Environment ministry lawyer avoids reality in Tribunal arguments

You expect lawyers to defend their clients. But shouldn’t a government lawyer always act in the public interest?

November 29, 2018

Last Friday in Toronto, the appeal against the Renewable Energy Approval for the “Nation Rise” wind power project—an appeal launched and funded by the community—heard closing arguments from the citizens’ group appealing the approval, the multi-billion-dollar Portuguese wind power developer, and the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks.

The latter was represented by Ottawa-based lawyer Paul McCulloch. His job is to defend the Wynne government’s hasty approval of the 100-megawatt power project, south of Ottawa.

Question: Should a government lawyer not be also responsible for defending the residents of North Stormont from the adverse effects caused by a wind power project?

What happened though, was that Mr. McCulloch made astonishing comments in response to evidence brought forward on the risk to human health.

Mr. McCulloch alleged that “no” wind power project has ever been tested and found out of compliance in Ontario. This is patently false. To name just one example, the Unifor turbine in Port Elgin has resulted in hundreds of noise reports, it was found out of compliance and is now under a power reduction order and noise abatement plan (though noise complaints have not stopped).

Similarly, there were many noise reports for the Melancthon wind power project between 2006 and 2009, that the environment ministry did inspections and testing and concluded “the sound discharged into the natural environment from the wind turbines would cause an adverse effect.” * The company was ordered to reduce noise levels, and remodel several of the turbines; when that was not entirely successful, the ministry further worked with the operator to employ a noise abatement plan and in 2011, implemented a “noise reduced operating plan” according to a ministry report obtained under Freedom of Information request by Wind Concerns Ontario.

So, yes, turbines have been found out of compliance and abatement orders issued; the reality is, many others are caught up in a seemingly endless round of audible noise testing through a flawed protocol.

Mr. McCulloch also dismissed government records of complaints from residents presented by Wind Concerns Ontario as evidence of problems and especially adverse effects from wind turbine emissions, saying no conclusions can be drawn from self-reported complaints.  However, “assessment” of noise/adverse effects complaints has not been a requirement of the process, so there would not be such records of medical opinions. And the ministry doesn’t follow up on reports of adverse effects, or even refer them to the Ministry of Health. The MOECC (now MECP) also does not collect information on academic credentials of the people as part of the complaint tracking process. The reality is, trained healthcare and medical professionals are among those who have filed complaints about the impact of wind turbines on their health, and others have had their assessments confirmed by healthcare professionals.

Government lawyer Mr. McCulloch, however, essentially stated that unless people registering complaints with the MECP provide medical proof, their reports are of no consequence. Does this mean that the thousands of provincial records of noise complaints are meaningless? That adverse health effects being reported to government are ignored? That is a terrible message for the people of rural Ontario.

Mr. McCulloch’s comments may also have undermined a community health investigation being carried out at the request of Huron County citizens, funded by Ontario taxpayers. The investigation was initiated by public health officials in the Huron County Health Unit in response to clusters of health complaints related to wind turbines. It is being carried out under authority of the Ontario Health Promotion and Protection Act.

But now, is all hope for this project dashed? At the hands of a government lawyer? Mr. McCulloch, a public servant, demeaned the investigation process and criticized the fact that it relied on information solicited from “volunteers.” By “volunteers” he meant Ontario citizens, the same citizens who have been dutifully filing complaints with the environment ministry since 2006, with little or no action.

Contrary to Mr. McCulloch’s remarks on the methodology in the investigation, it is modeled on the Health Canada community study, and received ethics approval from a university. Various challenges in the community (non-disclosure clauses in wind turbine lease agreements, distrust of more “study,” and despair at the lack of government action) have led to a lower participation level than expected by the investigating health professionals.

In recent weeks, the Medical Officer of Health and the staff epidemiologist have been in the media, renewing invitations for citizens to participate.

Who will participate in that important ongoing community health project now? Speaking apparently on behalf of the government, lawyer McCulloch essentially said any results will mean nothing to the MECP.

The lawyer also told the Tribunal that current Ontario setbacks and noise limits reflect the “consensus view” of the impact of wind turbines on health. That statement purposely ignores a report prepared by the Council of Canadian Academies for the federal government that demonstrated the basic measurement tool Ontario uses to assess wind turbine noise is inadequate, as well as the report issued by the Australian Senate Select Committee on Wind Turbine Noise, and recent announcements from the World Health Organization recommending a more stringent noise standard for wind turbines in Europe than is used in Ontario.

Mr. McCulloch’s statements to the Environment Review Tribunal were misleading.

The environment ministry should clarify his remarks immediately, in order for the Tribunal to be informed with the truth.

 

WIND CONCERNS ONTARIO

*Master Incident Report 7465-8KCC68, pages 2-3

For information on the Huron County community investigation: https://www.huronhealthunit.ca/reports-and-statistics/investigations/wind-turbine-study/

 

Properties near wind turbines lose value, says land economist

A new study confirms the loss of property value near industrial-scale or utility-scale wind power projects, but flaws in the methodology don’t show just how bad the situation really is

November 28, 2018

University of Guelph associate professor Richard Vyn sent along his recent paper on wind turbines and property values, published in the current issue of Land Economics.

The paper, titled “Property Value Impacts of Wind Turbines and the Influence of Attitudes toward Wind Energy,” concludes with this paragraph:

“The results of this study provide strong evidence that wind turbines in Ontario have negatively impacted surrounding property values. The results also demonstrate that these impacts increase with the number of turbines in close proximity. Hence, this study adds to the evidence contributed by more recent empirical studies that wind facilities can impact property values.”

Mr. Vyn structured his study around the notion of comparing property values between willing communities and “unwilling host” communities as a way of examining the effect of “different attitudes toward wind energy.”

His supposition was that the “nature of turbine impacts … may be influenced by attitudes…” In fact, he writes, he investigates whether the “increase in concerns expressed publicly and through the media have contributed to a greater impact on property values.”

For property values in the “opposed municipalities,” Vyn estimates property value loss is 5.61% to 9.10% during the announcement period for a wind power project, and 7.93% to 9.42% in the post-construction period.

Citizen opposition a factor

The author blames citizen opposition and media attention to negative attitudes. Media attention due to active opposition by “grassroots organizations such as Wind Concerns Ontario,” he says, so impacts on health and property values have been covered in the media with the result that “This media attention, which has increased substantially in recent years, may have influenced attitudes toward wind energy and perceptions of turbine impacts.”

So, which is the chicken and which is the egg?  The thousands of official government records of reports of noise emissions from wind turbines, adverse health effects, disturbed or failed water wells, and shadow flicker or strobe effect have nothing whatever to do with property value, it may just be down to citizen groups expressing opposition?

The word “noise” is not mentioned in the paper. Neither is the fact that leaseholders must acknowledge the negative impacts of wind turbines and sign a non-disclosure agreement. And, the study area was of “mature” wind power projects in which it must be acknowledged that people experiencing the worst effects have probably already left?

Expired sales omitted

We asked an accredited professional in real estate valuation to review the paper. His findings are summarized here.

Willing vs. unwilling: The bifurcation between willing and unopposed communities is artificial, and supposes that there will be minimal effects on value in willing communities. The fact is, almost every wind power project in Ontario—including those in the unorganized communities in Ontario’s North—was opposed to the extent that citizens took steps to appeal the projects and in many cases, also proceeded to court.

Flawed supporting studies: Among others, the author cites the Heintzelmann, Vyn and Guth study of properties on Wolfe Island, which was based on MPAC data, but “ignores key information from MLS sources which clearly demonstrate an active market on the east of the island where there are no turbines, and stagnant market conditions typified by expired listings and no sales on the west end among the turbines. Had the researchers looked at the geographic location of the sales data they used in relation to the wind turbines, it would have been immediately clear that the turbines were stifling the market on the west half of the island. Instead, they took it as a data set and did ‘hedonic magic’ to reach a conclusion that was clearly at odds with reality.”

Treatment of turbine impact: A “weakness in the study is found in the pooling of sales by wind farm leading to aggregation of impacts. Usually this results in an average and, given that there are fewer sales in close proximity to wind turbines—for obvious reasons—the average [property value loss] would tend to be lower, given the larger number of sales at greater distance from the turbines. The admission of a weak market close to the turbines says a lot … but the obvious conclusion is ignored by the author.”

The story is in the sales: “It is clear from the study that proximity to wind turbines dampens market activity and lowers property value but there is no support for the blame the victim aspect of their conclusions. As a result of pooling data, it is likely that the magnitude of property value loss is seriously understated.”

No credentials: Finally, our analyst comments that the author has no credentials in real estate or in the professional practice of valuation. “As a result, the analysis of the real estate market is without weight.”

 

For our part, while we are happy to see research into the negative economic impacts of industrial-scale or utility-scale wind power projects, this study didn’t go far enough, or use methodology that would really address the issues.

Once again, the fundamental belief seems to be that there is something wrong with the idea of people objecting to the presence of industrial-scale wind turbines. Again, the word “noise” is not mentioned. The Ontario Real Estate Association Seller Information sheet has a question pertaining to the existence of any plans near a property to be sold for quarries, garbage dumps, or wind turbines. So, the “disamenity” or reason why people would value the property less is noise and construction activity for quarries, and smell and again noise and truck traffic for a garbage dump. But for wind turbines, the author alleges the only possible reason could be how the turbines look and the possible negative influence of information from citizen groups in opposition.

In other words, the author doesn’t believe there could be any rationale for an objection to living near 500-foot noisy industrial structures.

Giant pro-wind PR machine

We are sorry to say that this paper appears to be yet another volley in what environment writer Jude Clemente said in Forbes magazine said is “a heavily funded public relations machine to make Americans think that wind power doesn’t impact property values, and it’s every bit as influential as the ‘Big Oil’ the anti-fossil fuel movement purports to be so against.”

“Many members of the Real Estate and Appraisal businesses, however, have been clear that wind power DOES impact property values,” Clemente concludes. “It would seem to me that these groups have no vested interest in supporting wind power or not supporting it…. Wind’s impact on local property values can no longer be ignored.”

So, while Mr Vyn acknowledges property value loss and impact on Ontario communities from being forced to “host” wind power projects, he does so in such a way as to diminish the effect, while apparently dismissing the valid concerns of residents for the impacts on health, the environment, and the economy.

Turn off C-K wind turbines to assess turbine-water wells link, says geological engineer

But the wind power operators won’t and the Ontario government won’t force them

Water in Chatham-Kent wells is laden with sediment. Turn off the turbines and see what happens says an engineering professor [Photo: Sydenham Current]
November 25, 2018

In a recent article by Jeffrey Carter in Ontario Farmer, Maurice B. Dusseault, professor of Engineering Geology at the University of Waterloo, says that the contamination of water wells in Chatham-Kent following construction and operation of a new wind power project there is likely caused by the power project. “I believe there is a reasonable cause to believe pile-driving (and turbine operation) is leading to the disturbance,” professor Dusseault told Carter.

Gagnon has been working with citizens’ group Water Wells First; the group has invested many hours and thousands of dollars “putting together multi-stage filtration systems” at several properties “to remove sediments and shale gas.”

The water runs clear after being treated although a disagreeable smell and taste remains, Ontario Farmer reports.

The engineering professor plans to compare changes to the sedimentation in the well water over time, he says, relating the data to changes in the direction and velocity of the wind, which drives the turbines. Finding a relationship in that information would be solid evidence that the turbines are the problem.

There is another course of action: shut down the turbines to see if the sedimentation problem goes away. However, that’s not something either the Ontario government or the wind power operator is willing to take.

Monte McNaughton, MPP for Lambton-Kent-Essex has said the Ontario Chief Medical Officer has been directed to review data from past sample collection and follow up on the water situation for Chatham-Kent families.

Acknowledge the problem

Chatham-Kent Medical Officer of Health Dr David Colby is steadfast in his belief that the sediment-laden water may be “unappealing” but “there is no health hazard from undissolved particles in water.”

The sedimentation means well water systems cannot function, Ontario Farmer reports. There are three wind power projects with a total of 94 wind turbines, and Water Wells First members say as many as 50 wells have been affected in the former Township of Dover alone.

University of Windsor researcher Joel Gagnon, who is also working on the well water problem, says more people could come forward but they are prevented by confidentiality or non-disclosure clauses in their lease agreements with the wind power operators.

There may be solutions to the problem, he told Ontario Farmer, but right now, the first step is official admission that there is a problem.

 

 

Documentary from Germany on wind turbines and infrasound: what you can’t hear can harm you

November 18, 2018

[Photo: ZDF.de]

 

A documentary aired on ZDF, the national public television broadcaster in Germany, featuring multiple interviews with scientists on the topic of wind turbine noise emissions, specifically infrasound.

See the transcript here–open in Google for a translation.)

Here are some excerpts from the report.

Interviews (in German) include conversations with a geoscientist, cardiovascular surgeon, and an expert in noise measurement.

 

Introduction

The natural sources of infrasound include, for example, earthquakes and sea surf. Technical sources are – to name just a few – combined heat and power plants, airplanes and also wind turbines. In recent years, doctors and scientists have increasingly dealt with infrasound from wind turbines. Because with the energy turnaround and the expansion of wind power, the load from these sources increases.

People who live near wind turbines often complain of sleep disorders, dizziness, headaches, and difficulty concentrating. Not infrequently dismissed as crazy, they usually have nothing left but to leave the area. Because in the common opinion frequencies below 20 Hertz are not audible and therefore can not cause any health damage.

Perception below the hearing threshold

But is it really like that? Professor Christian-Friedrich Vahl, Director of the Clinic for Cardiac, Thoracic and Vascular Surgery of the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz feels reminded in such an argument to the early radiologists who experimented with X-rays, but “because they did not see that, only much later realized that they cause cancer. ”

Medical and scientific evidence is increasing that not only some animals, but also humans are able to perceive infrasound below the hearing threshold. No wonder actually, because “infrasound is an energy,” explains Prof. Vahl, “And every energy has physical effects, whether you hear it or not.”. For two years, he and his team have been addressing the question of how infrasound affects the power of the heart muscle. They have already completed two series of experiments investigating the acute effects of infrasound on human cardiac muscle, and the results are available: “In both series of tests, a clear reduction in cardiac muscle strength has been observed with infrasound signals,” says the cardiac surgeon , Something that you do not consciously perceive, So you can still get sick. Or at least have an effect.

Effects on the brain

Investigations by scientists of the University Hospital Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE)also show effects of infrasound on the brain. They found that infrasound presented below the individual threshold of hearing activates certain regions of the brain. Interestingly, regions that are involved in the processing of stress and conflict. Why this is so is still unclear, but Professor Simone Kühn of the UKE has a hypothesis: “We have speculated that if you hear something consciously and know there is something, you can perhaps better hide it. […] But with things that are so semi-perceptible, you may not have the directive to say, that’s what I’m ignoring now. “Unconsciously perceived things may put you in stress, at least when it’s not. A follow-up study by the UKE is now looking into the question

Worldwide attempts by the military to use infrasound as a non-lethal weapon are another indication that this low-frequency noise can have a negative effect on humans.

Experts estimate that between ten and thirty percent of the population can feel the symptoms of infrasound.

Different measuring methods

Nevertheless, to this day there is no standard for the frequency range below 20 hertz, which would represent the noise level of wind turbines unadorned. On the contrary, on the part of the authorities, a measurement standard is used that partially filters out the infrasound emissions of wind turbines. Frequencies below 8 hertz are completely ignored. By averaging (third-octave analysis) so-called “tonal peaks” are largely smoothed out, which means that certain high rashes are not visible in the result.

The German Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR) already showed in 2004 how the emissions from wind turbines in the infrasound sector really look like and how far they reach them. The BGR is responsible for ensuring compliance with the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty ( CTBT). Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty) to control. For this purpose, the Federal Institute operates several measuring stations, of which two stations register infrasound. To avoid disturbing the measurement, the BGR determined the distance the wind turbine measuring instruments must have and concluded: ”

As a rule, a distance of about 20 kilometers between the station and the wind farm should be maintained to ensure an undisturbed registration and detection of transients acoustic signals. ”

A distance from which the neighbors of wind farms can only dream.

Wind power vs. natural gas: why a cost-benefit study would have been nice

Two Ontario Auditors General chided the Ontario government about not doing cost-benefit studies. Consumers have overpaid by billions for intermittent renewable energy

November 13, 2018

Independent energy commentator Parker Gallant took a tour of the Lennox power plant in Bath, Ontario, last week, and was amazed at the capacity of the facility and its ease of ramping up in case of power demand.

He also learned that this natural gas power generation plant can fulfill any shortfall in Ontario’s power supply if needed, during the period when nuclear power plants are being refurbished.

And the cost? Amazing.

He will have more details soon but for now, his learning points out again the wisdom of two Ontario Auditors General who chided the McGuinty-Wynne governments on never having done any cost-benefit or impact studies before they launched and continued to carry out their ideology-based “green” energy program.

Now, Ontario ratepayers are carrying the burden via punishing electricity rates, and a new government is facing a dire financial situation.

Read Parker Gallant’s account of his Lennox tour, here.

Changes to wind farm regulations not wide enough: WCO

Proposed changes to Regulation 359/09, which covers wind turbine siting, noise, and how project appeals are allowed, don’t begin to cover the landscape on Ontario’s problems with wind power projects, says Wind Concerns Ontario. For one thing, there is no protection for health and safety.

 

Regulation 359/09 doesn’t align with experience and research, and doesn’t protect health, safety or the environment

November 9, 2018

Proposed amendments to Regulation 359/09, infamous in rural Ontario subjected to wind power projects as being THE regulation responsible for the abuses of democracy and social justice, don’t begin to make the changes needed, Wind Concerns Ontario says in a comment document filed this week with the Ontario government.

“The wider provisions of the regulation do not align with the experience in Ontario and current research on the impact of wind turbines on communities,” president Jane Wilson wrote in a covering letter attached to the formal comment document.

“The conclusion of experience and research is that many aspects of the current regulation are not sufficient to protect the health and safety of residents living near the wind power projects. Significant changes are required.”

The document was filed with the government on November 5th.

Affected by wind turbine noise, vibration and well water disturbance, or have experience with effects on the environment and wildlife? Send the document to your MPP with your personal comments.

Read it here: 359 09 Comment WCO-FINAL-Nov5