The East Oxford Community Alliance’s final witness in the Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) regarding the proposed Gunn’s Hill wind farm said Tuesday there is an impossible proof when it comes to this case.
Expert witness Bill Palmer, a professional engineer who appeared as an expert in public safety and turbine acoustics, criticized the tribunal for requiring evidence of adverse health effects on a project that has yet to be built .
“The requirement of the tribunal is that a citizen prove, in advance, that building the project will cause a health effect,” he said. “It is impossible to prove, in advance, that something that doesn’t exist will cause that effect … You can’t collect any data, so the proof is an impossibility. So it is an impossible proof that the tribunal sets upon people, but that is the way the regulations are set.
“All you can do is come here and present the evidence, with the hope that people will say ‘there seems to be something wrong with the way this process is set up.'”
Palmer argued that annoyance caused by wind turbines can cause adverse health effects to those living near them.
“Health Canada and the Council of Canadian Academics have both gone through and made a finding that says wind turbines cause annoyance,” Palmer said. “They have both said noise from other issues causes health effects. They’ve both said annoyance from road traffic causes health effects, but then they say that they have no evidence that noise from wind turbines causes health effects.
“There’s a logical gap in there…,” Palmer added. “If turbines are more annoying than roads, maybe we should assume as a conservative point of view… that maybe we should think that annoyance from something that’s more annoying causes health effects.”
Another point Palmer made involved the type of turbines Prowind plans to build at Gunn’s Hill, which, he said, have failed in the past.
“There’s at least four cases within the last two years of this particular type of turbine losing the blade,” Palmer said. “The most recent one was in Quebec.”
In that case, the turbine in Quebec was in a forest and no one was hurt, but Palmer said if it had happened on a farm it could’ve have resulted in injury.
Palmer has also given testimony at similar cases in Middlesex, Kincardine and Bluewater, among others.
“There’s been something like 19 or 20 ERTs, maybe more than that, and I think I’ve testified before seven of them,” he said. “Certainly not all of them.”
The issue, Palmer said, is that most people don’t live near wind turbines and, therefore, can’t relate to those who do.
“It only becomes a major issue when it impacts you,” Palmer said. “So the general public sort of says, wind turbines are not really a problem to me. It’s not because they’re bad people, it’s just because that’s human life.
“That’s not just. It’s not just in our society that somebody has to bear the burden on behalf of everybody else.”
During Palmer’s testimony, the Ministry of the Environment’s (MOE) counsel objected three times: Twice because Palmer is not a health expert but was speaking about health issues and once because he was presenting a personal opinion.
During Palmer’s cross-examination, the same counsel also asked Palmer to clarify his sources, which were from local newspapers, Wind Power Monthly and Renewable Energy News, in order to find out what sources he was using to get his data table.
Appearing after Palmer on the stand was Norwich Township Coun. Wayne Buchanan, who was representing the municipality. Buchanan, who was brief in his testimony, said the township opposed the wind farm as it pertains to health and safety issues.
“Our primary concern is our residents,” he said, “and if there are any concerns and it hasn’t been proven to be totally safe, then we have to be opposed to that stance.”
The MOE’s counsel asked Buchanan while he was on the stand about Oxford County’s recent initiative to become 100 per cent renewable by 2050, which Norwich supported.
Buchanan said this doesn’t affect the township’s stance on wind turbines.
“There are other forms of renewable energy, and there are other places for them as well,” he said.
The MOE’s witness, Denton Miller, did not appear as scheduled in front of the tribunal on Tuesday and, instead, will appear on Wednesday.
It was also revealed at the end of Tuesday’s session the representative for Prowind, the wind farm’s proponent, will come forward with a motion on Wednesday as well. Once the motion is presented, the appellant will have until July 24 to respond.
When asked about the motion, Juan Anderson, vice-president of Prowind, was not at liberty to discuss it.
The ERT will resume at 9 a.m. Wednesday morning, with the proponent bringing forward its first set of witnesses.
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