The Ministry of Environment issued an approval Thursday, Dec. 20 for Gilead Power’s nine-turbine Ostrander Point Project in Prince Edward County.
As a part of the standard Renewable Energy Approvals process, any resident of Ontario has fifteen days from the notice of approval to request an appeal of the decision by the Environmental Review Tribunal at the Ministry.
The proposal was loaded onto the registry Nov. 30, 2011 and the approval loaded Dec. 20, 2012. Public consultation on the proposal was provided for 81 days, from Nov. 30, 2011 to Feb. 19, 2012. There were 1,517 comments on the proposal: 1000 comments were received in writing and 517 were received online. The dates brought the ire of Todd Smith, Prince Edward Hastings MPP.
“This is the second year in a row that the ministry has tried to silence public comment on this project by making sure that it coincided with the holiday season,” said Smight. “That kind of behaviour is unacceptable, it’s unprofessional and it makes a disgrace of the ministry to engage in such underhanded tactics. This kind of tactic has become far too common for the government when it comes to the green energy file.
Smith pointed to a recent report by the province’s Environmental Commissioner which criticized the Environmental Approvals process and slammed the government for planning wind power projects in Important Bird Areas, like the one on the south shore of Prince Edward County.
“This government has repeatedly proven that if there’s a closed door that they can do something behind, they’ll find it,” said Smith. “Honesty and transparency have never been high on this government’s priority list. The Environmental Commissioner just two months ago criticized the government for engaging in exactly this kind of behaviour. The Ministry of Environment has just said that it’s willing to ignore the advice of its own Environmental Commissioner. It also shows a lack of respect for the residents and municipal government of Prince Edward County.”
The Ministry’s decision reads:
A Renewable Energy Approval has been issued to Ostrander Point GP Inc, as general partner for and on behalf of Ostrander Point Wind Energy LP to engage in a renewable energy project in respect of a Class 4 wind facility consisting of the construction, installation, operation, use and retiring of 9 turbines, rated at 2.5 MW generating output capacity, with a total name plate capacity of 22.5 MW. The facility will be connected to Hydro One’s distribution system.
This Class 4 wind facility, known as the Ostrander Point project, is located in Prince Edward County, Ontario. The project will consist of 9 wind turbine generators. Emissions discharged to the atmosphere include noise.
The Renewable Energy Approval requires the proponent to construct, install, operate, use and retire the facility in accordance with specific terms and conditions. The terms and conditions, as summarised below, require the proponent to:
– properly decommission the facility upon retirement of the facility,
-construct and install the facility within 3 years of the date of the approval,
-construct and install the facility in accordance with the documentation considered for the issuance of this approval,
-receive all required permits under the Endangered Species Act, 2007, prior to construction or installation,
-carry out acoustic audits of certain noise generating components of the facility, including the transformer substation and wind turbine generators,
-comply with the ministry’s noise emission limits at all times,
-manage stormwater and control sediment and erosion during and post construction,
-prohibit water-taking activities to less than 50,000 litres of water per day,
-design, construct and operate a spill containment system to current and best standards,
– implement the Environmental Effects and Monitoring Plan for bird and bat monitoring,
-retain a third party for the implementation of the environmental effects monitoring plan for wildlife and wildlife habitat,
-conduct a research project to determine the effectiveness of radar technology,
– make all monitoring reports available on website,
-prepare a Traffic Management Plan to be provided to the municipality and enter into a traffic Users Agreement,
-properly address any archaeological resources discovered,
-create a community liaison committee with members of the public and with the company,
-maintain ongoing communication with interested Aboriginal communities,
-maintain records of the operation and maintenance of equipment and inspections and complaints related to the facility,
– notify the ministry of complaints received alleging adverse effect caused by the construction, installation, operation, use or retirement of the facility, and
-notify the ministry prior to a change of ownership.
Additional information regarding this project:
The applicant has also applied for an authorization under the Endangered Species Act (2007) for habitat for Blanding’s Turtle and Eastern Whip-poor-will. The applicant is seeking a permit and has committed to providing an overall benefit to both species. The applicant intends to achieve this through activities such as habitat preservation, rehabilitation, financial support to fund graduate research related to the Eastern Whip-poor-will, and value added monitoring for multiple years to gather new information and knowledge about Blanding’s Turtles.
Highlights of key Endangered Species Act permit conditions include:
-creation of 37.64 hectares of habitat for Blanding’s Turtle and Eastern Whip-poor-will for a minimum of 20 years
-no construction activities to occur between the months of May – October of any year to avoid most critical life cycle period for Eastern Whip-poor-will and Blanding’s Turtle
-protocols for species encounters
-scientific research requirements for the Eastern Whip-poor-will
Comments received were reviewed by the ministry and summarized below:
Concerns regarding potential impact to birds, bats and butterflies
The Natural Heritage Assessment (NHA) discusses the significance of the site for migratory birds and other wildlife. The potential effects to birds using this habitat and the mitigation measures that have been committed to by the applicant are discussed in the NHA. The applicant will implement mitigation measures including operational controls and periodic turbine shutdown to minimize impacts to birds. A comprehensive bat monitoring program has been proposed and reviewed by the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR). Mitigation measures including blade feathering and periodic turbine shutdown at certain points of the year will also be used to minimize impacts to bats. In addition, the applicant has committed to avoiding construction in breeding seasons and will also be creating habitat for endangered species. MNR has reviewed the NHA and is satisfied with the mitigation measures that have been proposed.
Concerns related to health and safety
The Ministry of the Environment (MOE) has built safety requirements into Ontario Renewable Energy Approval Regulation (O. Reg 359/09). For wind facilities, a proponent must meet section 53 of O. Reg. 359/09, which prohibits a proponent to place a turbine closer than the height of the turbine to a property boundary.
The applicant included a detailed review of available information relating to public health and safety within the Renewable Energy Approval (REA) documentation. The Construction Plan Report and the Design and Operations Report discuss potential health and safety impacts associated with the project. Minimum setback requirements have been met in all cases, the noise report meets MOE guidelines and the applicant has committed to implementing appropriate construction and operational health and safety protocols.
Further, a condition has been imposed in the REA to operate and maintain the facility in accordance with good engineering practices and as recommended by the equipment suppliers.
While mandatory consultation requirements are specified in REA Regulation (O.Reg. 359/09), it is not prescriptive in regards to the techniques or methods used. MOE has reviewed the proponent’s Consultation Report and deemed that it satisfies the legislative requirements outlined in O. Reg. 359/09.
The applicant conducted an extensive consultation program that commenced in 2007, including hosting several public meetings, releasing draft REA reports for public review, and numerous meetings with local residents, government agencies and Aboriginal communities.
MOE has imposed a condition in the REA requiring the proponent to create a Community Liaison Committee for the Ostrander Point Wind Energy Park project. This Community Liaison Committee will be made up of individuals in the community and company representatives. The aim of the committee will be to act as a liaison, facilitating two way communications between the Company and members of the public with respect to the project. It will provide a forum for the Company to provide regular updates to the community.
Concerns about project location and siting of turbines
The proponent has identified the current area as being the location of the proposed project due to various factors including a good wind resources, available land base, proximity to load center, and availability of capacity in the local electrical grid to accept electricity generated by the project.
Three turbines that were originally proposed were removed from the project layout by the proponent to address concerns raised throughout the planning of the project.
The project has been reviewed and determined to meet all applicable setback requirements.
Concerns about setbacks from residents
The range of setback distances for wind facilities with one or more specified turbine is provided in the table in Section 55 of O. Reg. 359/09. The table of noise setbacks is used to illustrate the closest distance the base of any turbine can be from the nearest noise receptor. The minimum setback distance of 550 metres (m) must be met in all cases and greater numbers of turbines may result in higher required setback distances applied to the nearest turbine. Proponents are also given the option of conducting a noise study to prove that siting turbines closer than the setback distances (but no closer than 550 m) in the table to Section 55 of O. Reg. 359/09 will not cause adverse effects. Such a study must be prepared in accordance with MOE’s Noise Guidelines for Wind Farms (2008) and must be submitted as part of the REA application.
For this project, the applicant completed a noise impact assessment that was reviewed by MOE. It was concluded that the applicant has met and is in compliance with all applicable sound level limits as identified in MOE’s Noise Guidelines for Wind Farms (2008).
The setback distances are based on MOE’s conservative sound level limit of 40 dBA at the nearest noise receptor. This stringent 40 dBA sound level limit has been used in Ontario for the approval of industrial facilities built in rural areas for the past 30 years. Furthermore, this sound level limit is consistent with the World Health Organization’s recommendation that the outdoor annual average night sound level should not exceed 40 dBA.
The project exceeds the minimum 550 m setback distance from all receptors and is compliant with O. Reg. 359/09.
Impact on property values
The Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) is the provincial agency that determines property assessment values. MPAC’s analysis of property sales has not indicated that wind turbines that are either abutting or close to a property have either a positive or negative impact on the value.
On March 29, 2012, the Assessment Review Board, an independent tribunal of the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General, released a decision regarding a property on Wolfe Island. The Board found that based on the evidence in this case there appeared to be no evidence of any negative impact to the value of the property.
MPAC continues to monitor property values in areas where wind turbine are present and will reflect any impact to property values in the 2012 province-wide Assessment Update.
Impacts to local roads
Details regarding the transportations routes to the site have been provided within the REA documents. The applicant has committed to being responsible for any damages/repairs to local roads as a result of the project construction.
A condition has been imposed in the REA requiring the applicant to prepare a traffic management plan in consultation with Prince Edward County and to enter into a road user’s agreement with Prince Edward County.
Wind turbines do not generate adequate electricity and are not efficient
The Province of Ontario has identified wind as one component of a diversified energy mix for the province, as identified in Ontario’s Long-Term Energy Plan. The Ontario Power Authority, the agency responsible for supply procurement, and the Independent Electricity System Operator, the agency responsible for the reliability of Ontario electricity system, have both researched, modeled and proposed a target for wind (10% by 2030) that ensures an efficient and reliable system supply to meet Ontario electricity demands while satisfying the Government’s and the Ontario public’s goals for new supply.
MOE is committed to providing timely services for receiving, assessing, and coordinating responses to all complaints related to potential environmental incidents (including those from wind farms). MOE’s first level of field response is provided by environmental officers working out of the MOE’s District or Area Offices. For example, in the case of an incident involving wind farm operations noise that has resulted in a complaint call into MOE, the District staff will attempt to verify the complaint and assess the impact on the complainant, which may include several visits to the complainant’s residence at various times of the day. After the site assessment is completed, District staff will decide whether actions need to be taken to resolve the situation.
Since September 2009, MOE has been proactively inspecting existing wind facilities in Ontario. Inspections include an evaluation of approval requirements such as equipment location, operation and maintenance requirements, records related to environmental complaints, measures taken to address the cause of complaints and compliance with transformer sound level limits. Additionally, to follow up on citizen’s complaints about wind turbine noise, Environmental Officers will attend wind facilities and make an assessment as to whether wind turbine noise is causing an adverse effect on neighbouring residents.
MOE uses a progressive suite of enforcement tools to ensure wind farms operate in compliance with approval conditions. This includes both voluntary and mandatory abatement measures to address non-compliance. The manner in which the complaint is addressed may vary from site to site and can include continued noise monitoring, a noise reduction plan and shutting down turbines. MOE also regularly inspects projects to ensure compliance. If these proactive inspections trigger the need for additional noise monitoring, MOE will use the tools in the new protocol to ensure noise limits are adhered to by wind farms.
MOE staff have reviewed the noise assessment provided by the proponent. MOE’s noise engineers have confirmed that the project will meet MOE’s Noise Guidelines for Wind Farms. Further, the noise assessment and the facility meet the requirements of O. Reg 359/09.
If the public has any noise concerns, incidents to report, or has any complaints they would like to raise relating to a wind farm operation, they should contact their local District or Area Office. MOE’s first level of field response is provided by environmental officers working out of MOE’s District or Area Offices.
As part of the REA approval, there is a decommissioning condition. This condition requires the proponent to comply with all commitments made in the REA documentation. Further, consultation with the local District Manager of MOE will be required in order to meet all the requirements at the time of decommissioning.
MOE has included a condition for the proponent to contact the ministry prior to decommissioning of the facility, to ensure that the lands can be restored to their original use.
Moratorium on wind turbines
When developing the Renewable Energy Approvals regulation, MOE drew upon extensive existing scientific research from around the world. Reviewing a large body of peer-reviewed reports and studies enabled MOE to develop a regulation that was based on the best available science to protect human health and the environment. MOE continues to review emerging scientific and engineering studies to ensure Ontario’s REA regulation remains in line with the latest and best in science.
It is recognized that people have varying opinions about the changes a wind farm will bring to the visual landscape. Wind turbines and the associated infrastructure take up only a small portion of the land on which they are situated.
Concerns related to shadow flicker
Although not required in O. Reg. 359/09, the proponent completed a Shadow Flicker Assessment for the Ostrander Point Wind Energy Park project. This was included in the proponent’s Environmental Review Report under the previous regulatory process.
Concerns about the length of time of the Environmental Registry comment period
Most proposals for instruments are posted on the Environmental Registry for 30 days. Additional public participation opportunities may be provided at the discretion of ministry decision-makers after taking into consideration such factors as the complexity of the proposal in question, level of public interest, and extent and nature of mitigation measures that may be required to prevent harm to the environment.
The ministry provided 81 days for the public to provide comments on this project.
Concerns regarding impact to the local economy
There are various economic benefits to the Municipality including monies spent locally during construction on goods and services, and contribution to the annual municipal property taxes.
The applicant is expecting to pay approximately $50,000 in municipal taxes each year for the site. In addition, is it estimated that over $5 million in construction expenditures will accrue to persons and business in the local area. It has also been confirmed that the project is located outside of the County’s tourism corridor (including the Wine and Taste Trails) and is not anticipated to have an impact on the County’s tourism industry.
Concerns about impacts from construction
The applicant prepared a construction plan report which outlined how the company would minimize any potential impacts from construction or traffic.
MOE has reviewed and imposed conditions relating to stormwater management and traffic management to ensure that these impacts are minimized.
Concerns about impacts to natural environment and wildlife
MNR has reviewed the Natural Heritage Assessment and provided a Confirmation Letter as per section 28 (2) of O. Reg 359/09. MNR provided a letter for this project confirming that the applicant used applicable evaluation criteria or procedures accepted by the MNR for the determination of the existence and boundaries of natural features; site investigation and records review; and evaluation of the significance or provincial significance of the natural features.
A bird and bat monitoring plan has been developed in accordance with MNR’s guidelines. This monitoring plan has been reviewed and approved by MNR.
A condition is being imposed in the REA to require the applicant to implement its bird and bat monitoring plan, as submitted in its REA application. In addition, MOE is requiring that the applicant retain a third party to ensure that the monitoring plan is being implemented as it is documented. MOE is also imposing a condition requiring the applicant to conduct a research project on its proposed radar technology for advanced detection of birds and bats.
Archaeological and Cultural Heritage concerns
Stage 1 and 2 archaeological assessments were conducted and the results have indicated no concerns with proceeding with construction at the project location. The Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport has signed off on the results and findings of the Stage 1 and Stage 2 Archaeological Assessments. The net effect to archaeological and heritage resources are considered minimal given the mitigation measures used to document and recover any potential archaeological materials.
Out of scope comments
A number of comments were received that were not project specific. As they did not pertain to the project, MOE staff did not consider these comments in the decision making process.
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Any resident of Ontario may require a hearing by the Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) within 15 days after the date this decision was loaded to the Environmental Registry (December 20, 2012) by written notice served upon the following:
Environmental Commissioner of Ontario
1075 Bay Street
Phone: (800) 701-6454
Director, Section 47.5 Environmental Protection Act
Environmental Assessment and Approvals Branch
2 St. Clair Avenue West
Ostrander Point GP Inc, as general partner for and on behalf of
Ostrander Point Wind Energy LP
158 Casimir St 2nd floor
Port Perry, Ontario
Environmental Review Tribunal
655 Bay Street
Phone: (416) 212-6349
Fax: (416) 314-4506
An applicant for a hearing shall state in the notice requiring the hearing, (a) a description of how engaging in the renewable energy project in accordance with the renewable energy approval will cause, (i) serious harm to human health, or (ii) serious and irreversible harm to plant life, animal life or the natural environment; (b) the portion of the renewable energy approval in respect of which the hearing is required; and (c) the relief sought.
Further information is provided on the ERT’s website at: http://www.ert.gov.on.ca/english/guides/index.htm.