Ontario Review Tribunal: Turbines too close to residences can harm human health

This important decision by the Ontario Environmental Review Tribunal examines evidence on whether the Suncor’s Kent Breeze Wind Farm project which was approved according to Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment Noise Guidelines for Wind Farms and Ontario Regulation 359/09 made under the Environmental Protection Act, will seriously harm humans living nearby. The overall conclusion of the Tribunal (provided below) makes clear that wind turbine facilities placed too close to residents can cause harm to human health. The full report can be accessed by clicking on the links at the bottom of this page.

Erickson v. Director Ministry of the Environment - Overall Conclusion:

The Tribunal has found that the Appellants have not met the legal test set out in section 145.2.1(2)(a) of the EPA and the appeals must, therefore, be dismissed. The Director's decision on the REA is, therefore, confirmed pursuant to section 145.2.1(5). While there are certainly legitimate concerns and uncertainties about the effects of wind turbines on human health, the Tribunal cannot conclude that engaging in the Kent Breeze Project as approved will cause serious harm to human health according to the evidence tendered in this Hearing. The Tribunal notes that the research in this area is at quite an early stage and that our collective understanding of the impacts of wind turbines on human health will likely progress as further research and analysis is undertaken.

While the Appellants were not successful in their appeals, the Tribunal notes that their involvement and that of the Respondents, has served to advance the state of the debate about wind turbines and human health. This case has successfully shown that the debate should not be simplified to one about whether wind turbines can cause harm to humans. The evidence presented to the Tribunal demonstrates that they can, if facilities are placed too close to residents. The debate has now evolved to one of degree. The question that should be asked is: What protections, such as permissible noise levels or setback distances, are appropriate to protect human health? In Ontario, recent regulations have provided guidance in that regard. In cases such as this, where the Appellants have not sought to demonstrate any type of unique harm associated with the design of this Project and have not attempted to demonstrate the sensitivity of a particular receptor, it was essentially up to the Appellants to prove that the Ontario standards are wrong in the context of the specific Project under appeal (leaving aside the related question about possible non-compliance with the standards). Just because the Appellants have not succeeded in their appeals, that is no excuse to close the book on further research. On the contrary, further research should help resolve some of the significant questions that the Appellants have raised.

Ontario Environmental Review Cases No10 121 122

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JUL 18 2011
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