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Slow & Steady wins in Turtle vs. Wind Turbines

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Blanding's Turtle winsPrecedent – Ontario Court of Appeal – Turtles vs. Wind Turbines

Toronto – April 20, 2015

The Ontario Court of Appeal has reversed a lower court ruling regarding a Renewal Energy Approval of the 9 turbine Ostrander Point industrial wind project. The decision reinstates the key initial finding of the Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) that serious and irreversible harm to threatened Blanding’s Turtles will occur if the project operates as approved. “We’re very pleased. The court has ruled in favour of protecting the environment, which is what we’ve asked for throughout“ said Myrna Wood of the successful appellant Prince Edward County Field Naturalists. “The decision is undoubtedly important” said Eric Gillespie, its legal counsel. “This is the first renewable energy case to reach the Court of Appeal. The Court has supported our client’s fundamental concerns and affirmed a number of legal principles that clearly will be relevant to other appeals.” The question of remedy has been directed back to the ERT.

For further information contact Myrna Wood 613-476-1506 myrna@kos.com or Eric Gillespie 416-436-7473 (voice/text) egillespie@gillespielaw.ca

 

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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

 

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.

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

Environmental Commissioner says Ontario government ignores endangered species

 (Toronto- November 29, 2011) The Government of Ontario is not taking sufficient steps to protect and recover the province’s imperilled species. This warning was issued by the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario, Gord Miller, in his 2010/2011 Annual Report released today at Queen’s Park.

“Ontario’s Endangered Species Act is a good law that has the potential to make a real difference,” said Gord Miller. “However, the government is not making the tough choices about what it will and will not do to protect species at risk. Rather than taking decisive action, much of what the government is doing has become an empty bureaucratic exercise with little benefit for endangered species.”

The government released its plans to address the recovery of 13 species at risk in November 2010. The Environmental Commissioner’s report found that the government’s commitments in the majority of these plans do the bare legal minimum to address these species. The government is taking a backseat in its own program by offloading key actions, creating a situation in which the on-the-ground recovery of species at risk might only occur if external, voluntary groups step up. Further, the government is not providing stakeholders with the necessary information on how to carry on with business, if appropriate, when species at risk are present.

“Protecting endangered species must first be framed by science, and then political and social choices can be made,” stated the Environmental Commissioner. “Instead, the government has so muddied the process that it is difficult to decipher science from politics. The result for Ontario is that the loss of biodiversity continues unchecked.”

The Environmental Commissioner’s report found the Ministry of Natural Resources is sending mixed messages in its conservation efforts for species at risk:

 The Ministry of Natural Resources allows the hunting and trapping of some species at risk, such as snapping turtles and eastern wolves which are both species of special concern.

 The Ministry of Natural Resources has failed to provide the public with a clear picture of where Ontario’s threatened woodland caribou are and what will be done to actually conserve their habitat