On Monday, July 18 the Environmental Review Tribunal delivered its ruling in Erickson v. MOE. It found against the appellants who stood in opposition to the Suncor Kent Breeze Wind project. The Tribunal held that the appellants had failed to provide sufficient evidence to show that the low frequency sound generated by wind turbines will cause serious harm to human health. In the decision, the Tribunal stated that the evidence presented by the appellants was largely "exploratory" in nature, and gave it little weight. Instead, they relied on the testimony of several expert witnesses who stated that the relevant research was still in its earliest stages and that it had not yet progressed to a point where reliable conclusions could be drawn.
Despite finding against the appellants, the Tribunal emphasized that the question as to whether wind farms pose a health risk to humans was by no means resolved, and that above all the action revealed a pressing need for further research. Though the evidence was not sufficient to establish a concrete causal link between wind farms and health problems in humans, it was enough to expose a worrying degree of uncertainty regarding the potential adverse effects of these facilities. The issue then has become one of degree in terms of what precautions are necessary to protect people from any negative impact these facilities might have. The decision establishes that currently, the evidence does not warrant a re-evaluation of the regulatory regime concerning wind farm facilities, but expressly leaves open the possibility of change should further research reveal a need for it.
Lauded by many as a significant step forward in the transition to sustainable power generation, the decision is a major setback for those set against wind farm development in Ontario. Disappointed, but undeterred in her opposition, Katie Erickson, the named appellant stated on Tuesday, July 19 that she may move forward with an appeal of the ruling.
The decision can be found at http://www.ert.gov.on.ca/english/decisions/index.htm.
Posted by James Kelsall, Summer Student