Friends of Arran Lake Wind Concerns Central Bruce Grey RR1 Southampton ON N0H 2L0
Hon. John Wilkinson, Minister of the Environment
Hon. Brad Duguid, Minister of Energy
Carol Mitchell, MPP
Doris Dumais, Director- Approvals Program, Environmental Assessment and Approvals Branch
Failed consultation process: Arran Wind Energy Project
As you are well aware, Ontario’s Green Energy Act (2009) Part I, Section 2 stipulates: “This Act shall be administered in a manner that promotes community consultation.”
The reason this section is included in the act is because it is a requirement of the Environmental Assessment Act (EAA) (RSO 1990, amended 2001) which established consultation with the public, government agencies (including municipal governments), First Nations, and other affected parties as an essential part of the Environmental Assessment process in Ontario. Amendments to the Environmental Assessment Act in 1997 “formally recognized the benefits of early consultation by legally requiring proponents to consult with the public prior to submitting an environmental assessment” (Graci, 2005).
According to the Guideline on consultation in the environmental process published by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment in December 2000, consultation in the Environmental Assessment process comprises “the activities carried out by a proponent to provide a two-way communication process to involved interested stakeholders in the planning, implementation and monitoring of an undertaking”.
“It has been demonstrated over the years that proponents who are responsive to concerns are more likely to develop an acceptable proposal”.
The Guide to EA Requirements for Electricity Projects “Part A – Overview of EA Requirements” is very specific about what constitutes consultation and its purpose:
“A.6.2.1 Public Consultation
“The purpose of public consultation in the Environmental Screening Process is to allow the proponent to identify and address public concerns and issues and to provide the public with an opportunity to receive information about and make meaningful input into the project review and development. Public consultation is required for all projects that are subject to the Environmental Screening Process. Consultation is necessary for the proponent to:
properly notify potentially interested and affected stakeholders;
identify and assess the range of environmental and socio-economic effects of the project; and
address the concerns of adjacent property owners, interest groups and members of the public that may be directly affected by some aspect of the project.
“It is the proponent’s responsibility to design and implement an appropriate consultation program for the project. The consultation program must provide appropriate opportunities and forums for the public to participate in the screening process. Failure to carry out adequate public consultation or to address public issues or concerns may result in requests to elevate the project.
“The applicant’s public consultation program should:
identify potentially affected stakeholders;
describe how the project may affect the environment;
provide appropriate notification to identified stakeholders as prescribed in the Environmental Screening Process;
inform the public where, when and how they can be involved;
identify public concerns and issues related to the project;
address public concerns and issues raised during the program; and
document how public input is taken into account in the screening process and in the project planning and development.
“Public consultation should be commenced early in the screening process and continue throughout the process as necessary. The proponent is required to maintain a record and mailing list of all participants in the consultation process, a record of public concerns and issues, and a record of how any concerns and issues have been addressed during the Screening or Environmental Review stages.
“While mandatory public notification requirements are specified in the Environmental Screening Process, other methods of public consultation used are at the discretion of the proponent. The proponent’s public consultation program, including methods used to obtain public input and efforts to address or resolve public concerns and issues, may be considered by the Director of the EAAB in the event of a request to elevate the project.
“The appropriate agency technical representatives should be contacted regarding their agency’s requirements, concerns and technical input, and be kept apprised of the proponent’s public consultation program and other opportunities for their agency to participate in the screening process.
Technical issues should be suitably resolved prior to release of the Screening Report or
Environmental Review Report for formal review. This will help to avoid fundamental concerns or disagreements being raised at a late stage in the screening process”.
FAILURE OF PUBLIC CONSULTATION in the PROPOSED ARRAN WIND ENERGY PROJECT
The Friends of Arran Lake have been raising concerns with the proponent since their initial presentation at the Municipality of Arran-Elderslie council meeting of 26 September 2006. Many letters have been sent to the proponent subsequently raising the following issues:
- inconsistency with the Provincial Policy Statement, provincial land use or resource management plans
- negative effects from the emission of noise and low frequency noise
- negative effects on rare, threatened or endangered species of flora or fauna or their habitat
- negative effects on protected natural areas such as ANSIs, ESAs and other significant natural areas
- negative effects on wetlands
- negative effects on wildlife habitat, populations, corridors or movement
- negative effects on fish or their habitat, spawning, movement or environmental conditions
- negative effects on migratory birds, including effects on their habitat or staging areas
- negative effects on locally important or valued ecosystems or vegetation
- negative effects on neighbourhood or community character
- negative effects on local businesses, institutions and public facilities
- negative effects on recreation, cottaging and tourism
- public concerns related to public health and safety
- negative effects on archaeological resources, or cultural heritage landscapes
- negative effects on scenic or aesthetically pleasing landscapes or views
- negative effects on First Nations or other Aboriginal communities
- the creation of waste materials requiring disposal on decommissioning
After listening to our presentation to council on 26 September, 2006, Mr. Edey dismissed our concerns as “not in my back yard” issues, based on inaccurate information.
The proponent has acknowledged receipt of many letters outlining environmental and health issues but they have not been replied to. Many additional concerns have been brought forward by this community in a huge number of ongoing letters to the editor in local papers. These issues have not been addressed.
In July, 2010, the Friends of Arran Lake and Central Bruce-Grey Wind Concerns Ontario submitted a 187 page Review of the “Arran Wind Energy Project Draft Project Description Report” to the proponent. It was also submitted to the Director, Environmental Approvals Branch, Ontario Ministry of the Environment. The review detailed specific environmental concerns in connection with threatened wildlife habitat, the sensitive ecosystem surrounding the provincially significant wetlands, ANSIs and conservation areas within the project boundaries. Receipt of the review was acknowledged by the proponent; however no attempt was made to address the many issues raised or answer the numerous questions the report asked of the proponent.
The proponent’s “Open House” held at Arkwright on 29 July, 2010 drew scorn from local residents who experienced great frustration at not having any of their questions answered.
The reporter for the Paisley Advocate wrote:
“This was the public meeting that wasn’t and could have been. ‘This is not a town hall meeting’, said Charles Edey in reply to my statement of surprise and disappointment in the format of their presentation. We attempted to ask questions. When asked why a particular project would happen the answer from Mr. Edey was ‘economics will always determine whether a project goes ahead or not. There needs to be a secure return for any investment.’”
The reporter concluded: “’How can there be a public consultation without a public presentation by any company wanting to build an industrial wind turbine operation?’ one person commented”.
Only recently, after over four years of repeated public requests, has a plan of the project been released by the developer. The positioning of the turbines around Arran Lake indicates that no consideration has been made of concerns for migratory corridors, staging areas, tourism resources or the many other concerns that have been raised by the public.
It must therefore be concluded that the public has not been allowed to make meaningful input into the project review and development as required under the Green Energy Act.
Environmental issues with wind turbines first emerged as a result of long term studies by European biologists. Everaert & Kuijken (2007) focused on avian collision mortality. Kingsley & Whittam, (2005) noted the risks to migrating birds near staging areas as well as the negative effects of habitat disturbance when turbines are placed near large concentrations of resting and feeding birds. Stewart, Pullin, & Coles (2006) warned of reduced bird abundance at wind turbine sites, a reduction that becomes more pronounced with time.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (2003) called on developers and governments to avoid placing turbines in documented locations of protected wildlife, known local bird migration pathways or near wetlands and staging areas and to avoid known daily movement flyways between roosting and feeding areas, as well as bat breeding and nursery colonies or migration corridors.
Similar concerns were raised in 2007 by the Belgian Research Institute for Nature and Forest.
In testimony to the U.S. Senate (Daulton 2007) the National Audubon stressed the problem of loss or degradation of habitat, disturbance and displacement as well as disruption of ecological links and fragmentation of habitat. Habitat abandonment may be partly attributable to the low frequency noise projected by the turbines (LFN) (sound waves of less than 20 cycles per second) that humans cannot hear but “can have effects on the body that profoundly disturb some individuals” (Salt, 2010).
The effect of LFN on wildlife is of concern. Earth vibrations from wind turbines have been measured up to ten miles away. “There is a case to answer when land based animals and freshwater creatures are exposed to noise at low Hz levels. . . . Their survival is more reliant upon instinct and interpretation of unusual sounds as a source of danger. . . . Amphibians such as frogs and toads also rely heavily upon sound for communication and this plays a substantial role in their reproductive behaviour. Most amphibians have complex ears that are dependent upon sound frequency and directionality” (Buxton 2006). The well documented widespread devastation now occurring to bats in the vicinity of wind turbines may be the result of interference with their echolation mechanism.
In 2010 Nature Ontario (Federation of Ontario Naturalists), and Ducks Unlimited Canada called for a moratorium on wind turbine development within 5 km of habitats and staging areas of known significance to migrating birds. Calling for a congressional hearing to investigate the scale and impact of bird kills caused by wind energy in 2011, The Bird Conservancy of America stressed: “the impacts to birds from wind power have gone unrecognized and unaddressed, and are wrongly dismissed by industry as insignificant”.
The industry and the government, however, are still in denial. On 23 November, 2010, Sean Whittaker, VP of the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) told the Canadian Senate Committee on Energy the Environment and Natural Resources that 20 years ago they used to put turbines on migratory routes. “We’ve learned since then.”
The industry and government contend that bird mortality is insignificant (one or two birds a year). This is contradicted by the avian collision monitoring report for the Wolfe Island wind development– a site approved by the MOE and brought online in 2009, despite the fact that it is located on an important migratory corridor and IBA (internationally designated Important Bird Area). It records bird kills of 13.39 birds per turbine per year. Some of the species listed are already experiencing declines. With regard to birds of prey, the number of casualties is the highest recorded rate for raptor kills outside of California.
Nonetheless, the developer and the government claimed this was “acceptable” because it is consistent with other wind turbine projects in North America and only the 5th or 6th highest in North America. On 24 February, 2011, a developer was offered a 75MW contract by the Ontario Power Authority to build turbines on Amherst Island, another IBA. Prince Edward County has several projects in the planning process or already approved. And the proposed Arran Wind Energy project at Burgoyne in Bruce County would cover much of the uplands adjacent to three provincially significant wetlands and two river valley ANSIs (Provincially designated Area of Natural and Scientific Interest). Turbines would form a barrier to the seasonal migratory staging area, the diurnal migratory pathway from Chantry Island IBA (154) and fragment a complex Natural Heritage System, destroying its ecological function.
We have followed the directions of Doris Dumais in her letter of 18 August, 2010. We have acted in accordance with the advice of Carol Mitchell in her letter of 24 September, 2010. We have taken the advice of letters from several Ministers of the Environment. We have been patient (since 26 September, 2006).
We have acted in good faith for over four and a half years in the belief that our government would protect this outstanding natural heritage asset. We now want to know what you are doing to assure that it does not become the victim of an industrial wind turbine development.
On behalf of the Friends of Arran Lake,
Tim Hudak, MPP
Andrea Horvath, MPP
John Yakabuski, MPP
Peter Kormos, MPP
Federal Minister of the Environment
Adam Orfanakos, Office of the Ombudsman of Ontario
Gord Miller, Environmental Commissioner of Ontario
Jim Bromley, Senior Environmental Officer, MOE, Owen Sound
Municipality of Arran-Elderslie
Municipality of Saugeen Shores
Caroline Shultz, Executive Director, Nature Ontario;
Grey Sauble Conservation Authority;
Saugeen Valley Conservation Authority
C. Halko, Ducks Unlimited
Owen Sound Field Naturalists
Dr. Ted Cheskey, Conservation Ecologist Nature Canada
Dr. Scott Petrie, Bird Studies Canada
Charles Edey, Heather Boa, Leader Resources