The ACT government and its officials could be exposed to litigation and financial risks if it does not seek to protect the health of rural residents from sleep deprivation by poorly operated wind farms supplying the ACT.
The ACT government is currently in the process of contracting for the provision of wind-generated electricity.
Waubra Foundation CEO Sarah Laurie and Board member Dr. Michael Crawford today highlighted that they had written to ACT Chief Minister Katy Gallagher and Environment Minister Simon Corbell about the need for protective provisions in electricity generation contracts. This can be easily done within the ACT Government’s renewable energy policy.
All State governments have recognised that sleep is a basic life necessity, and that industrial and environmental noise can disrupt sleep, and therefore directly harm physical and mental health.
Industry is usually sited away from residences and is usually relatively quiet during hours when most people are sleeping. However, wind farms are not and often operate at full power during night-time for weeks on-end, potentially causing recurrent sleep deprivation for neighbours.
“The ACT government should not source any electricity generated in a way harmful to rural residents, especially those near wind generation facilities operated in a way that results in recurrent sleep deprivation, which both the United Nations Committee and the Physicians for Human Rights have identified as ‘torture’,” said Ms Laurie.
“The attitude of some Australian bureaucrats and public health ‘experts’ that residents living near industrial wind turbines are ‘collateral damage’ clearly contravenes the UN Convention Against Torture, to which Australia is a signatory.
“The ACT Government can’t tell in advance whether its wind power suppliers will operate in a way that causes recurrent sleep disturbance and other health problems. So it needs contractual provisions that encourage neighbour-friendly behaviour by suppliers and that insulates the ACT from potential litigation and costs should suppliers cause harm.”
Dr Crawford said the ACT government could avoid potential financial risk and litigation by simply inserting in all power supply contracts that it had the right to terminate the contact at any time, without penalty, if a wind farm was shown to have caused repeated sleep deprivation or other adverse health effects to people in its vicinity.
Dr. Crawford said the ACT government could not protect itself and its taxpayers by relying on statements or warranties from prospective suppliers, the approval process for wind farms and State compliance enforcement mechanisms for wind farm noise because of the ‘potentially self-serving’ nature of statements from prospective providers of wind generated power supplies.
He said the wind farm developers’ complex noise modeling did not cover sound energy levels inside dwellings, and certainly not for each dwelling in the vicinity of a wind farm.
“Sleep deprivation occurs inside the home, but unfortunately State planning agencies do not have the resources to evaluate and challenge the analysis of the developers,” he added. “But technological advances will make it easier to test and regularly report on actual sound energy levels of operating wind farms and any harm being caused, which may lead to future litigation against associated parties.”
“Our recommendation to address these issues gives the government and its successors greater control over their power supply arrangements and any unintended consequences to those arrangements.”
The Foundation was still waiting on the ACT government to act on its proposal.
The letter to the ACT government can be viewed here: http://waubrafoundation.org.au/resources/act-government-warned-potential-litigation-re-wind-turbine-generated-electricity/
For further information
Sarah Laurie, CEO Waubra Foundation
Tel: 0474 050 463
Dr. Michael Crawford, Director Waubra Foundation
Tel 0408 673 506
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