Overview: This case is a reminder that energy facilities can generate more than electricity; they can also generate conflict. Though this case involves appeals of Suncor’s Kent Breeze Wind Farm Project, the Appellants’ approach to this proceeding has largely been a test of whether turbines in Ontario will cause serious harm to human health. The Parties called experts from all over the world to speak to the issue of whether this Project, which was approved according to Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment Noise Guidelines for Wind Farms and Ontario Regulation 359/09 made under the Environmental Protection Act; will seriously harm humans living nearby. It is clear that this case is a novel case that not only involves new legislation but also new scientific research.
For the reasons that follow, the Environmental Review Tribunal finds that the Appellants have failed to show that Suncor’s Kent Breeze Project, as approved, will cause serious harm to human health. However, the evidence shows that there are some risks and uncertainties associated with wind turbines that merit further research. In that regard, the Tribunal hopes that future debate focuses on the most appropriate standards rather than “yes or no” arguments about whether turbines can cause harm.
According to the evidence in this Hearing, where an impressive array of leading experts from around the world testified on cutting edge areas of scientific inquiry, the Tribunal cannot find that the Kent Breeze Project operated according to the current Ontario standards “will cause serious harm to human health”. That is the test in the statute, but the evidence presented in this Hearing is insufficient to meet it. What the Tribunal can state is that the need for more research came up several times during this Hearing. Time will tell as to what that research will ultimately demonstrate. The Tribunal is hopeful that, whatever the results, further research will help answer some of the concerns and uncertainties raised during this Hearing.