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Wind farms: Kings County concerns justified

Regarding the editorial “Wind farm fracas: Kings takes wrong turn” (May 17): The citizens and council of Kings County are not alone in being concerned about health and safety impacts of industrial wind turbines. So are the French National Academy of Medicine and the Australian Senate Committee that reported last year on impacts of wind farms on rural communities. These authorities – and many others – indicate only an extensive, independent, epidemiological study can prove to what extent wind farm neighbours are subject to negative health impacts.

The wind industry relies on a report it commissioned from W.D. Colby and Associates in 2009. The report agrees that only an epidemiological study will indicate the degree of risk; then concludes by recommending that no one fund such a study. The evidence of negative health impacts, which is consistent and comes from all over the world, is “anecdotal,” they claim. In other words, it is raw data and Colby et al are discouraging anyone from studying it because it hasn’t been scientifically studied yet. This is plain bad science.

Unfortunately, it forms the basis for subsequent reports, also touted by the wind industry, from the Chief Medical Officer of Ontario and the Sierra Club of Canada, who dismiss health concerns without having done any epidemiological studies themselves. This approach raised concerns in the Ontario Auditor General’s report for 2011 (reports at www.friendsofjeddore.com).

Health, safety and environmental concerns naturally lead to a decline in property values near wind farms. Again, the wind industry relies on a report which doesn’t prove what they say it does. The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory study of property values near wind farms only proved, as Kings County planning staff pointed out, that property values do not seem to decline for homes located eight kilometres and more from wind farms. Ben Hoen, the chief author of the study, is on record as saying that if this study is being used to allege there is no impact on property values, then the wind farm proponents should be prepared to give neighbours of wind farms a property value guarantee. (No signs that the wind industry is stepping forward on that one.)

In light of these concerns, the environmentally appropriate approach is to adopt the Precautionary Principle, and place a moratorium on any large wind turbine development close to homes until an epidemiological study has been done. The French National Academy of Medicine has recommended a moratorium on development closer than 1,500 metres; other authorities recommend 2,000 metres.

The correct approach is not to let industrial wind farm development continue, with lip service to the reasonable concerns of Nova Scotians, as The Herald suggests – contrary to its editorial policy on fracking – but to take time to get this right.

Municipal bylaws are not adequate restrictions; they are usually on an as-of-right basis, with no provision for consultation with citizens, and with setbacks much closer than 2,000 metres.

If businesses claim Nova Scotians are NIMBYs because we will not put up with development at any cost to our health, safety, environment and property values, then too bad. These are not the kind of developers we want. Some ideas should not be in anybody’s backyard until they have received full and independent scientific scrutiny.

David Kerr and Alastair Saunders are co-chairs, Friends of Jeddore.