Statement by CCSAGE on the White Pines wind project approval

On Thursday, July 16th, 2015, a Renewable Energy Approval (REA) was issued by the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) to White Pines Wind Incorporated (alias wpd Canada) for 27 of the 29 industrial wind turbines originally proposed, to be located in South Marysburgh and Athol. The two deleted were as a direct result of major efforts (and expense) by individuals concerned about the impact of these and other turbines on “cultural resources and protected properties”. The REA includes two large transformer substations. The 29 kilometre line connecting everything to the Hydro One system north of Picton was approved by the Ontario Energy Board in 2014. (Question: why would the transmission line be approved, apparently in a vacuum well in advance of the REA, unless the Ontario Energy Board was certain that the REA would be issued? Yet another indication that the entire procedure is a mockery of democratic norms).

The REA is subject to the fulfillment of 25 conditions. Some of them are of a “check this box” nature, some are incomprehensible. Generally, they are not enforceable. By way of illustration, White Pines is required to “take no more than 50,000 litres of water per day”, the minimum allowed without a specific permit, presumably for the 50 truckloads of concrete required for the base of each turbine)? From where will the water be taken?  And in the County, where water is a precious commodity? Another is “to ensure that activities requiring authorization under the Endangered Species Act will not commence until necessary authorizations are in place”. Probable translation – until you have MOECC’s permission and meet their loose conditions to kill, injure and harass all manner of endangered species. Yet another requires “the following of avoidance techniques for Blanding’s Turtles, as outlined”, none of which are enforceable.

And how about using reasonable efforts to enter into a Road User Agreement with the Municipality”  and the same “reasonable efforts” to keep the Municipality informed of “construction and operation activities associated with the facility and that all commitments made to the Municipality are met”. Reasonable efforts, when there should be cast iron, legally enforceable, agreements with full compensation backed up by marketable security?  A “community liaison committee with members from the public and from White Pines” must be created. A member of the public willing to join this sham would be hard to find unless he/she is a lessor of a turbine site.  And “ongoing communication with interested Aboriginal communities” must be maintained. There has been no noticeable act of civil disobedience, no railway or road blocked, indeed no indication of serious aboriginal interest one way or the other.

Any appeal of the REA to the Environmental Review Tribunal must be lodged within 15 days from July 16th. Other possibilities include asking the Courts for a Judicial Review of the procedures adopted by MOECC , this remedy being available only in certain circumstances.  Another possibility is to ask the Courts for a prohibition of any work under the REA until the Gilead matter has been finally decided by the ERT in September of this year, there being many similarities. Indeed it makes no sense that this REA was issued at all until the Gilead matter is finally determined.  Lastly, an appeal can be made directly to the Minister whose staff issued the REA; no further comment is required on the certain result from such an approach.  Shire Hall and all interested groups in the County are consulting their lawyers to decide on appropriate courses of action, the 15 day period providing the necessary spur for immediate decisions. Announcements should be made shortly.

Other comments in the REA make one’s blood boil. It is said bluntly and baldly without reason that “the project will not have an adverse effect on local tourism” and that “MPAC has determined that there is no statistically significant impact on sale prices of residential properties”. Not yet, anyway, because the wind factory has yet to be built, but if it is they will follow as surely as night follows day. There are no concerns about species at risk, because White Pines is expected to apply for permits to kill, harass and destroy Bobolink, Eastern Meadowlark and Whip-poor-will. Nothing is said about Golden Eagles, an endangered species that uses the Important Bird Area. All other concerns are dismissed, as in its various reports White Pines is said to have complied with all Ministry requirements to the Ministry’s satisfaction.

The issue of this REA is nothing short of a disgrace, continuing the determined assault on rural Ontario by the authors of the flawed Green Energy Act.  The current Premier said that she would “listen to municipalities”. She may have listened, albeit inadequately, but she never understood. More than 90 municipalities including our own have declared themselves Unwilling Hosts to wind factories. It is obvious and constitutes plain common sense that industrial machines taller than the Ottawa Peace Tower will forever despoil one of Ontario’s most beautiful unspoilt districts, badly affect the tourist trade and thus the entire economy, cause health problems to some people, reduce property and business values,  adversely affect the potential of the flourishing wine region, slaughter birds, bats, raptors,  and butterflies trying to negotiate the Wolfe Island, Ernestown, Amherst Island and County corridor of actual and threatened turbines (not to mention turtles and other endangered species on the ground) and cause major financial difficulties to the municipal government. Just over twenty years from now those time-expired turbines will have to be removed and the affected lands made good.  There is no guarantee whatsoever that White Pines will do this, as it has the right to rid itself of all its leases to whomever it wants and has provided no tangible security to back up its paper obligation. Indeed, it is not even required by MOECC to do so.

Welcome to the undemocratic Ontario of the 21st century, to its ludicrous hydro bills, to its surplus of electricity and to its export of the excess on a daily basis at a loss which the Auditor-General placed at $2.6 billion up to 2013 and which continues with no foreseeable end in sight. And to the outright discrimination between rural and urban Ontario. You will never, ever, have to suffer under major wind or solar in any Ontario city or town. And all of this is occurring in a Province with one of the largest sub-sovereign debts on the entire planet whose credit rating has just been downgraded for the fifth time.

The Green Energy Act readily lends itself to criticism, but is there a constructive alternative which CCSAGE might suggest? Yes, there very definitely is. And that suggestion in the strongest possible terms is that the Premier herself place a moratorium on all unbuilt major wind and solar factories, including White Pines, until the entire Green Energy Act has been re-thought with the benefit of the cost analysis and technical advice never previously rendered, until democracy is restored and until power is returned to all municipalities to decide for themselves whether or not to host these factories.  This same thread of common sense thought has also been advanced by Mayor Robert Quaiff of Prince Edward County in his forthright letter to the Premier and to Minister Murray recently made public.

Posted on July 27, 2015, in Advocacy / politics / legal, Heritage, Human health, Local economy, Municipal control, Natural environment, Property values, Provincial energy policy, White Pines, Wind turbines. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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