Friday, 11 November 2011

Why does (part of) the CBC hate wind? Part 1

Over the last month or so, especially before the provincial election, CBC News has taken quite a lopsided view of wind energy.  This blog entry and subsequent entries will review CBC's coverage, highlight the deficiencies in their reporting and question why this could have occurred.

Coverage


2011 September 21: Wind farm health risks claimed in $1.5 M suit 
2011 September 22: Should there be stricter limits on wind turbines in rural areas? (online poll)
2011 September 22: Ont. wind farm health risks downplayed: documents
2011 October 1: Ontario wind power bringing down property values
2011 October 1: Would you live near wind turbines? (online poll)
2011 October 4: Ontario wind power faces test over property values
2011 October 10: Wind project threatens birds, green group warns

All but one of these article were written by Dave Seglins and John Nicol.


Dave Seglins


Deficiencies


We will take a closer look at each article, but the overall impression is that the reporters appear to have been fed "tips" by anti-wind activists.  These "tips" tend to be old news items (in some cases over five years old) re-packaged to meet a pre-election deadline.  The reporters dedicate 70 or 80% of their copy to  the anti-wind side and the balance to independent or pro-wind references.

Let's start with Wind farm health risks claimed in $1.5 M suit.  This story deals with the Michaud family who are suing Suncor for allegedly causing adverse health effects in the four of five months since the Kent Breeze wind farm began operation.

Kent Breeze was the object of a major attack by the anti-wind organizations earlier in the year at an Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT).  The ERT ruled in favour of the Kent Breeze project.  The lawyer for that challenge, Eric Gillespie, is also representing the Michauds, although his linkage to the ERT challenge is omitted by the CBC reporters.  I believe that they would have (or should have) known the connection.

While Jennifer Lomas from Suncor chose not to comment directly on a case before the Courts, that did not stop Mr. Gillespie.  He claimed that:

 "People knew full well going into this specific project that there were likely going to be problems.”


No explanation as to who the "people" are, what degree of certainty "full well" means or what "likely" means in terms of severity.  Does Mr. Gillespie mean that "people" means Suncor, and that they had advance knowledge that large numbers of people would be affected?  Or, does "people" mean the Michauds or the anti-wind groups?  Clarity was not pursued by the CBC reporters.

Apparently, in Mr. Gillespie's mind, the Michaud family is the evidence that there are problems, even though the Michauds live 1100 metres away from the turbines, twice the Ontario minimum setback.  There are 8 turbines in the Kent Breeze project, each rated at 2.5 MW.

In documents easily obtained by this blog,  210 receptors (i.e. existing homes) are distributed within 2 km of any of these turbines.  On the basis of provincially approved analytic techniques, none of those receptors is expected to receive more than 40 dbA of noise.  That is the equivalent of a modern refrigerator.

Of those 210 receptors, approximately 100 are located within 1100 metres of any turbine.  There is no evidence that the CBC reporters investigated any of those 100 homes that were at or closer than the distance of the Michauds.  No other residents in that zone appear to have lodged complaints - at least in the public record.

Lisa Michaud states that the Chief Medical Officer's (CMO) investigation into the possible adverse health effects of wind turbines is flawed because the CMO didn't talk to actual people.  Apparently, the CBC only talked to one family (wrapped up in a legal vendetta), so perhaps their analysis is flawed as well.

Finally, CBC reports that the Michauds have recruited Carmen Krogh to aid their case.  Although unreported by the CBC reporters, Carmen Krogh is a well-known member of Wind Concerns Ontario and Society for Wind Vigilance, both anti-wind advocate organizations.  Ms. Krogh lives near a proposed wind farm.

The CBC reporters accepted her claim that her surveys have been peer-reviewed.  With a bit of digging, though, they would have found that the Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society (BSTS) is not even evaluated by Thomson Reuters, the premiere rating firm for academic journals.  In fact, in the edition where Ms. Krogh's article was published, the editor declared "Wind farms are but one of many symptoms of what ails our civilization.." - hardly evidence of an unbiased journal.

BSTS seems to never publish the names of those who review their submissions.  This is in contrast to more reputable journals who name their reviewers and publish the communications between the authors and the reviewers.  Also, numerous witnesses at the ERT testified that Ms. Krogh's submission to the ERT was not ready for being published in respected journals.

So, in summary, were the CBC reporters complicit, in some form, in advancing this point of view or were they just over-anxious at presenting a topical story?  We'll explore their motivation in future blogs.






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