Ontario’s opposition Tories have intensified demands for a halt to wind farms after the release of government documents showing bureaucrats repeatedly raised concerns about noise from turbines.
“I think the taxpayers of Ontario deserve to know the truth,” Lisa Thompson, MPP for Huron-Bruce and PC deputy critic for green energy, said Wednesday.
“It goes to show there is uncertainty everywhere with regards to the impacts of industrial wind turbines. Let’s hit the pause button and let’s do proper studies based in Ontario and get it right.”
The documents were obtained through a Freedom of Information request by an Orangeville resident who asked for all letters, memos, records and e-mails between the Guelph district Environment Ministry office and other ministry staff regarding a proposed order against the Amaranth and Melancthon wind turbines. The request covered a period from March 2009 to September 2010.
Of 300 pages of records, the government released only 26 pages with sections removed.
But the 26 pages that were released showed the Guelph Environment Ministry office was being hit with a large number of noise complaints dating back to 2006 for the 133 wind turbines, the largest turbine installation in the province at the time.
In a draft plan to deal with the complaints, the district supervisor wrote that Environment Ministry officers had gone to several homes of complainants and confirmed the noise emissions “are in fact causing material discomfort to the residents in and around their homes.”
“Valid complaints continue to be received by (the Environment Ministry) . . . officers have verified that the complaints of adverse effect by area residents are for the most part justified,” he wrote in an August 2009 memo.
Another section of the memo noted that at least two families had moved out of their homes because they weren’t able to sleep at night because of noise emissions.
“Reasonable people do not leave their homes to sleep elsewhere for frivolous reasons,” the memo said.
According to the memos, Environment Ministry staff met with the developer of the wind farms in September 2009 and advised the company, Canadian Hydro Developers, that the noise emissions were causing adverse effects and violated provincial legislation.
But an order against the company was never issued after ministry staff received an e-mail from government staff and agreed to stand down.
In an open letter to Ontario Environment Minister Jim Bradley, Thompson demanded to know why the abatement plan was put on hold and why the government proceeded with the Green Energy Act when it knew existing projects had adverse impacts.
“Minister, it is critical that you stop the approval of any new wind projects and address these existing problems before more damage is done,” Thompson wrote.
A response issued by the minister’s office said the ministry’s priority “is that wind projects are developed in a way that is protective of human health and the environment.
“The ministry will continue to review emerging scientific and engineering studies to ensure Ontario’s requirements remain in line with the best available science. We continue to work with communities that are home to wind projects to ensure that wind farms are operating in a protective way.”
Ontario has more than 1,000 industrial wind turbines operating, with plans for thousands more, including several large wind farms in the London area.
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