Pro-wind court decision shocks North Stormont communities

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Tremendous step backwards for environmental protection, citizens group says

Water supply, wildlife and noise pollution were concerns in the community fight against an unwanted wind power project [Photo: Pexels]

May 15, 2020

The decision released Wednesday by the Ontario Superior Court which overturned the Ontario environment minister’s move to revoke approval of a large wind power project has shocked the communities that have been fighting for five years to stop the wind “farm” due to concerns about the environment and wildlife.

While the urban media, at the urging of the wind power lobby, power developer, the NDP and Green political parties and so-called environmental organizations are happy about the court decision, those familiar with the power project and the evidence presented against it are not.

The court decision does not merely overturn the minister’s revocation of the project approval, it declares the minister had no authority to act and in essence, writes new public policy over development decisions and the environment. Referencing the “Ford government” with obvious distaste and a transparently one-dimensional view of the government’s approach to environmental issues, columnists failed to recognize what the court has really done.

Concerned Citizens of North Stormont chair Margaret Benke said the decision leaves the “entire Province highly vulnerable. The Minister and Ministry of the Environment with all their resources can’t protect our natural resources and species at risk. The only protection against these kinds of mistakes by the ERT [the quasi-judicial body that hears appeals of approvals] is now in the hands of private citizens,” Benke said.

“We will be asking the Court of Appeal to reconsider what seems to be a tremendous step backwards for environmental protection in Ontario.”

The community group appealed the approval for the project on the grounds of risk of harm to wildlife, the environment specifically the aquifer which is noted as “highly vulnerable” by the Ontario government, and the risk to human health from the wind turbines. The appeal was dismissed; the group then filed a direct appeal with the minister, noting errors in the Environmental Review Tribunal decision. The minister revoked the approval last December saying the risk to endangered bats was significant, he wanted to “exercise precaution” and in any event, Ontario does not need the electrical power from the wind project.

While media reports claim the Ford government dislikes renewable energy projects, the truth is, the Wynne government halted all procurement in 2016 saying the province had enough electricity, and 90 percent of the power suppl was emissions-free. The Wynne government actually cancelled several wind power projects, but gave contracts to five that year, including Nation Rise.

The power developer insists the community did not bring forward bats in their appeal, which is not correct: written submissions were presented to the Tribunal but then, the wind power developer filed a last-minute report which gave the community group’s expert witness no time to review it, so little of his evidence was presented.

The Concerned Citizens group has spent over $100,000 on legal fees; in Wednesday’s decision they were punished for their work to protect the community and environment by having to pay the power developer $60,000 in costs.

The office of the Attorney General or the Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks have not made a comment on whether they will appeal the decision, which clearly has an impact on ministerial authority.

ottawawindconcerns@gmail.com

 

North Stormont families await wind turbine court decision

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One of eight Nation Rise turbines built, now idle: 800m from nearest house. At least three bat colonies at risk in the power project [photo: CCNS]

May 13, 2020

It has been almost a month now since (virtual) hearings concluded in the matter of the cancellation of the Renewable Energy Approval (REA) for the contentious “Nation Rise” wind power project, south of Ottawa.

The 100-megawatt power project was developed by EDPR, a power developer and utility based in Portugal, Spain and Texas. It was granted approval in the last days of the Wynne government in Ontario (arguably during the period when governments do not take major decisions) and was given a Notice To Proceed by the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) in early days of the new government, despite campaign promises to end large wind power contracts.

Current Ontario environment minister Jeff Yurek issued a decision last December saying that he had reviewed the situation and decided that it would be in the “public interest” to revoke the REA, due to significant risks to wildlife and the environment, even though the power project was already under construction.

The power developer argued against the cancellation, and took legal action asserting that the minister did not have the authority to act.

The outcome of this case, which is now before a panel of three judges for deliberation, affects all Ontario. Nothing less than the minister’s authority to act in the public interest is at stake. Although the minister’s authority is clearly described in the Environmental Protection Act, the power developer and the wind power lobbyist the Canadian Wind Energy Association, claimed the decision was political and that the current government hates “green energy.”

The project was to have 29 turbines encompassing the communities of Finch, Crysler and Berwick. Citizens’ group Concerned Citizens of North Stormont appealed the approval originally on the basis of the risk to human heath from noise and vibration, danger to the environment due to turbine vibrations in a highly vulnerable aquifer, and dangers to wildlife such as migratory birds and bats. The appeal was dismissed but the group then filed a direct appeal to the minister, as allowed under law, based on “public interest”—it was this appeal to which the minister responded.

Legal costs for this action to protect the community and wildlife have been substantial. The community group has had to suspend fundraising efforts due to COVID-19.

Anyone wishing to donate can go to the website here or send a cheque to CCNS c/o 14950 County Rd 9 BERWICK ON K0C 1G0

For more information on the harm caused to bat species by Canada’s wind turbines, read this 2016 paper prepared by Natural Resources scientists here: https://wildlife.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/jwmg.21128

ottawawindconcerns@gmail.com

The visible and invisible costs of wind power

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Turbines on Wolfe Island: hidden costs to wind power affect electricity customers

March 2, 2020

Ontario’s fleet of wind turbines cost electricity ratepayers more than $24 million last weekend, says retired bank executive now energy commentator Parker Gallant.

That was mostly due to the fact that wind — as usual–produces power out of phase with demand, but there is a lot more to the costliness of industrial-scale or grid-scale wind turbines, as he details in a recent article here.

Some added costs of wind power or Industrial Wind Turbines (IWTs):

 

  • Increased electricity costs due to the need for duplicate power sources such as gas plants.
  • Increased surplus power which must be curtailed or sold for pennies on the dollar.
  • Increased costs due to IWT inability to generate power when actually needed.
  • Increased surplus power from IWT often means other clean sources must either spill (hydro) or steam off (nuclear) power which adds costs to our electricity bills.
  • IWT kill birds and bats, many of whom are “species at risk” meaning insects, damaging to crops, are not eaten and farmers must spray their crops with insecticides adding costs to produce.
  • IWT may affect tourism areas driving away tourists and thereby affect income to those regions.
  • IWT cause various health problems requiring our health system to respond to individuals affected, thereby adding to health care costs.
  • IWT cause property values to fall affecting the realty tax base where they operate and the value of the property should the occupants try to sell after the installation of those IWT has occurred.
  • IWT lifespan is relatively short (20 years at most) compared to traditional sources of electricity generation and when unable to perform, create costs of remediation and disposal of recyclable and non-recyclable materials they consumed when built and erected.

 

The property value loss from the North Gower project that was proposed in 2008, got a contract to generate electricity from the IESO in 2010, but ultimately failed in a reorganization of the The Feed-In Tariff program, would have been in the millions.

At the time, Ottawa Wind Concerns estimated the property value loss for homes within 3 km of the multiple turbines would have been $134 million.

The current Ontario government has pledged to reduce electricity bills by 12%, but the many expensive wind power contracts signed by the previous government will go on for more than a decade.

OTTAWA WIND CONCERNS

Wind turbine noise complaints continue

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March 2,2020

Wind Concerns Ontario recently released its latest review of wind turbine noise complaints received by the Ontario government; the new review document is based on complaints filed with the then Ministry of Environment and Climate Change for the 2017 calendar year.

The total number of complaint files 2006-2017 is now more than 5,000 Wind Concerns says, though it also has evidence that the reports provided to them via Freedom of Information request is a fraction of the real number.

Highlights for data in the report, which may found here are:

  • almost 700 reports were filed in 2017–but there are likely many more
  • there was “NO” ministry response noted in 54% of the Incident Reports
  • ministry action was confirmed in just 1.3% of the reports
  • 42% contain government staff notes about adverse health impacts
  • 16% of the complaints have details of physical symptoms that suggest exposure to harmful low-frequency noise or infrasound

The wind power project that was proposed for the North Gower-Richmond area in Ottawa would have exposed dozens of families to wind turbine noise emissions. In a special information presentation to the community, Queens University Professor Emeritus John Harrison said that the proposed turbine layout in the North Gower project would have created additional noise problems due to wake turbulence.

The Ontario government halted procurement of large-scale renewable power projects; however a recent survey of leadership candidates for the Ontario Liberal Party showed that every single one supported more wind power, especially front-runner, Steven Del Duca.

 

Nation Rise wind power project in court next month

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January 15, 2020

EDPR, the Portugal-based power developer for the Nation Rise wind power facility planned for, and partially constructed, in North Stormont, south of Ottawa, will appear in court in Toronto February 14th, with an application to “render without legal effect” or quash the recent revocation of the Renewable Energy Approval by environment minister Jeff Yurek.

Minister Yurek issued his decision in response to a direct application to his office by the local community group, filed early in 2019.

Minister Yurek revoked the Renewable Energy Approval on the grounds that there was a significant risk to endangered bat species, which are critical to the eco-system, citing the fact that Ontario also does not need the power from the proposed 100-megawatt project.

The wind power lobbyist Can WEA, the Canadian Wind Energy Association, is seeking status in the legal proceedings as an intervenor, which would mean their lawyers could cross-examine witnesses.

Community group the Concerned Citizens of North Stormont (CCNS), which filed the direct application, may also participate. CCNS had appealed the original approval before the Environmental Review Tribunal but the appeal was dismissed.

While statements have been made that the cancellation is unprecedented, the fact is, several power projects have been cancelled in Ontario historically. The Ostrander Point project in Prince Edward County was also revoked due to danger to the Blandings Turtle, and the White Pines power project, also in Prince Edward County, was reduced from 29 to 27 and eventually 9 turbines over multiple environmental concerns. That project was ultimately cancelled by the Ford government.

Statements have been made that the Nation Rise project was mostly constructed when the approval was revoked. In fact, of 29 turbines, only eight were approaching completion. The company’s target date for completion and providing power to the grid in Ontario was near the end of March or this year. That deadline has now been extended because of legal actions.

The power developer has also claimed that the community will suffer because of the cancellation, because the project would have brought jobs to the area. The usual case, however, is that there is one technical job per 10 turbines in operation; other jobs are short-term, construction-related positions that end with the construction phase.

North Stormont was one of the original unwilling host communities in Ontario, and was also one of 116 municipalities that demanded a return of local land-use planning powers removed by the Green Energy Act.

The Wynne government did not respond.

The Ford government returned planning powers to municipalities last year.

Almost every wind power project has been appealed on the basis of environmental concerns in Ontario since 2009; prior to that date, communities appealed to the Ontario Municipal Board.

EDPR claims millions in losses over Nation Rise cancellation

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Losses to citizens, damage to environment not calculated

Turbine close to home in North Stormont last week: too close [Posted on Facebook Stop Wind Turbines in North Stormont]

December 20, 2019

OTTAWA— EDPR, the Portugal-based renewable power development company building the Nation Rise wind power facility in North Stormont for new owner Axium Infrastructure, is claiming losses of more than $200 million following the revocation of the Renewable Energy Approval by Ontario environment minister Jeff Yurek, last week.

The minister cited the potential for harm to wildlife in the area from the 29-turbine power project, specifically “localized harm to an already small bat population.”

The minister said further in a letter to the Concerned Citizens of North Stormont, the community group that had appealed the power project, that he was required “to balance several things in my considerations of the public interest, including the benefits of renewable energy against the harm to bats, the impact of the project on the community, and the need for the electricity from the project.”

He concluded that, on balance, the project wasn’t needed, and posed too great a risk to wildlife.

The power developer responded demanding a stay to the minister’s decision and was due in court today in Toronto to argue that; meanwhile, the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) has extended the project Commercial Operation Date so that Nation Rise will not be in violation of its contract before the judicial review also requested by the developer is heard.

In the meantime, construction has halted.

Quoted in a news release put out by Wind Concerns Ontario*, the chair of the Concerned Citizens of North Stormont Margaret Benke said the power project had been a very divisive issue for the community, and she hoped North Stormont could again be a “good place to grow.”

The power developer however is claiming millions in losses if the project is halted, according to a report today in the National Observer. EDPR claims it has put more than $200 million into the project to date, although fewer than 10 of the 29 turbines are actually built.

The project could have cost Ontario electricity customers as much as $400 million over its 20-year contract. Property value loss could also have been significant for people forced to live beside the 29 50-storey wind turbines.

Also in the National Observer article, Wind Concerns Ontario president and Ottawa Wind Concerns chair Jane Wilson pointed out that citizen concerns about the project were not personal but environmental in nature. The appeal brought forward by the community group dealt with wildlife, health and safety, and potential damage to the water table in an area designated as a “fragile aquifer” by the province.

“There has never been a cost-benefit analysis or impact study done for Ontario’s wind power program,” Wilson says.

The Concerned Citizens of North Stormont spent about $100,000 to launch their appeal and various legal actions against the power project.

To donate toward legal fees, please send a cheque to Concerned Citizens of North Stormont, 14950 County Road 9, Berwick ON  K0C 1G0.

 

*Both CCNS and Ottawa Wind Concerns are members of the community group coalition, Wind Concerns Ontario.

Turbines go up, turbines come down

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Crane used to dismantle grid-scale wind turbine in Prince Edward County this week. Meanwhile, more going up south of Ottawa [Photo: Alliance to Protect Prince Edward County]

Contrast between North Stormont and Prince Edward County an indication of Ontario’s muddled electricity file

November 19, 2019

While people in Prince Edward County are celebrating the demise of the “White Pines” wind power project as government-ordered decommissioning of the industrial-scale wind turbines is going on this week, the people of North Stormont, south-east of Ottawa, are watching the behemoths go UP.

The White Pines project in Prince Edward County, developed by Germany-based wpd, was a controversial power project appealed several times by residents concerned about the environmental impact of the wind power generators and infrastructure on wildlife and people. The original plan was for 29 turbines; that was reduced to 27 after legal action and finally, to nine.

The new Ontario government passed legislation not long after taking office cancelling the power project — residents say it should never have been approved in the first place.

But now, more than 30 giant grid-scale wind turbines are currently being erected in North Stormont, near the communities of Finch, Crysler and Berwick by Portugal-based power developer EDPR. EDPR sold the project last year to Axium Infrastructure; that consortium also owns the K2 Wind power project in Huron County, which has been the subject of appeals, and post-operation, hundreds of noise complaints.

K2 Wind is currently under order by the Director of the environment ministry to implement and evaluate a noise assessment plan for more than 80 of its 140 turbines, which were found to be out of compliance with Ontario regulations for wind turbine noise emissions.

“Nation Rise” as the North Stormont project is called, was also the subject of appeals, and a last appeal was submitted to the Ontario environment minister six months ago. No word on the status of the appeal, nor on the status of a request for a stay of construction, filed in May.

Residents are concerned not only about noise (the project got to use old, pre-2017 noise assessment rules under the Wynne government), and also damage to the environment, especially a fragile or “vulnerable” water table.

The Nation Rise final approval came through days before the provincial election in 2018, despite the “caretaker” government convention which discourages major decisions during the election period. The Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) also granted a Notice To Proceed days after the election, despite being warned by government leader MPP Todd Smith not to approve any more projects.

Now, the giant towers are rising in the quiet communities of North Stormont, as the power developer races to meet a December operational deadline. The local MPP Jim McDonell claims there’s nothing he can do about it—that Notice To Proceed meant the project had to go ahead.

Pre-construction liability for Nation Rise (i.e., the cost of the government cancelling the contract) was about $400,000. If it goes into operation, the people of Ontario will bear the cost of the project which will add more than $400 million to electricity bills, over the 20-year life of the power contract.

So, while the turbines go up, others — already approved and built — come down. And you’re paying for it all.

OTTAWA WIND CONCERNS

Turbine blades at Johnstown, destined for Nation Rise

The local community group Concerned Citizens of North Stormont are having a fund-raising country breakfast December 1st. https://concernedcitizensofnorthstormont.ca/

 

Ontario electricity file “absolute disaster”: Premier Ford

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NationRiseTurbineParts-Oct24

Turbine components waiting for delivery to Nation Rise wind power project. Another $450 million to go on your hydro bill. [Photo: Leanne Baldwin]*

October 24, 2019

Ontario Premier Doug Ford gave his first interview after the federal election today, with host Bill Carroll on Ottawa talk radio CFRA.

The topic was how Ford could work with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau after an acrimonious election campaign in which Ford was repeatedly used as an example of Conservative government dedicated to budget cuts, but the conversation included the cost of electricity in Ontario, and why hydro bills are set to go up next week, when the Ford government had promised to get them down.

“[The electricity file] has been very frustrating,” Ford told Bill Carroll. He put some of the blame on the McGuinty-Wynne governments which cut lucrative deals for wind and solar with “cronies” Ford said, and Ontarians are now stuck paying above-market rates for electricity.

“We’re trying to get a handle on it,” he said.

Meanwhile, despite a citizen appeal that cost the people of North Stormont, south of Ottawa, about $100,000 in legal fees as they brought forward numerous, serious concerns about the impact of grid-scale wind turbines on people and the environment, the 100-megawatt Nation Rise wind power project is under construction.

It will cost Ontario electricity customers more than $450 million over its 20-year contract.

And, in Chatham-Kent, another wind power project is being built: Romney Wind is being built by EDF of France. That will add over $250 million to electricity bills.

“If you set out to destroy the electricity file in Ontario, you could not have done a better job than they[McGuinty and Wynne] did,” Ford said.

ottawawindconcerns@gmail.com

*Note the pickup truck in the lower left corner of the photo—an idea of the scale of the wind turbines

Construction in full swing at Nation Rise

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October 21, 2019

Despite a full appeal of the Nation Rise wind power project by community group Concerned Citizens of North Stormont, which raised serious issues of concern about human health and the environment, and despite a final appeal and request for a Stay of construction, the 100-megawatt wind power project is under construction in the Finch, Berwick, and Crysler areas.

Construction updates are to be provided by the developer EDPR on its website here

There have already been citizen complaints about dust and noise during construction, as well as a couple of mishaps with trucks and trailers delivering turbine components, and citizens have reported concerns about road safety.

EDPR at its construction update meeting in Finch last week said anyone concerned about safety, or who notices a worksite where there are no flagmen, should contact the company at: Email: nationrise@edpr.com      Phone: (613) 240-0348

The Ottawa Citizen recently ran an article by Kelly Egan which outlined community concerns. Ontario does not need more intermittent or variable wind power, which is produced out of phase with demand (source Auditor General Ontario). The Nation Rise project will cost Ontario electricity customers $450 million over its 20-year contract.

 

Return of land-use planning for renewable energy means action needed now, Ottawa committee told

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April 4, 2019

The medical report supporting Ontario’s wind turbine noise regulations is now 10 years old–the regulations need to be updated

Ottawa Wind Concerns executive members Jane Wilson and Michael Baggott spoke at the meeting of the Ottawa Agricultural and Rural Affairs Committee (ARAC) today, and alerted the Committee that action is needed following new amendments to regulations on wind turbines by the Ford government.

A wind power project was proposed in 2008 for the North Gower-Richmond area, with potential to spread to Osgoode. The project did not proceed when the Germany-based proponent failed to qualify for the last round of proposals under the Wynne government. It would have exposed hundreds of people to wind power generator noise — that fact was acknowledged at the time by the power developer.

“Today, we know a lot more about wind power,” said Ottawa Wind Concerns Chair Jane Wilson. “We know that many wind turbines in Ontario were sited improperly and we know that many mistakes were made — the former Energy Minister said that in 2017. And, we know there are thousands of records of noise complaints in Ontario, that have not been resolved, and are waiting on enforcement of regulations.”

Now, the new Ontario government is making changes but they require action from Ontario municipalities. Four new amendments to regulations are in response to Ontario municipalities demanding a return of local land-use planning powers, which were stripped from municipalities by the McGuinty government and the Green Energy Act.

“The amendments have not been proclaimed yet,” Wilson said, “but we need to be ready in the event a wind power proposal is made in future.”

One of the proposals is that power developers must balance any environmental impacts against the benefit of their proposed power project. “The problem is,” Wilson told the Committee, “Ontario’s rules on wind turbine noise and setbacks for safety are inadequate and out of date. The supporting document the previous government used is now ten years old, and does not reflect practices in other countries around the world.”

She added that the Ontario regulations on noise do not meet new guidelines published last fall by the World Health Organization.

“You have to remember that wind turbines produce a range of noise emissions— it’s not like barking dogs, or traffic.”

The amended regulations also require power developers to prove their project meets all zoning regulations locally. This is a problem, Wilson said, because under the Green Energy Act, municipalities had no say, so there was no reason for them to have any such zoning or bylaws as would apply to the huge wind power projects.

Ottawa Wind Concerns referred to a comment document prepared by Wind Concerns Ontario, which recommended municipalities ask the Ford government for a transition period in which they could begin the work on bylaws, and to develop new, adequate rules for setbacks between homes and turbines, and new noise limits for wind turbines.

Ottawa has already shown leadership Wilson said, in passing a bylaw asking for “substantive” input to wind turbine projects, and now is the time to take action to protect residents from the industrial-scale wind power projects.

Councillor Scott Moffatt thanked the presenters for the information, and also Wind Concerns Ontario for its work to protect rural communities.

Several North Gower residents attended the meeting.

OttawaWindConcerns@gmail.com

Presentation here: NOTES FOR ARAC presentation-Apr4-2019

Wind Concerns Ontario regulation summary document: Summary of Regulation Changes jan 3