Day 6 of Ostrander Point — More cross-examination of Dr. Catling
[Report by Henri Garand, Chair of APPEC. Report by PECFN also included.]
Monday’s ERT hearing was largely a reprise of the cross-examination Dr. Paul Catling had already endured by the Ministry of Environment’s lawyer.
This time Gilead Power’s chief lawyer, Douglas Hamilton, conducted Dr. Catling’s five-hour ordeal. The questions were all about field notes vs. final reports, research methodologies and sample sizes, and botanical vs. engineering issues:
- When had Dr. Catling visited Ostrander Point? How long had he stayed? Which parts had he visited? Who accompanied him? Why were certain plant species listed in the two articles he had written on Ostrander Point, but were not recorded in his field notes? How did his field notes relate to the habitat and plant communities he had described?
- Had Dr. Catling read one or another Stantec report prepared for Gilead Power? Was he familiar with the mitigation measures proposed?
- Did Dr. Catling agree with published guidelines on proper research methodology? Which methods had he used in carrying out his own research? Had he studied the depth of the soil, moisture content, bedrock substructure, or water chemistry? What were the basis and his qualifications, then, for making comments on hydrology.
- How had Dr. Catling arrived at his estimate that environmental harm would extend over 50 hectares?
- Were Dr. Catling’s comments “partisan” and therefore at odds with the declaration he had signed as an expert witness?
Despite unfailing courtesy, the cross-examination seemed more suitable for a criminal proceeding and at times became a test of memory. The pace was excruciatingly slow because Hamilton referred Dr. Catling to multiple documents in several binders and introduced new documents for him to peruse. The questions became more and more lengthy and had to be repeated when their first delivery was too rapid and confusing.
Throughout the day Dr. Catling displayed remarkable patience, persistence, and even humour in defending his research and expert opinion that serious and irreversible harm would occur to a major part of Ostrander Point. The rigour of the cross-examinations indicates the strength of Dr. Catling’s evidence and expertise.
In re-examination, under PECFN lawyer Eric Gillespie, Dr. Catling was able to rebut many of Hamilton’s aspersions and implied criticisms. These were his major points:
- Ostrander Point scored highly as an important local alvar environment because of its size and species diversity. One of his articles discussed only four of possibly 15 plant communities at the site. Stantec had surveyed only 30 percent of the area.
- No wind energy project, as far as he knew, had ever been built anywhere on an alvar.
- Water is a defining feature of the OP alvar environment, and the hydrologic effects of construction are matters of botany, not engineering. Irreversible harm would result from changes in water flow, nutrient dispersion, and contamination by construction and maintenance vehicles. The effects would extend over 50 hectares, not just the six used for access roads, parking, and wind turbine bases.
- Stantec had not carried out a hydrological study.
- Mitigation measures, such as the proposed alvar management plan, would not be successful in restoring alvar. Such projects elsewhere involved management of sites (e.g. quarries) that were maintained like botanical gardens; they had not produced complex, self-sustaining alvar ecosystems.
- His own field work and random sampling revealed more species at risk than those reported by Stantec. His findings could be verified by any competent botanist.
- He had initially visited Ostrander Point to collect data for a private project on the flora of Prince Edward County. His field notes reflected this purpose, while his articles drew on both the notes and his memories of the site.
- One of the persons accompanying him on the visits is a botanist with whom he has collaborated on articles for nearly forty years. Only three weeks ago did she join the board of PECFN.
The day ended with yet another attempt to set a schedule for further hearings. Eric Gillespie called attention again to the imbalance between examination and cross-examination. He said that MOE’s and Gilead’s lawyers were essentially proposing a one-to-four ratio in their favour. This was both inappropriate for the ERT process and unfair to appellants. Chair Robert Wright expects to resolve the differences on Tuesday and constrain the length of cross-examinations.
Thanks once more to the many APPEC members who kept up an audience size of approximately 50 during both morning and afternoon sessions. Below, with thanks, is Myrna Wood and Cheryl Anderson’s hearing summary for PECFN members.
Wednesday’s ERT hearing continues at Sophiasbugh town hall at 9:30 a.m.
PECFN witness Kari Gunson is scheduled to testify. Ms. Gunson is a Principal Road Ecologist for Eco-Kare International. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Zoology and Ecology from the University of Calgary, a Master of Science in Conservation Biology from the University of Cape Town, and a Master of Science in Geospatial Technologies from New York State University. For the past 13 years she has worked as a contract road ecologist on Road Mitigation Projects throughout North America, including Banff National Park, Montana, New York, Vermont, and Ontario.
[Report by Myrna Wood and Cheryl Anderson, Board Members of PECFN]
The harassment of Paul Catling is finally over!
Dr. Paul Catling began his testimony as an expert witness to the Environmental Review Tribunal on March 4. Dr Catling is an acknowledged expert on the geography of Alvar ecosystems. After his initial one hour presentation, Dr. Catling has endured approximately 15 hours of cross examination at the hands of the Ministry of the Environment and Gilead Power lawyers.
Yesterday, Gilead’s lawyer, Mr. Hamilton, questioned Dr. Catling about the 4, 1-acre alvar areas he had identified in his presentation. Using other articles Paul had written Mr. Hamilton compared these lists of plants as if they proved errors in his assessment of the site. Paul repeated his reasoning that only 30% of the vegetation has been investigated.
Mr. Hamilton questioned Paul’s qualifications to make comments on the movement of water and the expected effects of construction. Hamilton’s claim that Paul was being a ‘partisan’ because he had visited Ostrander Point with friends was explained by the fact that, initially, the visit was to do research for a book on the flora of Prince Edward County.
At the end of the day Paul was as clear and direct in his assessment of the site as he was the first day. The many hours of cross examination have allowed for many repetitions of some of the facts that make Ostrander Point the worst place for wind turbines. Everyone is appreciative of Paul Catling’s efforts to conserve this important site.
At the end of the day, the Tribunal made comments about scheduling that lead to the hope that in the future cross examinations will be kept to a reasonable time limit.