Mayors, citizen groups meet with Environmental Commissioner on wind farms
Citizens, municipal and provincial politicians and environmental groups met with Ontario Environmental Commissioner yesterday, detailing environmental, health and economic impacts from wind power projects and thousands of complaints about turbine noise. The Commissioner says she can’t do anything
Prince Edward County councillor Steve Ferguson and Mayor Robert Quaiff, and Warren Howard of Wind Concerns Ontario at the meeting table in Toronto yesterday [Photo: Todd Smith MPP]
April 5, 2016 TORONTO—
Wind Concerns Ontario was one of the presenters at a meeting in Toronto Monday with Ontario’s new Environmental Commissioner Dianne Saxe. The meeting was organized and led by MPP Lisa Thompson, environment critic for the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario.
Wind Concerns Ontario (WCO) introduced its presentation by stating that our members of the coalition of community groups and individuals are about the impact of industrial- or utility-scale wind power development on the economy, environment and human health. “That sounds like three things, but it isn’t,” President Jane Wilson told the Commissioner. “The environment is everything: it is the economy, it is the natural environment, and it is health.”
Warren Howard, in speaking for WCO, detailed the fact that Ontario’s noise regulations are inadequate to protect health, which is borne out by research including the Health Canada noise study and the Cape Bridgewater study, to name two. He said that WCO learned from the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change that there are more than 2,700 files of noise complaints. Details have been requested under Freedom of Information from the Ministry but not produced after a year; the matter is now in the hands of Ontario’s Privacy Commissioner.
Wind Concerns told the Commissioner that it is not merely audible noise that is the problem but infrasound/low frequency noise that produces unique sensation among some individuals exposed to the emissions. The group referred to several individual locations as examples of problems such as Prince Edward County where an eminent acoustics specialist testified before the Environmental Review Tribunal that virtually everyone in that community would be exposed to the turbine noise emissions. WCO also mentioned the Niagara project where thousands of homes will be within 1.5 km of 77 industrial-scale turbines. By conservative estimates, as many as 1,000 people could be affected by exposure to the noise emissions.
WCO concluded its presentation by asserting that the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change is not fulfilling its mandate of ensuring a “healthy environment” for Ontarians. Wind Concerns asked the Commissioner for a full review of Ontario’s noise regulations under Section 61 under the Environmental Protection Act.
Other presenters made striking presentations including Barbara Ashbee of Victims of Wind, City of Kawartha Lakes councilor Heather Stauble, Prince Edward County councilor Steve Ferguson and Robert Quaiff, Mayor of Prince Edward County, and Deputy Mayor Dutton-Dunwich, Bob Purcell. Representatives of citizens’ groups from Bruce County and Huron County also presented reports of environmental and health problems. There have been so many complaints of poor health from turbine noise emissions in Huron County, people told the Commissioner that, where the Health Unit has launched a formal investigation .
Mayor Quaiff detailed several environmental concerns about the two wind power projects proposed for Prince Edward County, saying that not only were the power plants to be built on land where endangered Blandings turtles and Little Brown Bats are found, the sites are also on important migratory pathways for birds. “Questions are not being answered,” he said, about the effects of materials used in turbine construction such as the reinforced steel bars and concrete foundations, which will leach into the water table. He added that the turbines will have a negative impact on the wineries locally, and the bird-watching areas. “The South Shore is the last undeveloped shoreline on Lake Ontario,” he said. “I think it should stay that way.”
MPPs Todd Smith, Laurie Scott and Jeff Yurek were also at the meeting.
In her closing remarks MPP Lisa Thompson said that while everyone wants to do the right thing for the environment, key parts of the wind power process are “not working.” “What is working,” MPP Thompson said, “is we have an Environmental Commissioner and I hope we can move forward.”
Commissioner Saxe said that her office is dealing with hundreds of issues and can realistically handle only five or six a year. She acknowledged “the passion” expressed in the meeting today but in the short term, she couldn’t do anything, and in the long term “we’ll have to see.”
MPP Thompson said that this serious issue is affecting “so many communities” that she hoped the Commissioner’s office would review all the information in the submissions presented.
(C) Wind Concerns Ontario