Ontario farmer to tilt at wind turbines in court
The Canadian Press
Published Monday, October 19, 2009 5:56PM EDT
TORONTO - A farmer on a small island in Prince Edward County, Ont., who said he fears the constant swooshing of wind turbines will harm his family's health launched a legal challenge Monday against Ontario's wind power plans.
Ian Hanna said his application for judicial review, being called the first of its kind, is his latest appeal to the government after petitions failed to stop plans for five turbines about 900 metres away from his property on Big Island in the Bay of Quinte.
The community of about 100 homes will be overwhelmed by the turbines, he charged.
"My parents taught us when we were growing up that we should stand up for what we thought is good and right and whether that's for my family or for my neighbours, I intend to do that," he said.
Hana is calling on the courts to strike down parts of Ontario's Green Energy Act and wants an injunction against the approval of turbine projects until independent health studies have been completed.
The application claims there is scientific uncertainty about the effects of wind power on those who live close to the loud and powerful turbines. Documents filed with the court say the province has not taken those concerns into account in application and approval procedures for new wind turbines.
During a press conference to launch the legal action, Dr. Robert McMurtry, former dean of medicine at the University of Western Ontario, said there are over 100 people in Ontario suffering from adverse health effects from the intermittent swooshing of wind turbines and many have had to leave their homes.
Health effects reported from residents living close to the windmills include sleep deprivation, cardiac arrhythmia, nausea, heart palpitations, depression, anxiety and severe headaches, said McMurtry, who added turbines create a level of noise that is more disruptive than traffic or airplanes.
McMurtry, who has been calling for an independent epidemiological study into health effects from wind turbines since November 2008, said it is not known exactly how many residents could be affected by the turbines but added Hanna speaks for thousands of Ontario residents.
Energy Minister George Smitherman dismissed those concerns Monday, saying it's no surprise the vocal anti-wind power groups would take such action.
"For us it's business as usual, which is moving forward to promote more renewable energy in Ontario and provide 50,000 additional jobs."
Wind Concerns Ontario, an amalgamation of Ontario community organizations opposed to wind power in populated areas, is raising money for Hanna's cause.
The group's president, John Laforet, said it's unfortunate that Hanna has had to resort to taking the government to court to get their attention.
"We should not be at point where we need the legal system to protect our health, it should be the job of the government," he said.
The application says the legislation violates a precautionary principle in the Environmental Bill of Rights that indicates human health must be taken into consideration when new turbine installations are proposed.
The government has touted the Green Energy Act as a tool to create jobs and protect the environment as it works to bring more renewable power online and build better transmission lines to move energy where it's most needed.
Premier Dalton McGuinty enacted legislation last month that stipulated that industrial wind turbines will have to be at least 550 metres away from the nearest homes.
Rick James, a noise consultant from the U.S., said at the press conference Monday that adverse health effects have been reported from as much as two kilometres away, meaning setbacks should be increased to more appropriate distances in quiet rural areas.
He called the sound the turbines make "distinctively annoying," adding, "it's like a plane overhead that never leaves."
James said the issues with wind power in Ontario are happening across the world, but this legal action is the first of its kind.
Ontario Conservative MP Bill Murdoch has also called for a provincewide moratorium on wind farms and wants the province's chief medical officer of health to look into whether wind turbines cause health problems for residents who live near them.
New wind energy projects should proceed only after approval from the province's medical and environmental experts, he said.