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.