September 11, 2012

Ontario couple going to court to halt wind farm pending health studies

The Canadian Press | 11 September 2012

TORONTO, Ont. – An Ontario couple is trying to put the brakes on a proposed wind farm project until the health effects of turbines can be studied, and they’re turning to the courts for help.

Shawn and Trisha Drennan’s farm north of Goderich sits in the proposed Kingsbridge II wind farm and one turbine will be about 600 metres from their house. Twelve more turbines would be within the surrounding two kilometres.

Their lawyer, Julian Falconer, says the province shouldn’t allow wind farms to be built near where people live and work before they fully know if any health issues might arise.

“This is not about being anti-wind or against the usage, the safe usage of wind turbines,” he said.

“No government…should ever feel entitled to subject its citizens to experiments, yet that is precisely what is going on with the proposal of 140 wind turbines around the Drennan family farm.”

Ontario’s panel that rules on turbine approvals has said there are uncertainties about the health effects, but noted there is a lack of peer-reviewed science on both sides.

The Drennans tried talking to people living near an earlier wind farm, but were told non-disclosure agreements prevented those people from discussing health issues.

They are fighting in court to have those gag orders lifted and are trying to get Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Arlene King, to testify. The court has ordered her to, but King is seeking leave to appeal that decision.

The Drennans say they feel like they are in a race against the approvals process for the wind farm and are now trying a different tack in the courts.

“Once the wind companies have…approval they move at rapid pace and there’s really no way of slowing them down,” Shawn Drennan said Tuesday.

Their lawyer Julian Falconer says they have given the government notice of their intent to sue, which they must do 60 days before filing a statement of claim, which takes them to mid-November.

They’ll be asking the court for an injunction to halt the wind farm project until a federal health study can be conducted.

The Health Canada study, announced in July, is expected to be published in 2014.

Meanwhile, after an Oct. 18 public meeting on the proposed Kingsbridge II project, Falconer believes the approval for the project will happen quickly.

“The Drennans are stuck,” he said. “The regulatory regime that has been put in place is a means to dump wind turbines across this province.”

The province wouldn’t comment specifically on the Drennans’ case, but the Ministry of Energy issued a statement saying the health is a priority, that’s why they’re replacing coal with renewable power.

“Ontario has some of the toughest wind turbine setback standards in North America; these standards are based on scientific evidence in order to protect the health of Ontarians,” the statement said.

The ministry noted that King did a review of the health effects of wind turbines and found no scientific evidence of a causal link between wind turbine noise and adverse health effects.

The Drennans say that’s not good enough – they want to see Health Canada’s study, rather than a review of other materials.

Shawn Drennan said if the wind turbines get erected despite his best efforts, he will have to make some heavy decisions about the farm, which has been in his family since 1922.

“I’m not looking to leave,” he said, choking up.

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