Wind Concerns Ontario is a province-wide advocacy organization whose mission is to provide information on the potential impact of industrial-scale wind power generation on the economy, human health, and the natural environment.
Glenn Thibeault claims his energy policies saved lives. Photo: Darren MacDonald Sudbury.com
In a recent interview, Ontario Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault spoke in defence of his government’s energy policies, which he admits have been responsible for escalating electricity bills and creating “energy poverty” in the formerly prosperous province.
The Minister claimed that his government didn’t self-promote the benefits of its policies often enough, and offered some public health figures as proof.
“When I talk about energy,” the Minister said, “we don’t [talk] about the fact we haven’t had a smog day in three years. Our air pollution hospitalizations are down by 41 per cent, deaths are down 23 per cent.”
Parker Gallant took the initiative to query the Minister’s office on the source of those dramatic figures and learned that whoever provided them to Mr. Thibeault for “talking points” had actually taken them from a report which in turn referenced another report, which had nothing whatever to do with energy and electricity generation in Ontario.
The figures actually came from a report by Toronto Public Health on air pollution in that city, Gallant says in his Energy Perspectives blog.
Here is the relevant excerpt:
These estimates include the impact of pollution originating in other parts of Ontario and the United States and represent a decrease of 23% in premature deaths and 41% in hospitalizations as compared with 2004 estimates. Air pollution in Toronto comes mainly from traffic, industrial sources, residential and commercial sources, and off-road mobile sources such as rail, air, and marine sources. Of these sources, traffic has the greatest impact on health, contributing to about 280 premature deaths and 1,090 hospitalizations each year…”
To be sure, air pollution is a major concern in public health, but for a Minister of the Crown to misappropriate figures to bolster policy in another area entirely is unacceptable, and deceitful.
We recall again the fact that two Auditors General for Ontario chastised the government for having implemented a green energy program including highly invasive wind power projects in quiet rural communities against their wishes, with no cost-benefit analysis. The truth about health benefits might have shown up, if a real independent analysis had ever been done.
“…in the public interest … to remove from the REA turbines … in Blandings turtle habitat”
The Environmental Review Tribunal released its long awaited decision on the remedies proposed by wind power developer WPD for its White Pines project in Prince Edward County Ontario to protect the endangered Blandings turtle and Little Brown Bat.
Relevant sections of the decision:
 In light of all of the circumstances, based on the evidence provided and taking
into account the purposes of the EPA in support of environmental protection and
renewable energy, the Tribunal finds that it is in the public interest to alter the Director’s
decision by amending the REA in part. The Tribunal finds that it is in the public interest
to add the Approval Holder’s proposed Condition L2 to the REA, but to alter that
condition by removing Tables 3-1 to 3-3, in the NRSI Plan. The Tribunal further finds
that it is in the public interest to remove from the REA the turbines proposed to be
accessed by the proposed upgraded secondary and tertiary municipal road segments
and by the intersections in Blanding’s turtle habitat, specifically Turbines 12, 13, 14, 15,
Condition J7.1. The Company shall implement the Mitigation Plan
for Operation of the White Pines Energy Project, dated July 21,
2016 prepared by Stantec Consulting Ltd., including:
1. Implement the monitoring and mitigation measures as
outlined in Table 2 of the Mitigation Plan;
2. Adjust cut-in speed to 5.5 m/s between sunset and sunrise
from May 1 to September 30 at all turbines for the operating
life of the Project; and
3. In the event of a mortality of a bat species that is a species
at risk, successively increase the operational mitigation as
detailed in Table 2 of the Mitigation Plan.
The question that remains is, with 60 percent of the project effectively removed, how can WPD meet its obligation to provide 75 percent of the power in its contract?
The entire project may have to be reformulated…it remains to be seen whether the company will opt to do that by using 4.1 MW turbines perhaps, or by finding other locations, but the company may have run out of time to do that.
Here is a recording of lawyer Eric Gillespie’s closing remarks at the remedy hearing held in Wellington, last January. “The only remedy is to revoke [the approval]. … the result of mitigation will be to extirpate a species.”
As in, little or no understanding of the problems with wind turbine noise emissions.
On Friday, April 21, the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change released a new protocol document intended for “assessing noise from wind turbines that have already been built. It is used by industry and ministry staff to monitor compliance.”
While in the absence of guidance for staff, and the complete lack of compliance audit information from wind power developers and operators, this is a step forward, the truth is, the protocol doesn’t change much.
the protocol still relies on audible noise only, when many of the complaints registered with the MOECC concern effects that are clearly linked to other forms of noise
the protocol does not take into account lower wind speeds, which is where problems are being experienced, particularly with newer, more powerful turbines
there is no comment on any sort of transition between the protocol that existed before and this one
the Ministry’s action in producing this protocol is an indication that they know they have a problem
the description of Ministry response is a good step forward
requiring wind power companies to actually have, and to publish, compliance audit documents could be a sign of expectations of greater accountability among the power developers/wind power project operators.
This table outlines the critical gaps in the new protocol document.
Assessment of noise at wind speeds between 4 m/s and 7 m/s
MOECC testing indicates problem noise starts below 3 m/s which is outside of wind speeds involved in the protocol.
Narrow time period assessed
Wide seasonal variations while wind turbine noise constant
Only test outside of home
Very different inside noise conditions
Uses criticized techniques
Narrow band analysis shows tonal noise present.
Resident concerns drive other MOECC procedures
Elevated levels of infrasound in homes
The Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change needs to acknowledge that there is a problem with wind turbine noise, and accept that it must play a role as a government agency charged with protecting the environment and people in it — preparing an industry-led document may look like a positive step, but this document does not meet the needs of the people of Ontario forced to live with wind turbines, and their noise emissions.
“A careful reading of this paper shows that the conclusions are not supported by the data provided …”
A paper by Jalali et al was published in the journal Environmental Research last year, concluding that psychological factors contributed to distress and changes in sleep pattern, not the actual wind turbine noise emissions. Many people already living close to wind turbines were disappointed (not to say, astonished) by its conclusions, particularly those who trusted the research team and allowed them into their homes in the hopes of a meaningful and accurate research study.
Engineer and Ontario resident William Palmer did a detailed analysis of the Jalali paper; his comments have just been published by Environmental Research.
It remains a continuing disappointment that ideology (wind power is good and trumps all other concerns) seems to underlie research into the growing public health/environmental health issue associated with industrial-scale wind turbines and the noise emissions they produce. It is also disappointing that researchers continue to look for “psychological” factors instead of taking a public health approach to doing real-world investigation into a real-world health effect.
We say, BELIEVE the complaints from people. Then look for the cause of the problems.
Short-Communication: Revisiting conclusions of the report titled, “The impact of psychological factors on self-reported sleep disturbance among people living in the vicinity of wind turbines”.
by Leila Jalali, Mohammad-Reza Nezhad-Ahmadi, Mahmood Gohari, Philip Bigelow, & Stephen McColl, published in environmental research, volume 148, July 2016, 401–410
The research report concluded, “It appears that self-reported sleep reported of participants may be associated to the indirect effects of visual and attitudinal cue and concern about property devaluation rather than distance to the nearest WT’s or noise as itself.”
Careful reading of the report shows that the conclusions presented are not supported by the data provided in the report.
MOECC admission of ‘tonality’ a step forward but more action needed
(C) Wind Concerns Ontario
Residents living near the K2 wind power project in the Township of Ashfield-Colborne-Wawanosh have received a report from the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change following noise testing done at their property, Wind Concerns Ontario has learned.
WCO received a copy of the MOECC report and other correspondence from the residents, who are members of the coalition of Ontario community groups and individuals in Ontario concerned about the impact of wind turbines on the economy, natural environment, and human health.
The noise testing was done at their request, connected to complaints made to the MOECC about excessive noise and sound pressure or vibration being emitted from industrial-scale wind turbines at the K2 power project.
The MOECC report’s Executive Summary states that
Based on the results of the analysis, it is acknowledged that sound from the wind turbines was audible during the measuring campaign at levels that appear to exceed the applicable sound level limits, and based on C3 measurements conducted at a nearby receptor (the distance is about 1250 m from R876; where the same turbine(s) within 1500 m distance impact both receptors) it was further concluded that there is a possibility that sound from the nearby turbines could be tonal. To confirm compliance, it is recommended that a tonal audibility assessment and detailed noise audit be undertaken in accordance with Part D of the draft Compliance Protocol for Wind Turbines Noise, NPC 350, 2017.
This is remarkable as it is the first time MOECC supervisory staff have admitted to “tonality” in wind turbine noise emissions. And also because, in previous noise testing by the MOECC, the Ministry claimed results were “inconclusive” due to other noises such as birds chirping and tree leaf movement.
A tonal audibility assessment is a step forward.
Is it enough?
The Ministry needs to acknowledge that there is a problem with wind turbine noise emissions, and in the case of this particular report and recommendation, immediate action is required, including comprehensive testing including for infrasound which was excluded by the equipment used for these tests.
It is time for government to accept responsibility for its wind power program and the impacts on people who were given no choice but to live with them.
The sitting Liberal government persists in “green” ideology despite energy poverty, no environmental benefit from industrial-scale wind turbines
Sam Oosterhoff, MPP for Niagara-West Glanbrook, put forward a Private Member’s Bill in the Legislature yesterday, proposing the government halt all wind power approvals in unwilling host communities.
An excerpt from his speech:
Industrial wind turbines are one of the reasons people are facing a choice between heating and eating. Expensive and counterproductive power subsidies for turbines we don’t want or need have contributed to the soaring hydro prices that are among the greatest burdens the people of Ontario have to face.
Whether they are spending billions of dollars to stretch out future debt payments or handing out rich subsidies to industrial wind turbine operators, this government will always stick Ontarians with the bill.
I’m not just tilting at windmills like Don Quixote, but a comparison is in order. Cervantes, in his famous novel, wrote about a dreamer of no substance who could not perceive reality—sounds a lot like the Liberals and their hydro plan. This government’s scheme does nothing to address the root cause of the Ontario energy affordability crisis: the Liberals’ Green Energy Act. We call it the bad contracts act because it was designed to benefit Liberal corporate donors, and locks taxpayers into a 20-year contract for overpriced wind and solar power. It’s also for energy we don’t need.
Since 2009, Ontario has given away $6 billion—$6 billion—in surplus energy to US states. States that have lower energy costs than Ontario are getting electricity from us at discount prices. We’re giving businesses across the border a competitive edge over our own Ontario businesses. Truly, Premier Wynne is the best Minister of Economic Development the United States has ever had.
Speaker, I’d like to remind everyone that although the NDP also like to complain about high hydro costs and say that they too are on the side of local communities, they were complicit in setting the stage for industrial turbines being forced down the throats of rural municipalities across Ontario. The NDP joined the Liberals to pass the bad contracts act that enabled the government to sign contracts with big hydro companies that aren’t transparent and can’t be examined. Municipal governments also say that their planning authority was eliminated by this provincial legislation. …
The Minister of Energy has acknowledged that this government has made mistakes with the energy file. The Premier has acknowledged that there are serious issues on the energy file that her government is going to be working on. Yet they don’t seem willing to address the fundamental reasons behind those mistakes. Today, I’m giving them a chance, and I hope they’ll take up the chance that this government can make remedy. If they’re actually sorry, they will vote for this motion. If the Liberal government is actually willing to listen to rural residents, to listen to municipalities and to follow up on the words of their throne speech, I hope their caucus will vote in favour of my motion.
Several other MPPs spoke as well, including Jim McDonell, PC Energy Critic Todd Smith, and Michael Mantha and Gilles Bisson for the NDP.
Read the transcript and the results of the recorded vote here.
Testing being done for audible noise alone–residents’ symptoms indicate other problems
Two Ontario municipalities are supporting the call for the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change to do comprehensive testing for the full range of noise emissions from wind turbines.
Last night, Kincardine Council supported residents Norma and Ron Schmidt, who have been forced from their home because of adverse health effects from the noise and pressure produced by turbines near them, in sending a letter to the Ministry.
The situation echoes that of Port Elgin where hundreds of complaints have been filed with the Ministry about the turbine on the property owned by Unifor. The municipality of Saugeen Shores has repeatedly asked the Ministry to conduct the necessary investigations, to no avail.
“The government said they were safe”
See the video by CTV London reporter Scott Miller here.
Prince Edward County remains in a state of emergency today following an accident in which a barge being used to transport materials to the Windlectric wind power project on Amherst Island sank, polluting the waters of Picton Bay with diesel fuel. At the time of the incident, Windlectric had no Marine Logistics Plan in place.
The Association to Protect Amherst Island has called for cancellation of the power project, and issued this statement today.
Dear Premier Wynne:
Prince Edward County Mayor Robert Quaiff has declared a water emergency as a result of contaminants approaching the Picton-Bloomfield water intake due to a partially sunken barge in Picton Harbour under contract to McNeil Marine and ultimately under contract to Algonquin Power/Windlectric for the proposed Amherst Island Wind Project.
The silence from Algonquin Power/Windlectric is deafening.
Indeed Algonquin/Windlectric had the audacity to attempt to continue aggregate delivery from Picton Terminals to Amherst Island yesterday (Tuesday March 28 2017) but was thwarted either because either the water was too low or the dock too high, yet another example of the comedy of errors associated with this ill-conceived project.
The Association to Protect Amherst Island reiterates its request for MOECC to issue an immediate stop work order for the Amherst Island Wind Project until such time as a comprehensive report is available for the Picton Harbour incident and a preventative action plan is is place to address the high risk to public and environmental safety of all aspects of the project. and to address the need for a Major Design Modification to address the changed project location to include Picton Terminals.
At the same time, the Association reaffirms its request to reject the proposed amendment to the Certificate of Property Use for the contaminated Invista Lands on Bath Road (EBR 012-9749) designated as parkland. Similar to the Picton Harbour situation, a water intake exists in proximity to the proposed mainland dock for the Amherst Island Wind Project and serves a local industrial park. Algonquin/Windlectric in its Marine Safety Plan now advises that fuelling of barges is proposed at the mainland dock location. Not only is the land contaminated with the possibility of pollution of Lake Ontario, the company plans to fuel in proximity to a water intake.
The same “Marine Safety Plan” fails to address any aspect of transport of materials from Picton terminals except for a vague reference that “The bulk barge and the ATV (Aggregate Transfer Vessel) will approach and leave the island dock area from the west, . . . ” as if from the Land of Oz. The Association is in the process of reviewing this “too little, too late” document and will have further comments about use of barges in ice conditions, the lack of traffic volume, lack of simulation of barges crossing the ferry path, incomplete information about the installation of the high voltage transmission line from the mainland to the Island and the total lack of risk assessment, failure to mention Picton Terminals,among other matters.
The use of an “Aggregate Transfer Vessel” was not identified in the REA submission and no stockpiling of aggregate was proposed other than in immediate proximity to the proposed cement batching plant by the Island school.
The Association has emphasized the importance of marine safety since this project was proposed and has pleaded with politicians, MOECC, Ontario’s Chief Drinking Water Official and the Chief Fire Marshall and Head of Emergency Preparedness.
Please take immediate action to stop the Amherst Island Wind Project before a tragedy occurs.
Judge says OMB offers limited justice—is the same true for the ERT?
Recently, lawyer and retired Ontario judge Peter Howden published a book on the Ontario Municipal Board, titled, The Ontario Municipal Board: From Impact to Subsistence 1971-2016.
Howden, a judge for 20 years, also served for 10 years with the OMB.
According to a review of the book by Ottawa Citizen columnist David Reevely, Howden’s opinion of the OMB is that killing it off would be better than leaving it to function as it is.
In our view many of Howden’s comments about the OMB (which was a key factor in approval of Ontario’s early wind power projects against community wishes) can also be applied to the Environmental Review Tribunal or ERT. Both are administered under ELTO or the Environmental and Lands Tribunal Ontario branch of government.
The people who staff the OMB are “unknown entities, people largely without any public profile who seem to do whatever they want without criteria, limiting elements, or ability to define why one group won and the others lost.” Further, Howden says, OMB members’ decisions may be one-page rulings that are issued after days of detailed testimony, or they are rambling documents in which rationale is buried.
“The price to be paid,” Howden writes, “…is the continued progressively worsening public cynicism and the record over the past 10 years of insufficient deliberation and writing time, inconsistency in policy and outcomes, reliance on part-time members …”
Howden also says the set-up of these tribunals is a problem and interferes with their mandate: the adversarial nature of the hearings, not unlike court battles, is unfair for residents fighting well-funded developers.
“Most homeowners these days are simply trying to maintain their homes and families. They do not have the thousands of dollars it takes to round up a team of professionals….This kind of inequality erodes any sense of justice.”
Lack of justice is emblematic of the hearings before the Environmental Review Tribunal where Ontario citizens spend hundreds of thousands of after-tax dollars to protect their communities and the environment, ironically from the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, which has a special, supportive relationship with the wealthy wind power developers it appears alongside in the hearings.
Countless appeals were mounted in Ontario by well-meaning dedicated citizens who took their fight for their community and environment to the Tribunal, without benefit of legal counsel at all, while wind power developers were represented by lawyers from Canada’s top law firms.
Millions spent by citizens
A recent informal poll of Wind Concerns Ontario member community groups reveals that communities have spent over $3 million in legal costs to mount appeals before the ERT, and that number is almost certainly understated.
Moreover, citizen evidence presented at the hearings, paid for by citizen dollars, is often critical to wind power project operations—even in appeals that have been unsuccessful, the evidence presented has resulted in changes to the proposed power projects. This evidence is usually indications of risks to the environment, facts that the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change would have been aware of, if they did any oversight or checking on Renewable Energy Approvals … which they do not.
For example, the evidence presented on the danger to species such as the Blandings Turtle and the Little Brown Bat –paid for by citizens who raised money through spaghetti suppers and garage sales—won the day for the environment in several appeals. The appeal of the Ostrander Point project, which took years of work by Prince Edward County naturalist and community groups, not only resulted in overturning the approval for the project in a fragile environment, but also caused the Tribunal to refocus its aims, and conclude that, contrary to claims by the MOECC and developer lawyers, wind power was not necessarily a “greater good” that outweighs everything—balance must be achieved in protecting the environment.
In the fight at Clearview, citizen evidence showed not only was there danger to wildlife from the proposed wind power project, but there was a clear danger to human life from a project planned close to not one, but two airports.
Judge Howden concludes that the OMB should be a body worthy of respect.
DUTTON – A year after it was approved by the province, residents of a London-area rural township are still fighting against a wind farm that’s going ahead despite an overwhelming local vote against such projects.
Thursday, more than 60 people gathered at the Dutton Community Centre during one of two public meetings, organized by Chicago-based Invenergy, to protest against what they say is another broken promise by the Liberal government and a violation of their rights.
“Everything about it is a slap in the face, especially when you look at what is happening to our hydro bills,” said Dave Congdon of Dutton Dunwich Opponents of Wind Turbines, a community group opposed to the project that organized Thursday’s demonstration.
“As a democratic society we voted in opposition of this (project) and yet here we are still fighting them . . . it doesn’t seem to matter that we don’t want (the turbines).”
Dutton Dunwich, in Elgin County, in 2014 became Ontario’s first municipality to hold a referendum asking residents their opinion on such mega-projects.
More than half the residents took part, with 84 per cent voting against the wind farms.
Last year the province gave Invenergy the green light to proceed with the project, called the Strong Breeze Wind Farm, in part thanks to the support of six Ontario First Nations groups, one of them located 1,000 kilometres and a time zone away from the municipality.
One local First Nations man at the rally said outside aboriginal communities have no business in Dutton Dunwich’s affairs.
“They have no right and no say in bringing corporations to this land,” said Darryl Chrisjohn, a member of the Oneida Settlement near Dutton Dunwich.
Protestors say the provincial Liberals are ignoring residents.
“That’s what bugs people the most,” Dutton Dunwich Mayor Cameron McWilliam said. “They don’t want to have, as I call it, the ‘province of Toronto’ dictating to rural communities what to do.”
James Murphy, vice president of business development for Invenergy, defended the project, saying it has received 75 per cent support from adjacent landowners to the site.
“We are well aware of the sentiment in the community and we are doing everything we can to help address it,” he said.
Murphy said the company is still in the permitting process and is expected to present a final application to the province this summer. If everything goes as planned, the company would begin in 2019 the construction of 16 to 20 wind turbines capable of generating a combined 57.5 megawatts of green energy, with the facility going online later that year.
Last fall, the Dutton Dunwich group circulated a petition among residents asking the government to reverse its decision of approving the project. Congdon said his group collected more than 1,400 signatures and the petition was sent to Premier Kathleen Wynne.
“We have to continue to believe that we can stop it from happening, and it’s not something just for our community but for everyone in Ontario,” Congdon said.
The government “has admitted already many times that they have made mistakes when it comes to the energy sector, so hopefully, they will wake up and realize this is another mistake.”
NOTE: DDOWT is a community member of Wind Concerns Ontario