EAST POINT, P.E.I. – Don Humphrey remains convinced that a proposed expansion of an existing windmill farm in Eastern Kings will be harmful for local wetland habitat and for the migratory bird population.
Humphrey, a member of the Eastern Kings Community Association (EKCA), says the recent approval of the expansion was always a “foregone conclusion”.
On Wednesday, the province announced approval for the project, which would see the wind farm’s output doubled, with seven new wind turbines added to the existing 10. The project approval was announced on Wednesday by Environment, Water and Climate Change Minister Natalie Jameson, subject to 17 conditions.
The EKCA has been opposed to the expansion of the wind farm. The 17 conditions, placed as contingencies for the approval of the expansion, have done little to sway the group, Humphrey said.
“There was a lot of work drawing up those conditions. But they were designed to allay fears and assuage the people who are neutral or slightly against,” Humphrey said.
“They’re a spoof.”
The 17 conditions placed on the approval include a requirement that the P.E.I. Energy Corporation submit an environmental management plan to the province, stop construction if a nest or chick of a migratory bird is detected during construction and carry out a two-year bird and bat mortality monitoring study in the project area after completion.
The conditions also say that the death of 10 or more migratory birds or three or more bats within one day or night would require staff of Environment, Water and Climate Change to intervene. Another condition would see the department purchase a property of at least 42 hectares in size to offset the 14 hectares of forested land that would be lost as a result of the project.
In a media statement, Jameson said the conditions effectively balance the need to transition to alternative forms of energy with adequate protection of local wildlife.
“It allows this renewable energy project to proceed and reduce greenhouse gases emissions that cause climate change while mitigating the project’s impact to the Island’s ecosystem,” Jameson said in the statement.
But Humphrey said the location of the proposed expansion should be grounds for its rejection.
“That place is just teeming with wetlands, streams. It’s really a no man’s land,” Humphrey said.
“There’s nothing like it in P.E.I.”
Humphrey also said the regulatory process for the approval was flawed. The proponent is a crown corporation.
“There’s no third party adjudication of this. It’s all done in-house,” he said.
As part of the conditions for approval, an environmental management committee will be struck to monitor environmental concerns once the expansion is completed. The province says the committee will include representation from local community residents, the Souris and Area Wildlife Branch, the Mi’kmaq organization L’Nuey and the Rural Municipality of Eastern Kings.
But Fred Cheverie, watershed co-ordinator with the Souris and Area Wildlife Branch, said nobody within his organization was notified of their involvement in this committee before it was announced Wednesday.
“The first we heard of it, quite honestly, was when we read the media,” Cheverie said.
Cheverie said his organization had made submissions during the environmental impact assessment, opposing the wind farm expansion, based on its impact on the local bird and bat population and the fragmentation of local habitats.
He did not think the conditions imposed on the project have allayed his concerns.
“What you’re trying to do is mitigate harm. The harm is already done. The situation would be to create no harm and then you don’t have to mitigate the harm,” Cheverie said.
Lynne Lund, Opposition critic for environment, water and climate change, said she supports wind energy. But she had concerns about the location of the expansion.
“We have so little forest on P.E.I. that I’m always going to think it’s a better idea for us to not develop in those sensitive areas,” Lund said.
“That being said, I’m glad that this proposal is going to be subject to a number of environmental considerations.”
But Lund was surprised to hear that the Souris and Area Wildlife Branch had not been informed about plans to include it on an environmental monitoring committee.
“Announcing involvement or participation in a project without actively consulting that group beforehand is incredibly concerning,” she said.
“That’s not community buy-in, that’s top-down.”
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