the Portland Press Herald by staff writer North Cairn.

Vote in July 2012 latest CBC poll on Wind Turbine Moratorium

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From CBC.ca News July 19, 2012

Opponents of wind turbines cheered last week when Health Canada announced it would study the effects turbine noise may have on human health.

Turbines in Essex and Chatham-Kent counties in southwestern Ontario have become a fact of life. In Chatham-Kent alone, for example, there could be more than 500 turbines turning by 2014.

But not if Chatham-Kent Progressive Conservative MPP Rick Nicholls has anything to say about it. He and his party want a moratorium on the development of wind farms while Ottawa completes its study.

Vote now! http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/windsor/story/2012/07/19/wdr-wind-turbine-moratorium-health-canada.html

200,000 Bats Killed Annually by German Wind Turbines

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July  3, 2012 in Science Daily
 

Research suggests German Wind Turbines Kill Bats Near and Far

Previous studies have already highlighted that more than 200,000 bats are killed each year by German wind turbines. Researchers are convinced that such high mortality rates may not be sustainable. The large-scale development of wind farms throughout Germany may have negative consequences for even remote ecosystems in northeastern Europe.
 
Industrial Wind Turbines Affect Distant Ecosystems

Wind turbines may have large-scale negative effects on distant ecosystems. Results of research by the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW) demonstrate that bats killed at German wind turbines originate mostly from northeastern Europe.

The study investigated the provenance of those four bat species which are most frequently killed by German wind turbines. Bats are of particular interest because they have a vital and important service function for ecosystems in regulating population densities of pest insects, and because many species migrate during spring and autumn across Europe between their breeding and wintering ranges.

Read more:  http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120702133529.htm

Additional Protection for Ontario Wildlife Habitat & Threatened Species

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Strict new definitions for “significant wildlife habitat” will offer more protection for Ontario wildlife.

According to journalist Tom Spears in the Ottawa Citizen, “protected sites could demand special treatment (such as not cutting trees or building roads) for hundreds of metres in all directions, up to a kilometre all around in the case of bat caves. They apply in urban and rural development alike.

Spears goes on to state: The Ministry of Natural Resources says it will not be applying the new definitions to existing properties or small residential projects. They will be “only considered as a result of a development application” and applied during an environmental impact study.

“Therefore Significant Wildlife Habitat is typically only determined when a subdivision, commercial development, golf course, aggregate operation, wind farm, and large solar project is proposed in an area that may be changing the existing land use,” the ministry wrote in a reply to questions.

 They are in addition to existing protection for significant wetlands, or areas with rare or threatened species such as butternut trees or bobolinks.
 
The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources says the changes would apply to new developments such as subdivisions, commercial construction or wind turbines, not to smaller projects such as renovating a house.

Follow the link above to the Ottawa Citizen to read the entire article by Spears.

American Bird Conservancy sues US Gov’t over Wind Turbines

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A lack of transparency by top Obama administration officials has prompted an environmental group to sue the Interior Department to determine whether wind power projects are killing large numbers of bats and birds.

According to a report by award-winning investigative journalist Audrey Hudson, The American Bird Conservancy (ABC) filed the lawsuit Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia accusing the government of intentionally withholding the information and refusing to comply with requests for certain documents under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

“It’s ridiculous that Americans have to sue in order to find out what their government is saying to wind companies about our wildlife,” Kelly Fuller, ABC spokeswoman said in a statement announcing the legal action.

The wind development projects in question are located in Arizona, California, Florida, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Texas. The group says there are more than 2,000 locations in the U.S. where birds are vulnerable to the impacts of wind energy development.

 

Ostrander Point Decision: Chance to enhance Ontario’s Green Energy Policies

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Prince Edward County Field Naturalists, Nature Canada, and Ontario Nature have repeatedly urged the Ontario Government to protect Ostrander Point, and reject a proposed industrial wind energy project there. As a final decision on this project from the Ontario Ministry of the Environment is pending, it’s a good time to restate the key arguments for preserving this special place, and why the Green Energy Act would suffer a serious blow to its credibility if the project is approved.

The Green Energy Act has been successful in attracting industry and converting some of Ontario’s electricity generation from coal to renewable sources. It’s helped to create jobs. This is very good news.
However, by opening all Crown Land to development, an important government responsibility has slipped between the cracks: the protection of wildlife habitat.

The most blatant and acute example of this is the proposed wind energy plant for Ostrander Point in Prince Edward County. Ostrander Point is a Candidate Area of Natural and Scientific Interest in the centre of the Prince Edward County (PEC) South Shore Important Bird Area (IBA). This IBA and the adjacent National Wildlife Area were designated globally significant under the congregatory (water fowl) species category and nationally significant under the threatened species category. Millions of birds migrate through the PEC South Shore in spring and fall — in even more dense concentrations than famed Point Pelee.

In other words, this area is a super highway for birds, bats and monarch butterflies – the worst place to consider building 150 metre high wind turbines.

To approve this project, the Ontario government would need to ignore its responsibilities for species at risk and international agreements such as the Migratory Bird Convention Act.

However, denying the project would send a positive message confirming the government’s commitment to protecting the environment, which is is one of the primary reasons for the Green Energy Policy. It would show the Act is being implemented with regard to wildlife and in a responsible way.

Nineteen Species at Risk are found at Ostrander Point. Fourteen Priority Species (birds that are declining rapidly) listed by Ontario Partners in Flight breed there. The continued ability of federally and provincially listed species at risk – Blanding`s Turtle (Threatened) and Whip-Poor-Will (Threatened) – to breed at Ostrander Point are seriously threatened by the construction of access roads and turbines.

Ostrander Point meets 11 criteria of Environment Canada`s definition of a site of “Very High Sensitivity” where turbines should not be sited. As EC Environmental Assessment Officer, Denise Fell has said: “This is one of the most important landfall sites in Ontario. Unique about this particular site is that birds are ascending and descending during migrations, whereas normally they migrate over the landscape in a broad front above the typical height of wind turbines. Since birds on migration in this area can therefore be found at tower height, and are typically very tired and stressed when descending, they may be more at risk of collision with wind turbines.”

Within the same flyway, just a little east of Ostrander Point, the TransAlta Wolfe Island wind plant is already in operation, and its casualty rate of 13.4 birds per turbine per year is about seven times the industry average in Canada, according to CANWEA.

What’s more, the Wolfe Island turbines are very selective in the birds that they kill. Casualties are mainly swallows, including the rapidly declining Tree Swallow (70 percent decline in last 40 years) and Purple Martin (95 percent decline in last 40 years), as well as birds of preys such as Red-tailed Hawks. It is possible that the wind farm has killed off all of the local population of this species. Bobolink, a recently listed Species at Risk that has declined 80 percent in the last 40 years, has also been disproportionately killed.

That project’s thresholds for mortality rates are at the highest level recorded at any large wind facility inNorth America. Gilead proposes “adaptive management” thresholds for Ostrander Point at the same level. In other words, the highest casualty rate is the bar under which no mitigation is required.

Not only will the Gilead Project destroy two-thirds of the site’s significant wildlife habitat, it will be in place for 25-50 years, threatening the lives of birds and bats migrating through spring and fall, and permanently displace species that breed at Ostrander Point. Gilead states that it is a favourable site for their development because it “is in a relatively isolated part” of the County. This isolation from human use has created its value as wildlife habitat.

The decline of most species is primarily due to human encroachment on habitat but also exacerbated by the effects of climate change. All the more reason to preserve this site, which has evolved over millennia as a crucial staging area for neotropical migrants. The nearby Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory records more birds than any other migration monitoring station inCanada.

The government’s Wind Atlas shows that the available wind is no higher at Ostrander Point than at hundreds of other locations. Approval of the Ostrander Point project will pave the way for the addition of another 29 turbines by WPD-Canada White Pines. All the projects proposed to date could total 60 turbines in the South Shore IBA, many on Provincial lands, and many on the narrow bird funnel known as the Long Point peninsula on which Ostrander point and Prince Edward Point are located.

Gilead claims that the project has been “designed to be sensitive to the wildlife of the area”.

But they have applied for permits to kill, harm and destroy the habitat of two endangered species: Blanding’s Turtle and Whip-poor-will. Gilead’s “most aggressive mitigation measures in North America to protect local and migrating species” consist of:

Blanding’s Turtle – buying part of its significant wetland while destroying part;

Whip-poor-will – hiring a graduate student to study its declining use of the habitat;

counting mortality numbers of migrating birds and bats for 3 years.

Developing wind energy in Canada, coupled with conservation measures to reduce all forms of fossil fuel consumption, is a good thing. But wind energy must not be produced at the expense of wildlife.

Wind turbines and wind farms should not be located in places – like Ostrander Point – where birds congregate, migrate and breed. All wind farm proposals should be subject to an environmental assessment prior to development in order to evaluate their impact on all wildlife, including birds and bats. And regulators such as the provincial and territorial governments should adopt policies and guidelines that exclude wind energy projects from Important Bird Areas and other areas that are known to be of importance to birds and bats.

Let’s get wind power right in Ontario!

Ted Cheskey

 

 

Proposed budget allows foreign companies to kill Ontario’s endangered species

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The proposed Ontario budget (Bill 55) includes an amendment to the Endangered Species Act.  The purpose of the amendment is to exempt renewable energy systems from prohibitions in sections 9(1) and 10(1) of the Endangered Species Act.  Sections 9(1) and 10(1) are key sections of the Endangered Species Act as this is where the Act explicitly prohibits the killing, harming and harassing of Ontario species at risk and prohibits damaging and destroying their habitat.    

 Industrial wind turbine companies currently need to apply to the Ministry of Natural Resources for a permit under the Ontario Species Act if endangered species, threatened species and species of special concern are likely to be killed, harmed and harassed during the construction and operation of the wind energy project and if their habitat will be damaged or destroyed.

 If the budget (Bill 55) is passed these companies will no longer need to apply for a permit. To all intents and purposes they will be allowed to operate outside of laws that are in place to protect Ontario’s endangered species.  Industrial wind energy developers, even  multinationals that are under foreign ownership such as wpd Canada (Germany) and Samsung (Korea), will be able to build wind farms that kill, harm and harass Ontario’s endangered species with no fear of potential repercussions.    

In an article on Bill 55’s amendment to the Ontario Species Act, Keith Stelling points out that many of the casualties on major migratory flyways such as Wolfe Island and Ostrander Point will be these endangered and protected species (but) “they will no longer be protected.”   In one stroke the amendment removes endangered species from protection and affords protection to industrial wind turbine companies by putting them out of reach of the law.  Wind turbine developers will be permitted to kill, harm and harass endangered species and to damage and destroy their habitat and they can be expected to do so with impunity if they are out of reach of the law. Stelling goes on to point out that “every genuine environmentalist, conservationist, nature lover or advocate for Ontario’s biodiversity will be outraged at this underhanded development.”   

 This amendment to exempt industrial wind developers from the prohibitions in the Endangered Species Act is reprehensible and everything that can be done should be done to oppose it.  

Here are some things you can do: 

(1) The link below gives instructions on how to send a message to all MPPs (the message is ostensibly intended for NDP members but will be received by all MPPs). 

(2) Send a personal message to your MPP (who may not even be aware of the amendment).  Let your MPP know that there is no justifiable reason for this special exemption and that industrial wind turbine companies should be expected to follow the same rules as every other industry that conducts business operations in Ontario. 

(3) Send letters and emails to newspapers, organizations and to any public figures who you think would be willing to speak out about this. 

(4) Forward this email to others so that they may take action too. 

Thank you for your efforts to oppose this amendment.   

Send a message to all MPPs HERE