Fighting to get information on birds killed by wind turbines

Dear editor:

I just read Brian Zinchuk’s excellent article on wind turbines and bird deaths in Alberta and Saskatchewan. Way to go Saskatchewan for actually taking this issue seriously - we’ve never had this happen in Ontario!

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I’m from southwestern Ontario, but moved to New Brunswick two years ago when the turbines went up. For six years I fought them, went to tribunal hearings, videotaped the NextEra destroying an active eagle nest, got sued by the same company because I parodied their logo as “NexTerror,” and I organized and attend uncountable protests during that time. If I would have stayed and remained surrounded by turbines, the kids’ school surrounded by turbines, I would have continued, but our health came first and we left the land I was born and raised on.

Here’s the thing - I’ve since realized that the wind companies are killing way more birds and bats then the media or researches know - with impunity. The last report on bird/bat mortality that any wind developer released to the public was in 2012 (TransAlta’s Wofle Island), then all of a sudden the whole industry stopped releasing these reports. I couldn’t find them anywhere. Bird Studies Canada wouldn’t  release the documents - they are confidentially working with the wind companies (on a voluntary basis...). I asked the wind company for it (NextEra) - they told me they would give me a two page summary in a couple of months.

I asked the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry - they said I had to file an FOI (Freedom of Information) request.  These should be public documents! So I filed a test FOI for three local projects. After many months, and a faked “appeal” by the wind company to delay the release, the documents came. My heart sank and my blood boiled. In six months the two local NextEra projects killed eight red tailed hawks and 14 vultures - in just six months! You can imagine what the raptor population will be in that area when the 20 year lifespan of this project is over. We lived on flat, prairie like farm land, with small woodlots – good raptor habitat, but not now, as there are 200+ wind turbines there.

I decided to file FOIs for all the wind projects in Ontario. There are over 110 projects. I had to source out and make a comprehensive list and then present it to the FOI office and the Renewable Energy Coordinator for the MNRF. You know what the MNRF guy said? “I didn’t even know about half of these projects.” Right - this is the guy in charge of wind turbines and wildlife in the province, and he doesn’t even have a LIST of the wind projects there? I asked them if they are studying the massive cumulative impacts these projects will be having on the bird and bat populations. His answer was no, not unless there is some secret study going on. So nobody is looking into it. Not a soul. It’s all eyes closed to these massive kills.

Oh, and they told me it will probably costs me thousands of dollars to retrieve these documents through the FOI. I took a breath and said, “Do it.” I’ll set up a Go Fund Me, or something. These need to be made public. I’ve posted what I have so far on a Google Drive page open to the public. At some point it might be a good idea to do this in Alberta as well. We asked the New Brunswick MNR for these documents and they just emailed them to us, free of charge, in two days. We asked the Nova Scotia government and they mailed us the documents, through an FOI request, for five dollars. But in Ontario “It’ll cost you thousands.” Obviously, it’s for information they don’t want getting out when they put an enormous price tag on it - that’s not open government.


Esther Wrightman

St. Andrews, New Brunswick

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