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First renewable energy wind farm approval resulted in first lawsuit

TORONTO - The Ontario government’s first - and to date only - industrial wind turbine project approved under the Green Energy Act has resulted in a $1.5-million lawsuit being launched only weeks after it started operation.

Michel and Lisa Michaud of Thamesville and their two children, Elisha, 25, and Joshua, 21, are claiming that eight industrial turbines next to their property create a “tunnel effect” of noise pollution, light flickers and low-frequency sounds and they are taking the legal action against Suncor’s Kent Breeze Wind Farm near Chatham.

The project was the subject of an Ontario Environmental Review Tribunal hearing in the spring. Two dozen international experts testified.  Amongst the findings the Tribunal concluded, “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 … demonstrates that they can, if facilities are placed too close to residents.”

The Michaud family is claiming damages for impacts that began almost immediately. Those include vertigo, nausea and sleep disruption resulting in emergency hospital visits and prescription medication.

“The government and Suncor’s own experts said these kinds of effects would likely occur. They still went ahead” said Eric Gillespie, legal counsel for the family. “The claim is based on what appears to be obvious negligence.”

Residents opposed to wind farms are taking to the courts in other areas, too, by challenging the renewable energy companies’ right to place a gag order on those people whose properties they purchase.

Shawn and Trisha Drennan are landowners facing a pending windfarm project known as Kingsbridge II.

Capital Power L.P. a unit of Capital Power Corporation is proposing to build the Kingsbridge II Wind Power Project in the Township of Ashfield- Colborne-Wawanosh, north of Goderich. It would consist of between 100 and 150 wind-powered turbines to supply up to 270 megawatts of electricity. Proponents state it would complement the existing Kingsbridge I Wind Power Project in the same township, which commenced operations in 2006 and is owned and operated by an affiliate of Capital Power.

In Kingsbridge II, one turbine will be as close as approximately 650 meters from the Drennans’ home. Twelve more would be located within the surrounding two kilometers.

After learning that 11 families living amongst two different wind projects (one situated in their neighbouring township) had their homes purchased by wind companies, the Drennans sought to gather information from those former residents about the adverse health and safety effects of the wind turbines. They learned that as a part of the buyout agreements, residents were blocked from discussing any negative experiences with wind turbines, including health effects.

The Drennans, supported by the community group SWEAR (Safe Wind Energy for All Residents) will ask court to invalidate the non-disclosure clauses that stop people telling of problems with the turbines.

No court date has been set.

Meanwhile, CBC News Canada reported Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment is logging hundreds of health complaints over Ontario’s 900 wind turbines but has down played the problem.

According to 1,000 pages of internal government emails, reports and memos released under Ontario’s Freedom of Information Act to the CBC, the government has been trying to figure out how to monitor and control noise pollution. The documents were released after a lengthy and costly battle waged by Barb Ashbee.

She and her husband Dennis Lormand said they suffered a series of ailments after wind turbines began operating near their home in Amaranth, near Shelburne. The area is now home to 133 wind turbines - the largest wind farm in Ontario.

After being told theirs was the only complaint in the area, they learned MOE officials at the Guelph District Office had tracked more than 200 dating back to 2006 when the wind farm first started operating.

Their home was bought by Canadian Hydro Developers (now Transalta) in 2009, one of six homes sold to the utility company. Each seller had to sign confidentiality agreements. The Lormands have risked legal repercussions by talking, and spoke to CBC News last week. They said they want to warn the public about what they say are the dangers of living near wind turbines and the supposed breakdowns in government monitoring.

CBC News stated their statement is, “We were silent. I wouldn’t say boo to anybody. But the longer this goes on, nobody’s doing anything. And now we have an (Ontario) election two weeks away. Nobody understands what’s going on out here.”

 

October 14, 2011

 
 

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