One of the casualties in the Ontario government’s headlong rush into green energy has been the loss of balanced, responsible environmental assessment. Here is a short summary of two recent instances where the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) has failed to responsibly administer environmental assessment processes and put the public at risk. For 12 years, this guest author, Mitchell Shnier, has been a leading figure in the fight to save the Bala Falls. Some pre-construction work has begun, destroying the traditional Bala Portage, but the proponent still does not have all the approvals they need for their proposed power development. For more detail, visit http://SaveTheBalaFalls.com
Guest Post by Mitchell Shnier
For the past ten years, wpd Canada has been pursuing a controversial proposed project to build eight 45-storey-tall wind turbines on the flight paths for both Collingwood’s regional airport and a private airfield. Most people with common sense would know that 475′-tall wind turbines this close to airports would be ridiculously too dangerous. But not the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change, who approved the proposed development in 2016 even though the MOECC’s mandate includes protecting human health.
As a result, last year six opposing groups (representing three local municipalities plus three private parties) were granted leave to appeal this approval to the Environmental Review Tribunal. After hearing from 16 experts and witnesses, and after the municipalities spent $800,000 in legal fees and the private parties spent more than $1,000,000 in legal fees, the ERT revoked the MOECC’s approval.
While it is ridiculous that municipalities and the public should have to fight a provincial government Ministry, just to protect human life, it is remarkable that:
· The MOECC’s approval decision was found to have been a mistake, but more remarkable is that …
· This mistake was for an obvious life-and-death issue of endangering people in the planes using the local airports, but more remarkable is that …
· It required six teams of lawyers, more than seven years of strong community opposition work against the province, and more than a $1.8 million in legal fees (plus whatever the MOECC spent), just to show what the rest of us know is common sense.
Alarmingly, the MOECC is currently repeating this same mistake of not realizing when they need outside expertise to assess a danger to human life which their approval would create.
This is happening in Bala (which is two hours north of Toronto), where despite more than 12 years of strong community opposition, the MOECC is close to allowing Swift River Energy Limited to build a hydro-electric generating station in the middle of a very popular in-water recreational area, even though:.
· Such a location would be unprecedented, as neither the province nor the proponent has experience doing such a dangerous thing.
· A nearby generating station less than one-tenth the size proposed in Bala caused the 2008 drowning of a 16-year-old boy. So such facilities are known to be deadly.
· The proponent has shown they would not comply with safety guidelines, yet refuses to provide a safety plan showing how, or if, they could operate such a facility safely.
It could be that these Collingwood and Bala proposed projects show that the MOECC still has not learned that to fulfil their mandate of protecting human life, sometimes they need outside expertise, such as for aviation or in-water recreation public safety.
Alternatively, here’s an observation: highly controversial proposed Ontario energy projects in Bala, Almonte, Collingwood, and Almonte were approved by the MOECC, and all are in ridings held by the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario. But highly controversial proposed energy projects in Oakville, Mississauga, and Thunder Bay were cancelled, and these are all in ridings held by the Liberals (more detail at http://savethebalafalls.com/?p=8433)
Does this show political interference, or do the Liberals not realize that sometimes the environment is more than just greenhouse gases (which they hope can be profitably controlled through their cap-and-trade financial scheme). The fact is, sometimes making ridiculous environmental decisions can kill people, but the Liberals may think this is all just politics which they can manipulate.