TORONTO – Anti-wind campaigners in Ontario will forge ahead with their legal challenge against turbines, the group says.
Wind Concerns Ontario, a grassroots organization, says it will appeal a Superior Court decision earlier in March that ruled against its challenge to the province’s Green Energy Act regulations.
The anti-wind activists say Ontario’s environment ministry failed to properly assess the human health risks of turbines, which they believe emit low-frequency noise that causes sleeplessness and an array of other effects, ranging from psychiatric conditions to cardiovascular disease.
At the centre of the dispute is a government regulation that states turbines must be at least 550 meters from the nearest house. Opponents believe this “setback” is insufficient.
Ian Hanna, a Picton, Ont., resident, launched the court challenge after a number of wind farms were proposed near his home in Prince Edward County. His case was backed by the testimony of Dr. Bob McMurtry, a former medical school dean and special health advisor to the federal government and two other doctors.
In court, a government lawyer called McMurtry, who also owns property in Prince Edward County, an advocate rather than an expert witness.
The court ultimately decided that the ministry held “a full public consultation and a consideration of the views of interested parties.”
The anti-wind campaigners, who have raised more than $200,000 to fund their challenge, are not satisfied with that decision.
“The central concern is the apparent lack of medical or health evidence supporting the minister’s decision,” says Eric Gillespie, the lawyer spearheading the challenge. “And the issue will be whether what the minister did is sufficient.”
In a statement, environment minister John Wilkinson said the rules for wind turbine siting “are based on peer-reviewed science.”
“While I can’t comment on the appeal, I can tell you that science-based evidence was and will be used to develop our regulations,” the statement read. “(The court) confirmed that developing the regulation included full public consultation, consideration of the views of interested parties, health reports, science-based evidence and expert opinions.”
The anti-wind group is also pressing their cause at the level of the Environmental Review Tribunal.
It is using a hearing there to attempt to shut down an eight-turbine, 20-megawatt wind farm in the municipality of Chatham-Kent. The Suncor Energy-owned project is the first major wind installation sanctioned under the 2009 Green Energy Act. It is not yet operational.
The tribunal will issue a decision on that project by May 29, Gillespie says. It is unclear when an appeal on Hanna’s court case will be heard.
The two challenges have dampened some of the enthusiasm over the Liberal government’s groundbreaking green energy program, which pays generous subsidies in long-term contracts to green energy producers who source a percentage of their projects domestically.
A vast majority of the considerable interest in the program has focused on solar energy, which offers less visible installations and less public resistance than wind projects.
Meanwhile, the Ontario Progressive Conservative party has cast aspersions on the program, calling the rate subsidies – which run up to 20 times the current market price for electricity – unaffordable. That opposition has cast doubt on the future of the program ahead of the October provincial election.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding