White Pines Wind Project ERT Hearing – November 25, 2015

Report on the ERT Hearing on the White Pines Wind Project – Nov. 25, 2015
By Paula Peel, APPEC

Day Thirteen of the Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) of the White Pines wind project focused on two witnesses: Denton Miller, a Senior Noise Engineer in the Environmental Assessment Branch of the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC), and APPEC witness Dr.  Craig MacRae, a professional hydrologist.

Miller clarified the MOECC’s position that wind turbine noise is broadband, not impulsive, and that turbines have no low-frequency or infrasound emissions.  Reports of “sensations” are among the complaints the MOECC receives.   MOECC audits ensure that the sound power used in modelling is correct and complies with regulations.   If compliance is an issue, there are options such as restricting operations to daytime or during certain wind conditions.

Miller explained that the MOECC’s Noise Assessment is predicated on the worst-case scenario and the model gives conservative results.  Therefore, it is not a concern that sound output downwind of turbines is 6 to 7 db(A) higher than upwind, or night-time sound output may vary from 5 to 10 db(A)  due to wind shear.

APPEC counsel Eric Gillespie asked Miller to consider that MOECC’s model is “practical,” not “conservative,” because acousticians suggest these scenarios happen all the time.   Gillespie noted that the White Pines project is spread over a large area encompassing many receptors.    At any given time would it not be possible that turbine blades will be turned away from some receptors while other receptors will be downwind?   Miller replied that due to variable wind directions this might not happen and sustained impact is unlikely in any case.

Miller confirmed that the MOECC is issuing new guidelines in a few weeks to replace the 2008 Noise Guidelines. Among other things the revision includes a section on wind shear profiling and specific directions to ensure calculations are based on maximum output.

Dr. Craig R. MacRae, qualified as a hydrologist, has 32 years of professional experience in measurement and modeling of hydrologic systems, channel erosion, open channel flow hydraulics and sediment transport.

Dr. MacRae told the Tribunal that karst is an area of limestone characterized with crevices, fissures, sinkholes, and underground streams.  Karst formation flows continuously throughout the Prince Edward County south shore, with different levels ranging from 2m up to 30m deep.  He observed numerous karst features on his site visit of the White Pines project.  Yet Stantec did not report the presence of karst and did not do any field work.

Dr. MacRae stated when karst is disturbed by construction, it is destroyed.  The harm is irreversible and cannot be repaired.  Underground water flows horizontally and the construction of the 16.7km access roads, cable trenches, excavations for wind turbine and crane pads, and  upgrades to existing municipal roads all can damage and destroy the karst.  Dr. MacRae also stated that trenching for the access roads and collector lines can drain the wetlands.

The damage is unpredictable and thus cannot be mitigated.   A water management plan cannot be developed as flooding can occur in areas where there was none prior to construction.   MacRae noted that the 20 culverts proposed along new access roads will not manage all the risk and more culverts would simply change the flooded areas.   New access roads must be raised to allow for water flow ditches on both sides in order to prevent washouts.

Patrick Duffy, counsel for WPD, challenged Dr. MacRae in cross-examination, trying to show that there is no karst in the White Pines project area.  He referenced high-level diagrams in public documents that show Prince Edward County has “unknown” karst.  Dr. MacRae replied that these diagrams don’t tell the whole story and the documents describe characteristics on the south shore that are consistent with karst.

In Mr. Gillespie’s reply, Dr. MacRae identified many deficiencies in Stantec’s reports for the White Pines project.  There was no field work, no methodology set out with established criteria, no physical measurements, and no topological mapping.  Stream courses were insufficiently mapped, no high-water mark measurements were established, and the existing MNRF database is sorely lacking.  Finally, Stantec did not identify three large sinkholes and 10 additional streams that Dr. MacCrae observed on his site visit.

ERT co-chair Hugh Wilkins asked Dr. MacRae to identify areas of concern.  Dr. MacRae said that the areas of greatest risk are T1, T2 and T3 in the Black Creek Valley ANSI, T25 through T29 in the eastern portion of the township, and parts of Helmer Road and Babylon Road in the Provincially-Significant South Bay Coastal Wetland.

The ERT resumes Monday, November 30.

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White Pines Wind Project ERT Hearing – November 24, 2015

Dr Cornelia Baines

Dr Cornelia Baines

Report on the ERT Hearing on the White Pines Wind Project – Nov. 24, 2015
By Henri Garand

On Day Twelve the Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) on the White Pines wind project heard Dr. Cornelia Baines, witness for the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MOECC).

After confirming the credentials and lengthy research experience of Dr. Baines, MOECC counsel Sylvia Davis asked her to respond to Dr. Hanning’s observations of bias in her witness statement.  She said that the negative phrases were taken from the papers she had referenced and her focus was on following a good scientific approach in research.  The Tribunal qualified Dr. Baines, MD, as a “physician and epidemiologist with special expertise in design, measurement, and evaluation of research studies.”

Dr.  Baines reviewed the hierarchy of research design from the lowest quality (case series and case reports) to the highest (cohort and randomized control studies).  She said that “compelling evidence” of adverse health effects would require that “complaints are specific to wind turbines,” “symptoms would be more frequent and severe than in the general population,” and a “biologically plausible mechanism” would be identified.

Then Dr. Baines commented on several well-known studies.   She cited Dr. Simon Chapman’s paper on the psychogenic causes of wind turbine complaints and explained placebo and “nocebo” effects.  The latter result when awareness of negative effects increases the likelihood of such reports.  Despite criticisms about demographics and the synthetic circumstances, Dr. Baines defended the Crichton study in which university students were exposed for ten minutes in a laboratory to both real and sham infrasound.  She also praised the Health Canada study for its design, collection of data, and analysis, noting the lack of impact on the “quality of life” of wind project residents.

Under cross-examination by APPEC counsel Eric Gillespie, Dr. Baines conceded that she knows nothing about wind turbine technology though she has read regularly about the health issues.  She also admitted she has not seen patients since the 1980s and is not licensed to practice medicine.

Gillespie asked Dr. Baines to consider the Erickson ERT decision in which the Tribunal accepted that turbines can cause serious harm when placed too close to homes, and the debate over health effects is “one of degree” and does not concern the biological mechanism.  Dr. Baines said she does not agree with the Erickson ERT, which is “a court decision, not a scientific finding.”

The ERT continues on Wednesday, November 25, at 10 a.m. in the Picton Community Centre.

Further note from the APPEC board
In our Friday, November 20 Report on the ERT it was noted that WPD is dropping its appeal of two turbines (T7 and T11) that were disallowed by the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC).  However at the end of the hearing today WPD reversed its previous position and is now asking the ERT for an adjournment on this appeal.  James Wilson, counsel for WPD, told the ERT that he may have misspoken or mischaracterized the withdrawal of the section 139 appeal of the two turbines and that his client WPD had only intended to ask for an adjournment.

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White Pines Wind Project ERT Hearing – November 23, 2015

Report on the ERT Hearing on the White Pines Wind Project – Nov. 23, 2015

By Paula Peel, APPEC

Day Eleven of the Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) on the White Pines wind project was scheduled to deal with WPD’s witness Robert O’Neill.

However, the hearing began with a request from Eric Gillespie, APPEC’s legal counsel, for full disclosure from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) of the balance of the documents relating to Blanding’s turtles.  Mr. Gillespie advised the ERT that the MNRF has handed over only seven documents although it is clear there are many more.  The Tribunal declined to make a ruling at this time.

Gillespie subsequently provided notice of a motion made on behalf of the appellants that ERT co-chairs Marcia Valiante and Hugh Wilkins recuse themselves from these proceedings.  The Tribunal agreed to receive written submissions on this matter and will make a ruling as soon as possible.  There were no objections to the ERT continuing to hear evidence over the next two days.

The hearing then focused on Robert O’Neill, a sound engineer with Epsilon Association, whom the Tribunal qualified as an acoustician with expertise in wind turbine frequency noise.  During the past ten years he has conducted studies at about 20 operational wind projects.

O’Neill told the ERT that wind turbines emit mechanical and aerodynamic sound.  Under cross-examination he agreed that wind turbine sound can be characterized as broadband (the “swishing” sound) and as low frequency, but he does not agree with the characterization of impulsive-like effects.

O’Neill noted that at night people 450 m from wind turbines will more than likely hear a “whoosh, whoosh” sound but this will vary depending on meteorological conditions.  At certain times this sound will be audible a kilometre away, but he would not characterize the sound as loud.  He agreed with Gillespie that sound propagation depends on make and model of the turbines, weather conditions, distance from turbines, ground effects (sound bends upwards or down to earth), temperature inversion (at night, blades will pass through warm air at the turbine top and a mass of cooler air on the bottom), location (more noise downwind of turbines), and wind shear, where blades are passing through air masses moving at different speed.

O’Neill believes that A-weighting, the most commonly used method to describe sound, is the most appropriate measurement as it combines all the frequencies.  However, O’Neill agrees that in addition to audible sound there is also sound that people can sense.  Under cross-examination he agreed with Gillespie that his statement that low frequency and infrasound will not impact people is not based on any particular medical expertise but is only an evaluation based on professional standards and guidelines.

The White Pines ERT is in Toronto on Tuesday and in Picton on Wednesday, at the Prince Edward Community Centre at the Picton Fairgrounds, 375 Main St., Picton.

The Ostrander Point ERT is on Thursday and Friday at the Sophiasburgh Town Hall, 2771 County Rd 5, Demorestville.

Both ERTs start at 10 a.m

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White Pines Wind Project ERT Hearing – November 20, 2015

Meeting among the lawyersReport on the ERT Hearing on the White Pines Wind Project – Nov. 20, 2015
By Paula Peel, APPEC

APPEC’s health appeal continued on Day 10 with expert witness Dr. Paul Schomer testifying before the Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) on the White Pines wind project.  The remainder of the day was spent making adjustments to the schedule following WPD’s abrupt announcement that it was dropping an appeal of the disallowance of two turbines (T7 and T11) by the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MOECC).

Dr. Schomer, a former Standards Director of the Acoustical Society of America with 48 years’ experience in noise measurement, was qualified by the ERT as an expert in acoustics.  He told the Tribunal that all residents in the White Pines project area will be affected by audible and inaudible sound and a number of residents will be seriously affected.  The effects reported by people living near wind projects are similar in nature to the effects experienced by participants in a 1985 University of Toronto study on infrasound.  At lower levels and at higher levels of pure tone some participants experienced nausea and dizziness.  However, when overtones were added at higher levels, participants experienced headaches and fatigue.

Dr. Schomer considers that internationally-accepted noise standards and protocols are being flouted in Ontario.  For example, A-weighting is not supposed to be relied on when sounds have low-frequency content such as those emitted by industrial wind turbines.  Canada is one of the countries that voted for this rule.  He also calls for changes in current Ontario regulations to adjust up to 10 db(A) for wind turbine noise in rural areas.  Other suggested adjustments include up to 3 db(A) for weather conditions and 3 to 4 db(A) for locations downwind of turbines.   Dr. Schomer is highly critical of WPD’s current predicted average sound as it merely indicates that 50% of the time 50% of the residents will be exposed to sound above or below the limit.  The wind industry should be held to a higher level of accountability: db(A) limits should be met 95% of the time.

Dr. Schomer pointed to a very important figure in the Health Canada Report.  Only 1% of people are shown to be highly annoyed at 30 – 35 db(A) sound levels.  However, at 35 – 40 db(A) the number jumps to 40%.  Dr. Schomer sees this as evidence of a community response to wind turbine noise, and that what Health Canada says, what independent acoustic experts say, and what communities say should carry weight in Ontario.

Through experience Dr. Schomer has found that when community responses disagree with the physics, the physics is usually wrong.  This has been confirmed by his involvement in six studies of wind farms, including the 8-turbine Shirley Wind Farm in Wisconsin where three families abandoned their homes and about 60 other people reported adverse health effects.

The ERT continues next week.  Hearings on Monday and Tuesday are in Toronto.  The location of the hearing on Wednesday still needs to be confirmed.

Posted in Uncategorized, White Pines ERT

Topsy turvy

From the Wellington Times …

Wind approval process puts responsibility on citizens, not the developer, to protect the County

Lawyer Eric Gillespie (left) huddles with members of APPEC during a break in the Environmental Review Tribunal examining a project that seeks to build 29 industrial wind turbines (the province approved just 27) from Milford to the doorstep of Prince Edward Point National Wildlife Area.

Lawyer Eric Gillespie (left) huddles with members of APPEC during a break in the Environmental Review Tribunal examining a project that seeks to build 29 industrial wind turbines (the province approved just 27) from Milford to the doorstep of Prince Edward Point National Wildlife Area.


The thing that troubles Henri Garand about the Green Energy Act is the fact that regular citizens are held to a higher burden of proof than the companies they’re fighting against.

Garand, a member of the Alliance to Protect Prince Edward County (APPEC) has been sitting in on the Environmental Review Tribunal that is hearing an appeal to the approval of the White Pines wind turbine project, which would see 27 turbines built over Athol and South Marysbugh.

APPEC is one of the project’s appellants. The organization argues that the turbines would have a negative impact on the cultural heritage of the area, human health, endangered species and the land itself, some of which is rare habitat.

Lawyer Eric Gillespie, representing APPEC, summoned expert witnesses to prove that the experts wpd Canada—the company that owns the White Pines project— used in its approval process with the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) were not valid.

Still, the six witnesses were downgraded to presenters, their testimony reduced in importance, a decision made by the Tribunal’s adjudicators, Marcia Valiante and Hugh Wilkins.

Christopher Currie, Cheryl Anderson, Richard Bird, Roxanne MacKenzie, Doug Murphy and Brian Flack presented their cases to the panel about the proposed project’s negative effect on water, birds, vegetation, human health, land use and property value respectively. Some of these arguments called out wpd’s experts on the validity of their information, but as presenters, that couldn’t be taken into account.

This is what Garand bemoans.

“In the topsy-turvy world of the Green Energy Act, the wind developer receives a project approval despite incomplete research, while ERT appellants have to prove their case without the ability and time to conduct the necessary research,” Garand wrote. “These vicious ironies defy common sense.”

The Tribunal did hear from expert witness Joe Crowley, who Gillespie summoned. Crowley was previously a witness for the MOECC in the still ongoing Tribunal appealing the Ostrander wind turbine project proposed by Gilead Power.

Crowley is a scientist employed by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF), and isthat ministry’s only expert on the Blanding’s turtle, an endangered species that inhabits the County’s south shore. At the Ostrander Tribunal, Crowley revealed that he had verbally warned against approving the project at Ostrander Point because of its potential to devastate the turtle population there.

That warning did not appear in any evidence submitted by the ministry, and the revelation caused the Tribunal to come to a halt while the MOECC and MNRF were ordered to search for any mention of Blanding’s turtles in the project’s approval process.

Crowley confirmed last week that at least 17 of the 29 proposed turbines in the White Pines project could also affect Blanding’s turtle habitat.

Gillespie has proposed two expert witnesses who would be able to reply to witnesses wpd will bring forward later in the process. They will be brought forward as expert witnesses, although parts of their statements that seem redundant will not be accepted.

No other expert witnesses have been heard yet; this week began with residents testifying about medical conditions that would be worsened by the turbines. Those witnesses, like the presenters, have less bearing on the panel’s decision.


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White Pines Wind Project ERT Hearing – November 19, 2015

P1370781Report on the ERT Hearing on the White Pines Wind Project – Nov. 19, 2015
By Henri Garand and Paula Peel, APPEC

On Day Nine, APPEC expert witnesses Richard James and Steven Cooper provided acoustical evidence to the Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) on the White Pines wind project.

The Tribunal qualified Mr. James as an acoustician on the basis of 40 years’ work experience and testimony at hearings in several American states and six ERTs.

James criticized WPD’s sound propagation modeling.  The computer model is based on a single turbine as opposed to a set of turbines, and though specifically limited to one kilometre, it is used for calculations at greater distances.  This leads to concerns about understating and under-predicting sound levels and under-representing the worse possible impact.  Adjusting for model uncertainty and other factors, James expected a significant increase of 4.2 dB(A) beyond regulations.

While the model suggests compliance with Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) guidelines,  James believes that the project will put 23 non-participating noise receptors in excess of 40 dB(A).  Many more residences would fall outside MOECC guidelines because the summer/winter profile is flawed by not correcting for wind shear. Furthermore, since MM92 wind turbines have been the subject of a number of lawsuits, Mr. James contends that WPD’s modeling calculations are fundamentally too low.

James was equally critical of the MOECC guidelines and methods, which he said are not used by reputable acousticians.  For example, the effect of wind shear in relation to upwind turbines versus downwind turbines has been known since the 1980’s.  The MOECC relies solely on the dB(A) scale, which is inadequate for measuring Low Frequency Noise (LFN).  Adverse sensations from infrasound have been known since the 1980’s and refute the wind industry claim that LFN has no effect on humans.

Next, the Tribunal qualified Steven Cooper as an acoustical engineer on the basis of his professional work and research into aircraft and wind turbine noise in both Australia and the United States. Cooper summarized his 700-page report on the Cape Bridgewater Wind Farm in Australia.

The commissioned report is unique because it had the cooperation of the wind project operator and the extensive participation of six project residents who had complained of adverse effects.  The study undertook noise, LFN, and vibration measurements in relationship to specific wind speeds and turbine output, and correlated these with “sensations” and “vibrations” experienced by residents.  In 37 percent of incidents it found the most severe responses (including the necessity of leaving home) occurred when turbines had increased power by 20 percent or were operating at maximum power.  But even when turbines were not operating due to high wind gusts, residents had severe responses because of vibration emanating from towers.

Cooper censured WPD’s “Noise Assessment Report” because it cited noise levels but made “no assessment of the impacts of the development” in terms of what is an acceptable noise level in a rural location.  It was also flawed by relying solely on dB(A) measurements while ignoring inaudible but measurable infrasound.

Under cross-examination both Cooper and James were quizzed on isolated facts and opinions in their lengthy witness statements and numerous supporting documents, but they remained firm in the judgments that the combined effects of audible noise and infrasound are not safe for long-term exposure and that White Pines will cause serious harm to the health of many residents.

The ERT continues on Friday, November 20, 10 a.m. in the Essroc Centre.


Posted in Uncategorized, White Pines ERT

White Pines Wind Project ERT Hearing – November 18, 2015

Alun EvansReport on the ERT Hearing on the White Pines Wind Project – Nov. 18, 2015
By Paula Peel, APPEC

APPEC’s health case proceeded​ on Day 8 with two experts providing evidence to the Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) on the White Pines wind project: Dr. Alum Evans and Dr. Robert McMurtry.

Dr. Evans, Professor Emeritus at Queen’s University in Belfast, Northern Ireland, has studied cardiovascular disease for 30 years.  Dr. Evans told the Tribunal that his involvement in wind turbines is tangential to his interest in noise, sleep disturbance, and cardiovascular disease.  But he has also met many people severely impacted by wind turbine noise.  

Citing published studies, Dr. Evans explained that the major adverse health effects of wind turbines seem to be due to sleep disturbance and sleep deprivation, mainly from loud noise and low-frequency noise (LFN), particularly infrasound.  Dr. Evans finds the “impulsive, intrusive and incessant nature” of wind turbine noise a particularly troublesome feature that is highly discernible in rural areas.  LFN, which is inaudible, is propagated over long distances and penetrates buildings where it can be amplified by insulation and closed windows.  Dr. Evans noted that sleep deprivation is associated with increased likelihood of developing a range of chronic diseases, including Type 2 diabetes, cancer, coronary heart disease, and heart failure.  His recent systematic literature review  found 18 published studies establishing an association between wind turbine noise and human distress.  

While agreeing with James Wilson, counsel for WPD, that “human distress” is not a medical term Dr. Evans said that human distress needs to be taken seriously nonetheless.  He also agreed with Wilson that the results of observational studies do not constitute “proof”.   But what is important about these studies is the strength of the associations, which are certainly enough to point to the Precautionary Principle.  

Bob TestifiesRobert McMurtry, MD and Emeritus Professor of Surgery at University of Western Ontario, has studied adverse health effects from industrial wind turbines since 2008.  His public engagement includes   a 2009 Deputation to the Ontario legislature’s Standing Committee on the proposed Green Energy and Green Economy Act; expert witness testimony at the 2011 ERT on the Kent Breeze project; 2011 publication of “Toward a Case Definition of Adverse Health Effects in the Environs of Industrial Wind Turbines”; 2014 publication (with Carmen Krogh) in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine of “Diagnostic criteria for adverse health effects in the environs of wind turbines”; 2014 invited commentary by the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) on the Health Canada Study; 2015 literature review, “Do wind turbines cause adverse health effects?” presented to the Acoustical Society of America; and 2015 Response to “Invitation to Submit” from the Senate of Australia.

When asked by Wilson to confirm statements in the Health Canada Study Dr. McMurtry clarified that he does not accept the findings because of many problems with study design and participation.  Among these are the principal investigator’s ongoing work for the wind industry and evidence of communications between Health Canada and the industry, including disclosure of the study prior to public release.

In contrast, Dr. McMurtry cited Dr. Cooper’s Cape Bridgewater study showing there is an indirect pathway for adverse health effects.  Dr. Cooper visited people’s homes and found that emissions from wind turbines could be detected without hearing them.

Dr. McMurtry stressed the fact that no wind farm monitoring has even been done in Ontario.  “It would be possible, as cited since 2006,” he said, “to reduce or eliminate the boundless discourse of dueling experts by conducting appropriate third-party research.”  The MOECC regulations are based upon out-of-date standards that fail to evaluate LFN and infrasound.

Both of today’s health experts emphasized that White Pines would harm a significant number of people. Eric Gillespie noted the importance of APPEC’s witnesses. He told the Tribunal that this is the first time the link has been established at an ERT hearing between wind turbine noise and those who are afflicted.

Posted in Uncategorized, White Pines ERT