Category Archives: Environment

MPAC study on property values and wind turbines self-serving

WIND CONCERNS ONTARIO News release

The year-late report from the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) on the effect of wind turbines on Ontario property values is nothing more than a self-serving exercise by bureaucrats to serve their government masters, says Wind Concerns Ontario.

President Jane Wilson, who consulted with real estate appraisers and finance professionals, commented that “the reality is, as anyone knows, no one wants to live near a wind turbine.  But the government doesn’t want the voting public to know more about the negative effects of what they’ve done with their wind power program. So, the bureaucrat assessors at MPAC took their time, and came up with the answer the government wants—no impact on value.”

Instead of using comparison to actual sales as real estate appraisers do, the assessment staff at MPAC used a mathematical methodology called multiple regression analysis. “Unlike actual comparisons to sales, this type of analysis can be manipulated to get the ‘right’ answer,” Wilson explains. “They left out sales before 2008, they only studied turbines of a certain size, and they completely excluded homes that have been abandoned and purchased by the wind power developers.”

The MPAC study also does not include properties that are listed for sale but never sell. “You can’t measure what didn’t happen,” Wilson adds.

The purpose of the study was to justify MPAC’s refusal to add wind power developments as a factor in assessing property value, although the corporation does factor in other less desirable features such as quarries, garbage dumps and other industrial facilities.

“Taxpayers paid for this study which will now doubtless be used by their own government against them, as they seek re-assessment of their properties, or even go to court for lost property value,” Wilson said.

Read more from WCO.

Feds List New Bird Species As Threatened – Should Wind Developers Be Worried?

Richard H. Podolsky Tuesday April 08,  2014 – North American Wind Power

Bird Picture

In response to a precipitous decline of the lesser prairie-chicken (LPC), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced on March 27 that it is listing the species as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Under the ESA, a “threatened” designation means the species is likely to become in danger of extinction within the foreseeable future. Threatened-species status represents a step below “endangered” and, as such, carries fewer restrictions.

Nevertheless, the listing of any species under the ESA has immediate and long-term implications for both energy and agriculture interests. And because the LPC resides in the wind-rich lands of Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas, rest assured that listing will impact wind developers now and until the species recovers and is de-listed or it goes extinct.

Why the fuss?
According to FWS Director Dan Ashe, “The lesser prairie-chicken is in dire straits.” Last year, the range-wide population declined to a record low of 17,616 birds, an almost 50% reduction from the 2012 population estimate. This once-abundant relative of the greater prairie-chicken, greater sage-grouse (GHG) and other “prairie grouse” species has been reduced by an estimated 84-90% from its historical levels as a result of the human-induced degradation of its preferred habitat. And with land-use pressure from energy development, and agriculture and urbanization on the increase in the West, the prognosis for LPC remains bleak.

Historically, LPC were common in sand sagebrush-bluestem and within shinnery oak-bluestem vegetation types. Currently, LPC are most common in dwarf shrub and mixed grasses on sandy soils, as well as in short-grass or mixed-grass habitats on loamy or clayey soils. In Colorado and Kansas, LPC are typically restricted to sand sagebrush communities dominated by sand dropseed, side oats grama and blue grama. Recently in the northern fringe of its range, LPC have moved into mixed-grass prairie and Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) fields. And although all these vegetation elements are important to LPC, the thing they need more of than almost anything else is what is increasingly in short supply – large and contiguous expanses of undisturbed habitat. In order for LPC to sustain viable populations, it is estimated they need contiguous units of their preferred habitat that are a minimum of 25,000-50,000 acres in area, or coincidentally, about the size of an average wind farm in the Great Plains. A century ago, the heath hen, a New England relative of the LPC, went extinct due to similar cumulative impacts resulting from destruction of its preferred habitat.

As early as next year, this same ESA-listing scenario may play out with another increasingly rare western bird, the greater sage-grouse (GSG). However, the impact of that listing will be even more far reaching because GSG will be listed as an endangered species, as opposed to threatened species for LPC. Also, GSG and their preferred habitats are found in 11 states, as opposed to five states for LPC.

Death from above

While habitat quality and habitat size are critical, LPC live in such mortal fear of being preyed upon by hawks and eagles that they will abandon otherwise-suitable habitat simply because it contains an elevated perch that a bird of prey may someday land on and hunt from. This means that vertical structures of almost any kind, be it a wind turbine or telecommunication tower, will render otherwise-suitable habitat unusable by LPC. Studies have indicated that LPC habitat is also degraded by proximity to roadways, buildings, and oil and gas fields.

The upshot of these ecological proclivities is that, according to the FWS’ LPC Conservation Plan, once a site has been designated as LPC habitat, it is recommended that “avoidance buffers” be established between such sites and the following human impacts: 300 feet to the nearest gravel road; 600 feet to the nearest distribution line or residential building; 900 feet to the nearest oil or gas pad; 1,800 feet to the nearest transmission line; 2,250 feet to the nearest paved road; and 3,000 feet to the nearest wind farm, commercial building or tall telecommunication tower.

These large buffers were derived from careful scientific study of the observed responses of LPC to these various land-use features. The proposed buffers are particularly large for wind farms and telecommunication towers because studies showed that LPC were particularly sensitive to them. These 3,000-foot buffers will invariably result in fewer turbines and tall towers in areas that also host LPC populations or their preferred habitat.

Reducing the impact to wind developers 

Due to a special deal struck in 2013 (under section 4(d) of the ESA), the regulatory impact to wind power companies from formal ESA listing will be somewhat less than it would have been otherwise. Yet, by no means will it be “business as usual” for wind power in any of the states that host remaining populations of LPC. Specifically, the special 4(d) rule will allow the five states to continue to manage conservation efforts for the species under the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies’ (WAFWA) range-wide conservation plan.  

The WAFWA conservation plan was developed by a consortium of experts from all five states and with input from a wide range of stakeholders. Regarding the special 4(d) WAFWA deal, Ashe said, “Working through the WAFWA range-wide conservation plan, the states remain in the driver’s seat for managing the species – more than has ever been done before – and participating landowners and developers are not impacted with additional regulatory requirements. We expect these plans to work for business, landowners and the conservation of prairie-chickens.”

Credits for the good, debits for the bad

Under the WAFWA Mitigation Framework, a metric system of debits and credits has been established whereby land-use actions that result in an impact to LPC and their habitats will generate debits, whereas land-use practices that result in impact avoidance or improvements to LPC habitat will generate WAFWA credits. In doing so, WAFWA is providing opportunities for both the exchange and conservation banking of debits and credits. 

The bottom line

The listing of the LPC as a threatened species is the inevitable result of a century or more of cumulative human impacts. Therefore, wind companies considering developing or investing in any project site that may support LPC or LPC-preferred habitat are advised to conduct all requested pre-construction site assessments, perform all post-construction monitoring, report any bird fatalities to FWS as required by law, and proactively engage in the WAFWA Mitigation Framework. It is particularly vital to hire certified ecologists who know LPC ecology, have worked in the states where LPC reside, and are intimately familiar with endangered species biology, WAFWA and the ESA. 

Dr. Richard H. Podolsky is a certified senior ecologist who specializes in endangered species biology and is CEO of Avian Systems, a biological consulting firm that conducts bird and bat surveys. Podolsky can be reached at podolsky©att.net or (207) 475-5555.

Photo credit: U.S. Department of Agriculture

Original Article Here: http://nawindpower.com/e107_plugins/content/content.php?content.12826

 

Naturalists to pay Gilead $40,000, reduced from $120,000 demand

April 14, 2014 – http://www.countylive.ca

DSCN1679Prince Edward County’s Field Naturalists will pay $40,000 in legal costs instead of $120,000 demanded by Gilead Power.

The Divisional Court has found turbine project developer Gilead Power’s demand for $120,000 in legal costs from the Prince Edward County Field Naturalists “was too high and lowered it to $40,000,” said Myrna Wood, PECFN president. “More importantly, the reason given is that “clearly the case is of important public interest. It is significant that two judges have based decisions on the importance of the case to the public interest. We see this as a positive indicator that permission to appeal will be given. We will also be able to use this argument for an appeal against paying any legal costs to Gilead or the Ministry.”

The naturalists group has filed its submission to the Court of Appeal asking for leave to appeal the Divisional Court reversal of the decision of the Environmental Review Tribunal.

Last July, the Tribunal revoked the approval of a Gilead Power wind turbine project at Ostrander Point Crown Land Block in the centre of the Prince Edward County’s South Shore Important Bird Area. There have been more than 20 appeals of Renewable Energy Approvals since the Green Energy Act came into effect in 2009. All but the PECFN appeal resulted in dismissals.

“In allowing PECFN’s appeal, the Tribunal rendered a landmark and precedent-setting decision,” said Wood.

Soon after the Divisional Court decision, Gilead Power announced its intention to start construction in April.  PECFN brought an urgent motion for a Stay of construction and leave to appeal the Divisional Court decision to the Court of Appeal.

In his decision submitted on March 25, Judge Blair of the Appeal Court held that he had “no hesitation in granting the Stay” because the issues raised on the proposed appeal are of “broad public implication in the field of environmental law”.  Further, he found that the irreparable harm criterion had been satisfied on the basis that “once a habitat is destroyed, it is destroyed – for at least short-term purposes, in any event – and the species sought to be protected here is a vulnerable and endangered species.”

“The notice of intention to seek leave to appeal has attracted increasing expressions of support for PECFN’s opposition to industrialization of the South Shore IBA,” said Wood. “We believe that this important test of Ontario environmental law encourages other environmental and legal organizations to apply to intervene in the appeal.”

The struggle to save Ostrander Point has gained a broader dimension since two other wind turbine projects in the area have been submitted to the government Registry (EBR) for public comment, she said.

The White Pines proposal includes 29 turbines spread across private lands within the IBA surrounding Ostrander Point.  Windlectric Inc. proposes 36 turbines spread across the Amherst Island’s natural areas.  Residents of Amherst Island have applied to the Superior Court of Justice in Toronto for a judicial review of the Ministry of Environment’s approval of the application.  They challenge the company’s claims that their plan has mitigated any harmful effects to wildlife and people prior to construction.

“The cumulative effect of proposed turbine projects surrounding eastern Lake Ontario creating a barrier across the eastern flyway of migrating birds and bats is a concern for all naturalists,” said Wood. “If approved, these projects will displace wildlife from shorelines, the most important staging and resting habitats for many species.  Renewable energy will not be ‘green’ if it destroys significant wildlife habitats.  Recognition of this fact is demonstrated by two recent project cancellations. British Petroleum has cancelled a project on Cape Vincent across from Wolfe Island.  On the Lake Erie Pelee flyway two proposed projects in Ohio have been cancelled due to the threat of a lawsuit by Black Swamp Bird Observatory and the American Bird Conservancy.”

The Appeal Court’s decision on the request to appeal may not be made until June.

“In May, everyone will be enjoying one more spring migration and searching for emerging Blanding’s turtles along the South Shore firmly resolved to continue in the struggle to Save Ostrander Point,” said Wood.

More at www.saveostranderpoint.org

Original Article Reference here: http://countylive.ca

PECFN Files for leave to Appeal Divisional Court Ruling

PECFN Files for leave to Appeal Divisional Court Ruling

For immediate Release

Picton: PECFN has filed their submission to the Court of Appeal asking for leave to appeal the Divisional Court reversal of the decision of the Environmental Review Tribunal.  Last July the Tribunal revoked the approval of a Gilead Power wind turbine project at Ostrander Point Crown Land Block in the centre of the Prince Edward County South Shore Important Bird Area. There have been more than 20 appeals of Renewable Energy Approvals since the Green Energy Act came into effect in 2009. All but the PECFN appeal resulted in dismissals. In allowing PECFN’s appeal, the Tribunal rendered a landmark and precedent-setting decision.

 

Soon after the Divisional Court decision Gilead Power announced its intention to start construction in April.  PECFN brought an urgent motion for a Stay of construction and leave to appeal the Divisional Court decision to the Court of Appeal.  In his decision submitted on March 25, Judge Blair of the Appeal Court held that he had “no hesitation in granting the Stay” because the issues raised on the proposed appeal are of “broad public implication in the field of environmental law”.  Further he found that the irreparable harm criterion had been satisfied on the basis that “once a habitat is destroyed, it is destroyed – for at least short-term purposes, in any event – and the species sought to be protected here is a vulnerable and endangered species.”

 

On April 4, the Divisional Court found that Gilead’s demand for $120,000 legal costs from PECFN was too high and lowered it to $40,000.  More importantly, the reason given is that “clearly the case is of important public interest”.  It is significant that two judges have based decisions on the importance of the case to the public interest.  “We see this as a positive indicator that permission to appeal will be given” commented, Myrna Wood, PECFN president.  “We will also be able to use this argument for an appeal against paying any legal costs to Gilead or the Ministry”.  “The notice of intention to seek leave to appeal has attracted increasing expressions of support for PECFN’s opposition to industrialization of the South Shore IBA. We believe that this important test of Ontario environmental law encourages other environmental and legal organizations to apply to intervene in the appeal.” Wood continued.

 

The struggle to save Ostrander Point has gained a broader dimension since two other wind turbine projects in the area have been submitted to the government Registry (EBR) for public comment.  The White Pines proposal includes 29 turbines spread across private lands within the IBA surrounding Ostrander Point.  Windlectric Inc. proposes 36 turbines spread across the Amherst Island’s natural areas.  Residents of Amherst Island have applied to the Superior Court of Justice in Toronto for a judicial review of the Ministry of Environment’s announcement that the project is deemed complete.  They challenge the company’s claims that their plan has mitigated any harmful effects to wildlife and people prior to construction.

The cumulative effect of proposed turbine projects surrounding eastern Lake Ontario creating a barrier across the eastern flyway of migrating birds and bats is a concern for all naturalists.  If approved, these projects will displace wildlife from shorelines, the most important staging and resting habitats for many species.  Renewable energy will not be ‘green’ if it destroys significant wildlife habitats.  Recognition of this fact is demonstrated by two recent project cancelations. British Petroleum has cancelled a project on Cape Vincent across from Wolfe Island.  On the Lake Erie Pelee flyway two proposed projects in Ohio have been cancelled due to the threat of a lawsuit by Black Swamp Bird Observatory and the American Bird Conservancy.

 

The Appeal Court’s decision on our request to appeal may not be made until June.  In May, everyone will be enjoying one more spring migration and searching for emerging Blanding’s turtles along the South Shore firmly resolved to continue in the struggle to Save Ostrander Point.

-30-

For more information: Cheryl Anderson 613-471-1096cherylanderson23@sympatico.ca
Cheryl Anderson

28 Low St., Picton ON K0K 2T0

613-471-1096

613-849-7743 (cell)

@saveostranderpt

www.saveostranderpoint.org

Voices from the Thedford Bog: Wind turbines are “a social experiment, a mess, a failure.”

FAUXGREEN

IMG_4200

Protesters joined the remaining migrating tundra swans at the Thedford Bog near Grand Bend, Lake Huron, on Sunday, April 6, 2014, to condemn plans to build a bristling barrier of industrial wind turbines in what is a designated Important Bird Area. Every March some 10-15,000 tundra swans stop at the Thedford Bog and environs to rest and feed before continuing on their migration to the western Arctic.

Waterfowl scientist Dr. Scott Petrie told CBC News in 2012:

By putting the turbines in inappropriate places, it actually is tantamount to habitat loss. You wouldn’t put an office tower next to a coastal wetland, why would you put a wind turbine there?

Monte McNaughton, Progressive Conservative Member of the Provincial Parliament of Ontario (MPP) for Lambton-Kent-Middlesex, reminded the protesters that his party’s leader, Tim Hudak, has promised, if elected, to repeal the Green Energy Act, the draconian legislation that has given unprecedented rights to industrial wind turbines over people, communities…

View original post 130 more words

Sad news Ostrander Point ERT Appeal Decision revoked by divisional court

Court favours wind turbines over Blanding’s turtle

An Ontario court has ruled that an environmental tribunal erred when it rejected a proposed wind farm that threatens the habitat of Blanding’s turtles.

By John Spears Toronto Star

Blanding’s turtle is in trouble again: An Ontario court has cleared the way for a wind farm that an environmental tribunal says will threaten the turtle’s habitat.

The modest reptile had stood in the way of a wind farm at Ostrander Point in Prince Edward County.

But a divisional court panel ruled Thursday that the environmental tribunal made six errors of law in reaching its conclusion that the wind farm would cause “serious and irreversible harm” to the turtle.

The court restored the decision by provincial officials, allowing Gilead Power to proceed with the project, which would erect nine big wind turbines on the site.

It was a bitter blow to local nature and conservation groups. They had argued the wind farm – and the increased traffic associated with it – would harm not just the turtles, but also birds, bats and the rare “alvar” ecosystem at Ostrander Point.

The court sided with Gilead.  Read rest of article.

Birds and wind turbines at a crossroads

Written by Donna Lueke –   Beacon News, Dec. 3 2013

Two environmental issues are at a crossroads here on the shores of Lake Erie. Two of our most prominent natural resources seem to be on a collision course.

Birds and birders flock to the shores of Lake Erie. There is more of a concentration of bald eagle nests here than anywhere in the United States except Alaska. The Atlantic and Mississippi Flyways converge near here. Each spring this area is the home of the largest birding event in the country, The Biggest Week in American Birding, which last year helped attract more than 70,000 birders from all over the world. Economic impact studies conducted by Black Swamp Bird Observatory (BSBO) and Bowling Green State University show that visiting birders spend more than 30 million dollars in the local area each spring. The internationally renowned Kaufman Birding Guides and the Black Swamp Bird Observatory (BSBO) have made Ottawa County their home.

Energy costs are high in Ottawa County. Here where the water meets the shore, the winds are frequent and strong. Wind turbines are being constructed at schools and private industries all over the area. As a green, clean, renewable alternative to the fossil-fuel-fired plants, wind power is becoming a popular choice. Yet, even with government subsidies, wind power is still an expensive alternative form of energy. The other significant negative with wind power is that birds, especially songbirds, eagles and other raptors, can be killed by wind turbines.

Read rest of article here.