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Windpower: Environmentalists vs. Environmentalists (NIMBYism, precautionary principle vs. industrial wind)

“The Municipality of Central Huron requests that the Province of Ontario declare a moratorium on all current and future projects for on-shore and off-shore development of wind-energy facilities until it has commissioned properly-designed independent third-party scientific research into the long-term effects, released the findings for public comment, and has incorporated those comments to enact science-based maximums for wind-facility emissions, and for electrical emission from all related electrical facilities, and can therefore guarantee to Council’s satisfaction that the health and well-being of the Municipality’s human and animal populations are protected from the direct and indirect negative effects of being in proximity to those IWT facilities.”

- Central Huron Council Resolution, adopted June 6, 2011

Two days ago, the Central Huron Council passed a resolution against wind-turbine business-as-usual, a victory for local advocacy groups such as Toronto Wind Action, Great Lakes Wind Truth (see their Facebook page), and Central Huron Against Wind Turbines.

As indicated by yesterday’s blog at MasterResource by Jen Gilbert, “Dear Sierra Club (Canada): I Resign Over Your Anti-Environmental Wind Support,” there is a growing civil war between the anti-fossil-fuel pro-windpower groups (including big business) and grassroot environmentalists who see a pound of environmental ill for an ounce of energy cure. Will the Sierra Club on both sides of the international border take note and get tough on industrial wind–and help taxpayers and federal fiscal order at the same time?

Central Huron Industrial Windpower Resolution

A RESOLUTION REQUESTING THAT THE PROVINCE OF ONTARIO DECLARE A MORATORIUM ON THE CONSTRUCTION OF INDUSTRIAL WIND TURBINES (IWT’s) UNTIL SCIENCE-BASED AND PEER REVIEWED REGULATIONS THAT ENSURE PUBLIC HEALTH AND WELL-BEING HAVE BEEN IMPLEMENTED AND THAT THE PROVINCE RESTORE LOCAL PLANNING POWERS TO THE MUNICIPALITY REGARDING RENEWABLE ENERGY PROJECTS

WHEREAS there is a need to lessen our use and dependency on fossil fuels and increase our sustainability through responsible development of renewable energy resources and conservation

AND WHEREAS literature reviews by the Canadian and the American Wind Energy Associations (Wind Turbine Sound and Health Effects, 2009-09) and by Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health (The Potential Health Impact of Wind Turbines, 2010-05) acknowledge that there is not sufficient scientific evidence to prove that these facilities have a direct negative impact on human health and well-being;

AND WHEREAS there is a growing body of case evidence that they do, and the precautionary principle states if an action or policy has a suspected risk of causing harm, then in the absence of scientific consensus that the action or policy is harmful, the burden of proof that it is not harmful falls on those taking the action;

AND WHEREAS Ontario’s regulations do not cite any scientific proof that 40 db(A) hourly-average value used as a basis for setbacks in rural areas is sufficient to guarantee the health and well- being of the people in the proximity to these facilities and give no consideration to the Low Frequency component of the noise emissions;

AND WHEREAS more than 70 municipalities throughout Ontario have passed resolutions, motions and bylaws expressing concerns with the Green Energy Act ( 2009);

AND WHEREAS The Green Energy Act (2009) has excluded municipalities from acting in any direct way to address concerns relating to public interests in comprehensive municipal planning, public health, infrastructure expansion and environmental assessment and thereby limits the ability to manage the impacts of industrial wind power projects directly within the community;

AND WHEREAS CH residents have repeatedly voiced concerns about the density of the IWT’s proposed in Central Huron and Huron County as a whole, the associated distribution and transmission network and the cumulative effects on the municipal road system;

AND WHEREAS CH residents have told council that they do not believe that Ontario’s regulations are sufficient to protect their health and well-being or to prevent the devaluation of their properties;

AND WHEREAS any property devaluation will have a undesirable effect on the tax base and hence on CH sustainability;

AND WHEREAS there is now supportable evidence that Ontario does not have the most stringent IWT standards in North America as proclaimed by the Ontario Ministry of Environment;

AND WHEREAS the 2 IWT projects proposed in CH are bordered by Lake Huron (west), the Maitland River Valley (north), the Bayfield River (south), and the 2,200 ha (5,500 acre) Hullett Provincial Wildlife Reserve (east);

AND WHEREAS these areas contain 2 recognized North American flyways, seasonal migrating paths, daily flight paths and seasonal staging grounds, and all areas provide habitat and breeding grounds for a long list of birds, bats, waterfowl and wildlife; and there is growing concern for the long term effects that IWT’S may have on these species, many of whom are on the endangered species list for Ontario;

NOW THEREFORE IT BE RESOLVED that the Municipality of Central Huron requests that the Province of Ontario declare a moratorium on all current and future projects for on-shore and off-shore development of wind-energy facilities until it has commissioned properly-designed independent third-party scientific research into the long-term effects, released the findings for public comment, and has incorporated those comments to enact science-based maximums for wind-facility emissions, and for electrical emission from all related electrical facilities, and can therefore guarantee to Council’s satisfaction that the health and well-being of the Municipality’s human and animal populations are protected from the direct and indirect negative effects of being in proximity to those IWT facilities.

AND FURTHER BE IT RESOLVED that the municipality of Central Huron requests local authority to be restored to pre GEA levels to allow the local government to mitigate impacts of renewable energy projects within the community.

AND FURTHER BE IT RESOLVED that this resolution be forwarded to
Premier of Ontario
Ontario Minister of Health
Ontario Minister of Environment
Ontario Minister of Energy
Ontario Minister of Natural Resources
The Association of Municipalities of Ontario
Huron County Council
MPP Carol Mitchell
MP Ben Lobb
Huron County Federation of Agriculture
And the local media

Conclusion

A new political dynamic is brewing before our very eyes. Obama’s reelection campaign is going to have to deal with a growing grassroots uprising against industrial wind. And ironically, the old environmentalist weapons against the fossil fuel industry–NIMBYism and the ‘never-try-something-new’ precautionary principle–are now being used against wind parks (as well as solar parks). There is much more to come.

6 comments

1 Jon Boone { 06.08.11 at 9:24 am }

“WHEREAS there is a need to lessen our use and dependency on fossil fuels and increase our sustainability through responsible development of renewable energy resources and conservation…”

I wish well intentioned people would choose their words with the greatest care. For example, is there a NEED to reduce the use of fossil fuel? One may desire such a reduction, for a host of reasons. But is it necessary? Moreover, in this context, use of the word “dependency” implies a crippling kind of addiction, rather than “reliance” upon a means of inducing a much higher quality of life. What’s wrong with such a “dependence?”

And then there’s the knee-jerk obeisance to the idea of “responsible” renewables, as if there is such a thing. Conservation? Conspicuous consumption does seem passe, even uncivil. But demanding it for all opens the door for justifying rationing without a clear rationale. Dangerous business, this.

Well intentioned people should not pretend to know what they do not. And they should not insist upon throwing bones like this statement in order to pander to the sloganeering renewables crowd, for they are the silliest bunch in Christendom.

2 rbradley { 06.08.11 at 11:14 am }

I agree with Jon.

Environmentalists turning against windpower sooner or later need to revisit the whole renewable energy problem (low density, unreliable versus fossil fuels as explained by WJ Jevons in 1865–see http://www.masterresource.org/2009/01/w-s-jevons-1865-on-windpower-memo-to-obama-part-i/.

We also need private property rights and fair tort law to address issues outside of both NIMBYism and the so-called precautionary principle.

- Rob

3 Wind against wildlife and enviros | JunkScience Sidebar { 06.09.11 at 12:51 am }

[...] Windpower: Environmentalists vs. Environmentalists (NIMBYism, precautionary principle vs. industrial… Robert Bradley Jr. “The Municipality of Central Huron requests that the Province of Ontario declare a moratorium on all current and future projects for on-shore and off-shore development of wind-energy facilities until it has commissioned properly-designed independent third-party scientific research into the long-term effects, released the findings for public comment, and has incorporated those comments to enact science-based maximums for wind-facility emissions, and for electrical emission from all related electrical facilities, and can therefore guarantee to Council’s satisfaction that the health and well-being of the Municipality’s human and animal populations are protected from the direct and indirect negative effects of being in proximity to those IWT facilities.” [...]

4 Christian Munthe { 06.12.11 at 10:49 am }

Those of you who might be interested in a discussion of the PP and its ethical basis that takes into account that, obviously, precaution always has a price may want to have a look at my new book The Price of Precaution and the Ethics of Risk: http://www.springer.com/social+sciences/applied+ethics/book/978-94-007-1329-1

5 Jon Boone { 06.20.11 at 10:11 pm }

At $139, The Price of Precaution and the Ethics of Risk won’t be accessible to many–although the topic is more than timely and in need of clearer exposition. Perhaps, Christian, you’d be willing to provide, say, a thousand word precis that would whet appetites sufficient to galvanize a request for the library to order a copy….

6 Ben { 07.28.11 at 8:26 am }

I take issue this title. Their are clear negatives to Wind Power, documented on this very sitem, and at our current wind penetration, the cycling problem is such that additional wind can actually lead to more fuel consumption and more pollution at fossil-fired plants. It is neither precautionary nor NIMBY, but rational realization that building more wind power is fiscally and environmentally irresponsible at this time.

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