Wind farm opponents gear up for legal tilt
Industrial wind turbine opponents in North Stormont and The Nation are backing a lawsuit groups have launched against the Ontario environment ministry for allegedly failing to protect the public from noise caused by the power generators.
A judicial review application has been filed against the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) in the Divisional Court in Toronto. The application alleges Ontario regulations and directives limit the amount of noise any residence in the province should have to tolerate from a wind project.
If the projects were forced to adhere to the new standards, three quarters of the more than 200 proposed turbines in the province would be breaking the rules, according to Eric Gillespie, the Toronto lawyer who filed the suit on behalf of concerned citizens.
“The Concerned Citizens of North Stormont are in complete support of this legal challenge,” said spokesperson Margaret Benke. “Protection of the health and safety of well over 1,200 local residents is our main concern and we feel that the MOECC must be held to account.”
“We fully support this legal action,” said Julie Leroux, spokesperson for Save the Nation. “By allowing the construction of the Eastern Fields project, according to outdated noise regulations, the MOECC would deny protection of health and well-being for hundreds of local residents, for the next 20 years. We strongly feel that this is unacceptable.”
Save the Nation is fighting the Eastern Fields Wind Project located in The Nation and the Township of Champlain.
In North Stormont, residents are trying to block Nation Rise Wind Farm.
Opponents estimate that if developers were forced to adhere to new stricter noise limits, up to three-quarters of these turbines would have to be relocated or removed.
The opponents say that the MOECC has admitted previous guidelines resulted in underestimates of the noise at nearby homes. However, without any evidence that this was necessary, the MOECC has allowed companies promoting at least five large-scale wind projects to ignore new government guidelines. The result is hundreds of Ontario residents near these planned turbines could be living next to turbines that produce noise out of compliance with government regulations.
On its web page, Eastern Fields states: “There is no robust evidence that wind turbines affect people’s health. Over 60 scientific articles from around the world have been written about the impact of wind turbines on health, with no evidence to support a link to date. With thousands of turbines already installed in Canada alone, what has been observed in some situations is that wind turbines can cause ‘annoyance’ for a small portion of the population.”
The company adds: “Annoyance can be short-lived or long-term and can, in some cases, lead to other symptoms such as stress. Interestingly, annoyance is more often related to visual impact than to noise. Consultation, careful siting and adherence to noise and dis-
tance setbacks all minimize the risk of annoyance.” EDP Renewables is seeking approval to begin construction of the Nation Rise Wind Farm in 2019.
If it goes through, almost 1,200 rural residences could be affected, cautions the Concerned Citizens of North Stormont, a group that is worried about the health implications posed by noise and vibrations created by the turbines.
“Wind energy projects have the potential to generate environmental noise which under certain circumstances may represent an annoyance to some surrounding res- idents,” EFP notes on its web page. “As with any wind energy project undertaken in Ontario, a noise study will be conducted to minimize these effects.”
The 100-megawatt Nation Rise Wind Farm would be built on about 22,000 acres owned by 40 landowners who have signed agreements with EDP Renewables.
A total of approximately 45 to 50 wind turbines will be erected; the number will be determined by the turbine model and its generation capacity.
Declarations that The Nation and North Stormont were “unwilling hosts” did not prevent the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) from approving the plans.
PROTEST: Groups such as Save The Nation are taking their fight against wind power developments to court.