Wind turbines and the need for consultation and evidence

I asked Megan Leslie for an NDP response to the general issue of wind turbines and the recent announcement of a Health Canada study. Here is what she wrote in reply.

The NDP is very supportive of renewable energy technologies. However, as with any project, there needs to be true community consultation. There is tremendous insight and expertise at the community level, and we need to tap into this resource.

As we have said with the oil sands, all energy sources in Canada should be developed in a way that is safe for Canadians and for our environment. This study is a good example of how proper scientific evidence, led by public research, can help people understands the impact of these systems. More of these studies should be conducted to better understand the impact of other sources that have raised public concern, like cellphone towers. The NDP supports the use of science and evidence in decision making, which is in stark contrast to the way Conservatives have been making their decisions lately.

Speaking of evidence, it’s odd to see the Conservatives funding studies on green energy technology while at the same time they’re killing environmental assessments for fossil fuel projects. Why the double standard? While the health and environmental concerns of large wind turbines merit study, the huge problems of smog and the thousands of deaths directly attributed to air quality, mercury contamination, and climate change, all deserve immediate and decisive action, and this government has provided neither. And where are the long-promised studies of oil sands development on the First Nations downstream of the oil sands?

When the PMO directly calls the group lobbying for this delay, I can’t help but think that this is a crass political move to undermine the development of renewables. I don’t remember the PMO calling anyone in Ft Chipewan about their health concerns living downstream, or any of my constituents with concerns about cell towers in their neighbourhoods.

This last bit is reference to the Globe’s report this morning that the Prime Minister’s Office contacted Wind Concerns Ontario to let the group know the study was being pursued.

Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq’s office explains that the minister requested the study after hearing from MPs—primarily from Ontario—that constituents had concerns about the health impacts of wind turbines. The department had apparently been working with the provinces and territories to establish voluntary guidelines for “set backs,” but that process concluded without firm decisions.

The official notice to stakeholders is here. Relevant questions and answers are posted here and the members of research design team are listed here.

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