A legal challenge questioning the safety of wind turbines was struck down Monday in a decision that clears the way for more wind development in Ontario.
However, the decision by Ontario’s Environmental Review Tribunal was not a clear cut endorsement of wind power.
The tribunal found there is a need for further study of the effects of wind turbines, which detractors say emit low frequency noise that leads to sleeplessness and an array of related problems including stress, anxiety and hypertension causing heart disease.
The challenge, funded by a group of rural Ontarians, focused on Suncor’s Kent Breeze Project, an eight-turbine wind farm in the southernmost portion of the province.
The wind farm is to be the first created under the Green Energy Act, Liberal legislation launched in 2009 in an attempt to lure an explosion of new investment in renewable energy.
Wind Concerns Ontario targeted Kent Breeze as a potential legal beach head.
The group failed to show that the turbines would cause serious harm to human health, the panel ruled.
“However, the evidence shows that there are some risks and uncertainties associated with wind turbines that merit further research,” the 223-page decision states. “In that regard, the tribunal hopes that future debate focuses on the most appropriate standards rather than “yes or no” arguments about whether turbines can cause serious harm.”
Ontario’s environment minister, John Wilkinson, applauded the ruling.
“The tribunal’s decision is consistent with the findings of the province’s chief medical officer of health – Dr. Arlene King – who reported that there is no direct causal link between wind turbine noise and health effects,” he said in a statement.
Wind power, although cheaper than solar power, is more controversial because of the soaring towers that generate it.
Anticipating local objections, Ontario’s Liberal government took turbine siting decisions out of the hands of local municipalities when they enacted their legislation in 2009.
The opposition Conservatives plan to restore local decision-making if elected to form the government in October. They will also scrap the subsidies that have spurred much of the investment in manufacturing of green energy hardware.
The anti-wind group challenging Ontario’s law may choose to appeal Monday’s decision, officials said.
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