Nurses for Safe Renewable Power

Looking for a healthy environment for everyone

What the Ostrander Point ERT decision does (and doesn’t)

The Canadian Wind Energy Association or CanWEA–which we must remind readers is an industry lobby group, not an environmental organization—is trying to make the best of the loss at the Ostrander Point environmental review tribunal. (The Tribunal revoked the approval for the project which was roundly criticized because it is an Important Bird Area of “global significance”; it was in fact the threat to the endangered Blanding’s Turtle that was the reason for the dismissal of the approval for the project.)

CanWEA must be smarting from the decision, which marks the first time a project approval has been reversed in Ontario. We are not sure how the thing got this far in the first place, when the Ministry of Natural Resources actually granted approval for the wind power developer to “kill, harm and harass” the Blanding’s Turtle.

So on Friday, CanWEA put out a news release to say the Environmental Review Tribunal actually upheld the idea that there is no “direct or indirect” health threat from the environmental noise from industrial-scale wind turbines and further, that the 550-meter setback in Ontario is safe.

The news release can be found here: http://www.canwea.ca/media/release/release_e.php?newsId=184

A reading of the actual decision could lead you in a different direction, however. The fact is, the Ostrander Point project was an important bird area, but not that many people live there. Eight, in fact. So, as the panel stated, the tribunal had to look at this project, as it does all of them subject to appeal, on a project-by-project basis.

This appeal featured testimony from 11 “post-turbine witnesses” i.e., people already living among or next to the wind power generating projects in Ontario.

Here are some of the statements from the decision that CanWEA is NOT referencing.

[70] The Tribunal wishes to emphasize that it found no attempts by any witness to mislead the Tribunal. …The Tribunal has no difficulty finding that all the witnesses were credible, and some of the health conditions they described could certainly be described as seriously impacting their quality of life.

[143] With respect to the proposed case Definition of AHE/IWTs (adverse health effects/industrial wind turbines), the Tribunal finds that it is a work in progress. It is a preliminary attempt to explain symptoms that appear to be suffered by people with whom [witness] Dr. McMurtry is familiar, who live in the environs of wind turbines.

[175] The Tribunal accepts the witness’ testimony as entirely credible; however, there are dangers inherent in attempting to draw general conclusions from anecdotal, personal and unique experiences. It is even more problematic to apply conclusions made from those unique personal circumstances at a certain location, to projects at other locations.

The Tribunal also raised the issue of public safety in an area such as Ostrander Point which is used by the public for recreational purposes. The Ministry of Natural Resources cannot have things “both ways,” the Tribunal said, in encouraging the public to make use of Crown land, while also permitting it to be used for industrial purposes.

Nevertheless, despite the evidence of health effects from the environmental noise and vibration produced by wind power projects, and the experiences of people from around the world, the Tribunal failed to acknowledge the strength of that evidence.

The Alliance to Protect Prince Edward County of APPEC, Appellant in the Ostrander Point case, appealing the approval on the basis of “serious harm to human health” was compelled to issue a news release following the decision. An excerpt follows:

… the ERT panel declined to connect the health evidence with expert opinion. Instead, it argued that medical diagnoses and noise studies are required. These demands far exceed the legal test that wind victims are “more likely than not” suffering “serious harm to health” from wind turbines.
“The decision suggests that the ERT process is fundamentally flawed,” said APPEC president Gord Gibbins. “The Ministry of Environment has no scientific basis for its 550-m residential setbacks. The Ministry of Health has never conducted any health studies on wind turbines. Yet, under the Liberal government’s Green Energy Act, appellants to the ERT are expected to assume the burden of proof when challenging projects, just as if they were taking on the tobacco industry.”

“It seems that citizens are required to undertake acoustical and epidemiological research,” Gibbins added. “It is not enough to provide evidence of specific, ongoing harmful effects. This requirement turns the standard of proof, ‘the balance of probabilities,’ into a test well beyond the reasonable.”

APPEC is therefore considering an appeal to the Ontario Divisional Court. Meanwhile, APPEC contends that the Ministry of Environment should re-examine existing regulations and exercise caution in approvals of the siting of all new wind power projects. There is sufficient evidence to justify a precautionary approach.

What the Environmental Review Tribunal did NOT do then was protect the citizens of Ontario; the Government of Ontario continues to enact a flawed process that is heavily weighted toward big business, and in opposition to the interests of citizens and the natural environment.

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