As sixteen wind towers rose above the prairie just west of Moosomin last week, a Saskatoon judge issued a decision dismissing an application for an injunction to stop the project.
In his 24-page written decision issued Thursday, Justice R.C. Mills states that plaintiff David McKinnon of Moosomin failed to prove his allegation that the wind turbines that will make up the Red Lily Wind Farm will cause adverse health effects for people living within 2,000 metres of a turbine.
“The affidavit material referred to by the parties is not sufficient to provide any support whatsoever for the allegations contained in the statement of claim and therefore is not sufficient to sustain the interlocutory application,” Justice Mills wrote.
The judge pointed out that the application calls for a 2,000 metre distance between wind turbines and homes, based on a study that the author, Dr. Michael Nissenbaum, admits doesn’t address the issue of distance. “No attempt was made to correlate symptoms with distance from turbines as the numbers studied were inadequate to determine a dose-response relationship,” the judge quotes from Nissenbaum’s own study, submitted as evidence.
The judge writes, “To me it is very clear this admission of the scope of his survey, even if it could be considered valid, did not include the very issue that the injunction is aimed at obtaining. Yet the survey forms the basis of his opinions and the application.”
The judge points out that Dr. Nissenbaum claims in his affadavit “many communities have required setbacks of 2,000 feet of (Dr. Nissenbaum’s gramatical error) more to account for debirs (Dr. Nissenbaum’s spelling error) scatter during failure. In the USA I am aware that some communities have established setbacks of one mile.” The judge notes that Nissenbaum “does not provide in his research or comments which communities have required setbacks of 2,000 feet or more, or which ones have established setbacks of one mile. Of course, neither one of these setbacks is equal to the distance of two kilometres requested in the injunction.”
The judge points out that Nissenbaum claims some of his opinions are based on “discussions with acoustical consultants.” The judge writes “He again does not provide the names, qualifications or papers on which he relies to form that opinion.”
The judge quotes another allegation made by Nissenbaum in his affadavit: “In the winter, these wind turbines will be prone to iceing which will increase the sound coming off the turbines by up to six decibels. As the icing occurs symmetrically on all blades, imbalance detectors do not kick on, and the blades keep turning, contrary to claims in the environmental assessment.”
Justice Mills’ only comment: “Again, there is no basis for his statement.”
The judge stated that an affadavit submitted by environmental health risk expert Dr. Christopher Ollson for the defence completely discredited any evidence submitted by Nissenbaum. “His affadavit evidence discredits the survey of the Mars Hill project by Dr. Nissenbaum, its methodology and conclusions, as well as the other bold, unsupported statements made by Dr. Nissenbaum throughout his affadavit,” the judge wrote in his decision.
The judge dismissed the notion that Dr. Nissenbaum could provide an unbiased opinion on wind farms.
“A review of his affidavit No. 2 especially shows that he does not take an objective approach to the issues at hand,” the judge wrote. “He passionately believes in the harmful health effects of wind turbines from his own survey on the Mars Hill project and has made that the basis for his foray into an area that he has little real knowledge of. It is clear from the content and tone of his second affidavit that he has no objectivity in respect of the issues. Secondly, in addition to the leaps of logic that were contained in para. 17 of both affidavits, he makes bold, unsupported statements on issues critical to the injunction.”
The judge noted that literature Dr. Nissenbaum submitted to support his affidavit does not in fact support it. “Reading of the material attached to his affidavits does not support those conclusions,” Justice Mills wrote.
He also wrote “Dr. Nissenbaum refers to other literature in his affidavit in the area of wind turbine projects. The extensive review of the literature undertaken by him is referred to to support his general hypothesis that sound from wind turbines can cause adverse health effects in humans. None of the other materials referred to by him, however, supports his assertion.”
The judge suggested Dr. Nissenbaum’s collection of information from the internet doesn’t add up to a cohesive knowledge of the subject he is addressing.
“The internet has provided a wonderful and ever-expanding source of information to people with an interest in just about anything,” Justice Mills wrote. “Dr. Nissenbaum has obtained a great deal of information on this subject, but information is not knowledge, and Dr. Nissenbaum does not have the type of knowledge referred to in the court cases that makes him an expert in any of the areas that I have identified as necessary.”
The judge noted that “Extensive evidence from Red Lily was provided regarding a wind farm project at St. Leon, Manitoba, which uses identical turbines and is in a similar topographical area. The unchallenged evidence is that there are not the health or nuisance issues at St. Leon that are alleged will occur at Red Lily. The St. Leon Manitoba project is clearly more comparable to Red Lily than Dr. Nissenbaum’s Mars Hill, and the survey information provided in relation to St. Leon is much more detailed and appears to be more valid that Dr. Nissenbaum’s survey.”
The judge further noted “As part of the approval and information process, some people in the Red Lily area were taken to St. Leon for the purpose of viewing the operational wind farm there. There are no plaintiffs’ affadavits from those people suggesting any issues of nuissance or health effects that they could identify.”
In reviewing David McKinnon’s affidavit, Justice Mills wrote, “It should be noted that Mr. McKinnon has no special training, knowledge, or insight into the operation of wind turbine projects other than what he has been able to read up on since this project came to his attention in his area. He states in his affidavit that he has specific concern related to the minimum distance in which Red Lily ought to be permitted to construct turbines from occupied residences, but does not make any mention of the distance that he believes would be appropriate. He makes no reference in his affidavit to the necessity of a two-kilometre setback as suggested in his statement of claim. He does not depose to ever visiting an operating wind farm.”
The judge found that affidavits submitted by Dr. Lee Ekert—a Saskatoon doctor who is related to an RM of Martin resident opposed to the wind project—and the affidavits of local residents Troy Smith, Ray Donald, and 14 other local residents, which the judge pointed out are virtually identical, are simply opinions based on information provided to them by David McKinnon on alleged health effects of wind turbines.
“People living in the affected area are initially relying on the internet searches of McKinnon for information about adverse health effects of wind turbines,” the judge wrote. “None of them have given any evidence to suggest that they have ever been within two kilometres of a wind turbine such as the ones proposed at Red Lily and what effects, if any, those wind turbines had on health or nuisance issues.”
News of the decision came in the middle of an RM of Martin council meeting Thursday. Reeve Mark Bateman said he was happy with the news. “I think it’s just nonsense they’ve been carrying on this long,” Bateman said. “I think it’s just a small group of vocal people. I’m at the coffee shop just about every day and from what I hear, everyone thinks this wind farm is good for the environment, good for Moosomin, good for the area.
“They had the opportunity to put their land in and they chose not to,” said Bateman, noting that opposition sprang up only after the sites for the turbines were selected, and that the opposition is from people who do not have turbines on their land and therefore are getting no direct economic benefit from the wind farm.
by Kevin Weedmark,
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