LONDON, Ont. – Wind turbines are like new neighbours who might drive you to distraction and out of your home because you have no legal way to deal with the situation, a packed Ontario court heard Monday.
In submissions to Divisional Court, a lawyer for four families fighting large-scale wind-energy projects compared the turbines to a neighbour who is constantly noisy and in your face.
“This neighbour never once ruptured your eardrums but that neighbour slowly drives you crazy,” Julian Falconer told the court. “These turbines are those nightmare neighbours.”
The families are trying to get the court to declare provincial legislation related to the approvals of large-scale wind farms unconstitutional.
In essence, they argue, the legislation makes it impossible to scuttle a project on the basis of potential health impacts.
“The balance has been lost,” Falconer told the three-judge panel.
The Drennans, who live near Goderich, Ont., are among the families involved in the first challenge to the Green Energy Act to reach the appellate court level.
They will have 12 turbines of the proposed 140-turbine K2 Wind project put up within two kilometres of their long-held farmstead.
“They will be surrounded,” Falconer said. “This represents a significant incursion in their lives.”
Falconer, who sought to introduce a new Health Canada study as fresh evidence, said the science on the health impacts of wind turbines is unsettled.
A summary of the study released Nov. 6 turned up no direct link between wind-turbine noise and health effects, such as headaches, high blood pressure and stress.
However, the study did uncover a link between the turbine noise and “high annoyance.”
“The findings support a potential link between long-term high annoyance and health,” the summary states.
“We did find that people who were highly annoyed were more likely to report other health effects.”
Falconer told the court that people have consistently reported being driven from their homes by turbines.
At the same time, he said, provincial legislation makes it impossible to argue the turbines might harm them.
“There exists real fear and real apprehension, not on the part of the thin-skinned, but on the part of reasonable people,” Falconer said.
“They must prove that it will harm them. That’s unconstitutionally unsound.”
The court, he said, should alter the “rigged” legislation to force authorities to consider a “reasonable prospect of harm” when approving a project.
Associate Chief Justice Frank Marrocco, one of the three appellate judges hearing the case, admonished the courtroom crowd for applauding some of the submissions.
Earlier in the day, a lawyer for a coalition of 14 community groups said the right of citizens to fight turbines on the basis of health impacts is illusory.
In his submission, Richard Macklin noted the province’s Environmental Review Tribunal has heard 20 health-based challenges to wind farm projects.
“They have all been unsuccessful,” Macklin said. “We see that as a cumulative charter violation.”
In addition, Lambton county sought to intervene in the challenge on the grounds the provincial legislation has usurped the right of municipalities to proactively regulate against potential harm to residents.
The judges said they will decide at a later point whether to allow the interventions and admit the fresh evidence.