Appeals filed by a Port Perry-based company and an Ontario ministry aren’t surprising for a small group of Prince Edward County residents but they are disappointing.
Cheryl Anderson, spokesperson for the Prince Edward County Field Naturalists, said her group anticipated Gilead Power to appeal a recent Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) decision that ruled the proposed wind turbine project at Ostrander Point posed serious risk to wildlife – namely Blanding’s turtles – on the Crown land. However, she said, the fact the Ontario Ministry of the Environment also filed a counter-appeal was somewhat a shock.
“We’re not surprised. We’d been advised to expect it,” she said. “It is discouraging the Ministry of the Environment also counter-appealed because, I think, as citizens of Ontario we expect our Ministry of the Environment and our Ministry of Natural Resources to be protecting special places and special habitats. They’re not doing that.”
Neither representatives of Gilead Power or the MoE could be reached for comment Monday.
The Ministry of Environment issued an approval to Ostrander Point Wind Energy LP for the nine-turbine Ostrander Point project on Dec. 20, 2012. Last month, the ERT stated in its ruling that “the Tribunal finds that mortality due to roads, brought by increased vehicle traffic, poachers and predators, directly in the habitat of Blanding’s turtle, a species that is globally endangered and threatened in Ontario, is serious and irreversible harm to Blanding’s turtles at Ostrander Point Crown Land Block that will not be effectively mitigated by the conditions in the (Renewable Energy Approval).”
The decision marks the first time an appeal of a wind turbine project has been upheld in Ontario.
“I don’t think Gilead has a leg to stand on. I’m sure we will remain victorious,” Anderson said.
The proponents say the serious and irreversible harm test applies province-wide and it was the responsibility of the field naturalists to prove the project would cause serious harm to the turtle population across the province.
Anderson admitted the exact population of the turtles in the area is unknown but stressed sightings have been few and far between.
“I can’t even hazard a guess. Various people have found one or two but they do move around from place to place,” she said.
Protecting the species is paramount as the turtle population is dwindling.
“Once a species is on the species-at-risk list and once they reach the level where they are considered endangered we are at risk of having that population go away,” she said. “We’ve already eradicated enough populations of different birds and animals and plants and insects that I think it’s part of our social philosophy to protect species that are in danger.”
Gilead and the MoE have 30 days to submit further materials to the court after which the field naturalists will have a further 30 days to respond.
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