The County Speaks Out

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

County residents speak out about the threats to Prince Edward County from industrial wind turbines

Prince Edward County, January 18, 2016 – Fifteen well-known County residents, business owners and elected representatives have made video statements to express their personal concerns about industrial wind projects planned for Prince Edward County.

The statements are intended especially for the benefit of people living in the County who, because of family or work obligations, have not had sufficient opportunity to inform themselves on this issue. County residents Borys Holowacz, Janna McCarthy and Gary Mooney collaborated with the participants to produce the videos, which were filmed and edited by Cherry Valley’s Fifth Town Films.

“We had a long list of possible participants who have been actively involved in this issue, but limited ourselves to fifteen people who represent a cross-section of the community”, said Gary Mooney. “We’re very pleased and grateful for their contributions”.

The videos average two minutes each, and cover a range of topics, including effects on the natural environment, human health, tourism, the wine industry, cultural heritage and municipal planning.

In his video, County resident and music industry legend Bernie Finkelstein invites Premier Wynne to visit the County, suggesting: “Come and have a glass of wine… and give a second thought to the idea of carpeting the County with wind turbines”.

The videos are being uploaded in stages every few days to www.tinyurl.com/thecountyspeaksout .

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For more information, contact:
Janna McCarthy, jcmleewis@aol.com
Gary Mooney, gary.mooney@actel.ca, 613-919-8765

Backgrounder

Everyone is in favour of more renewable energy and less burning of fossil fuels. But many people oppose locating industrial wind turbines where they can harm human health, the natural environment and/or the local economy.

Two wind projects, Ostrander Point (9 turbines) and White Pines (27 turbines) have approved by the Wynne government, to be deployed over a large area of South Marysburgh, extending into Athol.

The undeveloped part of this area is habitat for birds and turtles, including 20+ species at risk, and is also a staging area for migrating birds and bats. The developed part is home to hundreds of County families.

Following is a map showing the cumulative Turbine Risk Zone for both wind projects, with 2 km considered to be the minimum safe distance for people and birds.

Note: The White Pines wind project has since been reduced from 30 to 27 turbines.

Note: The White Pines wind project has since been reduced from 30 to 27 turbines.

It is expected that industrialization of south County by wind projects will reduce the attractiveness of the County as a whole, leading to reduced tourism and long-term population decline.

Both wind project approvals are being appealed, by PECFN and APPEC respectively, with considerable anticipation of success. Otherwise, these wind projects will be built later this year, or next.

PECFN and APPEC are faced with tens of thousands of dollars of unpaid legal bills from these appeals. Donations of any amount are welcome at www.SaveTheSouthShore.org .

Posted in News Release, Uncategorized

Winter Walk-A-Thon – January 16, 2016

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White Pines Wind Project ERT Hearing – December 15, 2015

Report on the ERT Hearing on the White Pines Wind Project – Dec. 15, 2015
By Paula Peel, APPEC

On Day 21 the Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) heard the last witness in the appeal of the White Pines wind project.

APPEC tried to call three Reply Witnesses: Dr. Shawn Smallwood, an expert in avian wildlife behaviour and conservation; Robert McEwen, P. Eng., a structural engineer; and Kari Gunson, a road ecologist. Mr. McEwen and Ms. Gunson were intended to respond to WPD’s witness Shawn Taylor, who had done a survey of municipal roads on the day before he testified. Eric Gillespie, counsel for APPEC, asked the Tribunal either to disallow the new evidence collected at the 11th hour or to allow APPEC an opportunity to respond. Mr. Gillespie argued that each party should have an equal opportunity to reply to the full submission of the other.

Both MOECC counsel Andrew Weretelnyck and WPD counsel Patrick Duffy objected to the admissibility of Mr. McEwen and Ms. Gunson as Reply Witnesses. The Tribunal agreed with their submissions and found that of the three witnesses only Dr. Smallwood’s evidence was proper reply.

Dr. Smallwood told the ERT he disagreed with WPD witness Dr. Strickland that pre-construction bat surveys have no value. He directed the Tribunal to graphs showing a plausible correlation between pre-construction bat activity and post-construction bat mortality. He noted that when more data is added the more the relationship is strengthened. This suggests there is value in doing pre-construction surveys to estimate bat fatality rates.

Dr. Smallwood also noted that avoidance is not the same as displacement. While avoidance on a large scale will equal displacement, it might just as well involve manoeuvres to evade turbine blades, wind turbines, or an entire wind project. Repeated avoidance that leads to habitat loss is displacement.

Today was the last day for evidence. The ERT will next hear submissions of the parties as follows:

Appellant Written Submissions – January 5, 2016
Respondent Written Submissions – January 15
Reply Written Submissions – January 19
Oral Submissions – January 20th & 21st in Prince Edward County

ERT co-chair Marcia Valiante noted that this schedule leaves insufficient time for the Tribunal to meet the regulatory six-month deadline. As a result the Tribunal found that stopping the clock on the proceedings is required. Following the oral submissions the ERT will adjourn for four weeks and issue a decision on February 19, 2016.

Posted in Uncategorized, White Pines ERT

White Pines Wind Project ERT Hearing – December 11, 2015

Report on the ERT Hearing on the White Pines Wind Project – Dec. 11, 2015
By Henri Garand, APPEC

On Day 20 the Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) on the White Pines wind project heard APPEC witness Rick James and an expert witness for developer WPD, Dr. Dale Strickland.

Mr. James, qualified previously as an acoustician, presented new evidence in reply to Denton Miller, witness for the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MOECC).  Following new ministry guidelines and omitting disallowed wind turbines T7 and T11, he calculated that 13 “points of receptions” (i.e., homes) would suffer noise above 40 dBA.

Both MOECC counsel Andrew Weretelnyck and WPD counsel James Wilson questioned Rick James on 40 dBA as a measure of serious harm.  James said the MOECC had set this compliance limit and the World Health Organization (WHO) had found health effects, specifically annoyance and sleep disturbance, start at 40 dBA.

In re-examination APPEC counsel Eric Gillespie confirmed with James that WHO had reported noise complaints during nighttime begin at 35 dBA.

Dale Strickland, Ph.D., founder and president of Western EcoSystems Technology, a Wyoming consulting firm with business and government clients, has published over 150 scientific papers and technical reports during a 40-year career.  The Tribunal qualified him as “a zoologist with expertise in ecological research and wildlife management, including assessing the impacts of wind turbines on wildlife.”

WPD counsel Patrick Duffy asked Dr. Strickland about the appropriate scientific measure for serious and irreversible harm.   He said it is based on the overall genetic and demographic status of a species’ population.

According to Dr. Strickland, the White Pines surveys of birds and bats are “adequate,” conform to established methods and published guidance, and are similar to those for other wind projects.  Bats would not be high in number without the presence of hibernacula.  Acoustical surveys are not necessary because they record bats at ground level and the results do not correlate with bat deaths at wind turbine rotor level.

Dr. Strickland also said the effects on habitat would be minimal.  Loss from access roads and other construction is relatively small, and displacement from habitat would not be significant because of the project size.

Regarding collisions, Dr. Strickland predicted 5-15 bird deaths annually per turbine, the same as at other North American sites.  He defended the Wolfe Island monitoring records, stating the mortality rates are reasonable for a searched radius of 50m, an area commonly used at other wind projects.  Considering the project location and size, he concluded that White Pines would not cause serious and irreversible harm to wildlife.

In cross-examination Eric Gillespie confirmed that Dr. Strickland had not visited the White Pines site but had based his opinions on WPD’s reports and on Google Earth images.  Although aware of Prince Edward Point National Wildlife Area and Point Petre Provincial Wildlife Area, he did not know their proximity to wind turbines.  However, he dismissed the “globally significant” South Shore Important Bird Area because the IBA designation reflects convenient public access and use of the site for bird-watching.

Dr. Strickland did not know of an “activity report” by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forests finding five threatened bird species and three bat species in the White Pines area.  He agreed with Mr. Gillespie that such information might have influenced his opinions.  Similarly, he conceded that if there had not been adequate surveys for karst, then one needed more information to estimate the bat population.  He also admitted that the cumulative effects of wind projects must be considered to determine local impacts on birds.

When asked by ERT co-chair Marcia Valiante about a proposed 31ha compensation property, Dr. Strickland said it would have little measurable effect on the populations of displaced bobolinks and eastern meadowlarks.

Posted in Uncategorized, White Pines ERT

White Pines Wind Project ERT Hearing – December 8, 2015

Report on the ERT Hearing on the White Pines Wind Project – Dec. 8, 2015
By Henri Garand, APPEC

On Day 19 the Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) of the White Pines wind project heard the testimony of Dr. Robert McCunney, an expert witness for developer WPD.

Robert McCunney, MD, has a Boston clinical practice and is a research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.   Funded by the Canadian and American Wind Energy Associations, he headed teams in both 2009 and 2014 that produced status reports such as the recent “Wind Turbines and Health: A Critical Review of the Scientific Literature.”   Though not licensed to practice medicine in Ontario, Dr. McCunney has testified on behalf of the wind industry at other ERT hearings.

The Tribunal qualified Dr. McCunney as “a medical doctor specializing in occupational and environmental medicine, with the particular implications of noise exposure.”

WPD counsel James Wilson asked Dr. McCunney to comment on wind turbine sounds.  He said that noise is characterized by loudness and pitch, low frequency is associated with vibrations, and infrasound is inaudible below 107 db(A).  The last feature also occurs in the natural environment (e.g., wind and waves) and in actions of the human body such as breathing.  Turbine infrasound cannot be distinguished beyond 300m.

Dr. McCunney’s 2014 literature review, based on 162 published papers, concluded that “(1) infrasound sound near wind turbines does not exceed audibility thresholds, (2) epidemiological studies have shown associations between living near wind turbines and annoyance, (3) infrasound and low-frequency sound do not present unique health risks, and (4) annoyance seems more strongly related to individual characteristics than noise from turbines.”   Nothing Dr. McCunney has read since publication changes his opinions.

In cross-examination, APPEC counsel Eric Gillespie established that Dr. McCunney has never treated anyone complaining of turbine-related symptoms or conducted any original field research. Though he lives near a wind turbine, his home is 1500m away.

Mr. Gillespie asked Dr. McCunney to confirm the findings in several studies cited in his literature review that turbine sounds annoyed 7-18 percent of nearby residents.  But Dr. McCunney said this is similar to other environmental noise.  Moreover, he does not accept the concept of “wind turbine syndrome,” in which a number of symptoms are associated with wind turbines and disappear in their absence.

Dr. McCunny was then asked to consider the 2015 Australian Senate inquiry, which received almost 500 worldwide submissions on wind turbine noise.  He said he had not read it, but he was critical of its reliance on a range of unverified reports rather strictly published studies.  He did accept, however, the finding that the “distinction between direct and indirect effects is not helpful.”

Finally, Mr. Gillespie asked at what distance from turbines complaints would cease.  Dr. McCunney expressed confidence in Ontario’s 550m minimum setbacks.

In re-examination WPD’s Wilson asked about sleep anxiety and deprivation, which can lead to serious medical conditions.  Dr. McCunney said no study shows a causal relation between these symptoms and wind turbines.   His 2014 literature review identifies “longitudinal assessments of health pre- and post-installation” and “enhanced measurement techniques to evaluate annoyance”—but not sleep problems—among “further areas of Inquiry.”

Posted in Uncategorized, White Pines ERT

White Pines Wind Project ERT Hearing – December 7, 2015

Report on the ERT Hearing on the White Pines Wind Project – Dec. 7, 2015
By Paula Peel, APPEC

On Day 18 of the Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT), APPEC expert witness Dr. Daryl Cowell testified that there is substantial evidence of karst in the White Pines study area and that serious and irreversible impacts will occur if this project proceeds.   WPD witness Ronald Donaldson and Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) witness Mark Phillips disputed this.

Dr. Cowell told the ERT that he has appeared as a karst expert witness before eight Ontario Municipal Board hearings, done work for municipalities across Ontario, and authored or co-authored hundreds of technical documents, including peer-reviewed papers.  He has spent 40 years studying karst, with the past 20 years focused on hazard assessment.  Dr. Cowell was qualified as a professional geoscientist with expertise in karst.

Dr. Cowell said that a major karst area runs through Black Creek Valley ANSI (Area of Natural and Scientific Interest).   Physical evidence of karst includes sinkholes and crevices (as identified earlier by area resident and presenter Doug Murphy), an artesian-like stream, year-round springs that go underground, dry wells, and extensive limestone pavements.  Turbines would be located in epikarst, the upper boundary of a karst system, close to the edge of the valley.  The access road to wind turbines T02 and T03 crosses Black Creek and proceeds through a zone of karst features including crevices one foot wide and ten feet deep.

However, none of WPD’s Renewable Energy Approval reports identified karst features, assessed potential impacts, or even surveyed water bodies except in September and October, known to be low-flow periods.

Dr. Cowell noted that mapping the watershed in a karst aquifer is extremely difficult when vertical and horizontal fractures make water flow unpredictable and boundaries are always in flux.  A storm water management plan is out of the question because it is impossible to determine the high water mark, a basic requirement for construction activities.

According to Dr. Cowell, blasting and trenching for 16 kilometres of new access roads, collector lines, and turbine bases will cause serious and irreversible harm to shallow karst areas.  Blasting and backfilling through the upper metre of bedrock will dam and divert flows resulting in permanent impacts to the surface water/groundwater regime.

WPD witness Ronald Donaldson was qualified by the Tribunal as a hydrologist.   His testimony focused on potential interference with the quality and quantity of the local water supply aquifer and groundwater.

Donaldson reviewed aerial photographs, maps and literature that show no conclusive evidence of karst in Prince Edward County.  He considers the Black Creek Valley a sub-glacial tunnel formed long ago by glacial melt-waters.  Though predicting impacts such as sediment in shallow water wells and wetlands, he said there are mitigations for the temporary effects as well as for sinkholes or fractures opened during construction.   Donaldson agreed with APPEC counsel Eric Gillespie, however, that alterations to the top three metres could impact wetlands.

Mr. Gillespie referred Donaldson to a 2013 study cited by Dr. Cowell, “Evaluating karst risk at wind power projects.”  While agreeing that karst evaluations should be done early, Donaldson said he was not qualified to speak to the study’s number one mitigation—to move the turbines.

Mark Phillips, of the MOECC, was qualified as a surface water specialist with expertise in identifying risks to and mitigation of surface waters.  Starting in October 2014, Phillips raised a number of issues about the lack of detail on project impacts on wetlands in WPD’s Construction Plan Report, the risk of impacts during construction on surface water, and the timing of surveys for water bodies.  However, WPD chose to rely on existing MOECC records rather than carry out additional field work. 

Nonetheless, Phillips considers that risks from erosion and sediment can be fully managed by the “mitigation toolbox” and the effects will be temporary.   He confirmed with Mr. Gillespie that he did not review the wetlands near turbines T27, T28, and T29 or, indeed, the Natural Heritage Assessment on wetlands.

Posted in Uncategorized, White Pines ERT

White Pines Wind Project ERT Hearing – December 4, 2015

Report on the ERT Hearing on the White Pines Wind Project – Dec. 4, 2015
By Henri Garand, APPEC

On Day 17 the Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) of the White Pines wind project heard the testimony of WPD witnesses Shawn Taylor and Dr. Paul Kerlinger.

Mr. Taylor was qualified by the Tribunal as “an ecological restoration and construction mitigation specialist.”  However, he testified at length about Blanding’s turtles because of his participation in a four-year study involving a Kanata road extension into their habitat.

After classifying the roads (paved, gravel, and access) required for White Pines, Taylor spoke about the risks from higher traffic, but he said these are minimal due to the “block-out period” on construction between April 15 and October 15, and the later infrequent maintenance visits.  Mitigations such as staff training and 15km speed limits will protect turtles.

Taylor also felt that “new roads would not increase fragmentation of Blanding’s turtle habitat.”  He described the access roads as “laneways” flush to the ground surface and therefore not a barrier to turtles.  Similarly, turtles will readily move through the nine culverts to be constructed.  The roads would also not interfere with water flow into deep wetlands, crucial overwintering habitat.

Predation of eggs and young by foxes, raccoons, and skunks is possible but could be mitigated by compaction and reduction of roadside gravel, though neither method is cited in the White Pines construction report.

During cross-examination by APPEC counsel Eric Gillespie, Taylor admitted that his witness statement is incorrect in describing most access roads as passing through ploughed fields instead of cultural meadow, alvar, and treed land. Only nine turbines are located within current agricultural fields.   The access “laneways” would be 5m wide, with brush clearance as much as 5m on each side.

Taylor also conceded that two thirds of the White Pines project lies within primary Blanding’s turtle habitat. According to a map in WPD’s Natural Heritage Assessment, wind turbines T7, T11-24, and T27-29 all fall within known turtle egg excavation or spring foraging areas.

Paul Kerlinger, Ph.D., was qualified as “a biologist with specialization in bird behavior and expertise on the impacts of wind energy projects.”   Once an Audubon Society director of the Cape May Observatory, Kerlinger redirected his career to studying avian risks from wind projects in Canada, Mexico, Spain, and the United States, and he has testified in 100 cases as an expert witness on behalf of developers.

Although stating that “all wind projects kill birds,” Kerlinger does not regard this as “serious and Irreversible harm” because the fatalities are not statistically significant at the species population level, whether measured as a percentage or by population viability models (which take into account reproductive rates, dispersal and mortality).   He said studies show that mortality ranges from 6-9 birds per turbines per year, and the upper figure applies to Wolfe Island when its monitoring records are averaged over three years.

Under cross-examination Kerlinger admitted there are different views of the appropriate geographical scale to be considered for assessing risk to bird populations.  He also conceded that monitoring results are dependent on search area size and terrain, number of predators, frequency of searches, and staff training.  Data comparison across projects is complicated by differing turbine sizes and power output.  Finally, though noting the effectiveness of such mitigations as flashing lights and turbine shutdowns, he said he had made no suggestions to WPD.

The ERT resumes Monday, December 7, 10 a.m., at the Prince Edward Community Centre, 375 Main St., Picton.

Posted in Uncategorized, White Pines ERT