Ministry ignoring wind turbine complaints, say critics after recent document dump

Some of the 10 turbines at Brinston's South Branch Wind Farm, another EDPR project, as seen in 2016. Zandbergen photo, Nation Valley News

Another reason to cancel Nation Rise Wind Farm, North Stormont critics argue

QUEEN’S PARK — Has Ontario’s Ministry of Environment and Climate Change turned a deaf ear to public complaints about wind turbine noise?

Local MPP Jim McDonell and his Official Opposition colleagues point to Freedom of Information documents recently obtained by citizens’ groups opposed to industrial wind turbine developments showing the ministry “deliberately ignoring Ontarians’ complaints regarding excessive turbine noise.”

Over 2,000 expressions of concern have not been answered, despite the ministry’s obligation to address such concerns before issuing authorizations for these developments to proceed.

From left, Michel Lavergne, Leo Proulx and Leslie Howard — opponents of the ‘Eastern Fields’ wind project in The Nation Municipality — and Margaret Benke and John Irven of the Concerned Citizens of North Stormont, opponents of the proposed Nation Rise Wind Farm, along with MPP Jim McDonell, who received almost 1,300 letters of opposition to the Finch-area project in 2016. Zandbergen photo, Nation Valley News

“It’s a habit of this government,” McDonell commented. “The Environment Commissioner previously criticized the Ministry of Natural Resources for not posting permit decisions to the Environmental Registry, depriving people of their ability to appeal. With citizens’ complaints about wind turbine noise, the Ministry of the Environment figured they could get away with ignoring the very people in whose name they govern. I applaud Wind Concerns Ontario for their persistent and effective work against the development of large industrial wind and solar plants in unwilling communities.”

The controversy was the subject of several questions during Question Period last week.

“I asked the Premier point blank: Will her government stop projects such as Nation Rise [in North Stormont] and Eastern Fields [in The Nation] until these concerns are addressed?” MPP McDonell stated. “The Minister of the Environment is either completely disconnected from the reality of community unease at large wind developments, or is willfully distorting facts in his public statements. Over 2,000 complaints have gone unacknowledged and unanswered, yet he maintains there aren’t any. He has been caught – he should apologize, stop the projects, respect the citizens of this Province and start doing his job by listening to them and addressing each and every complaint.”

The 100-megawatt Nation Rise and 32-megawatt Eastern Fields projects are both anticipated to break ground in 2019, with a respective 34 and nine towers to be erected.

In North Stormont, project opponents describe the ministry’s complaints-handling process as “deeply flawed.”
The documents released cover more than 3,200 reports of noise complaints between 2006 and 2014. In more than half of cases documented, the government took no action to address the complaint or its cause.  After four years of no response, “not surprisingly, some people stopped filing their complaints,” observes a press release from the Concerned Citizens of North Stormont.
The local grassroots entity expresses concern about the implications in a township where residents “have been voicing concerns about potential health effects.”
Texas-based Energias de Portugal (EDP) was awarded a 100-megawatt contract for Nation Rise in 2016, “despite the strong majority of citizens and municipal council voting against this project,” the group complains.  The corporation’s recently published draft report calls for 34 Vestas-model V136 3.45-megawatt turbines, each with a total height of 198 meters (including the blades).
“Noise emissions, (both audible and inaudible low frequency noise), have been a concern for many of our citizens.  This recent release indicating thousands of noise complaints exist, justifies those concerns,” says Margaret Benke, spokesperson for the group, who points out that approximately 1,300 people in North Stormont live within 1,500 meters of proposed turbine sites — with an additional 1,300 situated within 2,000 meters.
The minimum Ontario setback distance from a wind turbine “is only 550 meters,” Benke says, noting the group is in contact with citizens of the Brinston area and Wolfe Island already living in the vicinity of operating wind projects.
Those contacts “tell us that when they phoned in noise complaints to the MOECC spills line, they got very little, if any, assistance.  This recent evidence that the government is unable or unwilling to help citizens who are suffering from the effects of living near industrial wind turbines, is a clear indication that wind contracts yet to be built, must be cancelled…. once an Industrial Wind Turbine project is operational, there is no proof that the health concerns of local citizens will be addressed.”
“I take these concerns very seriously, and we have worked to address them,” Premier Wynne said in response to McDonell’s question at Queen’s Park last week. (Video below).
The premier went on to laud green energy development to “help kids with asthma” and “clean up the air” — then changed subject to attack the Tories opposite on the issues of minimum wage and child-care spaces.

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