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.
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
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.
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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
How the wind power industry made a fool out of Ontario
Noise complaints unanswered, wells contaminated, a huge job ahead to unwind the damage
April 1, 2019
It’s now almost a decade since Ontario passed the Green Energy and Green Economy Act, which opened the door to industrial-scale wind power developments throughout the province, and heralded ten years of environmental impact … for nothing.
In fact, the province had already approved a gigantic wind power project in Melancthon, and racked up hundreds of noise complaints before the Green Energy Act was passed — the government went ahead anyway.
Today, we have high electricity bills which are harming ordinary families and discouraging business investment; the government has records of thousands of complaints about wind turbine noise and vibration (mostly unresolved); there are 40 or more families in Chatham-Kent who trace the failure of their water wells to construction and operation of wind turbines on a fragile aquifer there; and, we are seeing the environmental impacts that were brought forward in citizen appeals of Renewable Energy Approvals now becoming reality.
Ontario citizens spent close to $10 million in after-tax dollars to protect their communities from the onslaught of large-scale wind power, according to a survey Wind Concerns Ontario did of our coalition members.
The Ontario wind power disaster should not have been a surprise.
Auditor General Jim McCarty chastised the McGuinty government for never having done a cost-benefit or impact study on the wind power program; subsequently, current Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk estimated that Ontario electricity customers overpaid for renewable energy by $9.2 billion.
Guaranteed to fail
The program to encourage large-scale wind power (the province had a choice back in 2004 onwards to go for small-scale power generation–that’s not what they chose, guided by wind lobbyists) was based on ideology and was criticized by such informed analysts as Michael Trebilcock, who said “This combination of irresponsibility and venality has produced a lethal brew of policies.”
Economics professor Ross McKitrick predicted, “If the goal [of the Green Energy Act] was to promote industry and create jobs, it is guaranteed to fail.”
And Tom Adams, who said, “Urban Ontario, including city-bound journalists, are largely unaware of the corrosive effects some wind developments are having on communities, neighbourhoods, even families. This is expropriation without compensation.”
The jobs never materialized, electricity bills went up, a new phrase “energy poverty” was coined, businesses closed or left, and families were forced to leave their homes because of unbearable noise.
Noise complaints are so prevalent in Huron County that the health unit launched a follow-up study (results will be published later this year). Preliminary data showed that 60% of the people participating in the follow-up were experiencing problems because of wind turbine noise.
Wind Concerns Ontario presented the government’s own noise complaint data as evidence at the appeal of the Nation Rise power project last summer; the approval was upheld regardless of citizen concerns about noise, and damage to a provincially designated “highly vulnerable aquifer.”
Meanwhile, reports of noise are investigated on behalf of the wind power operators by the same companies who prepared the original noise impact assessments for them; one such acoustics firm even boasts that it created the government’s noise assessment protocol.
The fox is not only in the hen house, he built it to ensure easy access.
As Ontario’s new government struggles with all this (Energy Minister Greg Rickford told the Legislature last week that this is a “very difficult” file), there is little to laugh about in Ontario today as the spring winds blow, and families face more sleepless nights.
What it looks like: Tree clearing for turbines in Prince Edward County [Photo: Alliance to Protect Prince Edward County]
At its first mandatory Community Liaison meeting held this past week in Crysler, Portugal based power developer EDP announced that construction will begin soon on the 33-turbine, 100-megawatt wind power project that will cover the communities of Finch, Crysler and Berwick.
In a story published by the Cornwall Standard-Freeholder EDP spokesperson, Toronto-based Ken Little, said that the first step will be clearing of trees, and construction of access roads for the turbines.
While the turbine type and size was not specified in documents filed with government at the time of application for the Renewable Energy Approval, Little said they will be German-built machines, built to a maximum height of 200 metres or 656 feet.
The Peace Tower in Ottawa in 321 feet.
Little was also asked if the company will be employing local workers during construction, but he said he could not guarantee that.
He did say that there will be a $300,000 benefit to the municipality.
Wind Concerns Ontario, however, estimates the property value loss for properties exposed to the noise and visual effects from the huge turbines could be in the millions, which could in turn have the effect of forcing the municipality to raiser taxes.
The power project could be operating by December of this year. It is estimated to cost the people of Ontario more than $380 million over 20 years; the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) said in its power supply forecast last fall that Ontario does not need any new power generation at this time.
Community group Concerned Citizens of North Stormont launched an appeal of the power project based on concerns about the impact of turbine construction and operation on the aquifer in North Stormont, which is designated as “highly vulnerable” and on safety and health concerns. The appeal was dismissed but the group said recently it is considering all other option, including a further appeal.
End unnecessary wind power project and save $400 million: Wind Concerns Ontario tells Premier Doug Ford
A new wind power project will be a huge expense to Ontario consumers, and has worrisome environmental features, too. End it, Wind Concerns Ontario says.
October 31, 2018
At the meeting of the Standing Committee on Social Policy at Queen’s Park on Monday, October 29, the president of the wind power industry’s trade association and lobbyist, the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) spoke against ending the Green Energy Act in Ontario because, he said, wind power is now the cheapest option for power generation.
He claimed that contracts in Alberta now average 3.7 cents per kilowatt hour, which actually excludes support payments funded by carbon taxes in that province. We leave analysis of this almost certainly false claim to the usual analysts (Parker Gallant, Scott Luft, Steve Aplin, Marc Brouillette and others), but we have questions:
Why did Ontario contract for wind power at Nation Rise for 8.5 cents per kWh?
Why is this project going ahead at all, when there is no demonstrated need for the power?*
Why will Ontario electricity customers have to pay more than $400 million for a power project we don’t need?
The Nation Rise project in North Stormont (between Cornwall and Ottawa) is an emblem of everything wrong with Ontario’s renewables policy, under the former government. The 100-megawatt power project, being developed by wind power giant EDP with head offices in Spain, is minutes away from the R H Saunders Generating Station, whose full 1,000-megawatt capacity powered by the St. Lawrence River is rarely used.
Wind power, on the other hand, unlike hydro power, is intermittent and not to be relied upon — in Ontario, wind power is produced out-of-phase with demand (at night and in the spring and fall when demand is low).
And, it’s expensive.
Lawrence Solomon, executive director of Energy Probe in Toronto wrote Monday in the Financial Post that Ontario’s renewables are a significant factor in the mess that is Ontario’s power system. Renewables, he said, “which account for just seven per cent of Ontario’s electricity output but consume 40 per cent of the above-market fees consumers are forced to provide. Cancelling those contracts would lower residential rates by a whopping 24 per cent”.
Nation Rise may cost Ontario as much as $451 million over the 20-year contract, or $22 million a year.**
But there is more on Nation Rise, which again highlights the problem with many wind power developments — the dramatic impact on the environment for little benefit.
Serious environmental concerns have arisen during the citizen-funded appeal of the Nation Rise project, including the fact that it is to be built on land that contains many areas of unstable Leda or “quick” clay, and it is also in an earthquake zone. No seismic assessments were asked for by the environment ministry, or done. In fact, a “technical expert” for the environment ministry did not visit the project site as part of his “technical review” it was revealed during the appeal, but instead visited quarries outside the area.
He testified in fact that he didn’t even know Leda clay was present until after his inspection, until after he filed his report with the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change, and until after he filed his evidence statement with the Environmental Review Tribunal.
Nation Rise received a conditions-laden Renewable Energy Approval just days before the writ for the June Ontario election.
It is Wind Concerns Ontario’s position that the Renewable Energy Approval for this project should be revoked, and the project ended, to save the environment, and save the people of Ontario hundreds of millions of dollars.
We don’t want to pay $400+ million for the power from Nation Rise.
*CanWEA and others neck-deep in the wind power game recite a statement purportedly from the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) in a Globe and M<ail article that Ontario will be in a power shortage in five years. This is false, of course, as the IESO hurried to correct.
**Thanks to Parker Gallant for these calculations.
Lawyer Maureen Cartier-Whitney chairs the appeal before the Environmental Review Tribunal. A geoscientist testified that the only mitigation is not to locate the wind turbines on the vulnerable areas where landslides and water contamination are possible.
Re-posted from Wind Concerns Ontario, October 15, 2018
Finch, Ontario — The Nation Rise wind power project, which received Renewable Energy Approval in May, poses a significant risk to people and the environment due to vibration connected to the construction and operation of the wind turbines, a geoscientist told the Environmental Review Tribunal when the citizen-funded appeal resumed today.
Angelique Magee said that the project area is located on the former Champlain Sea and the nature of the soils plus the presence of Leda or “quick” clay represents a “high potential” for landslides. She provided details of landslides that have occurred in Eastern Ontario and Western Quebec, including one that resulted in loss of life. She also recounted the story of the village of Lemieux which was evacuated due to risk of a landslide because of Leda clay and which subsequently did slide into the Nation River, causing a loss of land, killing fish and destroying fish habitat.
Leda clay is prevalent throughout the region, Magee said. The soil is such that when it is disturbed by vibration, it can become liquid, thus causing the landslides. The risk is high, McGee said, and would pose a serious risk to human health and a serious and irreversible risk to the environment.
She mentioned the fact that Eastern Ontario also has many earthquakes which would add to the risk, due to seismic vibration. She was asked if mitigation is possible, and answered that the proponent is supposed to identify all the wells in the project area, but has not fulfilled that requirement of the Renewable Energy Approval. “There is no assurance of the quantity or quality of water.”
The project area is situated on a “highly vulnerable aquifer” she noted and the wells serving homes, businesses and farms are often shallow or “dug” wells as opposed to drilled wells. The proponents’ information on wells is out of date, she added. The proponent’s lawyer, John Terry, asked if it isn’t true that there are many areas of vulnerable aquifers in Ontario. “Yes,” she responded “but it is important to consider local characteristics. In this case, that means the presence of the shallow wells, which would be affected.”
A third risk factor is the presence of karst topography which is characterized by fissures and can lead to contamination of groundwater in certain situations, construction vibration included.
The geoscientist was asked about the use of quarries in the proponents’ environmental assessment, which she said was not appropriate. The turbines would cause constant vibration, she said, which different from blasting occasionally.
When asked if the conditions of the REA would prevent harm, Ms Magee said, no. The measures proposed would not necessarily prevent a landslide or contamination of the groundwater, and the proponent has not conducted the proper identification of the water wells in the area, or done a proper assessment of the impact of seismic vibration on the soil and aquifer.
The only mitigation that would ensure no harm to people or the environment would be to not locate turbines in vulnerable areas such as this, McGee said.
In his cross-examination, lawyer Terry suggested that Magee’s interest was simply that she owns property in the Nation Rise project area, and her real concern was the value of her property. “My concerns are primarily based on geology,” she answered, “and yes, if the wind turbines affect the wells then I am concerned that homes will not be sellable.” Mr. Terry also tried to suggest that Ms Magee used Wikipedia as a source of information to which she responded that she used scientific studies and papers to prepare her evidence, the same papers that may have been used in the Wikipedia entry. She said, she may have used the Wikipedia entry I order to use language non-scientists could understand, she said.
The hearing continues October 16, and closing arguments will be presented in Toronto on November 23rd.