Lawyer suggests wind leases can be voided because of health risk deception (Ontario)

Jun 24, 2013

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“Lack of information on health could be the way out of wind leases: Attorney Eric Gillespie”

—Heather Wright, Sarnia-Lambton Independent (6/23/13)

An environmental lawyer says there is hope for landowners who want out of wind turbine leases.

Eric Gillespie, who currently is working for Plympton Wyoming in its court battle with Suncor Energy over wind turbine bylaws, gets “dozens” of calls from landowners who signed leases long before anyone realized the potential problems associated with the industrial turbines. Gillespie, who was slated to speak at a meeting organized by Conservation Of Rural Enniskillen Saturday, says some of those landowners are successfully getting out of what many people had believed are ironclad leases.

“We’re aware of at least three situations where it appears we have been successful,” says Gillespie.

“One of the elements that factually they all have in common is the apparent lack of information provided by the wind company at the time the agreement was signed,” he says. “Quite consistently there appears to be a lack of disclosure around potential health issues.

“Experts around the world have been saying for many years that industrial wind turbines cause certain effects on certain people; that is part of the reason why there is a mandatory setback in just about every country that has a high or a significant number of wind turbines. If you could place people safely in very close proximity, there would be no need for a setback. The problem is that while governments around the world acknowledge the health risks, participants, people who signed up in Ontario, don’t get any setback protection,” says Gillespie.

“When you sign the agreement you give up, in almost every case it appears, the 550 meter protection. It’s erased, it no longer applies.”

And that, Gillespie says, means farmers could find the lease they signed puts a turbine right in their backyard without ever being told that some people have headaches, tinnitus, and sleep deprivation because of the low frequency noise coming from the turbines.

“Those families who have agreed to take a turbine there are some with turbines 350 meters away from their homes. They’ve given up their protection often without knowledge of the risks.”

Gillespie says that would not happen in other industries.

“I’m going to sell you a car with no seatbelts without explaining the risks you take in not even having a choice to put a seatbelt on.”

So far, Gillespie says, landowners have been fairly successful using that argument in court. “There are going to be some other factors that will have to be considered but if somebody gave up their rights and were never told what they were putting at risk that is certainly a good starting point for a discussion with a lawyer.”

  1. Comment by Bill Carson on 06/24/2013 at 5:49 pm

    Massachusetts has several problems in Scituate,Kingston, Falmouth and Fairhaven. The Scituate and Fairhaven turbines are on town owned land leased to the wind turbine company. The Falmouth wind turbines are on town land and operated by the town. In Kingston the worst turbines are on private land and owned privatley.

    None of the residents / abutters were ever advised about the health risk associated with the megawatt class of turbines built in their backyards

    How much longer will it be before class action litigation takes place against the state ,towns and wind turbine contractors that built too close to residential homes ?

  2. Comment by Barbara Durkin on 06/24/2013 at 6:49 pm

    First Wind Boston-based CEO Paul Gaynor is Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick’s appointed Co-chair of “The Climate Protection Advisory Committee” under the Global Warming Solutions Act. First Wind Paul Gaynor is also co-chair of the Mass Department of Environmental Protection Advisory Committee “Low Carbon Energy Supply Subcommittee.”

    As green policy Advisor to the Patrick Administration, First Wind CEO Paul Gaynor appears negligent in his failure to disclose notorious noise and health complaints associated with First Wind projects. Why has this Advisor remained silent while his DEP was involved in evaluating noise and health complaints that plague Falmouth, and that plague his wind projects? If the CEO of First Wind did appropriately disclose health issues to the MA DEP, this disclosure may have informed the Town and citizens during the permitting and evaluation process, and families across MA would not be suffering adverse health impacts.

    There is no legitimate reason why wind developers fail to disclose to landowners, homeowners, and town boards that wind turbines are known to make humans sick. I’m very pleased that Attorney Gillespie has identified this responsibility, and is challenging wind developers on this basis.

    Windmills a sound investment?

    By Mary Perham
    Corning Leader
    Mon Apr 06, 2009, 12:11 AM EDT

    Bath, N.Y. –

    Editor’s note | This is the first part of a two-part look at developing concerns over wind farms in parts of Steuben County.

    In early January, the blades in the 53-turbine First Wind project in the town of Cohocton began to spin. It was the first project in Steuben County to generate renewable energy and one of five under consideration in the county.

    Within weeks, dozens of Cohocton residents went to the town board in neighboring Prattsburgh to warn that the machines were proving to be noisy and harmful.

    “Don’t let (the developers) buffalo you,” Cohocton resident Hal Graham told the Prattsburgh Town Board in late February. “You know, I wanted to do something for the environment. And now I can’t sleep at night.”

    Photo by Jason Cox | The Leader
    A wind turbine is seen from Hal Graham’s window on Lent Hill in Cohocton.

    Graham initially supported wind farm development.

    Prattsburgh is the site of two wind farms planned by developers First Wind and EcoGen. Other projects have been proposed in the towns of Hartsville and Howard.

    Since wind farms in Steuben County were first proposed in 2002, developers have admitted it’s hard to miss seeing the 400-foot-high turbines, but insisted they sound no louder than a refrigerator’s hum.

    The projects have been promoted throughout the largely rural county as a quiet, inexpensive and environmentally-friendly way to provide renewable energy.

    Environmental studies for Cohocton and Steuben County led to restrictions of the turbines’ sound to a maximum comfort level of 50 decibels. Setbacks were established to assure both noise and other potential dangers such as shadow flicker and flying debris were lessened.

    Yet the promised “refrigerator hum” of the turbines was a falsity as residents began to compare the sound to the roar of a jet engine, according to Graham.

    The Cohocton residents are among a growing number of people across the nation complaining the noise made by wind turbines is intrusive and disturbing. Medical professionals have compiled studies showing the noise can pose health hazards.

    And the wind industry is beginning to take notice.

    In Maine, where the state welcomed renewable energy, the Mars Hill project has been widely criticized for being noisy.

    According to a March 26, 2008 report by the Daily News in Bangor, Maine, UPC Wind president and CEO Paul Gaynor said the company would do a better job in the future about letting local residents know what to expect from wind farms.

    “I know there was an expectation (in Mars Hill) about what these were going to sound like,” Gaynor told the Daily News. “These are big structures and they do make sound.”

    Shortly after Gaynor spoke to the Maine newspaper, the firm changed its name to First Wind. It was formerly known as Global Winds Harvest/UPC.

    Local officials said they have relied on the best information available and worked to ensure the safety of residents.

    Steuben County Industrial Development Agency Exec-utive Director James Sherron said the agency has regulatory standards based on data from the state Department of Environmental Conservation and state Energy Research Development Agency.

    The Steuben County IDA has established minimum distances that wind turbines can be to a residence, called a setback. There are also limits on decibel levels.

    But Sherron said he has heard reports of 110 decibels in Cohocton — twice the accepted limit – and added any violations would go through a process of sound studies to decide the best way to solve the issue.

    “We have a responsibility with the developers, they have to meet the criteria,” Sherron said. “They could be asked to slow down the turbines, find alternatives. It could mean the unit would be removed.”

    Sherron said another factor in the noise may be the model of machine used in Cohocton.

    While SCIDA initially reviewed 1.5 megawatt turbines, the five wind farm developers looking to do business in the county indicated they would be installing 2.3 megawatt turbines. The larger turbines were approved because SCIDA’s consultants said there was no significant difference in their impact, Sherron said.

    But all models under consideration are capable of exceeding 100 decibels at a maximum speed of 30 feet per second, according to a report to SCIDA by developer EverPower.

    Typically, the blade rotation is reduced to lower speeds.

    Yet some sound experts charge the current “acceptable” range of 45-50 decibels is excessive, and twice as loud as some background rural noise recorded at 20-25 decibels.

    Acoustical engineer Richard James warned the noise is not only nerve-wracking, but poses health risks now being studied in the U.S. and in Europe, where wind farms have operated for nearly 20 years.

    James likened the potential long-term effect of wind farms to the now-notorious region near Buffalo, where officials paved over the toxic waste which later poisoned residents.
    “This is like Love Canal,” he said.

    http://www.the-leader.com/homepage/x1931060317

    April 1, 2009 by Jack Zigenfus

    Summary:

    Cohocton, NY permitted First Wind (formerly UPC Wind) to construct two wind energy facilities in the town on private land. Noise complaints started almost immediately after the turbines became operational. Windaction.org has been notified that the below letter was sent by Cohocton’s town supervisor to First Wind.

    http://www.windaction.org/documents/20702

    http://www.sheffieldwind.com/UserFiles/File/regulatory_sheffield/CrossExhibits/UPC-Cross-PG12.pdf

    Paul Gaynor as DEP Advisor on “Low Carbon Energy Supply Subcommittee” provides empirical evidence by First Wind’s non-disclosure settlement that shows adverse impacts by wind turbines to property owners is confirmed.

    First Wind “gag order” Sheffield settlement has been posted in its entirety, here, with Adobe link to the actual document, names redacted: http://www.windaction.org/documents/25867

    With a modicum of due diligence on the part of the DEP, DPH and Patrick Administration, the physical suffering of MA residents ongoing by wind turbines could have been averted. This harm to MA residents duplicates events that have caused physical suffering and property value loss by ME residents who have filed suit against First Wind.

    . August 12, 2009 • Filings, Health, Human rights, Maine, Noise, Property values

    Mars Hill residents’ suit against First Wind et al.

    When all of the turbines became operational for the first time in late March 2007, it became immediately obvious to the Plaintiffs that the noise from the turbines was invasive and caused them loss of enjoyment of life, loss of peace and quiet, loss of their full use of their home and land. Some Plaintiffs required medical treatment and counseling. Many have, and continue to, lose sleep, suffer headaches, suffer considerable stress, and other physical and emotional ailments.

    14. The real estate values of the Plaintiffs’ homes have been greatly reduced, as is supported by an expert’s opinion, of their property values before and after operation of the turbines.

    Continue reading and download suit:

    http://www.wind-watch.org/documents/mars-hill-residents-suit-against-first-wind-et-al/

    Burlington Free Press (First Wind project)>

    Wind debate moves to a new chapter: Noise
    Some residents near Sheffield and Lowell turbines say the sound is intolerable, but projects remain within limits
    Dec 22, 2012 |
    HEFFIELD — Some days there is no discernible noise coming from the wind turbines behind Steve and LuAnn Therrien’s house in Sheffield.

    Other days, they say, the turbines create a constant roar that wakes them up in the night, makes them sick to their stomachs or their heads, drives up his blood pressure and her anxiety level, and makes their two young children restless.

    “Something’s not right here,” LuAnn Therrien said.

    “I’m feeling like we have to move,” Steve Therrien said, adding that they can’t afford to. “If you’re not feeling well, and you know your kids are screaming, there’s nothing you can do.”

    cut–continue reading> http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/article/20121223/NEWS07/312230016/Vermont-wind-turbine-debate-moves-to-a-new-chapter-Noise

    Turbine noise a concern in Ellis County
    June 3, 2007 by Kaley Lyon in Hays Daily News
    Wendy Todd, a resident of Mars Hill, Maine, and her husband, Perrin, live about 2,600 feet away from one of the 28 turbines that compose the Mars Hill Wind Farm, Wendy Todd said. Todd’s story is one opponents to the Ellis County wind project have referenced. When her family first heard about plans for construction of the project in 2006, they were not led to anticipate problems, she said. “We thought we had asked all the right questions. We thought ‘if we can deal with the visual aspect and get through the construction phase, we’ll be all set,’ ” Todd said. “There was never any mention of strobing, shadow flicker was never even mentioned. The noise issues were put on the back burner almost immediately.” However, she and her husband have been battling these issues, particularly the noise, which Todd said varies with the wind speed.

    News (First Wind Mars Hill, ME)
    An idyll lost in turbines’ humming; Neighbors regret Maine wind farm
    MARS HILL, Maine — This year, when Steven and Tammie Fletcher took their traditional New Year’s Eve walk to the top of Mars Hill, the crisp winter stillness mixed with something unfamiliar: the whoosh of the new windmills towering over the northern Maine mountaintop. This is not how it was supposed to be, say the Fletchers and their neighbors on the north side of Mars Hill, where a 28-turbine wind farm, the largest yet built in New England, began operating in December. Residents say that town officials and company representatives repeatedly assured them that the wind farm would be silent. Instead, they say, the windmills have disrupted their mountainside idyll. On days with low cloud cover, when the pulsing, rushing noise is loudest, wind farm neighbors say it can disrupt their sleep and drown out the rushing brook that was once the only sound here. “It changes your whole feeling about being in the woods,” said Tammie Fletcher, whose mountainside house boasts floor-to-ceiling views of the ridge where the windmills now stand.

    February 17, 2007 by Jenna Russell in Boston Globe
    Mars Hill

    “People bought property here specifically for the silence,” said Wendy Todd (with her husband, Perrin), in Mars Hill, Maine. (Fred J. Field for the Boston Globe)

    MARS HILL, Maine — This year, when Steven and Tammie Fletcher took their traditional New Year’s Eve walk to the top of Mars Hill, the crisp winter stillness mixed with something unfamiliar: the whoosh of the new windmills towering over the northern Maine mountaintop.

    This is not how it was supposed to be, say the Fletchers and their neighbors on the north side of Mars Hill, where a… [continue via Web link]

    Web link: http://www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2007/02/

  3. Comment by Itasca Small on 07/11/2013 at 4:09 am

    This is welcome news! It’s a start.

    I’ve never understood why the “contracts” are not null and void because they are fraudulent.

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