by PAT CURRIE
The Ontario Divisional Court’s dismissal Thursday of a challenge to current provincial regulations governing the set-back distance between homes and wind turbine generators was hailed as a victory by the industry but pooh-poohed as no such thing by opponents.
President John Laforet of Wind Concerns Ontario, a coalition of 57 community-based groups across Ontario, said the panel of three judges had ruled only there was no evidence that the provincial government had acted improperly in determining wind turbines had to be set back at least 550 metres from homes.
"The court's jurisdiction is therefore quite circumscribed," the judges wrote in their decision dismissing a court challenge by small business owner Ian Hanna, of Prince Edward County. Hanna had claimed there was no medical evidence that the established setback was really safe.
All the judges did was decide "it was not up to them to determine the wisdom of (Energy Minister Brad Duguid) which is a far cry from determining the minister’s actions to be wise," Laforet said.
"The situation is not bleak," Hanna said, noting that the judges had "left it open for the Environmental Review Tribunal" to rule on the setback. "We don't see this as a loss or a negative so much as it is a shifting of where that determination has to be made," Hanna said.
Laforet renewed Wind Concerns Ontario’s demand for a fully independent, third-party study to determine what is a safe distance" between turbines and homes.
Laforet noted some eight million Ontario voters in 107 ridings across the province had backed motions for a moratorium on wind farm development until the issue has been determined. "We’re confident that if the government doesn’t change its tune, the voters will change the government" in the next provincial election Oct. 6, he said.
President Robert Hornung of the Canadian Wind Energy Association, representing the wind turbine industry, said Hanna’s unprecedented court challenge "had no merit" and that "the balance of expert scientific and medical information to date clearly indicates there is no direct link between wind turbines and effects on human health." BF