Kingston Whig-Standard, November 16, 2015
A Conservative senator is calling out large environmental groups for their silence on the impact of wind turbines on bird populations.
Ontario Senator Bob Runciman, who in 2011 introduced a motion that was unanimously passed by the Senate calling for a moratorium on wind turbine developments in Important Bird Areas, said large environmental groups, such as the World Wildlife Fund and the David Suzuki Foundation have not addressed one of the biggest criticisms of wind energy.
“Thousands of birds are being needlessly slaughtered simply because these industrial wind farms are located in the wrong places,” Runciman wrote in a letter Monday. “Yet the very organizations dedicated to protecting wildlife have been shockingly silent. I’d like to know why.”
In an interview with the Whig, Runciman said the impacts on bird and bat populations has been ignored by groups such as the World Wildlife Fund Canada and the David Suzuki Foundation.
“Organizations that have essentially been silent on this. I think that has had a positive political impact for the government,” Runciman said.
“There’s simply not the recognition levels raised and no real effort to make people aware of it or express concern themselves as an organization.”
Runciman said those groups do not want to be appear to be opposed to green energy and do not want to get on the wrong side of the Liberal government.
Runciman also said larger environmental groups are based in large urban centres, such as Toronto, while wind energy projects are being proposed or built mainly in rural areas.
“I’m not talking about green energy itself, I’m talking about putting these turbines in these areas where they are going to kill thousands and thousands of birds and bats and jeopardize a significant amount of endangered species,” Runciman said.
Gideon Forman, a climate change policy analyst with the David Suzuki Foundation, agreed that wind turbines shouldn’t be placed in sensitive bird and bat areas.
But Forman said the impact on bird and bat populations should not be used to derail efforts to introduce more renewable energy in Ontario.
“Windmills do kill some birds but you need to put that in context,” Forman said.
“The greatest threat to birds, and indeed other wildlife, will be climate change so we absolutely need to ramp up properly sited renewables. We need to transition away from fossil fuels to renewable energy source, among them wind.
“We do need to put them in the right places. An important bird area is not the right place.”
Forman said research has indicated the number of birds killed by windmills is “tiny” compared to the number killed by flying into buildings and high tension power lines, pesticide use, vehicles and house cats.
“You need to put it in that context.”
Forman said the Suzuki Foundation is a charity and is non-partisan and has members in all areas of the country.
The provincial government is currently evaluating proposals from more than 40 companies bidding for large renewable energy contracts. Of the 565 megawatts of renewable energy the contracts are expected to produce, 300 megawatts is to come from wind energy.
Wind energy projects have been proposed, approved or built for areas stretching from Prince Edward County, Greater Napanee, Amherst Island, off shore near Main Duck Island and on Wolfe Island.