Posts Tagged ‘environmental assessment wind power. wind farms and the environment’

Many people believe that because there is a multi-step approval process for wind power projects in Ontario, there must be plenty of authoritative oversight along the way.


First of all, let’s be clear: we are talking about industrial-scale wind power generation here, not the little iconic wind “mills” you used to see on farms in Ontario and which are still used to create power for limited use, like a water pump. That’s as far from the current industrial wind power projects as you can get.

Under the Green Energy and Green Economy Act  or the GEA in Ontario, wind power developers create a proposal for a project, then apply for a Feed In Tariff contract. If they get that (and that process is a whole other story) then they can proceed to preparing a Renewable Energy Application (REA) for submission to the Ministry of the Environment. Their draft REA is reviewed by certain “stakeholders” and then eventually shown to the public for comment. The company is required to hold two information sessions for the public; these are typically merely Open Houses. There is no formal presentation, no question and answer period, and no sign that comments from the public are recorded in any form.

After that, the company submits the REA, gets a Certificate of Approval (the MoE is currently promising a one-month turnaround in the interest of speedy development) after which time the public has 15 days to appeal. As we saw from the Kent Breeze appeal in which a single citizen spent upwards of $150,000 to appeal the Suncor project in Chatham-Kent, the project proceeded even while under appeal, and by the time the decision was handed down in July 2011, was completed. (That project is now the subject of a $1.5 million lawsuit by a family who rapidly became ill after the project started.)

So the process is this:

-the companies do their own environmental screening according to the list of topics required in the regulations. They use private consultants (many of whom are members of the Canadian Wind Energy Association, a lobby group for the corporate wind industry) and do not seem to be required to provide information on those consultants’ credentials.

-the public has a limited time and frankly, limited ability to review and assess the assessments

-the environmental screening reports done by the corporate developers go to the Ministry of the Environment for review and approval. We have no idea the depth of the review process.

-There is no third-party, independent, professional review. Requests for “elevation” i.e., for a formal, full environmental assessment to be done by the Ministry of the Environment have been refused: not ONE has been granted since this began in 2006.

In short, the Ontario government believes so strongly that wind power is “good” and “green” it doesn’t really require a proper environmental assessment.

Worse: if environmental effects are experienced such as the bird kills at Wolfe Island (the developer TransAlta forecast 2 per year per turbine and has been surprised to find the rate exceeds 13 per turbine), the Ministry of the Environment simply RAISED the acceptable number of birds that could be killed.

Worse still: there is NO accepted methodology to measure environmental noise from industrial wind turbines—the MoE staff admit this! (See http://www.windyleaks.com )

That’s not acceptable to us.

Doesn’t sound very “environmental” either.

Wind power: it’s not what you think.

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