by John Spears, Toronto Star
Ontario bureaucrats have been given “no firm deadline” for reporting on the possible health effects of offshore wind turbines, says the Ministry of Natural Resources. But it says one of the studies will take up to three years. The province is facing a $2.25 billion lawsuit from a wind power developer after it slapped an indefinite moratorium on offshore wind power developments in February.
At the time, the province said it was suspending offshore developments in order to conduct further study on the health and environmental impact of the turbines.
The moratorium was widely seen as a way of burying the issue until after the Oct. 6 provincial election. The lawsuit, by Trillium Power Wind Corp., was filed the week before the election.
Trillium had been planning a wind development in eastern Lake Ontario, off Kingston, and says in its statement of claim that it has been severely damaged by the moratorium. It says a financing deal collapsed when the moratorium was imposed.
Assertions made in the statement of claim have not been proven; they may be challenged and amended, or deleted.
Trillium maintains in its statement of claim that the province hasn’t undertaken any scientific studies on health impacts as it said it would.
It says the moratorium was imposed to mollify voters in swing ridings.
Energy Minister Brad Duguid has denounced the court action “one of the most offensive lawsuits I’ve ever seen.”
He said the government must protect the environment.
When the Star asked for specifics about what research is under way, the Ministry of Natural Resources supplied the following list:
• “Research on potential impacts and benefits of offshore windpower turbines . . . This was principally a literature review.”
• “A review of the potential effects of offshore wind power development on natural coastal processes (e.g. currents and sediment flow). The ministry hired a leading engineering firm experienced in working in freshwater environments to provide advice on issues, impacts and potential mitigation strategies for potential offshore wind power development in the Great Lakes.”
• “Weather radar studies of the migratory patterns of birds and bats, to better understand how birds and bats use and cross both lakes Erie and Ontario. We expect the first year of research to be released via science journals in next year.”
• “A study in Lake Ontario assessing the potential electromagnetic impacts of underwater high voltage cables on local fisheries. Field work still underway. We hope to publish this within the next three years.”
The ministry says the underwater cable research will take place near Wolfe Island by Kingston and will compare fish populations near an existing cable with those that are not.
Asked what the budget is for the studies, the ministry wouldn’t supply a figure.