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Open Letter to Jim Bradley, Minister of the Environment

The Ministry of Environment’s decision not to conduct an Individual Environmental Assessment of access roads at Ostrander Point, announced in your December 19, 2012 letter, is based on numerous errors in fact and judgment.   

Your letter states that between March and April 2011 you received 21 requests from members of the public.  In point of fact, the Honourable John Wilkinson, then Minister of Environment (MOE), received the requests.  In the last election Mr. Wilkinson was held accountable for his mishandling of the MOE portfolio.  

Only 17 of the 21 requests came from members of the public.  The other four requests were from organizations which collectively represent thousands of citizens.  Why does your letter diminish the significance of comments by the Alliance to Protect Prince Edward County; the South Shore Conservancy; Friends of Arron Lake, Wind Concerns Ontario Grey Bruce; and the Prince Edward Field Naturalists, Ontario Nature and Nature Canada? 

All the requests point out the extensive impact of the access roads: 

  •  fragmentation of wildlife habitat by the loop design
  • destruction/loss of alvar and woodland habitat
  • disturbance of avian and terrestrial wildlife during wind turbine construction and during the next 25 years of operation due to increased on-site human activities
  • harm, harassment and killing of two threatened species, Whip-poor-will and Blanding’s Turtle, albeit authorized by a Ministry of Natural Resources permit
  • disturbance to raptors, especially protected Bald and Golden Eagles.

Since access roads are integral to the wind energy project, they cannot be separated in terms of effects.  Both roads and wind turbines are located on a major migration corridor used by millions of birds, bats and butterflies.  Both roads and wind turbines will destroy rare habitat that sustains migrating and resident wildlife, particularly 20 species of conservation concern, including Rusty Blackbird, Short-Eared Owl, Peregrine Falcon, Red-headed Woodpecker, and the Monarch Butterfly. 

Thousands of eagles, owls and other raptors have already perished in North America as a result of colliding with massive turbine towers and blades at poorly-sited wind projects.  The raptors and migratory birds that avoid wind turbines are also at risk as they disperse to inhospitable outlying areas without adequate food, water and shelter.  

Bats in the thousands are also dying, either from direct collision with turbine blades or as their lungs explode from rapid changes in air pressure when they get close to turbines.

In approving the Ostrander Point project the government of Ontario is contravening international treaties such as the Migratory Birds Act and the treaty to protect Monarch Butterflies.  National and international environmental societies, too numerous to mention, have all told the Ontario government that industrial wind turbines should not go into this Important Bird Area (IBA).  Ontario’s Environmental Commissioner has called for a halt to wind projects in all Ontario IBAs.  The Canadian Senate has called for a moratorium on industrial wind projects along the migratory route.

Mr. Bradley, anyone who had actually read the 21 requests for an Individual Environmental Assessment would be too embarrassed to say, as you did in your letter, that you are “satisfied” the Ostrander Point project has met “the purpose of the Environmental Assessment Act, the betterment of the people of the whole or part of Ontario, by providing for the protection, conservation and wise management of the environment.”  

Perhaps you are satisfied, Mr. Bradley, but the people of Ontario are not.   

Garth Manning,
Chair, County Coalition for Safe and Appropriate Green Energy

 

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Wind Project Approval a Disgrace

WIND PROJECT APPROVAL A DISGRACE: RUNCIMAN

 

OTTAWA, Dec. 21, 2012 – Senator Bob Runciman has blasted the Ontario Ministry of Environment for its approval of a wind energy project at Ostrander Point in Prince Edward County.

 “This decision goes against local wishes, it threatens migratory birds and bats and it makes no sense from an energy standpoint,” Runciman said. “And to grant approval just before Christmas is clearly an attempt to avoid scrutiny. It’s not only wrong-headed, it’s under-handed.”

 On late Thursday afternoon, the Ministry of Environment announced it had approved Gilead Power’s proposal to erect nine giant wind turbines in an internationally recognized Important Bird Area at Ostrander Point. The approval gives Gilead permission to kill endangered species and destroy their habitat.

 Runciman was the author of a 2011 motion unanimously endorsed by the Senate of Canada calling on the province of Ontario to institute a moratorium on wind-farm development along eastern Lake Ontario until the impact on birds and bats can be studied.

 The Ontario senator’s concern stems from the experience with the wind farm on Wolfe Island, also in a designated Important Bird Area. That development has a kill rate for birds and bats that is seven times the industry average in Canada, primarily because it is located in the wrong spot. It is one of the deadliest wind farms in North America.

 The same concerns apply to Ostrander Point, which has been described by Environment Canada as one of the best areas for birds in southern Ontario, Runciman said.

 “The governing Liberals are in the late stages of a leadership campaign. The incoming premier may very well reconsider this failed policy – a policy that has alienated rural Ontario, bypasses environmental and land use policies, will cost electricity customers billions and is causing grave damage to the Ontario economy,” Runciman said.

 “In light of this, it is an absolute disgrace that the Ministry has approved this project right now. I call on the government to step in and put a stop to this,” Runciman said.

 For more information, please contact:

Barry Raison, Office of Senator Bob Runciman

(613) 943-4020 (office) or (613) 297-2069 (cell)

raisob@sen.parl.gc.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.

200,000 Bats Killed Annually by German Wind Turbines

Posted on
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

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

 

 

Wind turbine companies avoid calls from waterfowl expert

From an exclusive to Wind Concerns Ontario:

Scientist  and Executive Director of  Long Point Waterfowl, Dr. Scott Petrie, says that after years of trying to encourage the corporate wind power development industry to do the right thing to protect important bird habitats in Ontario, the companies are now not only refusing to cooperate, they’re not even returning his calls.

Dr. Petrie was particularly involved with AIM PowerGen prior to the Green Energy Act, providing advice on industrial wind turbine (IWT) placement at the company’s project at Long Point. “At first, they were very cooperative,” he says, “even moving some turbine locations when they heard my concerns. But then along came the Green Energy Act, the associated competition for business, and the completely inadequate guidelines to protect birds and bats. We have a completely different situation today.”

Scientist, university professor says: “some of the worst possible places for wind projects”

The situation, Petrie says, is that some areas where turbine developments are being constructed and planned are, as he says, “the worst possible places to put a wind power project.” He says that avian and bat mortality rates at improperly placed wind farms are unacceptable. He also says that wind turbine developers and the government have ignored the fact that there will be cumulative ecological impacts associated with placing thousands of wind turbines on the landscape and in the lakes. As a Waterfowl Ecologist, Petrie is particularly concerned that wind turbines are being placed within critically important habitats and on migratory routes with no regard for avian displacement. “When you place a turbine in or very close to critical habitats, and birds subsequently avoid those areas, it is tantamount to habitat loss, and we have already lost 85 per cent of our Great Lake’s coastal wetlands.”   

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