By Gord Gibbins, APPEC Chair
There has been little to report since the Environmental Review Tribunal suspended the remedy hearing schedule on October 5, 2016. This was done to give the Tribunal time to adjudicate a number of motions that were raised by our legal team and submitted to the Tribunal. (A summary of APPEC’s motions can be found in the previous posting). Since October 5 there have been response statements to our motions from WPD White Pines Inc. and the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change followed by more APPEC reply statements. There has been a lot of back and forth of documents. Our legal counsel has made some very convincing arguments and we look forward to some decisions.
In one of the motions we ask the Tribunal to recall WPD’s three witnesses for further cross-examination. In this month’s issue of The South Marysburgh Mirror we explain in some detail why this motion was deemed necessary. Please click HERE to read APPEC’s article on page 9.
While we are looking forward to some decisions on the motions we are also cautious, frustrated and concerned with this Tribunal’s ability to fairly provide sound decisions without bias towards APPEC. One of our motions actually dealt with this frustration and concern. The board has learned from experience that nothing about this Tribunal can be taken for granted. But at the end of the day how the Tribunal decides to deal with our motions will determine how APPEC moves forward at the remedy hearing. If the Tribunal’s rulings on our motions appear wrong in law we will take any legal action that is necessary in the courts.
The motions are all sitting with the Tribunal awaiting decisions. There has been no word from the Tribunal since October 5 but that could change anytime.
In recent weeks we have received several informative articles and reports from members. One article discusses the decision of the Saskatchewan Ministry of the Environment to deny approval to a wind project due to migratory bird activity near the project site.
We also received the annual report from Ontario’s Environmental Commissioner which contains disturbing data about the declining numbers of endangered bats. Recent estimates suggest that roughly 5,200 endangered bats are killed every year at wind turbine projects in Ontario. In a footnote to that report it is noted the Little brown bats make up the majority of those fatalities (11.7 per cent).
A study in the November publication of “Current Biology” finds that wind turbines are killing hundreds of bats in the UK each month. The researchers note that even in cases where wind projects are identified as high risk that mitigations have been ineffective and significant harm has been caused to bats: “Of those sites identified as posing a significant risk to bats in (pre-construction impact assessments), risk does not appear to have been adequately mitigated. Indeed one of these mitigated sites had the highest recorded casualty rate. . .We conclude that significant harm was not avoided at these significant risk sites.”
Although no pre-construction surveys for bats were done by WPD we are equally sure that the PEC South Shore is a significant risk site and that WPD has not adequately mitigated the risk to Little brown bats at its project site.
We would like to thank everyone who has sent articles, both recently and throughout this past year. We would also like you to know that this information is always followed up on, and where appropriate provided to our legal counsel Eric Gillespie.
It is worth noting that APPEC filed its appeal of the White Pines wind project on July 31, 2015 and the Environmental Review Tribunal issued its findings of serious and irreversible harm to the Blanding’s turtle and to Little brown bats on February 16, 2016. Our appeal was filed and completed within six months. Nine months later, however, APPEC is still incurring legal costs and expending great amounts of time and effort at a remedy hearing that serves WPD’s interests alone. It is unfair to say the least that APPEC was given six months to prepare and make its case while WPD has been given an excessive amount of time to do this at the remedy hearing and that APPEC is in the position at this point of having to foot the bill not only to stop a wind project from going ahead but also to protect Ontario’s at-risk species.
The APPEC board also feels the need to point out that this ERT appeal is the only legal action that is preventing WPD from starting construction on the White Pines wind project. As noted above, there is a lot of time and effort being extended on this appeal. One would be surprised on the thousands of dollars to cover costs including legal fees, witness fees, transcripts, document reproduction costs and many other expenses. We ask that you consider the high costs for this appeal and contribute to the only appeal that is keeping the White Pines wind project from being constructed.