Entries in Ed Marion (1)
9/5/10 Err on the side of caution or profit? Why these two doctors disagree on wind farm health effects AND A day late and a dollar short: Too bad,Town of Glenmore
WIND POWER'S HEALTH DEBATE RAGES
September 4, 2010
By Jonathan Sher
LONDON, Ont. - They're in a fight that could shape wind power in Ontario, billions of dollars of investment and the green reputation of Dalton McGuinty's Liberals.
Two UWO academics are clashing over wind farms, each accusing the other's followers of demonizing their cause and bastardizing science.
A champion for those who believe wind turbines are making them sick, Dr. Bob McMurtry was dean of the medical school at the University of Western Ontario from 1992 to 1999.
His wind adversary is Dr. David Colby, an associate professor and medical officer of health in Chatham-Kent who believes the health link is more science fiction than science.
Their clash is more than academic: McMurtry expects both will end up as witnesses on opposing sides in what he hopes will be a landmark case out of Prince Edward County in Eastern Ontario challenging Ontario's Green Energy Act, which threw open the door for wind farms as part of a plan to ween Ontario off coal-fired power plants.
While both say they respect each other personally, neither can fathom the position of the other and each says he has been vilified by those on the opposing side.
"This was a vendetta against me," says Colby, who defended himself and his medical licence in the face of complaints he was a paid lackey of the wind industry, complaints dismissed by the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons.
Colby says he became the target of those he calls anti-wind activists after he was asked by politicians in Chatham-Kent to review medical literature to see if there was evidence turbines harmed people's health -- he concluded there was none.
"Hostility would be a good word to describe the reception to my work," he says.
McMurtry, too, says he has been attacked, accused of being an anti-environmental Neanderthal when the truth is the opposite.
"They libel and slander their opponents," he says of advocates for industrial wind farms.
McMurtry says he's concerned about climate change and pollution but contends coal-powered plants in Ontario are a tiny part of the problem and could easily be closed without building wind farms.
Beneath the heated rhetoric is a disagreement over science itself. While both agree some people near wind turbines complain of health issues, from there the two men venture down wildly divergent paths.
McMurtry believes turbines are the most likely culprit to ailments suffered by those close to them, the most common being the inability to sleep well, which increases the risk of chronic and deadly disease.
Turbines emit low-pitched sounds, some so low they're sensed only as vibration. Some turbine opponents argue those vibrations disrupt the body's normal rhythms and cause a long list of ailments. An American doctor, Nina Pierpont, reported complaints of headaches, ringing in the ears, dizziness, nausea, rapid heart rate, irritability and problems with concentration and memory.
Despite those who say there's a link, the Ontario government has given its blessing to a wind industry that may build $20 billion worth of turbines across the province and in its lakes.
McMurtry says Queen's Park should instead spend $1 million on research to establish how far back turbines need to be to safeguard health. Regulations require a 550-metre setback but McMurtry suspects a two-kilometre buffer is needed.
McMurtry is passionate about his cause. A former missionary, he says he's spent 3,000 hours on the issue and he created a YouTube video near his home in eastern Ontario's Prince Edward County, where wind farms are planned for the land and Lake Ontario.
"All of us need to act to oppose this madness," he says on the video.
Colby sees madness, too -- but from anti-wind activists.
The so-called ailments are common and have many causes unrelated to wind turbines, he says.
Colby reviewed studies of turbines twice -- first for Chatham-Kent council, then at the request of wind power associations, the latter as part of an international panel of scientists.
Peer-reviewed studies found no link between ailments and turbines except one: A small number of people become upset by the presence of turbines and those feelings created stress that can contribute to their symptoms, he says.
There's also no scientific basis to believe sub-audible sounds affect health -- the only study that purported that wasn't replicated elsewhere and involved the much louder sounds of airplanes, he says.
Turbines emit sounds difficult to detect because they can be drowned out by the sound of wind rustling tree branches and grass, he says.
The research McMurtry and Pierpont rely upon is anecdotal and holds no scientific validity, says Colby, pointing out Pierpont interviewed only 38 people in 10 households.
"She selected the most upset and angry people, had friends look (at her work) and claimed it was peer reviewed. It's the most extreme example of selection bias that I have ever seen as a scientist. It's a joke," Colby says.
Pierpont, a pediatrician, began her research after energy companies built turbines in communities near hers in upstate New York.
She defends her research and findings, saying some of those who reviewed it had no personal connection to her.
The families she selected were so certain turbines made them ill that all but one had moved away. When they were away from turbines, their symptoms abated, she says.
Half the 10 homes in her study were in Canada, though Pierpont won't disclose where, saying she signed confidentiality agreements.
Asked about Colby's findings, she says, "It's completely self-serving for an industry report to say no further research is needed."
Colby insists he has no stake in the wind industry and sometimes wishes he hadn't become embroiled in the controversy. He was forced to defend himself after someone sought to take away his medical licence after he accepted a $1,500 honorarium to speak at a forum held by SkyPower, an energy company that once planned to build turbines in Prince Edward County.
The College dismissed the complaints after Colby said the honorarium was customary among specialist physicians and his opinions weren't "for sale or rent."
"The committee does not agree that Dr. Colby was acting unethically . . . There is no information to suggest that Dr. Colby was promoting the views and aims of the corporation who retained him," the college wrote in its November decision.
The committee did offer one caution that grates on Colby and has been seized upon by those opposing wind turbines: "Colby's expertise is in medical microbiology and infectious diseases, an area quite distinct from audiology or other fields related to the physical impact of wind turbines on human health. Thus, the committee wishes to remind Dr. Colby, going forward, of the importance of fully disclosing the extent of his qualifications in a field in which he has been retained as an 'expert.' "
Colby defends his knowledge of turbines and points out that his adversary, McMurtry, was trained in orthopedic surgery.
He also dismisses as a waste of tax dollars any further research on the health effects of turbines. With Canada's health care already suffering from a lack of funding, it's not worth it to spend more to prove what's already clear just to "shut up a bunch of activists who probably wouldn't be satisfied anyways," Colby says.
He continues to have to defend his expertise -- the person who lodged the complaint has appealed to the College's health professions appeal and review board.
WIND POWER PRIMER
Green Energy Act: Dalton McGuinty's Ontario government passed the Act in 2009 with the goal of eliminating coal plants and creating 50,000 "green energy" jobs over three years. The act made it much easier for green energy companies to build facilities and takes away the ability of cities and towns to block wind, solar and biofuel generation.
Legal challenge: A Prince Edward County man has challenged the Act, asking the courts not to allow wind turbines within two kilometres of a dwelling, nearly four times as far as the current buffer of 550 metres.
Local opposition: Wind farms in the London region have drawn some opposition in rural communities and that circle of concern is growing in the face of proposals for wind turbines offshore in Lake Huron, something that would affect city dwellers with lakefront cottages.
PSC RULES DON'T AFFECT TOWN OF GLENMORE WIND FARM
SOURCE: Green Bay Press-Gazette, www.greenbaypressgazette.com
September 5, 2010
By Tony Walter,
The eight wind turbines being built in the town of Glenmore would never have been allowed if they had to comply with the siting rules newly approved by the Wisconsin Public Service Commission, a state wind energy expert said.
“That project would be almost impossible to situate in Wisconsin” under the PSC guidelines, said Michael Vickerman, executive director of RENEW Wisconsin, a Madison nonprofit group that promotes clean energy. “Those will be the tallest and largest wind turbines in the state.”
CH Shirley Wind LLC has begun construction of a 20-megawatt wind facility that includes a 20-year power purchase contract with Wisconsin Public Service Corp. The company said last year that it was investing $50 million in the project.
The PSC on Monday adopted rules for projects that produce less than 100 megawatts of power, but the Shirley Wind project, with 492-foot-high turbines, can proceed under the grandfather clause.
Those rules include stringent limits on where turbines can be placed on someone’s property, using a formula based on the height of the turbines and their distance from residences, property lines, public roads and overhead electric transmission lines.
Vickerman praised the PSC for adopting what he called “the strongest statewide rules of any place in the nation. If you look at the rules as a layer of different conditions, the sum total result in a very stringent list of requirements. You won’t find that in Ohio or Minnesota.”
In addition to the setback limits, the PSC put limits on shadow flickers and noise levels. It also gave local governments the authority to require wind energy system owners to compensate property owners located within one-half mile of a wind turbine site who don’t have turbines on their land.
It remains to be seen what impact the new rules will have on the proposed Ledge Wind Project planned by Invenergy LLC in the towns of Morrison, Glenmore, Holland and Wrightstown in southern Brown County. The company wants to build 100 wind turbines exceeding 100 megawatts, which puts it outside the scope of the new rules.
Ed Marion is a Madison-based attorney who has been hired by the Brown County Citizens for Responsible Wind Energy — a nonprofit composed of local residents and led by a board of directors — which opposes the southern Brown County wind farm proposal.
Marion said he expects the company to soon re-file its application for the Ledge Wind development with the additional knowledge of the PSC rules for smaller projects.
“I think everybody had to wait to see what the rules looked like,” Marion said. “Even if (the rules) don’t apply, they are influential.”
The PSC rules still can be altered by the state Legislature although changes from elected officials aren’t expected.
Invenergy officials are taking a cautious approach.
“Wisconsin’s wind siting rules and standards remain in flux as the Legislature and regulators work out the details,” said Kevin Parzyck, project manager for the Ledge Wind Farm. “Meanwhile, we continue to evaluate updating our Ledge Wind Farm permit application to the Public Service Commission.”
The PSC staff will review the revised Invenergy application. If it is complete, it will be sent to the commission, which will have six months to act on it. A hearing will be scheduled.
“We’ve requested to intervene as a party,” said Marion, speaking of Brown County group opposed to the wind farm development.
The PSC’s decision in January to approve the Glacier Hills wind farm project in Columbia County will probably have a greater impact on the Invenergy application because it is also more than 100 megawatts.
The 90-turbine wind farm is owned by the Wisconsin Electric Power Company and includes 90 turbines. Construction began this spring.
“We’ll probably see elements of the (new) rules incorporated in whatever order the commission issues, but the commission is not compelled to,” he said. “The rule does not forbid the agency from taking a stand and applying it to all projects.”