Monday, 14 November 2011

Why does (part of) the CBC hate wind? Part 2

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 continues to review CBC's coverage, highlight the deficiencies in their reporting and question why this could have occurred.


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

Let's continue with the article Ont. wind farm health risks downplayed: documents and the subsequent online poll Should there be stricter limits on wind turbines in rural areas?

Here's the article's opening paragraph:

Ontario's Ministry of the Environment is logging hundreds of health complaints over the province's 900 wind turbines but has downplayed the problem, according to internal ministry documents obtained by CBC News.

Sounds like the CBC really worked hard and unearthed a big scoop.  In reality, those documents were obtained by  Wind Concerns Ontario via a Freedom of Information request.  Some of them were then dribbled out on a WCO website called "windyleaks".  The website was launched on August 19th, 2011 and was very active leading up to the election.  It's last post was on October 4th with nothing being posted after the election.

Windyleaks had over 15 posts before the CBC story broke.  The windyleaks reaction chided CBC for being slow on the uptake. Here's their post on the day after CBC published.

Visit this link to CBC and read a great summary of WINDYLEAKS’ POSTS from the past 3 – 4 weeks!
Now that they have caught up, we only hope CBC (and their counterparts at CTV, GLOBAL, the Star, the National Post, the Globe and Mail, the Sun and others) will continue to investigate and expose the real truth about Industrial Wind and it’s legacy of shame in Ontario!!!
As to the headline that there were hundreds of health complaints, one only has to delve into one of the CBC's accompanying documents to learn the truth  They reveal that over a three year period starting in 2006 there were 231 complaints regarding a transformer associated with the connection of the wind farm to the Hydro One network (the "grid").  That transformer is over 4km from any turbine.  
There were three complaints about turbines in phase I in 2006 and 2007 and none thereafter.  There were 24 complaints about turbines in phase II in less than a year, presumably from Ms. Ashbee.

So, perhaps the headline should have read, "Ontario's Ministry of Environment logged about thirty complaints at a wind farm three to five years ago.  Their investigation led to the developer taking the corrective action of purchasing the home of the most sensitive landowner."
The article continues:

Their home was bought out by Canadian Hydro Developers (now Transalta) in June 2009, one of six homeowners who sold their houses to the utility company.
"We were silent. I wouldn't say boo to anybody. But the longer this goes on, nobody's doing anything! And now we have an (Ontario) election two weeks away. Nobody understands what's going on out here."

Each seller had to sign confidentiality agreements. But the Lormands have risked legal repercussions by breaking their silence and speaking exclusively to CBC News this week. They said they want to warn the public about what they claim are the dangers of living near wind turbines and the supposed breakdowns in government monitoring.
Canadian Hydro Developers (CHD) did purchase the Ashbee/Lormand home.  They also purchased Helen Fraser's home. 

Based on news publications at the time, we can only assume that CHD was pursuing a "good neighbour" policy by avoiding any acrimony.  The other four homes were purchased in order for CHD to optimize their wind farm layout.  In all cases, there was a willing seller and a willing buyer.  The specifics of the deal were covered by a non-disclosure agreement (NDA), a common legal practise in such matters.  It would have bound CHD to not disclose what medical conditions  the Lormands and the Frasers may have revealed and it would have bound the Lormands and the Frasers to not disclose the commercial arrangements.

Two of the six homes were demolished.  One had already been under a County demolition order and the other was a hunting shack.  The other four were initially rented to CHD or contractor employees and then subsequently sold at non-distressed prices when the projects were complete.

Barbara Ashbee certainly hasn't been deterred by the NDA.  Although she says that she wouldn't say boo,  a simple google search for "barbara ashbee" yields 2000 hits within Canada.  That's a lot of boo's.  She has become a major activist within Wind Concerns Ontario.   As to risking legal repercussions, nothing of that nature has hit the Press.  You can be sure that if it had, the CBC would have been called again.

The CBC report interviewed one landowner, the Ashbee/Lormonds.  Ashbee claims that there are several people near turbines who won't speak for fear of losing property value.  CBC printed that claim but apparently didn't talk to any of the landowners in the area.  At the very least, they could have talked to those families who have turbines on their property - usually closer to their homes than their neighbours.  Even after accounting for "absentee" landowners and landowners with multiple turbines, the number of host landowners who sleep very well at night numbers in the hundreds.

Let's say that you were presented with the following poll question:

Would you live near a wind farm? Why or why not? Should there be stricter limits on wind turbines in rural areas? Share your comments below.

Now, let's say that the following material preceded the poll question:

Ontario's Ministry of the Environment has downplayed hundreds of health complaints over wind turbines, according to internal ministry documents obtained by CBC News.

The wind turbines, in the Amaranth area northwest of Toronto, were the subject of more than 200 complaints dating back to 2006.

For one local couple, the turbines' loud swooshing noise and persistent vibrations kept them awake for nights on end.

Although the couple were initially told theirs was the only complaint in the area, internal documents now suggest the government was aware of and working to control the turbines' noise pollution.

Ryerson University professor and acoustics specialists Ramani Ramakrishnan has already recommended to the MOE that wind turbines in rural areas should have far stricter limits, but added that if the province enforced the regulations, it would have a major impact on wind farms in the province.

That's how CBC rigged the poll.

Part 3 in this series will address CBC's coverage of the "property value" issue.

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