Final Day in Landmark Wind Hearing on Oak Ridges Moraine, First Nations and Buddhists
Final arguments will be heard by the provincially appointed Environmental Review Tribunal this Friday, January 23rd, in a landmark Hearing at 11:00 a.m. at the Pontypool Community Centre, 254 John Street Pontypool, Ontario. Open to the Public.
The industrial scale wind project (almost 500 ft tall towers) is the first to be approved on the Oak Ridges Moraine. If the approval is upheld, the rolling green hills of the environmentally protected Oak Ridges Moraine will change forever. The Hearing is also the subject of a two constitutional questions filed by the Cham Shan Buddhists and Curve Lake and Hiawatha First Nations.
The project, near the town of Pontypool sits on the Oak Ridges Moraine, is near two schools, a daycare, Fleetwood Creek Conservation Area, in First Nations Williams Treaty and Treaty 20 area and on an high aquifer vulnerability area, meaning that the area is highly vulnerable to contamination. The project area goes through significant woodlands, wetlands, and species at risk areas. Requirements under the Renewable energy legislation for noise and environmental setbacks to water and natural heritage features were not followed. Requests for a hydrogeological report by the City were not met. Despite assurances by the Ministry of the Environment that the Oak Ridges Moraine requirements would be met and a cumulative noise assessments would be conducted, the Approval was issued without those requirements being met.
STORM (Save the Oak Ridges Moraine) which led the move to protect the Moraine presented to the Tribunal in December. The objectives of the ORMCP limits development and activities to those that protect, maintains, enhance or restores the hydrological and ecological integrity of the Moraine. Industrial wind turbines were never contemplated. Section 41of the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan (ORMCP) requires that they demonstrate the need and that there is no reasonable alternative. The Technical Guide to Renewable Energy Approvals directs proponents to consider the full intent of the (ORMCP) which includes the requirement that they demonstrate the need and that there is no reasonable alternative. This requirement to demonstrate “need” applies to linear infrastructure that must connect – not wind projects which can stand alone. Furthermore, the wind company has ignored the setbacks and refused to conduct a hydrogeological study designed to protect the highly vulnerable aquifers.
STORM was represented on the two provincial initiatives charged with developing long-term management strategies for the moraine as a member of the Technical Working Committee (1991-1994) and Chair of the associated Citizens Advisory Committee (1993-1994). STORM also participated on the Oak Ridges Moraine Advisory Panel (2001) charged with advising the government on how to proceed with ORM protection, the advice that formed the basis of the current legislation and policy framework.
The Sumac Ridge wind project could open the door to many more wind projects and other types of industrial development on the Oak Ridges Moraine. There are currently a number of projects awaiting approval by the Ministry of the Environment.
The Oak Ridges Moraine is known as the “rain barrel” of southern Ontario. It was protected under the Oak Ridges Moraine Act in 2001 with the unanimous support of all three Parties in the Legislature. Ironically, former Premier Dalton McGuinty announced the protection of the Moraine in Pontypool. Development and activities on the Moraine were restricted in order to protect the important hydrological and ecological functions of the Moraine.
The project is in First Nations Treaty area which affirmed “harvesting rights” through the Williams Treaty and then Treaty 20. Members of Curve Lake and Hiawatha First Nations were granted Participant Status at the Hearing despite concerted efforts by both wpd and the province to get them excluded. In a powerful ceremony at Curve Lake, the Tribunal heard about traditional First Peoples beliefs, hunting, fish and wildlife in the project area. Under the Renewable Energy Process, the wind company is supposed to consult with the First Nations. Despite claims by wpd, there is no proof that they ever posted anything in their newspapers or held any meeting with them leading to claims by First Nations that they failed in their Duty to Consult.
The case has also attracted a lot of attention because the proposed wind project sits in between four proposed Buddhist Temples. The Cham Shan Temple bought the properties over twenty years ago because of the peaceful tranquil natural environment with plans to create a meditative retreat and pilgrimage route. The four temples were to recreate a Pilgrimage route between the four Great Temples of China. The first of four temples is in the midst of development. The Cham Shan Temple filed an Appeal after learning of issues with another Temple in Scotland which found infrasound affected the ability to meditate. The Pilgrimage between the temples runs through the project area and involves taking three steps and bowing.
The issue of infrasound was brought up in the first wind project appeal (Erickson) leading to a recommendation by the Tribunal that a noise testing protocol be developed to ensure compliance. Infrasound is at the low end of the sound spectrum and is often inaudible but can be perceived through a feeling of vibration. There have been numerous reports of a feeling of vibration. Infrasound has been known for years as “sick building syndrome”. NASA has spent a lot of time researching it because planes and space craft that “hum” in this frequency range can cause motion sickness nausea in pilots and astronauts. The province currently has no method of assessing low frequency noise or infrasound. After the first environmental review tribunal decision, the province committed to developing a low frequency noise testing protocol but has not done so yet.
A study released this week by Steven Copper in Australia, in cooperation with a wind company, Pacific Hydro, clearly identified a “Wind Turbine Signature” as the basis of the narrow band infrasound components that are evident in other studies. Mr. Cooper said the work at Cape Bridgewater had established a methodology that could be repeated very easily all over the world.
Pacific Hydro said it had conducted the study to see whether it could establish any link between certain wind conditions or sound levels at Cape Bridgewater and the concerns of the individuals involved in the study.
Media release – 21 January 2015
<http://www.pacifichydro.com.au/?p=3756>The results of an acoustic testing program – Cape Bridgewater Wind Farm<http://www.pacifichydro.com.au/files/2015/01/Cape-Bridgewater-Acoustic-Report.pdf>
The Sumac Ridge project has been hotly contested from the start over concerns that the residents living near the project would be subjected to noise, shadow flicker and the concerns that the protection that was put in place to protect the Oak Ridges Moraine was being ignored. Almost seven hundred people showing up at the final public meeting held by the wind company, wpd. Several thousand letters, emails, and petitions were sent directly to the Minister in opposition to the project and over 2870 comments were posted on the Environmental Registry (EBR) site.
Over 40 groups or individuals requested Party, Participant or Presenter Status at the Tribunal including members of the community, Manvers Wind Concerns, Cham Shan Buddhist Temple, Curve Lake and Hiawatha First nations, the City of Kawartha Lakes, the City of Peterborough, STORM Coalition, Heather Stauble (Councillor, City of Kawartha Lakes), Scott McFadden (Mayor, Cavan Monaghan) and a large number of neighbours and residents. Groups such as STORM Coalition and the Council of Canadians have publicly voiced their opposition to the project.
Volunteers have contributed an enormous amount of time and money to research, collate, write and provide assistance to lawyer Eric Gillespie. This is a well-researched and presented case. The facts are clear. If the Province has any respect for its own legislation, the approval should be overturned.