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Municipality, local citizen groups will appeal turbine approval

Two Prince Edward County citizen groups opposed to turbine projects along the south shore, and the municipality itself, will appeal the Ministry of the Environment’s decision to approve Gilead Power’s nine-turbine project at Ostrander Point.

“The Dec. 20 announcement was obviously chosen so that the 15-day time frame allowed for preparation and filing of an Environmental Review Tribunal appeal would coincide with the busy holiday period – evidence of the government’s contempt for its own due process,” said Garth Manning, chair of the County Coalition for Safe and Appropriate Green Energy.

Applicants for a hearing must state: “(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.”

Ostrander Point is on crown land within the globally significant Prince Edward County South Shore Important Bird Area.

“The property, on a major bird and bat migration route and home to several endangered species, is arguably the worst location in the province for wind turbines,” said Manning. “The MOE’s decision is an affront to the environmental community, which almost unanimously requested that Ostrander Point be designated as a “no go” zone for wind turbines. It flies in the face of the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario, who recently recommended that wind projects be kept out of Important Bird Areas.

“Although MOE attached conditions to its approval, they will not be effective in limiting bird and bat kills among the millions that fly through the area twice per year, nor will they adequately protect the habitat of resident species at risk such as whip-poor-will and Blanding’s turtle.”

The Alliance to Protect Prince Edward County (APPEC) will also continue to contest the approval.

“Both County residents and the broad environmental community have continually expressed their well-founded concerns and opposition to a project located in the middle of the globally significant South Shore Important Bird Area,” said Henri Garand, APPEC chair. “The threats to the alvar ecosystem, numerous migratory birds, and endangered species like the Blanding’s Turtle and Whip-poor-will are well documented. It is unconscionable that the MOE would ignore these specialists and rely on inadequately-researched reports by Gilead’s hired consultants. All for a project that will produce a trivial amount of electricity.”

PEC Mayor Peter Mertens has also said the County will file an appeal of the Dec. 20 decision before the 15-day deadline Jan. 4.

Senator Bob Runciman also blasted the Ontario Ministry of Environment for its approval of a wind energy project at Ostrander Point in Prince Edward County.

“This decision goes against local wishes, it threatens migratory birds and bats and it makes no sense from an energy standpoint,” Runciman said. “And to grant approval just before Christmas is clearly an attempt to avoid scrutiny. It’s not only wrong-headed, it’s under-handed.”

Runciman was the author of a 2011 motion unanimously endorsed by the Senate of Canada calling on the province of Ontario to institute a moratorium on wind-farm development along eastern Lake Ontario until the impact on birds and bats can be studied.

The Ontario senator’s concern stems from the experience with the wind farm on Wolfe Island, also in a designated Important Bird Area.

“That development has a kill rate for birds and bats that is seven times the industry average in Canada, primarily because it is located in the wrong spot. It is one of the deadliest wind farms in North America.
The same concerns apply to Ostrander Point, which has been described by Environment Canada as one of the best areas for birds in southern Ontario,” Runciman said.

“The governing Liberals are in the late stages of a leadership campaign. The incoming premier may very well reconsider this failed policy – a policy that has alienated rural Ontario, bypasses environmental and land use policies, will cost electricity customers billions and is causing grave damage to the Ontario economy,” Runciman said.

“In light of this, it is an absolute disgrace that the Ministry has approved this project right now. I call on the government to step in and put a stop to this,” Runciman said.