Bird Kills: The Evidence and Publicity Mounts (Sierra Club, Audubon must stop deceiving memberships)
by Jim Wiegand
November 21, 2013
“Combined together, these clever [evasive] techniques mean that most carcasses are ‘missed.’ In fact, 90% or more of the slaughter can easily be hidden. This … is certainly not ‘scientific or ‘green.’ But it is certainly effective.”
The Wall Street Journal recently published several letters and articles on the environmental impacts of wind energy, adding to a growing body of reportage of wind power’s cruel, ironic byproduct.
Making the public aware of this extremely important issue is essential, because the wind industry has been using bogus research and other methods to hide its slaughter of millions of birds and bats that are supposedly protected by law, putting some species on a path to extinction.
8.0 Illegal contravention of existing federal and provincial legislation
Under the Ontario Endangered Species Act (2007), the MNR is required:
1. To identify species at risk based on the best available scientific information. . . .
2. To protect species that are at risk and their habitats, and to promote the recovery of species that are at risk”. Ontario Endangered Species Act (2007)
The Endangered Species Act says: “(3) In preparing a strategy under subsection (1), the persons who are preparing the strategy shall consider the principle that, where there is a threat of significant reduction or loss of biological diversity, lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a reason
for postponing measures to avoid or minimize such a threat. 2007, c. 6, s. 11 (3)”.
A decision to grant an Overall Benefit Permit for Amherst Island would therefore represent a failure of the MNR to fulfill its responsibilities under the Ontario Endangered Species Act (2007).
A decision to grant an Overall Benefit Permit for Amherst Island would also contravene Canada’s Migratory Birds Convention Act (1994).
7.0 Requirements for clause 17(2)(c) are not met.
The MNR defines overall benefit as:
1. “increasing the number of reproductively-capable individuals of the species living in the wild;
2. “increasing the distribution of the species within its natural range;
3. “increasing the viability or resilience of existing population(s);
4. “bringing about an abatement or reversal of a declining population trend (i.e. reduction of key threats to the species survival);
5. or “increasing the quality or amount of habitat for the species”. (23)
Where there is an increased potential for risk to the species or its habitat or proposed overall benefit actions carry a higher degree of uncertainty, determination of the adequacy of the overall benefit plan will err on the side of caution in favour of affording greater benefits to the species or habitat.
The MNR policy decisions are required to be based upon the principles that the “MNR staff should exercise caution and special concerns for natural values in the face of . . . uncertainty” and that “it is less costly and more effective to anticipate and prevent negative environmental impacts before
undertaking new activities than it is to correct environmental problems after the fact”.
By issuing “Overall Benefit Permits”, it appears that the MNR would be failing to anticipate and prevent the negative environmental impacts outlined above. The MNR would also be failing to recognize the threat of significant reduction or loss of biological diversity associated with the issuing of “Overall Benefit Permits”.
The action agreed to in the permits does not reduce key threats to these endangered species’ survival but rather compounds them.
There is every reason to believe that the increased potential for risk to the species and its habitat or proposed overall benefit actions carry a higher degree of uncertainty. However there is no evidence to show that “determination of the adequacy of the overall benefit plan has erred on the side of caution in favour of affording greater benefits to the species or habitat”.
It is therefore “necessary to require demonstration of the overall benefit before the proposed activity may commence”. However, demonstration to the contrary has already been provided at Wolfe Island. (24)
1. (i) There is no evidence that the mitigation plan has considered the cumulative negative effect of wind turbine development across Ontario in terms of collision mortality and habitat degradation to migrating passerines.
(ii) Nor has it taken into account, the known species sensitivity to habitat degradation and fragmentation—the single most important factor in these species decline.
(iii) The MOE and the MNR have not taken precautionary measures with regard to noise impacts from wind turbine developments on these species. Nor have they considered the masking effect of turbine blades which biologists believe is a threat to wildlife survival.
(iv) The MNR makes no indication that it has considered noise from wind turbines including low frequency noise as part of the cumulative impacts analysis of the wind facility on these species which biologists have observed are sensitive to noise.
2. There is no evidence that the proposed activity meets the legislated requirements for an overall benefit permit as listed by the MNR in its Endangered Species Act Submission Standards for Activity Review and 17(2)(c) Overall Benefit Permits February 2012.
3. There is no evidence that “the determination of the sufficiency of overall benefit actions has involved the consideration of the baseline condition of the species (e.g., numbers, current state, trend, sensitivity to disturbance, life processes) or habitat (e.g., amount, current state, trend,
sensitivity to disturbance and functionality) that would be adversely affected by the activity”.
4. MNR must consider the cumulative effect on the Eastern Meadowlark and the Bobolink of the other “Overall Benefit Permits” granted or being considered across Ontario. (25)
5. The MNR must also consider “the severity, geographic extent, duration and permanency of the potential adverse effects likely to result from the proposed activity”; likewise, the cumulative long term, geographically extensive and permanent effect (at least for 20 years = 6 generations of Bobolinks and Eastern Meadowlarks) of multiple wind developments in Ontario and the Eastern USA as an additional limiting factor for these species.
6. It would appear from the above that, given the sensitivity of this ecological system the proposed overall benefit actions are biologically and ecologically” inappropriate for the species given sensitivity to habitat fragmentation and noise disturbance.
7. In view of the body of peer reviewed scientific knowledge referenced above, there is no evidence that the proposed actions are based on the best available scientific information, another legislative requirement.
8. Given the already documented vulnerability of these species to habitat fragmentation and disturbance, there is no reason to believe that “new knowledge acquired through actions to fill
critical information gaps” has the potential to contribute to an overall benefit plan where the lack of this knowledge is directly limiting the species’ protection and recovery. On the contrary, there is every reason to suggest that the activities allowed by the “Overall Benefit Permit” will directly lead to
the further decline of these species.
9. It has not been demonstrated that the overall benefit actions will improve the ability of the species at risk to carry out their various life processes; rather, in view of the scientific information available, quite the opposite effect is immediately foreseeable.
10. The MNR must recognize that “in some circumstances it may not be possible to achieve an overall benefit for the species”.
6.0 “The cumulative result of “Overall Benefit Permits”
A survey of the MNR web site listing Overall Benefit Permits granted or under consideration by the ministry shows that a total of 575.8 hectares of mostly Bobolink and Meadowlark habitat are already facing destruction. This is more than a trivial limiting factor for these species. How then can an
Overall Benefit Permit for Amherst Island improve circumstances for these species in Ontario?
011-6209 Wainwright Twp Kenora District 21.9 hectares of Bobolink habitat Net loss*
61 hectares Eastern
Meadowlark and Bobolink
6 hectares of Bobolink and
Eastern Meadowlark habitat
City of Temiskaming
56 hectares of Bobolink
011-6656 Township of South
Crosby, Leeds County
26.7 hectares of Bobolink
36 hectares of Bobolink and
Eastern Meadowlark habitat
substituted with 20
hectares Net loss of
Lennox & Addington
Bobolink and Eastern
Substituted with 45
hectares Net loss of
Frontenac County 40 hectares Whip-poor-will
011-5217 Township of
45.8 hectares of Whip-poorwill
Net loss* Permit issued May 2,
011-5781 Haldimand County
97.8 hectares Bobolink and
Eastern Meadowlark habitat
76 hectares of
to be substituted Net
loss of 21.8 hectares
Permit issued May
011-5403 Lanark County
53 hectares (ha) of land of
which 7.67 ha are considered
Converting 9.59 ha
of land to Bobolink
Permit issued April
011-5218 South Himsworth
Township , Parry
4.6-hectares of Bobolink
011-5076 S. Stormont , United
Counties of Stormont
Dundas & Glengarry
45 hectares Bobolink habitat Net loss*
011-5057 United Counties of
Leeds and Grenville
36 hectares Bobolink habitat Securing, improving
and maintaining 5.8
February 23, 2012
ha of new Bobolink
habitat lands Net
loss of 30.2 hectares
will habitat destroyed:
The geographic extent of the habitat destruction across so many counties increases its severity as a limiting factor for these species. “Many years of data and theory [have been] developed in the scientific discipline of wildlife ecology, which understands that wildlife populations are necessarily connected via dispersal and migration, and that the more significant demographic unit is the meta-population (Hanski and Gilpin 1997,
Smallwood 2001, 2002)”.
According to Smallwood et al. (1999), the cumulative effects analysis should extend over the amortized life of the project or the permit duration, and should consider how long the types of
project impacts generally last.
Proposed mitigation for the Amherst Island project is incomplete and vague and highly unlikely to be effective in increasing benefits to the species.
There is no reason to believe that impact monitoring (which involves the collection and summary of scientific data on the adverse effects of the authorized activity on the species) will minimize adverse effects or be of overall benefit to the species. The goal of impact monitoring is to improve future
predictions of the potential adverse effects of particular activities on species at risk. However, impact monitoring records from nearby Wolfe Island do not appear to have been used to consider the potential for adverse effects at Amherst Island. Post construction monitoring at Wolfe Island has already revealed the second highest raptor kills in North America and yet this additional development is now being proposed only a short distance away. Would one not anticipate a similar outcome?
The issue is whether the mitigation measures themselves, contained in the conditions, will be effective in preventing serious and irreversible harm to these species and their habitat.
16 (Reijnen, et al. 1991) found that 26 out of 43 species (60%) of breeding birds in woodland habitats showed evidence of reduced density near busy roads. The analysis clearly showed that it was the noise and not the sight of the traffic that was affecting the birds. (19) Exactly how will an overall benefit for the species in Ontario be achieved by killing more birds and bats and then, according to the proponent’s proposal, partnering with “an accredited post-secondary institution to conduct research and fill knowledge gaps for Eastern Whip-poor-will”? Just what will be achieved towards the overall benefit of these species in Ontario through the training and educating of
contractors and staff on identification; and what will be the “appropriate action” they will be trained to take upon encountering Bobolink, Eastern Meadowlark and Eastern Whip-poor-will? Will the project be called to a halt at the sight of the first Bobolink? Not likely.
5.1 Can industry self-monitoring be considered unbiased?
Many criticisms have been raised in the scientific community about industry generated environmental assessments and post construction monitoring. These studies, produced by an
accommodating consultant, have been described as lacking in scientific rigor, not standardized, using observations from unsuitable times and seasons (i.e. after or prior to migration), and being based on casual observations done over an insufficient number of days, seasons, and weather conditions.
“Estimates of bird and bat fatalities are often made at wind-energy projects to assess impacts by comparing them with other fatality estimates. Many fatality estimates have been made across North America, but they have varied greatly in field and analytical methods, monitoring duration, and in the size and height of the wind turbines monitored for fatalities, and few benefited from scientific peer review. . . As wind energy continues to expand, there is urgent need to improve fatality monitoring methods, especially in the implementation of detection trials, which should be more realistically incorporated into routine monitoring. (Smallwood 2013)”.
On examining Ontario’s post construction reports one finds that very often carcass retrieval does not occur once crops are more than 12 inches high until after harvest—i.e. most of the 6 month growing season. (20)
What revelations does the MNR expect to derive from studies on a habitat that has been systematically debased– other than confirmation of further species decline– which has already been
documented? How will this knowledge “fill critical information gaps” once the species has further declined?
Where is the logic that further irreversible destruction will contribute to an overall benefit? Where is the principle of caution to which the MNR is committed?
To accept that “securing and actively managing an area(s) to create and maintain suitable habitat for Bobolink, Eastern Meadowlark and Eastern Whip-poor-will, at least equivalent in size to the area adversely effected by the activity, for the duration of the project” will be of overall benefit to the
species is to wilfully ignore the body of scientific research (outlined above) that demonstrates the ineffectiveness of such a measure, specifically in relation to these three species.
On its “Endangered Species Act Authorization Tracker” the Ministry also notes that “an overall benefit to a protected species under the ESA involves undertaking actions to improve circumstances for the species in Ontario. Overall benefit is more than ‘no net loss’ or an exchange of ‘like for like’.
Overall benefit is grounded in the protection and recovery of the species at risk and must include more than mitigation measures or ‘replacing’ what is lost”.17 How are these fine words being applied to the Amherst Island decision?
Clearly, there is no overall benefit from this mitigation activity which the Ministry defines as merely “replacing what is lost”, quite apart from its failure to take into account the inappropriateness of habitat exchange and fragmentation for these species. (17) MNR Endangered Species Act Authorization Tracker.
4.0 Industrial wind turbines are a new, cumulative, limiting factor
Accompanying this loss of habitat is the unprecedented menace of industrial wind turbines to passerine (grassland) species which the MNR does not appear to be taking into account. Post
construction studies indicate that (along with raptors and bats) passerines are exceptionally vulnerable to collision mortality from the turbine blades, especially during migration and (COSEWIC 2012) and unfavourable weather conditions.
A foreseeable cumulative effect will result as increasingly more wind turbines are built without regard to critical habitats across the province. The cumulative effect of multiple wind developments in Ontario and the Eastern USA must now be considered as an additional limiting factor for these migratory birds—one that is unlikely to be reversed given the rate at which wind projects are being approved by the Ontario government.
This additional limiting factor must be carefully weighed in MNR decisions permitting wind energy developments. Biologists have urged that “efforts should also be made to assess the cumulative
impacts of small-scale local effects on the different geographically defined avian populations”. (Desholm and Kahlert 2005)
Albert Manville, Senior Wildlife Biologist, Division of Migratory Bird Management at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also warns: “The numbers of Bird Species of Conservation Concern killed by wind turbines is increasing, and that’s troubling. These species are already declining, in some cases rather
precipitously. 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.” (Manville 2005)
Ontario Environmental Commissioner, Gord Miller, cautions: “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”. . . . “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. 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”.(Sarnia Observer, Wednesday, October 10, 2012).
The MNR must remember the proximity of Amherst Island to Wolfe Island. Each of the 86 industrial wind turbines on Wolfe Island killed an average of 13.4 birds during the first year of operation. This is equivalent to 1152.4 birds for the development during the first year; over the 20 year life of the
project one may expect many more mortalities. The Bobolink and the Tree Swallow were among the species already experiencing population declines killed at Wolfe Island.
A new study just published in the United States has estimated that around 573,000 birds were killed by wind turbines in 2012 (including 83,000 birds of prey), an increase of 30 per cent on a previous estimate by the US fish and Wildlife Service in 2009. Bats are even worse hit, says author Dr. K. Shawn Smallwood, and probably top 888,000 killed per year.12 “Clearly this has serious implications for the renewable energy industry, which bases much of its investment and publicity on the safety and
environmental sustainability of the machines. Smallwood also believes his figures are underestimated, owing to the incompleteness of reports of bird and bat deaths from different
An article by Clive Hambler, lecturer in biological and human sciences at Oxford University, warns: “A recent study in Germany by the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research showed
that bats killed by German turbines may have come from places 1,000 or more miles away. This would suggest that German turbines — which an earlier study claims kill more than
200,000 bats a year — may be depressing populations across the entire northeastern portion of Europe. Some studies in the US have put the death toll as high as 70 bats per installed
megawatt per year: with 40,000 MW of turbines currently installed in the US and Canada.
This would give an annual death toll of up to three million.
12 Smallwood, K Shawn. 2013. Comparing bird and bat fatality-rate estimates among North American wind-energy projects. Wildlife Society Bulletin 37: 19-33. (13 Bird Watch News Archive, 21 July, 2013).
Why is the public not more aware of this carnage? First, because the wind industry (with the shameful complicity of some ornithological organizations) has gone to great trouble to cover
it up — to the extent of burying the corpses of victims. Second, because the ongoing obsession with climate change means that many environmentalists are turning a blind eye to the ecological costs of renewable energy. What they clearly don’t appreciate — for they know next to nothing about biology — is that most of the species they claim are threatened
by ‘climate change’ have already survived 10 to 20 ice ages, and sea-level rises far more dramatic than any we have experienced in recent millennia or expect in the next few centuries. Climate change won’t drive those species to extinction; well-meaning
environmentalists might”. (Hambler 2013)
4.1 The ecosystem disturbance during construction has not been considered
The disturbance to the local ecosystem caused by wind turbines is long term (20 years+), continuous, and in all probability, irreversible. It is not difficult to imagine the impairment of
a sensitive ecosystem during the construction phase. Even for a modest sized development of only 46 turbines, the invasion of 13,018 gravel trucks accompanied by heavy excavation equipment will disturb a much greater area than the project site and fragment the habitat during the construction of up to 46 km of access roads. Heavy component transports, cranes, and concrete mixers will follow.
“During wind farm construction, pile driving will add significantly to existing human noise in the area; at European wind farm sites, some species tend to move as far as 20km away during construction”. (Mooney, 2012)
Many kilometres of excavations for connector cables will sever ecological links. The work goes on for the better part of a year. By that time, the habitat has lost most of the characteristics that made it a refuge capable of supporting threatened wildlife. 15
The consequences of “displacement due to disturbance, barrier effects and habitat loss. . . may be direct mortality or more subtle changes to condition and breeding success”. (Drewitt and Langston, 2006).
Neighbours around turbine developments soon observe the disappearance of all but the most common species. Avoidance behaviour has been demonstrated by Desholm and Kahlert (2005) who
found that the diurnal percentage of flocks entering a wind farm area decreased significantly (by a factor 4.5) from pre-construction to initial operation.
Rees (2012) observed large-scale displacement, with fewer swans and geese returning to areas after wind farms were installed. Loesch et al. (2012) has observed a negative median displacement of 21% for breeding duck densities near wind energy developments.
According to Dr. Scott Petrie, Executive Director of Long Point Waterfowl and Adjunct Professor in Biology at the University of Western Ontario: “When you place a turbine in or very close to critical habitats, and birds subsequently avoid those
areas, it is tantamount to habitat loss.”14
4.2 Bird and bat abundance declines at wind turbine sites
Biologists are worried about all these things: habitat fragmentation, habitat loss, wildlife disturbance,
abandonment and life history disruption.
Brennan has pointed out that while “ecologists and wildlife managers have been concerned about the negative impacts of wind energy developments or wind farms on migratory birds such as
passerines and raptors, as well as bats . . . widespread fragmentation [also] results, not only from (14 From an address given in Grand Bend, Ontario, 7 February, 2012) placement of the wind turbine towers, but also from the infrastructure of roads needed to construct and service them and the transmission lines required to access the continental electrical power grid.”
(Brennan et al, 2009)
“The associated infrastructure required to support an array of turbines—such as roads and transmission lines—represents an even larger potential threat to wildlife than the turbines
themselves because such infrastructure can result in extensive habitat fragmentation and can provide avenues for invasion by exotic species”. (Kuvlevsky et al, 2010) Abundance declines can become more pronounced with time. Disruption of ecological links results in habitat abandonment by some species. The loss of population vigour and overall density resulting from reduced survival or reduced breeding productivity is a particular concern for declining populations. (Barrios and Rodriguez 2004; Stewart et al. 2004; Kingsley and Whittam 2005; Manville
2005; Desholm 2006; Everaert and Kuijken 2007, Kunz et al. 2007).
4.3 Noise from wind turbines is detrimental to survival of wildlife
Scientists are concerned about the effect of wind turbine noise on wildlife. In October, 2011, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service warned: “Noise can affect both the sending and receiving of important acoustic signalling and sounds. This also can cause behavioural modifications in certain species of birds and bats such as decreased foraging and mating success and overall avoidance of noisy areas. The inaudible frequencies of sound
may also have negative impacts to wildlife. Given the mounting evidence regarding the negative impacts of noise – specifically low frequency levels of noise such as those created by wind turbines on birds, bats and other wildlife, it is important to take precautionary measures to ensure that noise impacts at wind facilities are thoroughly investigated prior to development”. (USFWS 2011)
“Declines in densities of woodland and grassland bird species have been shown to occur at noise thresholds between 45 and 48 dB, respectively; while the most sensitive woodland and grassland
species showed declines between 35 and 43 dB, respectively. Songbirds specifically appear to be sensitive to very low sound levels equivalent to those in a library reading room (~30 dBA)”. (Foreman and Alexander 1998)
“At a distance 300 ft from the blades, 45-50 dBA were detected; at 2,000 ft, 40 dBA; and at 1 mi, 30-35 dBA (Kaliski 2009). Given this knowledge, it is possible that effects to sensitive species may be occurring at ≥ 1 mile from the center of a wind facility at periods of peak sound production”. (Dooling and Popper 2007)
“The effect of ambient noise on communication distance and an animal’s ability to detect calls is another concern. For birds, this can mean 1) behavioral and/or physiological effects, 2) damage to hearing from acoustic over-exposure, and 3) masking of communication signals and other biologically relevant sounds. . . . This masking effect of turbine blades is of concern and should be considered as part of the cumulative impacts analysis of a wind facility on wildlife. It must be recognized that
noise in the frequency region of avian vocalizations will be most effective in masking these vocalizations. . . Masking could prove detrimental to the health and survival of wildlife”. (Dooling and Popper 2007)15
“Impacts of noise could thus be putting species at risk by impairing signalling and listening capabilities necessary for successful communication and survival”. (Barber et al. 2010) Bayne et al. (2008) found that areas near noiseless energy facilities had a total passerine density 1.5 times greater
than areas near noise-producing energy facilities. 15 “At a distance 300 ft from the blades, 45-50 dBA were detected; at 2,000 ft, 40 dBA; and at 1 mi, 30-35 dBA (Kaliski 2009).
Given this knowledge, it is possible that effects to sensitive species may be occurring at ≥ 1 mile from the center of a wind facility at periods of peak sound production”. (Dooling and Popper 2007) 18 Francis et al. (2009) showed that noise alone reduced nesting species richness and led to a different composition of avian communities. Forman et al. (2002) reported that “several species of grassland bird (especially the Bobolink and Eastern Meadowlark) decreased in numbers and breeding in patches as the amount of traffic on roadways increased”.16
3.0 Failure to consider body of scientific research
The EBR stipulates that scientific considerations must be part of decision-making in the ministry. Yet the ministry appears to have overlooked the most salient science related to the three threatened species, the Eastern Meadowlark, the Bobolink, and the Whip-poor-will which are all experiencing critical declines resulting from loss, degradation and fragmentation of habitat. (7)
In May, 2011, the Eastern Meadowlark (Sturnella Magna) was designated as “threatened”. This is the category reserved for a wildlife species that is facing imminent extirpation or extinction if limiting factors are not reversed. Meadowlarks have experienced an overall decline of 71% from 1970 to 2009. They prefer weedy, older hayfields and abandoned grasslands and the loss of this habitat is the major factor in their decline.
The Bobolink (Dolichonyx oryzivorus) has also acquired COSEWIC’s “threatened” status. “Over 25% of the global population of this grassland bird species breeds in Canada. . . .”. (COSEWIC 2012) Habitat loss and fragmentation are the main reason for its demise. The Whip-poor-will (Caprimulgus vociferous) has experienced long term and short term population declines (30% over the last 10 years), largely due to habitat loss and degradation. It is also listed as “threatened” by COSEWIC.(10)
3.1 Numbers decline when habitat is fragmented or reduced
“Habitat fragmentation not only reduces the habitat area of a species and of its food and nesting resources, but it also impedes access of the species or its food resources to habitat patches surrounded by the barriers creating the fragmentation (e.g., non-habitat). Habitat patches that are smaller than a certain size threshold or isolated by a certain distance threshold to other habitat patches are no longer able to support the species. Habitat fragmentation results in the reduction of
a net larger habitat area than can be measured by summing the remaining, apparent habitat patches (Wilcox and Murphy 1985, Saunders et al. 1991, Hall et al. 1997)”.(8)
The numbers of a species are likely to decline if its habitat is reduced; fragmentation effects imply that the value of the remaining habitat also is diminished”. (Johnson 2001) (9)
3.2 Reproductive success is lower in small habitat fragments
The loss caused by reduction of habitat and fragmentation is even more significant because of the special requirements of the species. Consider the Bobolink: Reproductive success is reportedly lower in small habitat fragments (Kuehl and Clark, 2002; Winter et al., 2004).
3.3 Bobolink sensitivities to area, habitat size, edge habitat and nest predation
The Bobolink is area sensitive. (Johnson, 2001). “The Bobolink is sensitive to habitat size (Fletcher and Korford, 2003); (Murphy, 2003); (Bollinger and Gavin, 2004); (Horn and Korford, 2006); (Renfrew and Ribic, 2008). Dr. Shawn Smallwood. “Comment on City of Elk Grove Sphere of Influence EIR”. 21 November 2011
“Habitat Fragmentation Effects on Birds in Grasslands and Wetlands”,
Douglas Johnson (11) A number of grassland birds including Bobolink and eastern Meadowlark are sensitive to noise with
decrease in numbers and breeding patches (Forman et al. 2002). (See section 4.3 below “Noise from wind turbines). The Bobolink responds negatively to the presence of edges separating its habitat, particularly forest edges (Helzer and Jelinski, 1999; Fletcher, 2003)”.
“Habitat fragmentation exacerbates the problem of habitat loss for grassland and wetland birds. Remaining patches of grasslands and wetlands may be too small, too isolated, and too influenced by edge effects to maintain viable populations of some breeding birds.” 10
The COSEWIC monograph on the Bobolink notes: “Throughout its breeding range, the main effect of habitat fragmentation is an increase in nest predation by various avian and terrestrial species (Johnson and Temple, 1990); (Lavallée, 1998); (Van Damme, 1999); (Renfrew and Ribic, 2003); (Bollinger and Gavin, 2004); (Renfrew et al., 2005)”.
“Such habitat specificity makes their [grassland birds] populations vulnerable to habitat loss and degradation at each stage of their annual life cycle. Not surprisingly, the primary cause of declines of grassland birds is related to declines in habitat supply and quality. . . (McCracken, 2005)”
R2.0 Economic, social, and scientific considerations.
Under the Environmental Bill of Rights, Ministry decision-making must include “social, economic and scientific considerations”.
2.1 Economic cost of wind turbines
While the government and proponents continue to claim that wind turbines create jobs and contribute to the growth of the provincial economy, this contention is contradicted by Ontario’s
experience. From records that have become available over the last year, it is now apparent that the economic impact of The Green Energy and Economy Act (GEA) on the Ontario economy has been a negative one. Most of the jobs predicted by the GEA have failed to materialize. Wind turbine installations have
required only small numbers of temporary construction workers. With the international trade ruling against Ontario manufactured components, future profitability looks bleak for wind turbine
manufacturing. Skyrocketing electricity rates are forcing manufacturers and high electricity consumption businesses to leave the province, taking jobs with them. The Ontario Auditor General’s 2011 Report on Renewable Energy Initiatives noted that uncalculated costs were adding to energy bills with the consequent negative effect on industry, employment and
the economy. He cited the millions it is costing electricity ratepayers to export wind energy more (5) often than not produced during times it can not be used on the grid (86% in 2010). “From 2005 to the end of our audit in 2011, Ontario received $1.8 billion less for its electricity exports than what it actually cost electricity ratepayers of Ontario”1
EXAMPLE OF COSTS:
Operators of a wind development of 60 MW (slightly smaller than the one proposed for Amherst Island) are guaranteed $21 million per year.2 5045 MW of wind turbines are now3 in various stages of approval. This implies a committed charge to be borne by consumers of $1.76 billion per year, or over $336 per residential consumer on average. Even if an individual’s consumption falls, this committed expenditure must be recovered, so that would just result in an increase in rates to pay the
commitment. Storage options being discussed will more than double this committed cost. Most of the $1.76 billion will go offshore to big multinational energy corporations.
The construction of a 75-megawatt wind power facility on privately owned land on Amherst Island, in Loyalist Township, County of Lennox & Addington will not be of economic or social benefit to the Province.
2.2 The fallacy of CO2 savings
When the argument is made that without wind turbines there will be devastating global warming caused by galloping CO2 emissions and that neither birds and bats nor humans will survive is
fallacious because it assumes that industrial wind turbines when added to electricity grids reduce green house gas emissions. This is not true. CO2 emissions continue to rise in all countries that have installed wind turbines. (1) Auditor General’s 2011 Report on Renewable Energy Initiatives (Chapter 3 “Ministry of Energy: Electricity Sector—Renewable Energy Initiatives”), p. 112. (2) Based on an anticipated capacity factor of 30% and the feed in tariff guaranteed contract payment
of $135 per MWH, whether the energy is needed or not. (3) Identified by the OPA, IESO, and Environmental Registry.
It is also claimed that wind turbines are necessary to shut down coal generation. However wind cannot shut down coal because it is not a base line energy source. Its intermittency and
unpredictability require fossil-fuelled back up operating inefficiently 24/7.4 The Ontario Auditor General noted that the government was warned in 2007 that new wind power would create higher green house gas emissions.
5 Wind is not effective for displacing coal because wind energy availability is mismatched to demand. Much of the time in Ontario, both on a seasonal and a daily basis, wind is not available when needed. This is why wind energy introduces serious grid-management issues. Adding intermittent wind
output increases CO2 emissions. Experience gained with operating the existing wind turbines shows that in reality wind turbines are forcing non-carbon emitting generating sources to be less efficient, thereby unnecessarily increasing the warming of the atmosphere, discharging steam without generating electricity; or spilling water, while actually requiring on line excess capability of coal-fired and natural gas generators to be connected to the grid to provide back up for when the wind
generators drop in output.
This is happening with the current wind turbine penetration of 1726 MW on the IESO monitored system and 2015 MW in commercial operation (as identified by the Ontario Power Authority). A
further 3776 MW already under OPA contract is yet to be added to the system. When this magnitude of wind generation is added, either more base load nuclear units will be forced off line (as is already
4 In fact, coal generation is being increased in Germany as a result of the need to back up wind
5 A Multi-municipal Wind Turbine Working Group letter to the Minister of Energy (and copied to the Minister of Natural Resources) dated 15 March, 2013, provided data showing that “coal generation dropped from 40 TWh in 2003 to 4 TWh in 2012, not because of a new policy of “expanding
renewable sources of energy,” but as a result of:
the restart of nuclear units that was already in progress in 2003 and improved performance
of other nuclear units, (~ 20 TWh increase in nuclear output from 2003 to 2012);
the addition of natural gas fired generators (~ 10 TWh increase from 2003 to 2012);
and a reduction in the Ontario demand of about 15 TWh due to the economic setback since 2006.
happening), which will require carbon emitting gas fired units to take up the slack when wind output falls, as it invariably does; or the wind generators will be paid to shut down (which also is already happening). The IESO has estimated this will cost consumers an additional $200 million a year. Thereis no rational economic or environmental basis for continuing to add more wind to the Ontario system.
2.3 Social issues
In the words of an article in Municipal and Planning Law Reports:
“Industrial wind farms have generated wide-spread controversy, focusing on potential adverse
human health effects and ecosystem harm within the context of the precautionary principle, and
more particularly on the threat to bats and birds which are most vulnerable during migration. . . . narrow appeal right to the Environmental Review Tribunal has replaced both the appeal process under the Environmental Bill of Rights, 1993 and pre-GEA opportunities to challenge approvals under municipal and provincial political and planning structures. The resulting loss of local authority and input has generated significant, organized public outcry. At present, Ontario’s permitting scheme for renewable energy undertakings is being challenged on issues of legal validity,
questions of best planning practices, and the role of local community consultation and participation”. There is widespread public outcry from conservationists and rural residents at the fact that that the
Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of Natural Resources is doing nothing to defend sensitive environments from electricity generation industrialization. In every case it is left to private initiatives to mount a defence for sensitive wildlife habitats against what should never have been allowed under Ontario’s environmental legislation or Provincial Policy Statement in the first place.
6 Marguerite Moore. “THROWing the PreCAUTIONary Principle TO THE WIND: The Green Energy Act,
a Permitting Process in Search of the Precautionary Principle and the Principle of Subsidiarity”.
Municipal and Planning Law Reports (Articles). 4th series, 2010.
Citizens are increasingly expressing their anger and resentment at the Green Energy Act’s unrealistic and prejudicial reversal of onus clause which requires residents to prove harm to health and the environment before a development has even been constructed. Because the appeal must be submitted within 15 days of the project’s approval it is not easy to engage a lawyer or for him or her to prepare a case in time. This makes it virtually impossible to win an appeal. Tribunals have even adjusted hearing dates so that appellants’ lawyers were unable to present their cases because of previous commitments about which they had already informed the Tribunal.
The growing number of approvals requiring citizen appeals through Environmental Review Tribunals is placing a huge additional financial burden upon rural residents. This process takes private citizen funding out of the community– money which could be more beneficially used for local needs. Rural citizens are forced to raise the funds for these courtroom contests, heavily weighted in favour of deep pocketed developers supported by teams of expensive lawyers. They also face a team of government lawyers opposing them—lawyers they themselves are paying through their taxes. The unfair appeals process itself is a source of growing frustration and bitterness for country residents. Energy poverty, however, is a social issue that extends also to the urban population. It is resulting from the relentless increase in electricity rates caused by the reckless and uncalculated government contract commitments for renewable energy. It is especially vexatious for households where a wage earner is unemployed, for low income families and the elderly on fixed incomes. The green association with skyrocketing electricity rates has already been responsible for the fall of at least one European government.
The government’s ill-considered inflexibility insists that there are no adverse health effects from industrial wind turbines on the basis of the report by the Chief Medical Officer of Health—a report discredited by international medical professionals as flawed and based on an earlier industry-produced document. Those who are experiencing distress from turbines operating too close to their homes are outraged at repeated use of this report to dismiss their sufferings. They point out that it failed to consider all of the available research or even consult with actual persons living near the turbines. This ultimately untenable position has caused even more indignation now that a review by Grey-Bruce Medical Officer of Health, Hazel Lynne using more recent documents, has found 18 peer reviewed studies that found evidence of an association between wind turbines and distress among some people who live near them and three which indicated distress was dose related. Every time another turbine development is approved, public outrage in rural Ontario becomes stronger.
Scores of municipalities have now indicated that they are not willing hosts to wind turbines. This is a huge social issue which, along with growing urban dissatisfaction at skyrocketing electricity costs and government waste through gas plant and other scandals is destined to have considerable repercussions in the near future.
July 26, 2013
Comments Re: EBR Registry Number: 011-9446
Amherst Island Wind Energy Project
Permit for activities with conditions to achieve overall benefit to the species –
ESA s.17(2)(c) Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR)
Submitted by Keith Stelling
1.0 Issuing an Overall Benefit Permit for Amherst Island is inconsistent with the mandate of the MNR. …………… 3
1.1 Summary …. 3
2.0 Economic, social, and scientific considerations…. 4
2.1 Economic cost of wind turbines …. 4
2.2 The fallacy of CO2 savings ….. 5
2.3 Social issues ….. 7
3.0 Failure to consider body of scientific research ….. 9
3.1 Numbers decline when habitat is fragmented or reduced…. 10
3.2 Reproductive success is lower in small habitat fragments .10
3.3 Bobolink sensitivities to area, habitat size, edge habitat and nest predation ….. 10
4.0 Industrial wind turbines are a new, cumulative, limiting factor ….. 11
4.1 The ecosystem disturbance during construction has not been considered ….. 14
4.2 Bird and bat abundance declines at wind turbine sites … 15
4.3 Noise from wind turbines is detrimental to survival of wildlife …. 16
5.0 Mitigation ….. 18
5.1 Can industry self-monitoring be considered unbiased? …. 19
6.0 The cumulative result of “Overall Benefit Permits” ….. 21
7.0 Requirements for clause 17(2)(c) are not met ….. 22
8.0 Illegal contravention of existing federal and provincial legislation ….. 26
9.0 Conclusion ….. 26
References ….. 27
1.0 Issuing an Overall Benefit Permit for Amherst Island is inconsistent with the mandate of the MNR. It is incumbent upon the Ministry of Natural Resources under its mandate as confirmed in its Statement of Environmental Values, (Environmental Bill of Rights, (1994)) to protect and conserve “ecologically sensitive areas or processes”.
Amherst Island is an example of the type of critical habitat, and increasingly rare biological and ecological diversity that is the Ministry’s duty to protect. It is a migratory staging area, a recognized IBA (Important Bird Area) and its rich island ecological system contains three provincially significant wetlands and habitat for 34 species at risk. Many bird species protected by the federal Migratory Birds Convention Act and the Ontario Endangered Species Act (ESA) use the entirety of the island. The development has the potential to adversely affect Bobolink, Eastern Meadowlark and Eastern Whippoor-will habitat (among others). All three are experiencing critical population declines and have been listed by COSEWIC (Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada) as “threatened.”
This presentation shows why issuing an “Overall Benefit Permit” to allow a 75-megawatt wind power facility to be constructed on Amherst Island would be a contravention of the ministry’s mandate to protect and conserve “ecologically sensitive areas or processes”. Such a decision would also have to be made in wilful blindness of existing scientific evidence (set forth below) as to the devastation such a development would cause to the three species facing critical declines. Since the MNR is committed to using up-to-date scientific evidence in making its decisions, this would be a further dereliction of duty. Finally, the issuing of an Overall Benefit Permit to allow the destruction of habitat of endangered species would contravene existing federal and provincial legislation and could not be justified on the basis of the incomplete and ineffective mitigation plan that has been presented.