Wind farm developers’ expert witness self-interest questioned in appeal

Christopher Ollson was paid $20,000 to review docs and appear at Gunn's Hill appeal. Trained in chemical toxicology, he admitted he has taken "one course" in epidemiology and "one lecture" in acoustics, but works for multiple wind power developers in Ontario as consultant, and expert witness

Christopher Ollson was paid $20,000 to review documents and appear as an expert witness in the Gunn’s Hill appeal, as he has for other wind power developers. Trained in chemical toxicology, Ollson admitted before the Tribunal that he has taken “one course” in epidemiology and “one lecture” in acoustics. He is not a health professional, is not licensed by any health professional regulatory body.

Woodstock Sentinel-Review, July 16, 2015

The fate of the proposed Gunn’s Hill wind farm is now in the hands of the Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT), because as of Thursday the agency had heard from all witnesses from both sides scheduled to make testimony.

Representative on behalf the appellant, Ian Flett, said they had put their evidence before the tribunal and that it was now up to the tribunal what to do with that evidence.

Albert Engel, representative on behalf of the proponent, said they had brought a motion to dismiss the appellant’s case based on a lack of evidence, and that they were looking forward to see how the tribunal dealt with that.

“We put in our evidence, which we feel fully supports our position,” Engel said, “and at this point we’re required to prepare and submit our final written submissions.”

The appellant and director for the Ministry of the Environment are also expected to prepare and submit their final written submissions as well.

The tribunal wrapped early after hearing from three witnesses on behalf of the proponent.

The first to appear on the stand was Dr. Robert McCunney, a medical professional based out of Boston. Dr. McCunney appeared as an expert witness on behalf of the proponent, with specific expertise in occupational and environmental medicine.

During his testimony, Dr. McCunney said annoyance is not an adverse health effect.

“Annoyance is a term that’s used in outcome measures of various types of research studies,” he said. “It’s usually gleaned by completing a questionnaire. In the context of wind turbines, there have been questionnaires that asked people whether they’re annoyed, very annoyed or slightly annoyed. It’s the answers to those questions that are used as part of the studies.”

Dr. McCunney did say, though, that annoyance could lead to other adverse health effects, such as stress.

“It’s a theoretical proposition that if annoyance is protracted or continual without abatement, clearly some people can be stressed as a result of that. And then of course stress, in and of itself, if it’s chronic, can lead to certain health problems in some people.”

As for research, Dr. McCunney said he looked at research in other papers and tried to apply it to the situation here – notably in regards to estimated noise levels in the area near residents close to the turbines.

During his cross-examination, Flett asked Dr. McCunney about his research and if he has met patients who have complained about adverse health effects from industrial wind turbines.

“If he’s a medical doctor and the name of the game for him is meeting with patients, he did not suggest to us that he has met a single person who has complained about the adverse health impacts of an industrial wind turbine,” Flett said. “So why is a medical doctor drawing conclusions based merely on other people’s work when he’s perfectly qualified to ask those people who are complaining about these effects… and come to a conclusion on how they are being impacted.”

Also mentioned during Dr. McCunney’s cross-examination, as well as on Tuesday during Dr. Christopher Ollson’s cross-examination, Flett brought up that they were both being paid for their testimony as expert witnesses.

“The law in Canada… is that experts are expected to be there to assist the decision maker in making its decision,” Flett said. “They’re not there on my behalf or on the approval holder’s behalf to persuade the decision maker… So at the end the day you ask yourself, is this expert motivated in some way for more work based on the outcomes (they) can achieve in court or at tribunals.

“And sometimes we ask ourselves, well how much are you getting paid and is the payment such that we can question the weight and the veracity of your testimony,” he added.

Ultimately, the tribunal felt this was not relevant to its decision, which Flett said he respected. He added that when there is an expert who testifies for one side “time-and-time again,” while being paid for it, it needs to be asked what their interest is in the evidence they are giving.

Following Dr. McCunney was Rochelle Rumney, an environmental coordinator with Prowind who appeared as a fact witness on behalf of the proponent.

Rumney said during her testimony that no endangered species would be harmed as a result of this project.

“We did a field survey to determine if there was any risk to species habitat or the species themselves,” she said. “And the (ministry) confirmed that there was no risk with this project.”

In addition, Rumney said they prepared a confidential study regarding endangered species as well, which was also submitted to the ministry.

“It was mentioned in one of the witness statements that we hadn’t looked at species at risk,” Rumney said, referencing concerns raised by John Eacott in his witness statement. “But we had, and I think it… just wasn’t available for them to review.”

Rumney also mentioned the little brown bat, an endangered species that was found to be located near one of the proposed turbine sites, which she said will not be harmed during construction.

During her cross-examination, Flett asked whether or not Rumney would rely on an electrician or welder to identify any species at risk found during turbine construction.

“If there is an obligation to report the presence of a species at risk during construction… you’ve got to know if that bird or that bat is the actual species,” Flett said. “If the concern is that we need to protect endangered species, we need to know where they are. And with all due respect to all of the electricians, welders, lawyers and reporters out there, none of those people have the qualification to say one species is exactly what one says it is.”

The final witness to appear before the tribunal was vice president of Prowind Juan Anderson, who appeared as a fact witness on behalf of the proponent.

During his testimony, it was brought out that Anderson has been with Prowind since 2009 and became vice president in 2012. To date he has worked on 10 wind turbine projects – both completed and in construction – across Canada.*

Anderson also described the turbine layout during his testimony and how it was changed with regards to Curries Aerodrome.

“We deliberately position turbines in a manner that would still allow our land owners to host turbines on their property, but allow for space for the aerodrome to operate,” he said. “Our intention was to strike a balance between those two.”

In addition to placement, Anderson also described the type of turbines that would be implemented in the proposed wind farm. The Senvion MM92 have a 92.5 metre rotor with a 100-metre hub height and 102.0 DBA maximum sound power level, according to Anderson.

He added that they are predicted to generate sound 1.6 DB before the maximum limit of 40 DB at 38.4 DB.

Anderson also indicated that Senvion has said there have been no fully developed fires in its fleet of turbines.

A decision is expected from the tribunal sometime next month.

bruce.chessell@sunmedia.ca

*WCO Editor’s note: we’d like to know where these 10 projects are supposed to be. Prowind has never actually built anything in Canada. The closest the company got was the South Branch project which was sold to EDP Renewables.

Comments

NIABY
Reply

“There’s a lot to unpackage here,” Steve Paikin might say if he was an excellent journalist.

—————

First off, Chris Ollsen is notorious for once stating during an open house for a wind energy project, that he reads comments on blogs where victims describe their suffering, and he described that he perceives “they are better than porn.” Those are HIS WORDS. What a pervert!

—————

Dr. Robert McCunney was questioned about whether he has interviewed any person claiming adverse health effects caused by wind energy projects.

‘[excerpt] “If he’s a medical doctor and the name of the game for him is meeting with patients, he did not suggest to us that he has met a single person who has complained about the adverse health impacts of an industrial wind turbine,” Flett said. “So why is a medical doctor drawing conclusions based merely on other people’s work when he’s perfectly qualified to ask those people who are complaining about these effects… and come to a conclusion on how they are being impacted.”’

The truth is, victims of industrial wind energy, like myself, would not trust in a relationship where the fiduciary (the doctor) is not competent, or behaving in bad faith, as McCunney obviously is. And I wouldn’t allow my children to be in a room alone with him. So maybe the reason he hasn’t consulted any victims is because he’s been rejected by them, or would be rejected by them. I think this demonstrates something about McCunney’s lack of credibility.

—————-

Regarding the endangered species report that was “confidential”. What is the rationale for why a species-at-risk report needs to be confidential???

‘[excerpt] It was mentioned in one of the witness statements that we hadn’t looked at species at risk,” Rumney said, referencing concerns raised by John Eacott in his witness statement. “But we had, and I think it… just wasn’t available for them to review.”

“wasn’t available for them to review”???

Maybe it wasn’t available for review, because it didn’t exist at the time, and was fabricated later? It is possible [even likely, considering some of the other evidence available] this government is conspiring to “fix” the errors and omissions, some of which may have been intentional, committed by wind energy proponents. Regularly we find important documents that are not dated, and where no author’s name is provided. This is a nightmare, likely to ‘bring down the house’ when these issues end up in Nuremberg-like trials.

By the way – still see that Nazis are being prosecuted 70 years after the fact. Perhaps this is the future that thugs like Chris Ollsen and Robert McCunney can envision for themselves.

——————-

Also, briefly wanted to point out, that despite the high quality of this news article, statements toward the end are suspicious. For example, even with my experience and education, which, pertaining to these issues, is more than the average Joe Public who is reading this Sun Media article has, this statement has little value without further explanation:

‘[excerpt] He added that they are predicted to generate sound 1.6 DB before the maximum limit of 40 DB at 38.4 DB.’

And this statement seems hollow:

‘[excerpt] Anderson also indicated that Senvion has said there have been no fully developed fires in its fleet of turbines.’

Is there a definition of “fully developed fire”?

——————–

The whole thing is absurd, but anyway I gotta get back to work so that I can pay more income taxes to fund this disgraceful tragedy.

“Have a great day!”

————————

PS – Are people in the Gunn’s Hill community being EXTORTED?
Are they threatened with harm?

Barbara
Reply

Altering the terms of a government contract also known as “fixing” a contract can’t be done. Gathering documents is very important.

This can be done (altering) if only private parties are involved in a private contract.

Richard Mann
Reply

This is getting interesting, especially the medical doctor. Is this not violating ethics of their profession? That is, not applying the precautionary principle.

– “During his testimony, Dr. McCunney said annoyance is not an adverse health effect.”.

– “So why is a medical doctor drawing conclusions based merely on other people’s work when he’s perfectly qualified to ask those people who are complaining about these effects… and come to a conclusion on how they are being impacted.”

Barbara
Reply

He doesn’t have to stick his neck out the way he operates. Gathering actual information? Why would he want to do that?

Wind Concerns Ontario
Reply

Was that the infamous Simon Chapman? Also not a medical doctor. Although there is one in Australia who is a medical doctor in big with the wind power industry.

NIABY
Reply

Mr. Gary Zavitz, who is somehow involved in the CNE wind turbine hustle, “Friends of Wind”, and this Gunn’s Hill project, also has a record of being quoted as stating “annoyance is not a health effect.”

From where do these people get this absurd notion???

Maybe they are advised by crazy people.

wgulden
Reply

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”
“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master – – that’s all.”
(Through the Looking Glass, Chapter 6)

NIABY
Reply

Chapter I

In my younger and more vulnerable
years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been
turning over in my mind ever since.

“Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,” he
told me, “just remember that all the people in this
world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.”

Richard Mann
Reply

Speaking of PR and “spin”, I stumbled on this web page,

https://purslane.wordpress.com/category/wind-energy/

Quote from the near the bottom:
” Smart Community Engagement: Twelve Tips Every Wind Developer Should Know
April 26, 2014 at 1:39 pm · Filed under Wind energy, Wind power
Ben Kelahan & Jan Christian Andersen
Thursday, April 24 2014, North American Windpower”

….
12. Stack the deck at public hearings, and plan for it well ahead of time. Make absolutely certain you have more supporters in the room than the opposition and that they are well prepared. If you’ve done your job leading up to the hearing, getting all of your supporters there should not be a problem. However, never be presumptuous about success – a poor performance at a hearing can change everything.

When the outcome of a local hearing goes against a developer, the best-case scenario is that the company will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to play catch-up to the opposition and eventually succeed in changing the mind of an entire community. The worst-case scenario is that the developer loses a multimillion-dollar investment because the project never moves beyond a simple conditional use permit hearing.

But it is not just about the dollars and cents. It is about understanding that smart community engagement pays dividends beyond a permit victory and local community acceptance. Your reputation follows you on to the next project – and the project after that.

Henry
Reply

Dr Robert McCunney is reported as stating “Annoyance is not an adverse health effect “. That may be so, but ‘Annoyance’ can certainly generate adverse responses and then causes a permanent reduction in thresholds against further Annoyance.

Dr McCunney has perhaps himself, never experienced ‘Annoyance’ in the context of the impact of physical vibration and/or higher magnitudes of inaudible sound (L.F.N.).
Annoyance is a continuous cranial ‘buzz’ effect, is associated with aural /balance problems and results in an inability to think consecutively. It’s onset can waken the subject, prevent sleep and can accompany ‘stabbing’ headaches.

This ‘Annoyance’ is of a totally different magnitude to the common assumption that annoyance is an adverse response to traffic noise or from the audible emissions from wind turbines.

No survey asking if respondents are ‘annoyed’ could identify what proportion of observers have some sensitisation or have an unusual response.
This lowering of the threshold for Annoyance may well be the reason why a proportion of observers react adversely to vibrations in houses or vehicles. These vibrations are in resonance with the energy pulses emitted by turbines at, usually 800 millisecond spacing. Energy emissions peak as each rotor blade passes behind the supporting columns.
My experience is that Annoyance is much increased when the air is heavy (i.e. in mist) and/or when background sound levels are low.

The Annoyance generated by a wind turbine is certainly real for some observers -but without some analysis of the degree of pre-conditioning for each and every respondent, asking if respondents are ‘annoyed’ gives no indication of the severity of impact or the proportion of observers who suffer an adverse response.

Different research is needed and it needs to be carried out by a team who understand that Annoyance is, almost certainly the result of a sympathetic effect between (a) peak transmissions in the auditory system and (b) peaks in skin mechanoreceptor ‘firing’.
Low frequency disturbances produce similar patterns of peak discharges in the two systems.

[P.S. 1. Annoyance can be magnified by overlaying the principal vibration (and the associated low frequency sound) with higher frequency vibration at about 200 Hertz! – precisely as foreshadowed by Werner Loewenstein. (see….Repetitive activity in a Pacinian corpuscle. – Journal of General Physiology September 9, 1957 )

P.S. 2. On the assumption of sympathetic transfer, Annoyance would be reduced or eliminated by masking the coincidence of simultaneous peaks in the two transmissions by diffusing the low frequency peaks in the auditory system.
The addition of either audible, or higher frequency non-audible sound masks these peaks and eliminates the Annoyance.

P.S.3 Similarly, the characteristic Low Frequency Noise becomes understandable. The characteristic “diesel engine idling in the distance” sensation is felt by sensitised observers. It is the result of beats between (a) the peak discharges from the mechanoreceptors at the main vibration frequency and (b) the peak transmissions in the auditory nerve from the undertone generated by that vibration].

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