The federal environment minister has turned down one of the two requests she received to review the cumulative impact of wind energy projects along Lake Ontario.
In October, Sen. Bob Runciman asked Catherine McKenna, the federal minister of the environment and climate change, to look at how building wind turbines along the northeast shore of the lake would affect bird and bat species that migrate through the airspace.
“Several of the projects, particularly those in Prince Edward County and on Amherst Island, are located in internationally designated Important Bird Areas,” Runciman, a senator for Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, wrote in his Oct. 14 letter to McKenna.
“My concern is these projects are approved in isolation, with no consideration of the cumulative impact of a dozen or more large projects in close proximity and located directly on a migratory bird route.”
Runciman asked McKenna to use the authority she has under Section 14 of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.
Runciman said evidence from the Wolfe Island wind energy project shows it has among the highest bird and bat mortality in North America.
“If we extend this barrier further west along Lake Ontario, the consequences will be severe,” he wrote.
McKenna responded this week, in a letter to Runciman that stated existing provincial and federal regulations and legislation were sufficient to protect the environment.
“I appreciate that there are concerns related to wind turbines, such as the ones you raise in your letter. As with every source of electricity, federal laws such as the Migratory Birds Convention Act and the Species at Risk Act must be respected,” McKenna wrote.
“As Canada moves towards meeting its international climate change commitments and improving air quality, consideration for other potential health, environmental, ecological and wildlife impacts will continue to be assessed and addressed by all levels of government.”
McKenna wrote that current research shows wind turbines kill relatively few birds when compared to cats, windows on buildings, vehicles and transmission lines.
“Monitoring studies of existing wind farms in Ontario have shown that while some birds are incidentally killed, mortality rates as well as cumulative mortality of species that have been found incidentally killed to date are not likely to have a biologically significant impact on provincial population levels of those species,” McKenna wrote. “However, it is possible that turbine sites in areas with important populations of some species at risk could have impacts on those populations.”
In September, following an Environmental Review Tribunal ruling that dismissed an appeal of a 26-turbine energy project on the Amherst Island, the Association to Protect Amherst Island asked McKenna to review the cumulative effect of wind energy projects on Lake Ontario.
APAI’s letter to McKenna included a map showing 13 existing and proposed wind energy projects on land and offshore between Prince Edward County and Cape Vincent, N.Y., that the group said would create an “impenetrable wall across the shore” of eastern Lake Ontario.
There has been no response to APAI’s request.
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