Last September, the Eco Awareness Society (EAS) made application with the Nova Scotia Supreme Court for a judicial review of the development permits issued to Shear Wind on June 30th, 2010, by the Eastern District Planning Commission (EDPC) on behalf of Antigonish County.
Contrary to recurrent reports by news outlets, it is not a part of EAS’s Mission Statement to stop the Glen Dhu wind project. Rather, it has always been EAS’s mission to protect the environment and the residents of this community by researching and bringing forth evidence and information not provided by Shear Wind or any level of government.
In this case, EAS presented the EDPC development officer with a nine-page critique of Shear Wind’s noise study. The critique was reviewed by an emeritus member of the Organization of International Noise Control Engineers before submittal. This critique detailed nine points of deficiency in Shear Wind’s study including misuse of the modelling software and flawed input data. The critique also provided the development officer with a field study commissioned by Natural Resources Canada and performed by Howe Gastmeir Chapnik Limited of Ontario at the Pubnico Point Wind Farm in Nova Scotia. This Natural Resources Canada study demonstrates that the software and methods used by Shear Wind under-predict actual operational noise levels by more than 5 dB(A). This fact alone would put Shear Wind’s project in violation of the Antigonish bylaw limit of 40 dB(A).
Following EAS’s submission of the noise study critique, Shear Wind commissioned a second noise study with Helimax of Quebec. However, Shear Wind did not make the results of this study public and the EAS had to make a written formal request to the solicitor of Antigonish County for a copy.
In his Jan. 13, 2011, Coast editorial, “A Foul Wind” (see www.eco-awareness-society.ca/news, Bruce Wark relates what happened next. “The EAS considered appealing the municipal decision to the N.S. Supreme Court, but before spending up to $2,500 to file its appeal, the group needed to see if the new noise study answered its concerns. Citizens have 25 business days to file such appeals. Public officials, however, have 30 days to respond to requests for information, allowing them to run out the clock. And that’s what happened to the EAS. It received Shear Wind’s new study one day after the 25-day limit expired. Peter McInroy, the EAS’s lawyer, points out that citizens’ groups used to have six months to file appeals, but in 2009 the courts cut the time drastically.”
The EAS lost the case on the timing issue and not on the noise issue itself, which has never been addressed. While many in the press reported this as a victory for Shear Wind, it was more significantly a loss for the general public. This is not about being for or against industrial scale wind turbines. Be it a condo development or dump planned for your neighbourhood, this is about the public’s reasonable expectation that municipal decisions be made transparently on the evidence and the public’s rightful access to information and a reasonable timeframe to respond to such decisions. With the new laws and this court decision, municipalities now have new tools for avoiding public accountability.
Susan Overmyer, Media Relations
Eco Awareness Society
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