Friday, June 17, 2011

Globe and Mail Article on Leaked Document

Ontario unable to tell if wind farms exceed noise limits, activists say

KEITH LESLIE - The Globe and Mail

Anti-wind farm activists have released leaked documents that they say show the Ontario government cannot tell if the giant industrial turbines meet provincial noise regulations.

A 2009 memo from a Ministry of Environment officer, obtained by Wind Concerns Ontario, said the Liberal government imposed noise limits as it approved wind farms, even though it has no way to tell if they comply with the limits.

“MOE currently has NO approval methodology for field measurement of the noise emissions from multiple noise sources,” the senior environmental officer wrote. “As such there is no way for MOE field staff [and I would submit anyone else] to confirm compliance or lack thereof with the noise limits set in the approvals.”

The memo is proof the Liberal government isn't telling the whole truth about wind farms, Wind Concerns spokesman John Laforet said.

“They've said in black and white they have no way to ensure compliance with the certificate of approvals, yet they willingly and knowingly continue to issue them,” said Mr. Laforet. “If there is unenforceable compliance, you're just letting industry do what it wants and the government is rubber-stamping it.”

Premier Dalton McGuinty said Wednesday he had not seen the leaked memo, but added that the government based all its approvals of wind farms on scientific evidence.

“We had a three-judge panel confirm that we have always relied on the best science available in terms of coming up with our setback requirements and noise regulations,” he said. “We've got some of the toughest in the world, and certainly the best in North America.”

The Progressive Conservatives said there is a lot of anger in rural Ontario at the Liberals for imposing wind farms on communities.

“We believe the decisions regarding the establishment of the wind farms should be left to the local communities,” said PC critic Elizabeth Witmer. “Rather than Queen's Park making these decisions, we believe in local decision making. Right now, people feel absolutely powerless.”

The Liberals are ignoring complaints from local residents about noise from the wind turbines keeping them up at night and even making some people sick, and they should admit they can't ensure compliance with noise levels, Mr. Laforet said.

“I think the government has been completely dishonest on this whole issue,” he said. “They are afraid of science, which means they're covering something up and we'd like to get to the bottom of what that is. There's no harm in an independent study unless there's something that they're hiding.”

The Liberals will pay a price in lost seats in the Oct. 6 election, especially in rural Ontario, if it doesn't back off the wind projects very soon, warned Mr. Laforet, who's been on a six-week tour of the province organizing anti-wind-power groups.

“We're visiting 18 Liberal ridings where we've got opposition to wind groups on the ground and we're actively organizing to use the election as a referendum on the Green Energy Act and on industrial wind farms,” he said. “If the Liberals were smart, they would take this opportunity to detach themselves from the industrial wind lobby in hopes of saving some of their seats in rural Ontario.”

The Liberals put a moratorium on off-shore wind farms after people in suburban Toronto complained about a potential installation in Lake Ontario, a move Ms. Witmer called part of the “Liberal seat-saver plan.”

The Ministry of the Environment said it takes compliance seriously, but did not say if it had come up with a way for field officers to measure noise from multiple wind turbines since the memo was first issued.

“We have always been able to measure noise levels and detect any exceedance of our stringent 40 dB requirement,” said press secretary Jonathan Rose. “This limit is what the World Health Organization recommends as protective of human health.”

The Canadian Press