How Green is the Green Energy Act?

January 20, 2014 Borys Holowacz Latest Posts

In their upcoming Ontario Divisional Court Appeal, the Prince Edward County Field Naturalists (PECFN) will defend the landmark Environmental Review Tribunal decision establishing that Gilead Power’s 9 wind turbine development at Ostrander Point will cause “serious and reversible harm” to the Blanding’s turtle.

PECFN will also challenge the ruling to include migrating birds and the rare alvar habitat as suffering serious and irreversible harm from the project.  Ostrander Point is at the centre of the globally recognized Prince Edward County South Shore Important Bird Area (IBA).   Millions of birds – more than 300 different species – migrate through Prince Edward County each spring and fall, using the IBA as breeding and staging grounds. Many, like the Whip-poor-will which breeds there, are endangered or threatened.

At the foundation of the PECFN appeal is a criticism of the Green Energy Act, which not only removes the right for municipalities to comment on land use; but also, does not consider the appropriateness of specific sites for Industrial Wind Turbine development.  Most European countries and some in Africa and South America have designated Important Bird Areas as turbine free zones.

Ontario’s commitment to protecting human health by closing coal-fired plants has been touted as the primary reason for the Green Energy Act.  And yet, by design, many aspects of the Act aggressively attack the environment in favor of industrial development.

The GEA:

  1. Ignores and by-passes environmental legislation specifically designed to protect wildlife and its habitat from development, including the Environmental Protection Act, the Species at Risk Act, the Migratory Birds Act, the Statement of Environmental Principles.

  2. Removes the rights of citizens, Municipalities and Conservation authorities to prohibit wind-turbine development on Crown Conservation Land.

  3. Allows corporations to do their own environmental assessments. The government’s responsibility to protect Crown Land and wildlife has been abandoned.

  4. Public involvement is provided mainly by appeal to the Environmental Review Tribunal. The law puts an unfair burden on citizens through the reversal of onus clause which requires proof of a project’s harm to the environment or human health before it is built. The Tribunal is prohibitively expensive for the ordinary citizen.  In the Ostrander Point appeal, the Field Naturalists had two lawyers against three representing the corporation and two representing the Ministry of the Environment.  A major fund raising campaign has been mounted to pay for the appeal and protect Ostrander Point.

  5. The Act puts developers in charge of ‘mitigation’ measures.  The habitat of an endangered species is destroyed before the mitigation effort has even been tried.

As currently structured the GEA is not Green.  It allows fast tracking of environmentally destructive projects without consideration of important natural habitat or the wildlife that depends on it.

Myrna Wood (myrna@kos.net)

Cheryl Anderson (cherylanderson23@sympatico.ca)

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