TORONTO – Two rural Ontario farmers are waging a legal battle against a group of energy companies responsible for a proposed wind farm, arguing that the large-scale project contravenes their constitutional right to safety and security.
“When wind (energy) first came out, it sounded like a great idea,” Shawn Drennan said on Tuesday. “But the more you research it, the more you read about it, the more it scares you.”
Drennan and his wife, Trisha, filed an application this week in Ontario Superior Court against four companies, including energy giants Suncor Inc. and Acciona Energy.
In it, the couple argues their health is at risk by a planned 100- to 150-turbine wind farm project – called Kingsbridge II – being built near their 300-acre farm. The farm, which has been in the family since 1922, has pigs and grows soy, hay, corn and barley.
The Ashfield-Colborne-Wawanosh Township project, which is currently slated to begin construction in 2013 and completed a year later, would place 15 turbines within two kilometres of the farm. The closest would be 650 metres away, says Drennan.
Last year, Ontario’s chief medical officer released a report examining 42 studies from Canada, Britain, Ireland, Italy and the U.S. and found no evidence the controversial energy projects produced adverse health effects.
Regardless, those opposed to wind energy claim that turbines emit low-frequency noise and can lead to various health ailments, including dizziness, headaches, hearing impairment, sleep deprivation and hypertension leading to heart disease. There are nearly 700 wind turbines in Ontario.
Last year, when the Drennans began contacting those who live near two nearby wind projects, they were told the residents were “prohibited by agreement” to speak with them.
They discovered that at least six families signed non-disclosure agreements with the energy companies when they sold their properties. The agreements prohibit them from speaking about possible health effects as a result of living near a wind farm. Drennan says at least five other families have also refused to talk.
Drennan wants these gag orders lifted.
He argues this “concealment by contract of serious public health and safety concerns is fundamentally against the public interest,” according to court documents.
The non-disclosure agreements also impede his right to gather evidence from those currently living near wind turbines, something he says he doesn’t want to do, but is forced to because no similar studies are being conducted.
“We’re worried not just for our own safety, and that of our animals, but our community,” said Drennan.
Last July, Ontario’s Environmental Review Tribunal struck down a legal challenge by a group of rural farmers who focused on Suncor’s Kent Breeze Project, an eight-turbine wind farm in southern Ontario. The 223-page ruling called for further study into the health effects of wind farms, but admitted that currently, there was little evidence out there.
A month later, the Ontario government renegotiated a $7-billion renewable energy deal with Samsung C&T Corporation, which will create a wind turbine factory in Windsor, Ont., and fund other wind and solar energy projects in the province.
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