On July 18, 2011, the Ontario Environmental Review Tribunal
(ERT) issued its decision in the appeal brought by residents in
Chatham, Ontario (the Appellants) relating to the issuance of a
Renewable Energy Approval (REA) by the Ministry of the Environment
for the 20 MW Kent Breeze wind farm (the Project). The Project is
owned by Suncor Energy Services Inc. The decision follows 17 days
of hearings that began in February 2011. The ERT ruling is
available at <http://www.ert.gov.on.ca/english/decisions/index.htm>.
The central issue raised by the Appellants was whether engaging
in the Project in accordance with the REA will cause serious harm
to human health.
In short, the ERT dismissed the appeal and concluded that the
Appellants failed to convince the ERT that the Project will cause
serious harm to human health.
The Appellants argued during the hearing that the ERT should
apply the "precautionary principle" such that the
Appellants should only have to establish the threat of serious
damage to human health. The ERT ruled that the specific statutory
test stated in the Environmental Protection Act, R.S.O.
1990 is a higher burden – that it "will cause
With respect to the issue of the admission of expert evidence,
the ERT's ruling featured a broad and inclusive approach. The
ERT stated that the fact the issues being appealed involve emerging
areas of inquiry, coupled with the statutory time limit within
which to complete the appeal, necessitated a broad and inclusive
approach to allowing expert evidence to be entered into
With respect to the possibility of wind turbine tower collapse,
blade failure/throw, and ice fall/throw, the ERT stated that these
risks, collectively or individually, do not occur commonly enough
to lead to the conclusion that serious harm to human health from
such risks will occur at this Project.
With respect to shadow flicker (the Appellants submitted that
wind turbine shadow flicker has the potential to induce
photosensitive epileptic seizures), the ERT found that there is no
evidence of particular factors or a convergence of factors to
suggest that shadow flicker will cause serious harm to human health
from the Project. With respect to noise, which was a key issue in
the appeal, the ERT considered both direct and indirect effects on
human health. With respect to direct health effects (i.e.,
hearing loss), the ERT stated that the evidence does not show that
engaging in the Project will cause serious harm to human health.
With respect to indirect health effects (i.e.,
sleeplessness), on the totality of evidence, the ERT ruled that
there is insufficient evidence to show that serious harm to human
health will be caused by exposure to noise below 40 dB –
the limit established by the Ministry of the Environment for wind
power projects. The ERT did note, however, that the evidence upon
which this finding is based is evolving quickly.
The ERT ruled that the Appellants did not present evidence which
was sufficient to conclude that the Project will cause serious harm
to human health. The ERT noted, however, that the hearing served to
advance the debate about wind turbines and human health. The ERT
stated clearly the ruling should not be interpreted that wind
turbines cannot cause harm to humans. The ERT stated the evidence
presented indicated that they can and so the debate is properly
characterized as one of degree, not absolutes.
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The Government of Alberta recently announced a number of policy changes that will impact the Alberta Electricity Market, composed of its generators, transmitters, distributors, retailers, electricity consumers and wholesale electricity market.
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