BATH — The two sides fighting it out at the Amherst Island Environmental Review Tribunal sparred over the qualifications of an expert witness Friday morning.
Andrew Taylor, an ecologist with Stantec Consulting, the company that performed environmental studies for the proposed wind energy project, had been called to testify on behalf of Windlectric, which has received conditional approval from the Ontario government to build up to 26 wind turbines on Amherst Island.
Taylor was called to provide testimony about the impact the project could have on bats and turtles on the island.
Windlectric lawyer Arlen Sternberg said Taylor was qualified to testify about the project’s potential impact specifically on birds, bats and turtles.
“He’s got a lot of experience he has developed on those topics over the years,” Sternberg said.
Eric Gillespie, the lawyer for the Association to Protect Amherst Island (APAI), had opposed Taylor’s expert qualification and instead wanted him declared a witness with experience in wildlife.
In the end, tribunal member Robert Wright ruled Taylor could be considered an expert witness on the effects on wildlife of wind energy projects, but he did not specifically label him an expert on birds, bats and the Blanding’s turtle.
Sternberg had noted earlier in the morning that Taylor has testified at five other ERTs as an expert witness and has studied the impact on wildlife at the pre- and post-construction stages of wind energy projects.
Sternberg said Taylor was more qualified than many expert witnesses called by APAI.
Under questioning from Sternberg, Taylor said he has performed wildlife studies at 19 large construction projects, including nine wind energy projects, and had delivered testimony at previous ERTs.
“This tribunal has accepted him five other times as an expert witness,” Sternberg said.
Earlier in the hearing, Taylor provided expert testimony about the impact of wind energy projects on birds.
A 2013 study from Stantec stated there are no Blanding’s turtles on Amherst Island.
Island residents have testified earlier in the tribunal that they have seen Blanding’s turtles on the island.
APAI’s lawyer Gillespie admitted that it is rare to challenge the qualifications on an expert witness, but he noted that Taylor was not accepted as an expert witness at the 2013 Ostrander Point ERT.
Gillespie argued that little has changed in Taylor’s qualifications since then that would make him an expert witness in this hearing.
“We say nothing has changed,” Gillespie said. “It’s the same Andrew Taylor who is standing here.”
Gillespie said Taylor has experience, but he disputed the statement that Taylor had provided expert testimony about bats and Blanding’s turtles, arguing instead that his testimony about those species have not been accepted by any ERT.
“Everybody has agreed that he is simply not qualified,” he said.
Gillespie said it was “grossly unfair” to say that Taylor has the equivalent qualifications of APAI witnesses.
The ERT is to continue next week on Amherst Island.