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IBAs should be off-limits to wind power projects: Environmental Commissioner

The Ontario government should put additional areas of the province off-limits to wind power projects to safeguard birds, bats and their habitats, says Ontario’s Environmental Commissioner Gord Miller, who released part two of his 2011/2012 annual report ‘Losing Our Touch’ to the legislature today.

“I am concerned that the current guidelines do not go far enough to ensure that wind power development is compatible with Ontarians’ objective of protecting wildlife,” Miller says in a press release. “Given the importance of selecting sites that minimize the harm to birds and bats, it just makes sense to avoid building wind energy projects in these species’ most ecologically sensitive locations.

“The Ministry of Natural Resources should rectify these shortcomings,” says Miller “and prohibit new wind power development within Ontario’s Important Bird Areas.”

Important Bird Areas such as Prince Edward County’s cover about two per cent of Ontario, in total, he said.

“I fully support wind power,” he said. “together with energy conservation, renewable sources of energy such as wind are necessary to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and protect the environment. However, the use of wind power must be balanced by the equally important goal of protecting birds and bats. To accomplish that goal, we need to be smarter about where we place wind power facilities.”

The government has released guidelines for evaluating and reducing harmful effects on birds, bats and their habitats during the planning, construction and operation of wind power projects. The Environmental Commissioner praises the government for giving special attention to birds and bats as wind power development increases in the province, but notes “there are some significant shortcomings in the guidelines that continue to put birds and bats at risk.”

– Lack of protection for migratory bat species: Approximately 75 per cent of documented bat fatalities at wind turbines in North America are migratory bats, yet the provincial guidelines lack any criteria for identifying and avoiding bat migratory stopover areas during the selection of wind power sites. Three out of eight species of Ontario’s bats are migratory.
– Development in Important Bird Areas not prohibited: Important Bird Areas are designated, using internationally accepted standards, as key areas supporting specific groups of birds. There are no special rules to prevent wind power development in Ontario’s 70 Important Bird Areas.
-No consideration of cumulative effects: Wind power project sites are evaluated and approved on an individual basis, with no regard for the potential cumulative effects on birds or bats from other nearby wind power facilities or other potential sources of bird and bat mortality.

The Environmental Commissioner of Ontario is appointed by the Legislative Assembly to be the province’s independent environmental watchdog, reporting publicly on the government’s environmental decision making.

For more information, read the chapter “New Wind Power Rules to Protect Birds and Bats” in the Commissioner’s full reports, Part 1 Losing Touch and Part 2 Losing Our Touch at www.eco.on.ca

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  1. David Norman says:

    I urge you all to read the following article entitled “Wind Power Issues more about Politics than Health” which appears on “Law Times” (http://www.lawtimesnews.com/201210089360/Commentary/Speaker-s-Corner-Wind-power-issues-more-about-politics-than-health). Garth Manning makes an interesting comment.

  2. Brock Kirkpatrick says:

    re Chris Keen’s posting:
    It seems that spokespersons for the County Sustainablity Group are dismissive of any comment which they construe as being against wind turbines in Important Bird Areas or as impractical,unreliable and economically irresponsible. I believe the same sposkesperson who characterized the Ontario Environmental Commissioner’s report as “being penned without sufficient information” was equally dismissive of the Ontarion Auditor General’s comments against wind turbine development and McGinty’s Green Energy policy. I would point out to Mr. Chisholm that the AG and the Ontario Environmental Commissioner have relatively large and well paid staffs who have access to expert opinion and whose job it is to comment on such issues and who have to defend those positions to all and sundry. Somehow I don’t think the County Sustainablity Group is held to as high a standard or has access to the same degree of expertise or unbiased opinion.
    As to the comment in the Intelligencer report about wineries, new homes and development, the author forgets to mention the new power lines from IWT farms that are also devastating to birds.
    The American Bird Conservatory site at http://www.abcbirds.org has any number of simple and inexpensive suggestions for home owners which reduce or eliminate bird kills as a result of flying into residential windows. The same cannot be said for Industrial Wind Turbines or power lines.

  3. gil says:

    Let the Investigations begin,PLEASE!! Our Tax Dollars are tossed around (“Dalton Re-Election Bucks”) like it’s an ever ending bottomless Monety Pit.
    Our HYDRO RATES are achieving the Highest Rates in CANADA.More to come on this Issue of course the “FIT” Program rip off is getting much BIGGER,Higher Costs to USERS(U&I)( Sounds like our Recent Gas Price Goughing at the gas pumps eh!!) I just Love Ontario>>>>
    Happy Thanksgiving Weekend to All.
    Watch the Gas prices drop after the weekend…..
    THE REALLY BIG FIX that our Government Ignores eh!!Welcome to Canada.

  4. Dan Wrightman says:

    An excerpt from an article in Nature Canada titled Wolfe Island Wind Farm Still one of most Dangerous for Birds, Bats:”reports show that TransAlta’s Wolfe Island Wind Energy plant has one of the highest annual rates of casualties, reporting 16.5 birds per turbine and 43.7 bats per turbine, based on the 6 month study period from July 1 to December 31, 2010. Over a year, this would amount to approximately 1,500 birds and about 3,800 bats.”
    http://naturecanadablog.blogspot.ca/2011/07/wolfe-island-wind-farm-still-one-of.html

  5. Chris Keen says:

    I note that a member of the County Sustainability Group has commented (in the Belleville Intelligencer) on Gord Miller’s report.

    “… Don Chisholm, said he feared Miller’s report was penned without enough information.”

    “I have a great deal of respect for Mr. Miller, he says a lot of very sensible things, however I fear he may not have had enough information and what he did have, was likely very one-sided,” said Chisholm. “When they talk about IBAs, they never talk about the new wineries, the new homes and all of the new development there, just wind turbines. If you look at statistics, the number of bird kills by turbines is almost trivial compared to these other things and I’m worried he didn’t consider that.”

    Miller has clearly taken a position contrary to the CSG’s. Even though Mr. Chisholm has “a great deal of respect” for him, it’s not enough to prevent Chisholm from dismissing the report by suggesting that Miller wrote it without enough information, and what he used was one-sided. Wow! That’s respect??

  6. Gary Mooney says:

    Of the 70 IBAs in Ontario, four in the eastern Lake Ontario area have received the highest designation of “globally significant”: PEC South Shore, Amherst Island, Wolfe Island and Presqu’ile. And the Napanee Limestone Plain is the largest IBA in the province.

    It’s beyond belief that wind projects are being proposed to be located within three of the four IBAs (not including Presqu’ile at this point.

  7. Chris Keen says:

    And another (somewhat) related story:

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/contempt-motion-against-ontario-energy-minister-passes-key-vote/article4582219/

    “The contempt motion concerns the governing Liberals’ cancellation of two gas plant projects west of Toronto. Speaker Dave Levac ruled last month that there is evidence Mr. Bentley breached his privileges by refusing to release documents to a legislative committee last May.”

    ““People are tired of a premier who thinks the rules apply to everyone but his government,” Ms. Horwath said.”

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