Saturday, September 24, 2011

Wakulat|Law Supports Friends of Wind's Public Outreach

Ever since the Province of Ontario introduced its landmark Green Energy and Green Economy Act, two major tracks of criticism have bedevilled the wind sector. First, developers are more likely to find local communities opposing proposed wind farms that have taken advantage of the streamlined approval process implemented by the Act. This lack of required consultation has created a sense of helplessness as rural residents feel large numbers of turbines are erected without regard to their visual or health concerns. This has stirred an emotionally divisive debate across the province's countryside that has proven grist for the government's political opponents in an election year.

The Impact on Health
While beauty is in the eye of the beholder, it should be an easier task to address health concerns with facts and research.  Earlier this year, Toronto-based environmental lawyer Dianne Saxe reported on a full-day webcast - Wind Power & Human Health Scientific Forum - dedicated to discussing wind power effects on human health.  The conclusion was essentially that "infrasound from wind turbines is not a health problem." This accords with an earlier report from Dr. Arlene King, Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health, who concluded that there is "no direct causal link between wind turbines and adverse health effects." Naturally, health professionals and wind proponents should take any concerns raised by residents seriously, but reasoned debate should be expected from all sides and include an understanding of the established facts to date.

Friends of Wind
Earlier this month Wakulat|Law had the privilege of participating in a public forum organized by a nascent grassroots group: "Friends of Wind". The group's research has indicated that "public opinion polls have consistently shown the majority of Canadians support wind energy for its environmental, economic and social benefits". They became concerned that this point-of-view was being lost to the more vocal groups bringing wind development into disrepute. Led by a full-time farmer and mother of four, Jutta Splettstoesser, Friends of Wind decided to put on four public events where industry experts could share the facts with interested residents, citizens and policymakers.

Jutta has been supported in her efforts by like-minded individuals and wind energy industry leaders keen to ensure all citizens can “join the conversation” about Ontario's energy future. Their fourth and final event was held on September 8, 2011 in London, Ontario. Wakulat|Law Principal Robert Wakulat moderated a panel that included the following expert speakers:
  • Gideon Forman, Executive Director, Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment
  • Paul Seccaspina, CEO of Oraclepoll Research Limited
  • Horia Hangan, Director of University of Western Ontario Wind Tunnel & Project Lead WindEEE
  • Vinay Sharma, CEO, London Hydro
Forman, as he has done in the past, tackled the health issue and asked attendees to consider the health impacts of alternative generation options such as nuclear and coal. Seccaspina provided detailed insights into the minds of Ontarians with a focus on their attitudes towards renewable power and the upcoming provincial election:

Friends of Wind_Sept7

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