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Letter to Wynne Regarding Turbines & World Wildlife Fund

Prince Edward County South Shore Conservancy

P. O. Box 147

Milford, ON

K0K 2P0

October 7, 2014

Premier Kathleen Wynne Gord Miller

Legislative Building Environmental Commissioner of Ontario

Queen’s Park 1075 Bay St

Toronto, ON Ste. 605

M7A 1A1 Toronto, ON

Toronto, ON M5S 2B1

M5G 2K1

(Sent via e-mail. Hard copy to follow.)

Dear Premier Wynne and Mr. Miller:

Re: wpd White Pines wind development, endangered species and World Wildlife Fund

This letter is public and may be shared.

We are writing to request your assistance in improving governmental process for renewable energy projects. Ontario’s guidelines for siting renewable energy projects are not aligned with policies of respected organizations such as the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) or even with Environment Canada policies. Ontario’s standards and practices do not reflect global concern for wildlife in general and for species at risk in particular.

As you may be aware WWF has just released a new report on the state of the earth’s wildlife populations. According to WWF:

This latest edition of the Living Planet Report is not for the faint-hearted. One key point that jumps out is that the Living Planet Index (LPI), which measures more than 10,000 representative populations of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish, has declined by 52 per cent since 1970.

Put another way, in less than two human generations, population sizes of vertebrate species have dropped by half. These are the living forms that constitute the fabric of the ecosystems which sustain life on Earth – and the barometer of what we are doing to our own planet, our only home. We ignore their decline at our peril.

http://wwf.panda.org/about_our_earth/all_publications/living_planet_report/

In addition WWF states in its new report regarding population decline:

TERRESTRIAL LPI – living planet index

The terrestrial LPI contains population trends for 1,562 species of mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians from a wide range of habitats. The index shows that terrestrial populations have been declining since 1970 (Figure 12) – a trend that currently shows no sign of slowing down or being reversed. On average, in 2010 – the year for which the most recent comprehensive dataset is available – terrestrial species had declined by 39 per cent. The loss of habitat to make way for human land use – particularly for agriculture, urban development and energy production – continues to be a major threat to the terrestrial environment.

http://www.wwf_lpr2014_low_res_for_web_1%20(2).pdf

It is expected that the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change could issue a renewable energy approval for wpd’s White Pines Wind Project. This project is a prime example of how Ontario’s guidelines for renewable energy projects are not working.

Twelve of the project’s turbines are in the globally-significant Prince Edward County South Shore Important Bird Area (IBA) and eight turbines are just outside its boundary. Five turbines are in very close proximity to a National Wildlife Area which was chosen because of its density and diversity of birds. In total, some 298 species of birds have been recorded with about 220 species being recorded during the average year. Most of these species are recorded during migration although at least 74 species nest within the area.

Wpd’s tweny-nine turbines are placed in the direct path of a major flyway that has the highest fall migration numbers of saw-whet owls in North America and the fourth highest migration numbers for raptors. This flyway receives large numbers of endangered Golden Eagles and Peregrine Falcons. The passing of a large percentage of the Golden Eagles that reside in North America through a project of this size will imperil this population as well as other populations of migrating species of birds and bats.

The wind project is located in Blanding’s turtle habitat which includes the Ostrander Point Crown Land Block. As you may know in 2013 an Environmental Review Tribunal revoked the renewable energy approval for Ostrander on the grounds that the wind project would cause serious and irreversible harm to Blanding’s turtles.

The wind project study area includes the Provincially Significant South Bay Coastal Wetland, 231 hectares in size, noted for supporting Blanding’s turtle as well as 17 wetlands (unevaluated by MNR) that are considered ‘significant’. 9 of these 17 wetlands qualify under the definition of Coastal Wetlands.

The White Pines Wind Project is a prime example of how proper siting of projects should be the first consideration. The document “Wind Turbines and Birds: A Guidance Document for Environmental Assessment, Environment Canada, Canadian Wildlife Service” lists 11 criteria for locations where turbines should not be sited. The south shore of Prince Edward County meets all of these criteria:

  • The presence of a bird species listed as “at risk” by the SARA, COSEWIC or

 

provincial/territorial threat ranking, or the presence of the residence(s) of individuals of that

species if listed under the SARA, or of its critical habitat. To be of concern, either the bird or

its residence or critical habitat must be considered to be potentially affected by the project;

  • Site is in an Important Bird Area;
  • Site is adjacent to a National Wildlife Area;
  • Site of fall migration of large concentrations of raptors;
  • Site is on a known migration corridor;
  • Site contains shoreline on a peninsula;
  • Site will disrupt large contiguous wetland habitat;
  • Site located close to significant migration staging area for waterfowl;
  • Site contains species of high conservation concern, eg. Aerial flight displays, PIF/CWS

priority species;

  • Site is recognized as provincially important alvar habitat type;
  • Site is adjacent to a heronry.

Environment Canada: Wind Turbines and Birds V. 8.2, p.21, 2007

The WWF POSITION ON WIND POWER 2004 states:

On the planning process for the development of wind power WWF believes that:

  • The development of wind farms should be managed sensitively and framed within regional and local spatial planning guidelines. This should include development of national, regional and local wind targets, assessing high value habitats and identifying no-go areas for wind development. In this way, any environmental impacts and conflicts with other land or marine uses would be identified and minimised.
  • Proposals for wind farm developments within IUCN 1-2 protected areas and/or national parks should not be allowed, unless a comprehensive Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) clearly indicates that the proposed development will not cause adverse effects on the integrity or conservation objectives of statutory protected area.

 

  • Wind turbines can have a possible impact upon wildlife if sited in the wrong place and as such should not be placed in important bird nesting grounds or within identified bird migration routes, such as RAMSAR sites.

We acknowledge that there is an appeal process for Renewable Energy Approvals. However at the present time it appears futile to appeal a renewable energy approval on the grounds of serious and irreversible harm to plant and animal life or to the natural environment. The 2013 Divisional Court decision revoking the decision of the Ostrander Point Environmental Review Tribunal has ruled that the finding of irreversible harm cannot be made without population data. At the recent appeal for the Bow Lake Wind Project the Tribunal noted that:

[215] The impact of this approach is that irreversible harm cannot be shown for the numerous species of plants and animals in Ontario for which the current state of the science is such that population numbers are not well enough known for an “order of magnitude” to be calculated. Given that the finding of serious and irreversible harm is a threshold finding under the EPA, in that the Tribunal may not make any remedial order unless it is met, these species appear to be left without protection under the appeal provisions of s. 145.2.1 of the EPA. The Tribunal notes that the MNR Bird and Bat Guidelines, as well as the Alberta Guidelines referenced by the Appellant in this case, recognize the current limitations of scientific knowledge and as a result take a more flexible, contextual approach to determining harm. However,the Divisional Court ruling in Ostrander is currently the law in Ontario and is binding on the Tribunal.

Environmental Review Tribunal case Nos.: 13-145/13-146 Fata v. Director, Ministry of the Environment

The Divisional Court declared not only that population data is needed in order to make a finding of irreversible harm but that the onus is on appellants to provide this data. The Divisional Court decision has been appealed but if the decision is allowed to stand the onus will be on members of the public and small unfunded conservation groups to collect and provide population data.

It would take several years of scientific study to acquire population data on species on Prince Edward County’s south shore. The studies would have to be done however, because the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry does not possess any data on local plant and animal populations.

For the reasons identified it would be futile to appeal a renewable energy approval at this time.

The Environmental Review Tribunal process was the last line of defense for species that might be seriously harmed by renewable energy projects. This line of defense is broken. The government’s own Tribunal acknowledges that “species appear to be left without protection under the appeal provisions of s. 145.2.1 of the Environmental Protection Act.”

Clear policies are urgently needed in order to ensure the protection of species and the habitat that is required for these species to carry out their life processes.

With this in mind and understanding the government of Ontario’s desire to appear protective of the environment, the Conservancy respectfully requests that:

  • no new renewable energy generation approvals be issued until the Ontario Court of Appeal issues a decision on the Ostrander appeal. This request seems reasonable as the Tribunal is currently prevented from making a finding of irreversible harm at this time even if it believes that the project will cause irreversible harm;
  • renewable energy project developers be required to provide population data and/or that resources be provided to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry or to Nature Canada to conduct studies on population if the Ostrander appeal is allowed to stand; and
  • a review of current provincial practices and policies on renewable energy generation projects be conducted using WWF and EC siting recommendations as good practice standards.

 

We appreciate your attention to these important matters and look forward to receiving a response.

Respectfully,

Paula Peel

Secretary, South Shore Conservancy

  cc:

Hon Glen Murray, Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change

Hon Bill Mauro, Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry

André Marin, Ombudsman of Ontario

The Prince Edward County South Shore Conservancy is a volunteer organization committed to protecting the flora, fauna and habitats encompassed by the South Shore Important Bird Area (IBA). The IBA includes species at risk, both breeding and migratory. It was founded in 2001.

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.

BBC industrial wind turbine documentary on TVO

The North American premiere of a four-part documentary series Blown Apart:Windfarm Wars begins Sunday October 9, 2011 at 8 pm ET on TVO. 

Directed by Jeremy Gibson and produced by Sevenstones Media for BBC, this timely four-part documentary series examines what happens when a wind farm of nine 120-metre high turbines is planned to be built on a sensitive English landscape. Filmed over four turbulent years, the series reveals a deeply divided community and explores in candid and intimate detail a story that goes to the very heart of the question of renewable energy, our attitudes towards it and the future for on-shore wind power.

Of special interest to naturalists will be the focus on the impact to bird populations and the destruction of scenery.  Don’t miss this new and controversial documentary.