Pro-wind legislation sacrifices democracy

Sign in Dutton Dunwich: a community referendum saw a majority say NO to a wind power project that was approved anyway–then cancelled by a new Ontario government

February 27, 2020

Recent news from New York State and Arizona indicate a disturbing trend in the United States. With the awareness of negative impacts on the environment and human health from industrial-scale or grid-scale wind turbines rising (together with discontent over rising electricity costs), opposition to wind power projects has become vocal and powerful.

The answer?

Legislate their approval no matter what and obliterate the possibility of any opposition from communities.

Quoted in an article in today’s Post-Journal, NY Senator George Borrello said the move to fast-track wind power projects by Governor Cuomo is clearly aimed at “crushing” any citizen opposition. Borrello said:

“The governor’s 30-day amendment to accelerate renewable energy projects is a maneuver designed to bypass Article 10, which established a siting process for these projects that, appropriately, included local input. Now, in order to advance an extreme environmental agenda, he is proposing to eliminate home rule in order to force these renewable energy projects on communities. This is bypassing local zoning and crushing any opposition. In order to meet his environmental targets, these projects will need to be constructed on a massive scale and with a density that will literally change the face of upstate New York, transforming it into a barren industrial wasteland. Countless acres of farmland will need to be blanketed with solar farms. Our beautiful shorelines will be marred by the sight of massive mechanical wind turbines towering over the water.”

Ontario’s Green Energy Act passed in 2009 by the government under Dalton McGuinty, did much the same thing, removing all local land-use planning powers with regard to renewable energy projects. The current Ontario government returned those powers but few municipal governments have followed through on the opportunity to protect their citizens from negative impacts of potential wind power developments by enacting protective zoning bylaws.

The democracy-killing trend is not unanimous, however: In Ohio, the state government is considering legislation that will allow communities to hold a referendum for a proposed renewable energy project.

“No one should underestimate the influence of the well-funded wind power lobby,” says Wind Concerns Ontario president Jane Wilson.

CanWEA, the Canadian wind lobbyist, has been approved for Intervenor status in the court action over the revoking of the Renewable Energy Approval for the Nation Rise wind power project. The Ontario environment minister said in a letter to the community group which had appealed the approval that the power from the project wasn’t needed, and proceeding on it was not worth the environmental risks.

 

Wind turbine noise complaints mount, documents show

“Unbearable torture…please help us”

Wind Concerns Ontario releases a report on Ontario government records of 2017 wind turbine noise complaints

A report released today by Wind Concerns Ontario (WCO) shows that the government under Premier Kathleen Wynne did little to respond to citizen reports of environmental noise pollution by industrial-scale wind turbines. And, when government staff in the environment ministry offices did try to enforce Ontario noise regulations, they were rebuffed by corporate wind power operators.

The Wind Concerns Ontario report is a review of almost 700 noise complaints from people living inside 23 wind power facilities across Ontario. The total number of complaints records received by WCO now exceeds 5,200.

Response by the environment ministry was recorded in only 1.3 percent of the records in 2017; 54 percent of the files were marked “No” response by government staff.

Adverse health impacts were noted in staff notes and recorded comments by citizens calling in or emailing in 42 percent of the files, and 16 percent contained description of symptoms suggestive of exposure to low-frequency noise which is not audible but can cause harm.

The Wind Concerns Ontario report comes after a 17-month wait and several appeals to the Ontario Information and Privacy Commissioner following the initial request for the records under the Freedom of Information Act. The noise complaints were made to the MInistry of the Environment and Climate Change during the pro-wind power Wynne government’s last full year in office.

Excerpts from the citizen complaints are included and provide a “litany of suffering” according to the WCO report.

“We find no peace … the assault is the same and at times greater in low wind speeds. [We have had] a thumping noise through our heads, long and steady, all day,” was one comment from someone living near the single turbine in Port Elgin, owned by the union Unifor.

“The noise has been bad for 24 hours,” said another resident, living inside the 140-turbine K2 Wind power facility. “I am exhausted from not sleeping.”

Another K2 Wind neighbour reported that the noise “drives a person insane when it goes on for hours…We are being impacted health-wise and are extremely agitated with the noise.”

“Unbearable … torture,” said another person. No response from the environment ministry was recorded on the file.

The corporate power operators are required by the terms of their Renewable Energy Approvals or REAs to act on these complaints, and to investigate the cause of complaints, take action, and ensure the complaints are not repeated. The Environmental Protection Act gives specific power to the environment ministry to take action.

In practice, however, Wind Concerns Ontario found in its review, the power operators were delinquent in filing audits to confirm compliance, and refused to take action when called upon by ministry staff. When the Owen Sound District Office, for example, demanded the operator of K2 Wind respond to noise complaints and implement noise mitigation until their (overdue) audit was filed, the company wrote back from its Texas headquarters with a refusal, stating “It is the Company’s view that the current circumstances do not objectively establish reasonable and probable grounds to require interim mitigation measures.” The operator, Pattern Energy, referred to its computer-generated predictive modeling for noise and said the modeling “is accurate.” In other words, our models say this can’t happen, therefore it isn’t.

The situation is unacceptable, Wind Concerns Ontario says.

“We’re recommending that the current Ontario government take action to enforce the regulations immediately,” says Wind Concerns Ontario president Jane Wilson. “It’s time to get rid of the outdated and non-protective protocol for measuring noise, stop letting the corporate power operators police their own operations, and re-invest and support our trained Environmental Officers—let them do the job they were supposed to do, and help the people of rural Ontario who have been forced to live next to these power generating machines.”

The Wind Concerns Ontario report on 2017 noise complaints is available here: Wind Turbine Noise Reports to MOECC in 2017-FINAL (3)

contact@windconcernsontario.ca

Wind Concerns Ontario is a coalition of community groups, individuals and families concerned about the negative impacts of industrial-scale wind power development on the environment, the economy, and people’s health.