It was this time last year when NextEra and the MNR were scheming to remove/destroy the bald eagle nest in Haldimand County. So I figured some might be interested in what the “Renewable Energy Coordinator” for the Southern Region of the MNR said about eagles, their nests and habitat, at the Adelaide (NextEra) ERT hearing (2013/11/08). What is being discussed is the infamous Haldimand eagle nest, as well as an active nest in the Adelaide/Bornish and Jericho wind projects, that is too close to the massive substation, as well as the Bornish project’s turbines. Both were in proposed NextEra Energy wind projects.
Below is a snippet of NEXTERROR/ERT/MOE rationalizing their position on the obvious danger wind projects pose to bald eagles. The MOE’s witness was Joseph Halloran, who was presented as the government’s pseudo-expert about eagles/raptors/endangered species – but the odd thing was, the MOE chose NOT to qualify him as an “expert.”
Does this mean:
- There are no eagle experts in the MNR (or the pathetic MOE)?
- No credible “expert” would testify ?
- Like Pontius Pilate, the MOE is “washing its hands” of the eagle issue, Nexterror is on its own to explain its actions.
With all this in mind, let Mr. Halloran’s testimony provide you with insight into the mind of a government puppet.
Wind Energy Bird and Bat Monitoring Database
Ms. Wrightman – OK – I’m going to skip down to paragraph 15, and this is talking about the “Wind Energy Bird and Bat Monitoring Database.” Is this database information available to the public?
Mr. Halloran – So this database is managed – sort of run by Bird Studies Canada. It’s my understanding that they prepare annual reports providing mortality numbers for the province. It’s also my understanding, I believe, that it’s designed more for research approach, so I don’t believe that the general public could receive specific reports.
Ms. Wrightman – One of the partners is CanWEA, the Canadian Wind Energy Association. What’s the difference between allowing them into the partnership and allowing the public?
Mr. Halloran – Uh, I’m not too sure, I, – I don’t know the answer to that.
Ms. Wrightman – Is this information confidential? – besides the summarized report – information specific to the Adelaide project, would it be confidential?
Mr. Halloran – Uh, for accuracy I just believe the public can’t access the individual reports. Whether it’s confidential or not, I couldn’t answer that.
Panel member – I’m sorry, did you say the public could not access…
Mr. Halloran – That’s my understanding.
Ms. Wrightman – Who is monitoring the input of this data into the database? Who is checking for accuracy?
Mr. Halloran – So post construction mortality reports for birds and bats are reviewed – are submitted to the MNR, and our review is to ensure the monitoring is conducted as per the requirements.
Ms. Wrightman – Is participation by wind developers mandatory in collection of this data?
Mr. Halloran – So, under the Renewable Energy Approval regulation, they submit reports to the database.
Ms. Wrightman – Is there a penalty if they do not participate or they’re hiding deaths?
Mr. Halloran – You have to talk to the MOE who deals with the compliance with regards to whether or not the conditions have or have not been met.
Ms. Wrightman – So, the MNR is reviewing this information. Is this an Ontario government database, or is this Bird Studies Canada?
Mr. Halloran – No, this database is a collaboration of not only the Ontario government, but other provincial governments. It’s just that Ontario does input information into it.
Ms. Wrightman – The last sentence there states, “The objective of this database (Wind Energy Bird and Bat Monitoring Database), is to facilitate an improved understanding of the effects of wind turbines on birds and bats. What “improved understanding” has evolved from this database, in use, right now?
Mr. Halloran – I don’t know, I don’t know the answer to that one.
Ms. Wrightman – Para. 22(d) on raptor wintering areas, environmental impact studies, it says, “All candidate raptor wintering areas are greater than 120m from a turbine.” Does 120m protect raptors from direct fatalities with wind turbines?
Mr. Halloran – I would have to get my position to answer that one. I don’t know. I think it’s just a – that’s just a requirement within the – it’s just basically stating that in the 120 m. there’s no raptor wintering areas within the 120m of a turbine.
Ms. Wrightman – As an ecologist do you believe this (permit to destroy an eagles’ nest) is a good enough reason to remove a bald eagle nest, just because it had been through the ERT (appeal) process and completed the REA?
Mr. Halloran – I can – do you want me speak as an ecologist?
Ms. Wrightman – Or as an MNR guy, whatever is – I don’t really know what you are presenting…?
Ms. Clements (MOE lawyer) – There is a predicament where Mr. Halloran is not qualified to provide opinion evidence (he’s not an expert), so I’m not really opposed to him providing opinion evidence, but he hasn’t been qualified so the tribunal probably shouldn’t be receiving that evidence in my submission.
Mr. Vanderbent (ERT Chair) – Right, so first of all which paragraph are you referring to? Is it a supplementary witness statement?
Ms. Wrightman – Yes, five.
Mr. Vanderbent (ERT Chair) – Paragraph 5?
Mr. Vanderbent (ERT Chair)– Well, it’s described in his witness statement, so we’re going to allow the question. I’ve already pointed out to Ms. Wrightman that she’s asking this witness what may be an opinion statement that she gets as a result of asking the questions. That’s a choice she has to make. My colleague has correctly pointed out that because this witness has not been qualified as an expert, we may not attach much weight to the fact that he’s expressed an opinion during cross-examination. However, it is cross-examination, otherwise there is some latitude in that, so perhaps you could repeat the question so that he is clear as to what you are asking him.
Ms. Wrightman – OK, is it a good enough reason to remove a bald eagle nest if all that’s there is that it’s been given an REA (Renewable Energy Approval) – that it’s been through the REA process, plus it’s been through the ERT appeal process. Is that good enough reason to be able to remove a bald eagle nest?
Mr. Halloran – I’m not sure if that’s a good enough reason, it’s a reason – uh…
Mr. Vanderbent (ERT Chair) – well I think to be fair, the evidence is that there was a permit applied for – for a removal of that nest.
Ms. Wrightman – OK, he put it in here as a reason though.
Mr. Halloran – Yes, and just, I guess, to qualify that statement it’s based on the information that’s provided within the other tabs in my supplementary witness statement.
Ms. Wrightman – Does the MNR, and I got shot down asking this question last time but I’m asking it anyway because I think it’s relevant, does the MNR set harvest rates of species such as bald eagles, bob-o-links and barn swallows?
Mr. Vanderbent (ERT Chair) – Could you just repeat your question, I couldn’t hear it.
Ms. Wrightman – Does the MNR set harvest rates, kill rates or whatever you want to call it, for species such as bald eagles, bob-o-links and barn swallows? Is there a number that they’re allowed to harvest?
Mr. Halloran – I’m not aware of harvest rates. No.
Ms. Wrightman – As in like with ducks and stuff when they’re hunting, a harvest number?
Mr. Halloran – I, I believe there’s none, that’s my understanding that there would be no harvest rate.
Ms. Wrightman – Do you think, or do you know if the MNR would consider doing so for wind developers?
Mr. Halloran – So the only sort of rate, not necessarily rate, there are thresholds for mortality with regard to wind farm.
Ms. Wrightman – Is it fair to say? – well first I should ask you, Are you aware of a bald eagle that was killed in Norfolk Cty in 2009 – hold on – spring, 2009?
Mr. Halloran – I have heard that but I haven’t confirmed or don’t have any knowledge of – I’ve just heard that. It’s mostly circumstantial, sorry I’ve heard that but I haven’t confirmed it did or it didn’t.
Ms. Wrightman – Are you aware that the eagle was taken to the MNR?
Mr. Halloran – Uh, no.
Ms. Wrightman – OK, well then FYI I’m just going to hand out a news article that talks about this eagle nest. The bald eagle, this is from the Simcoe Reformer, April 6, 2010. If that’s OK?
Chair – Has it been exchanged with the parties before?
Ms. Wrightman – No. No, it’s in my disclosure. About halfway down the page, it states…
Chair – I guess the first thing to do is ask the witness if he’s seen this particular report before. Does he have any familiarity with it.
Ms. Wrightman – OK . Have you seen this report before?
Mr. Halloran – No I haven’t. as I’ve said before, I’ve heard about it – all the old mortality – I have no knowledge of it.
Ms. Wrightman – OK, anything else I have to do?
Chair – Well I’m not going to stop you, if you have a question you want to ask this witness, you can; but, the difficulty is that putting this article to him when he’s not familiar with it, he can’t really comment on it. It may not get us very far. That’s all in terms of the specific article. But if you have further question, bear in mind that the answer you got from him about this particular issue, you can ask the question.
Ms. Wrightman – Yeah, there’s just a couple of questions in relation to the MNR based on it. And if they don’t work, they don’t work. I’m just going to try.
The second paragraph here: it’s Ron Gould of the MNR Aylmer office, and he’s speaking to the potential threat to bald eagles from wind turbines and he says, “It may take several years to conclude conclusively whether there’s harm.” And my question to you is, have they concluded on this threat, yet, of wind turbines on bald eagles – the MNR?
Mr. Halloran – Sorry, can you repeat the question?
Ms. Wrightman – Have they done studies? I’m assuming by him saying, “it may take several years to conclude conclusively that there’s a threat.” Of wind turbines on bald eagle populations. Has the MNR concluded, have they done studies that there is harm or there isn’t harm?
Mr. Halloran – I’m not aware of any studies conducted by MNR. I can’t give you any reference to that.
Ms. Wrightman – OK. About halfway down the page it states, “Only one known eagle fatality has been recorded he said, a bird found about 40m from a windmill in Norfolk Cty, almost exactly one year ago. So that would be spring, 2009-ish. The eagle’s body was sent to Bird Studies Canada and then to the MNR. And he says, he suggested, “Maybe this particular bird was a little too careless.”
Ms. Wrightman – Do only careless eagles hit turbines?
Mr. Halloran – I can’t comment on that.
Ms. Wrightman – OK. And he states, “My prediction is that if this turbine was going to be significant impact, we’d see more activity at this point.” I’m assuming he’s meaning more deaths. Is the MNR monitoring the impact of wind turbines on the bald eagle population?
Mr. Halloran – So all I can refer you to is the fact we are partnering the bird and bat monitoring database, and we utilize some of the research that comes from that information to assist us if there is any requirement or need to change any of our guidance documents.
Ms. Wrightman – So, has there been any study done using this data?
Mr. Halloran – Specific to bald eagles?
Ms. Wrightman – Yes.
Mr. Halloran – Not that I am aware of.
Ms. Wrightman – So the only information that the MNR has is what’s collected from the wind industry? – in this database?
Mr. Halloran – Wind industry being …
Ms. Wrightman – Wind developers.
Mr. Halloran – Wind facilities?
Ms. Wrightman – Yes.
Mr. Halloran – Yes, because that’s pointed out.
Ms. Wrightman – “If the activity assessment confirms the presence of a bald eagle nest, a behavioural study can be conducted”…Is the MNR aware if the wind developer has done a behavioural study and completed it?
Mr. Halloran – Ah yes, we are aware. I had a conversation with the consultant who is preparing that report, just this week, and they’re looking to – they have submitted some draft versions of the reports and MNR is in the process of looking over that and conferring.
Ms. Wrightman – Is it available to the public?
Mr. Halloran – Uh no, we haven’t provided any public information – to the proponent to sort of finalize or agree to that report. Whether or not that study is available to the public, I believe that’s just a requirement through the MOE and whether or not that report would be let go.
Ms. Wrightman – Would you agree that this appeal re: the bald eagle nest is maybe premature when we don’t even have this data on – behavioural study with perching habitat, flight patterns, sight lines. If we don’t know that information do you think that this hearing is maybe premature?
Mr. Halloran – Uh no, I wouldn’t say that. I would say that because we’ve been through the natural heritage assessment and the environmental study, we’ve prepared mitigation measures in the event that this habitat is significant and there’s very clear mitigation measures laid out for the Adelaide project.
Part Two for tomorrow: “MNR not complying with their own Bald Eagle Management Guidelines”