In a province in which the government and industry are expected to put “safety” as a top priority, Save The Nation and Concerned Citizens of North Stormont are joining forces with two other southern Ontario wind opposition groups to compel the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) to enforce its own guidelines, meant to protect human health from excessive industrial wind turbine noise. An application for Judicial Review was filed against the MOECC in the Divisional Court in Toronto on January 23, by legal counsel, Toronto lawyer Eric Gillespie.
The Ontario “minimum” setback distance between an industrial wind turbine and a non-participating “noise receptor” (the home of someone who has not leased their land for turbines/infrastructure, in government terms) is 550 metres, center of turbine to center of residence, which is also recommended for those who have leased their land for compensation. The setback requirements are meant to address the noise impacts of wind turbine generators on the people living nearby. To receive approval to build an industrial wind power project, promoters must submit noise assessments as proof that turbines will comply with noise limits. Noise assessments are produced using “computer modelling”, which unfortunately does not seem to fully reflect the reality once projects are built. According to documents from 2006-2014 provided to Wind Concerns Ontario under Freedom of Information, the government received well over 3,100 formal reports of excessive noise and vibration. Most of the complainants are still awaiting investigation, years later. It seems that residents of rural Ontario, living in proximity to Industrial Wind Projects are “collateral damage” in the whole rush to “unregulated” renewables, under Ontario’s 2009 Green Energy Act.
The MOECC has admitted previous guidelines resulted in underestimates of the noise at nearby homes. On May 1, 2016, following a year-long study, the government adopted more stringent noise regulations by imposing a 2 decibel penalty on “modelled noise” to reflect the “statistical errors” in the model and “lack of ground absorptivity”, (as experienced following ice rain or when the ground is frozen). Changes were made to protect human health and in an effort to limit the amount of noise any residence should have to tolerate. At the same time, the government exempted LRP1 projects from the new rules by letting companies opt whether to follow the revised guidelines or not, effectively choosing the interests of multinational corporations over protection from excessive noise. None of the approved LRP1 proponents elected to follow the new regulations.
LRP1 (Large Renewable Procurement, Phase 1) projects include Eastern Fields Project in St-Bernardin (The Nation Municipality and Champlain Township), Nation Rise Wind Farm in the Finch, Crysler and Berwick area (North Stormont Township), Otter Creek Wind Farm near Wallaceburg (Chatham-Kent), Strong Breeze Wind Power Project in Dutton-Dunwich (Elgin County) and Romney Wind Energy Centre in Lakeshore (Chatham-Kent). The latter does not have a citizen group.
Using the latest available data, if the five projects were built following the new noise guidelines, approximately 75 percent of the turbines could not be installed as planned, as the noise levels would exceed the “averaged” 40 DBA limit, and would require increased setbacks because they would be too close to existing homes.
Close to 5,000 people will be impacted by these five projects. The protection of the health and safety of residents is our main concern. By allowing the construction of any LRP1 project according to outdated noise guidelines, the MOECC would deny protection of health and well-being for thousands of Ontario residents, sentencing them to live with unreasonable noise, 24 hours a day for the next 20 years. We strongly feel that this is unacceptable and that the MOECC must be held to account.
We don’t take this action lightly!
by Margaret Benke
Chairperson, Concerned Citizens of North Stormont
and Julie Leroux,
President, Save the Nation Society