FAMILY SUES WIND FARM, ALLEGING HEALTH DAMAGES
SOURCE CTVNews.ca Staff, www.ctv.ca (WATCH VIDEO HERE)
October 16 2011
A rural family in southwestern Ontario has launched a lawsuit against a nearby wind farm, claiming the turbines are damaging their health. They are demanding the farm be shut down.
Lisa and Michel Michaud, and their two adult children, say they have no intention of moving away from their home and want an injunction to shut down the Kent Breeze wind farm, developed by a Suncor Energy Services unit.
They also want to be compensated for damages to the tune of $1.5 million, plus other costs.
The Michaud family says their peaceful lives at the 12.5-acre farm, near Chatham, changed in early May when the eight turbines on the nearby wind farms started turning.
First, Lisa Michaud, 46, says she got sick with vertigo.
“It is like when you have the flu or something and you have a chill. It is similar to that going through your skin all the time,” she tells CTV News.
Then, her husband Michel, 53, began having symptoms.
“There’s ringing in the ears. At night, you have trouble sleeping. You feel a vibration in the chest,” he says.
Not long after, their son Joshua, 21, complained of vertigo and balance problems.
“It’s constant there is no reprieve,” he says.
They’re suing Suncor, claiming the turbines triggered their now non-stop health problems.
“It’s not a question of money. We want our health back. We want to keep our place. We just want these things gone,” Michel says.
None of the allegations have been proven in court.
This is not the first time that people have described complaints from living near wind turbines. But most studies to date say the sounds and vibrations coming from these units simply can’t be linked to health problems.
“There is no science to implicate wind turbine noise in adverse health effects and there is no credible epidemiological data to implicate this,” says Dr. David Colby, the Medical Officer of Health for Chatham-Kent.
Suncor says it engaged “in a comprehensive regulatory process to obtain an Ontario renewable energy approval to build and operate the Kent Breeze wind power facility” and “operates Kent Breeze with strict compliance to established regulations.”
It also notes that the Environmental Review Tribunal in a lengthy appeal examined health issues related to this wind farm and found “the evidence did not demonstrate that the Kent Breeze project, as approved, causes serious harm to human health.”
“We are confident that the large body of scientific and medical research presented at the tribunal from scientific experts around the world has not shown a direct correlation and should not defer from wind development,” the company said in a statement to CTV News.
Can WEA, the Canadian Wind Energy Association, says it doesn’t want to comment on the lawsuit while it is still before the courts, but says it too is confident that wind turbines have no direct effect on health.
“The balance of scientific and medical reviews around the world have concluded that sounds or vibrations emitted from wind turbines are not unique and have no direct adverse effect on human health,” the group said in a statement to CTV News.
“This is backed in Ontario by the findings of Chief Medical Officer of Health Arlene King in a May 2010 report.”
They added that they will continue to review new information on the subject as it is made available.
The family’s lawyer says other families in the area are coming forward with similar complaints. They say they plan to stay rooted to their farm, while the legal battle decides whether the turbines stay or go.
“I’m not against being green, but when you are sick all the time, it’s not fun,” says Michel.
With a report from CTV medical specialist Avis Favaro and producer Elizabeth St. Philip
A FALSE CHOICE
by Justin Cook,
The Manchester Journal, www.manchesterjournal.com
October 10, 2011
The small, but stately Lowell Mountain range, rising above the Black River in Vermont’s northeast kingdom, spans a region that has been called one of the most pristine geo-tourism sites on Earth by National Geographic.
The range will be destroyed this fall with an estimated 700,000 pounds of explosives by the Green Mountain Power Company, a Canadian-owned subsidiary of Gaz Metro. Green Mountain Power received approval to install an industrial wind “farm” on top of the range, and the building cost will be subsidized by U.S. taxpayers by $51 million.
One of the largest highways in the state will cut across the top of the flattened range, and 150 acres are already being clear-cut for the 21 wind turbines that stand 469 feet tall, higher than the Statue of Liberty, and which will decimate migrating birds and raptors in the region, presently home to a concentration of bald eagles.
Vermont’s Public Service Board, a three-person panel, approved the Kingdom Community Wind (KCW) project on May 31, 2011. The PSB’s stated mission is to protect the public’s interest, but in an almost comic disregard for due process, it has permitted all GMP appeals, while refusing all appeals raised by groups opposed to KCW, including for hearings on stormwater-runoff issues, particularly in the wake of extreme weather; a conventional two-year bird study by a neutral third party; and the effect of fragmenting the Lowell range habitat corridor on the black bear and moose populations.
In an effort to accommodate GMP, which will receive an additional federal giveaway in the form of Production Tax Credits (2.2 Cents per KWH) if the project is completed by Dec. 31, 2012, the PSB simply fast-tracked the permitting process with waivers and mitigation agreements or extensions for anything that might hold it up. (GMP has said publicly that it won’t build the project without those tax credits, therefore, the pressure is on).
The panel has ignored the many compelling arguments against Lowell, including Vermont’s paltry wind resources (fifth from last in the nation), and the obvious point that because the turbines only spin 20 percent of the time they will require 100 percent conventional energy as backup, thereby actually increasing Vermont’s carbon footprint.
The roughly 20,000 homes dependent on Lowell will still need another source of energy on-call when the wind isn’t blowing and conventional energy costs more to ramp up and ramp down than if the wind farm were not even connected to the grid. This is a technical reality that no amount of public relations can change. Worst of all, GMP admits it could purchase green, hydro power directly from Hydro Quebec for less than half what it will cost to generate it at the Lowell facility, but because of the Federal subsidy money and the tax credits – our money – it’s pure profit for them, and worth destroying the mountain range.
In a cynical manipulation of the well-meaning public, which is desperate for progress with renewable energy, gov. Peter Shumlin and GMP are justifying the destruction of the Lowell Mountains as “green” and “local.” Shumlin argues that he is diversifying Vermont’s energy portfolio, and that this mountain range must be sacrificed because Vermont Yankee is closing. He is giving Vermonters a false choice.
That same Federal subsidy money could dramatically increase energy conservation by employing local contractors to upgrade homes and businesses. That money could also defray the cost of solar arrays and allow individuals to feed energy back into the grid. Because solar power isn’t as intermittent as wind, a conventional energy backup source can operate efficiently. Interestingly, in the Northeast Kingdom, among renewable energy choices, solar is more popular than wind power, but that reality is being ignored.
Shumlin has deeply disappointed his green supporters by ignoring the troublesome facts about wind power in Vermont. Our one existing facility in Searsburg has an average capacity factor over 13 years of 22.4 percent, meaning that’s how much of the time the turbines actually produce energy. What GMP refuses to reveal, however, is the energy required to run the turbines themselves – the electronics, hydraulic brakes, blade-pitch control, blade de-icing heater, etc.
The best estimate, done by the Royal Academy of Engineers, puts it at 12.5 percent, reducing actual energy produced by an industrial wind installation to a mere 9.9 percent. To put this into perspective, three miniature hydro-electric dams equivalent in length to the dam at Dufresne pond would produce the same energy as the entire Lowell Community Kingdom project with none of the environmental devastation.
As for Shumlin and GMP’s final sleight of hand, presenting the Lowell industrial wind project as helping Vermont’s “local” economy, the truth is the opposite. The Vestas turbines are being manufactured in Denmark; the crews which will blast the mountains, build the highway, and install the turbines are coming from Maine; and the $51 million in U.S. subsidy money will be going straight to Canada. The one local job we’ll be able to count on, like the one typically advertised by other New England wind-power companies, will be to pick up the dead birds before school children arrive on their field trips to see the wind “farm” – a patently Orwellian misuse of the word – to describe a place that grows nothing and destroys nature in order to “save” it.
This tragedy is likely to be heading our way under the present administration which is committed to promoting industrial wind on Vermont’s ridgelines. The Agency of Natural Resources in the past did not support industrial wind for environmental reasons. Now, under Deb Markowitz, the ANR has not only reversed its own precedent, but is actively working with wind developers before their applications reach the PSB to ensure the permits go through. Sites like Little Equinox and Glebe Mountain which have been protected by their communities in the past are again vulnerable. With Little Equinox mountain, the PSB approved Endless Energy Corporation’s meteorological tower through 2010, and it appears to still be there, ensuring one less step in any future permitting process.
Write to Governor Shumlin and your representatives in Montpelier and insist that Vermont’s energy be smart and green. Industrial wind projects have no place here. We cannot afford boondoggles to erect showpieces of “renewable” energy at the expense of our state.
Justine Cook lives in Dorset.