The issue of “gag orders” that former Melancthon resident Barbara Ashbee refers to from time to time could soon evaporate if a Toronto lawyer succeeds in his arguments that the non-disclosure clauses in certain contracts are too far-reaching to be legal.
Julian Falconer, better known as the attorney for the family of Ashley Smith who committed suicide while in custody, is representing a Goderich-area farming couple in a Superior Court challenge of the clauses.
The couple, Shawn and Trisha Drennan, is appealing the second phase of Kingsbridge wind farm on the basis of possible adverse health effects from the turbines. Kingsbridge II would have “upwards of 150 turbines, one of which will be as close as approximately 650 meters from their home.” According to Mr. Falconer, “12 more turbines will be located within the surrounding two kilometres.”
The Drennans learned that some people living near turbines in a nearby development and also in the Melancthon farm were complaining of ringing in their ears, dizziness, sleeplessness and nausea, and that the developers of two different projects had purchased the properties of 11 of those persons.
But when they sought to interview some of those persons to obtain evidence for an Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) hearing, they also learned the sales agreements prohibited the sellers from answering questions about their health.
Mr. Falconer argues in his application to the Superior Court that “the concealment by contract of serious public health and safety concerns is fundamentally against the public interest.”
In his application, he makes reference to the ERT ruling on the 20- megawatt Kent Breeze wind farm near Thamesville, in which the tribunal said generally that there might be adverse health effects from turbines but that it is up to appellants to present evidence.
The Drennans were seeking to gather evidence in accordance with that ruling.
“Evidence of former residents who chose to leave their homes entirely could represent evidence of the most extreme cases of adverse health effects,” the Superior Court application says.
It also argues that the approval of turbines close to the Drennans’ home “implicates their right to security of the person” as guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights, in view of any potential health impacts.
Mr. Falconer, whose firm has been ranked among the top 25 in Canada, was hired jointly by the Drennans and a community group called SWEAR (Safe Wind Energy for All Residents).
In recent weeks, Wind Concerns Ontario has spoken at least once in the Goderich-Kincardine area in opposition to the wind farms, and there had been a massive rally against development of the Enbridge wind farm a few years ago.
On the flip side of the coin, the recently organized Friends of Wind Ontario says a majority of Ontario residents favours wind power as a source of clean renewable energy. The present provincial government aims at generating 20% of Ontario’s electrical needs from the wind resource.
It says the mandatory minimum 550-metre setback rule makes wind turbines safe. Prior to the Green Energy Act, some of the first phase Melancthon ones were set back 400 metres, and the minimum established for Phase 2 was 450 metres.
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