So – Wednesday – we have two witnesses for the other side. NextEra’s project manager Ben Greenhouse is up first. Esther takes a page from the Nextera Lawyers – you’re an employee of Nextera so you have an interest in the outcome of this project. He claims not. He’ll just go on to the next project. He admits to being a board member of CanWea. Esther suggests that’s like being an activist for wind. Like being a board member of Wind Concerns Ontario (reference to Bill Palmer). Ben tries to reword his answer.
It’s really boring. They talk about the new blade design and the new gearbox design that both reduce noise. Later, Esther will ask the engineer how much they reduce noise. Although qualified as an expert witness in several areas, he repeatedly answers questions like this with ‘I don’t know. I’m not a specialist in that area? This is a typical example – we’ve been complaining about noise and they come up with NEW IMPROVED TURBINES – LESS NOISE! Try to get specifics and they don’t know. But it is definitely measurable, so presumably the improvement is at least one decibel.
I’m not sure what is the difference between an expert and a specialist. Maybe a specialist is only expert in one field, but he’s a ‘generalist?’ – an expert in many fields? Who knows?
Ben continues –
If you have a complaint they will respond within 24 hours. If they can’t resolve it over the phone, it will be reported to MOE and they will try something else?
PUBLIC CONSULTATION AND HEALTH
Ben tells us they hired two doctors through INTRINSINK – ‘independent consultants’ Dr. Olsen and Dr. Knopper. Esther brings out the fact that they are PH.Ds not medical doctors. Ben says they never claimed they were medical Drs. (Not their fault if people make assumptions.)
EAGLES – HALDIMAND AND BORNISH.
As for Bornish, they say their intent is not to take the nest down. (note that is not a commitment. They don’t want to get that kind of publicity again, but they won’t let a bird nest jeopardize their project.)
They talk about how the time was so short and they were worried about weather so there really wasn’t time to do much consultation with the public. They keep making reference to the week they had after the permit to destroy was given – they ignore the fact that they admitted to knowing about the nest since November at least and did no public consultation. They claim that part of the discussion with the MNR was that the nest was high in the tree and might have fallen down anyway. (Apparently it wasn’t built to nest code. No permits had been issued.)
Eagle nests do fall down. They are huge and the birds add to them every year. They can end up weighing tons and after many years they can bring down a tree. And they are usually built high in the trees.
When big business and politicians get together the lies and spin can leave you with glazed eyes and serious doubts about which way is up.
Oh Yeah – it was the MNR that told them to apply for a permit to destroy the nest.
Esther quotes Ben’s witness statement about turbines for health – replace coal,,help asthma victims, etc. She asks how it will benefit the health of residents of Adelaide Metcalfe who will suffer from the noise, flicker, etc. Ben replies that they are of the view that there are no health problems and ‘we have followed the rules.’ Through the day, both Esther and Harvey will mention the term ‘willful blindness’ after comments like that one.
Esther asks about the flashing lights – how many will there be polluting the night sky outside her son’s bedroom window? He doesn’t know. He talks about the rules governing them, but he doesn’t know the answer. HOWEVER – he points out that there is a communications tower on Centre road that has a light on it, so the night sky isn’t pure. Apparently, once you have one, another hundred won’t really make any difference.
Esther wonders why Nextera didn’t make the changes in the noise report public. She follows these things closely and had never seen it until it showed up in the MOE disclosure. Ben doesn’t know. He doesn’t know that the changes are significant. (Does he know for sure that they are NOT significant?)
The report says that ALL RECEPTORS are required to be below certain decibel levels. Eshter points out that in fact this only applies to non-participant receptors. Participants – leaseholders – can be subjected to any level. They seem to think Esther is nit-picking, but concede the point.
COMMUNICATING WITH RESIDENTS
Ben tells of all their efforts to inform the locals – newsletters, open houses, etc. Esther asks if lawsuits are a way of communicating with residents? Not usually. Ben claims he’s not involved in that. Esther says that’s the only time he’s ever phoned her – he called her at home about the lawsuit.
Did they ever approach the school or the school board about health and learning? Ben says they didn’t consider it a problem. And you can see their point. They have to appear to be consistent. If they are going to pretend they don’t believe there are any health effects, they can’t consult schools about health impact. They’d be admitting the potential. Yet, somehow, it’s not a problem when they put in all those clauses in the leaseholder contracts. Go figure.
Esther – you don’t consider 36.1dba loud for learning – much louder than world Health suggests? Ben says that’s outside the school. Walls and windows should lower that by 15 dba.
(infrasound – below human audible level – actually increases inside a building, but the government doesn’t require them to measure, or even consider, infrasound. It’s been noted elsewhere that at the Open Houses, Nextera’s maps don’t even mark schools and they got quite upset when Esther tried to write the word SCHOOL on their map. They don’t want people to notice the relative position of the schools to the turbines?)
EAGLES – again
Ben has told us that the eagles have successfully built a new nest on one of their platforms. Esther asks how they know it’s the same pair. They don’t. She asks about hatchlings. They think the pair had success but have no pictures because they didn’t want to get close enough to disturb them.
Harvey brings up Open houses – why they do it the way they do instead of a ‘Town Hall’ style where everyone can hear the questions and the answers. They claim some people are uncomfortable with that.
It is our belief that they don’t want people to hear the questions OR the answers. Most people coming to an open house don’t know much about the turbines, and those of us who have looked into it and learned something are mostly opposed so they don’t want the general public hearing our pointed questions.
MLWAG has put on a couple of town hall style meetings and North Middlesex council has put on at least one, and the turnout has been much better than at most of Suncor’s or Nextera’s open houses. OK – that’s another reason why they might not want to do it.
Harvey asks if landsmen are registered with anyone or regulated with any organization. He wants to talk about leases and how landowners/farmers are convinced to sign them.
Nextera’s John Terry objects – he wants no reference to leases.
Harvey tries to read from a lease and Terry objects again. Harvey asks, ‘so how do we bring it up – when and where?” Because sometimes these objections are just that you can’t phrase the question that way – rules of the game, eh?
The Chair tells him – the tribunal has already ruled on that.
Harvey says, ‘So I can’t bring up the root casues of all this? And the Chair comes back with, “Time – better move on – you’ve got 5 more minutes. Harvey mutters something about the other side went over time. A little further along Terry will complain about these asides of Harvey’s and the Chair will warn him.
HIGH VOLTAGE POLES
Harvey asks Ben why Hydro One seldom puts high voltage poles along the right of way. Ben doesn’t know. Harvey points out that there will be 75 poles of which 17 are within 8m of the road and a car traveling at 100k/h leaving the road would take about a quarter of a second before hitting the pole. Harvey wonders if this is a safety concern. Ben says they’re designed to meet the requirements.
ICE AND BLADE THROW and SAFETY
They tell us that they have noticed that the blades only ice when they are moving. They don’t know why. Harvey asks if Ben is aware that the complete official records are only available at Exeter Rd in London and in Toronto – not at the municipal offices and not on Nextera’s website.
Ben wasn’t aware of that either, and Harvey says, “Makes my point.”
Harvey says, ‘You’ve said you don’t believe the project will cause harm – would you give us a written guarantee of public safety – that no one will be harmed?’
Ben says that isn’t ‘best practice’, whatever that means. Harvey tries to elaborate but the tribunal chair tells him he’s had his answer, so move on.
SHANT DOKOUZIAN will be referred to as DK
I had noticed a man sitting in the gallery – behind all our people. He had spoken to the Nextera lawyers and I wondered if he were watching for surreptitious video cameras, but it turned out he’s a lead engineer for this project.
He’s sworn in and given status as an expert in shadow flicker, noise, impact assessment, and post construction monitoring of wind farms.
Harvey questions how you can be considered an expert in shadow flicker when it is not a recognized academic pursuit. Harvey and Esther both object that there are no courses in shadow flicker, but since he has done lots of studies and had in-house training in using computer models he is accepted. Harvey doesn’t challenge all this because it is a waste of time and you need to be a lawyer to do that and probably still wouldn’t change anything.
The chair considers the objections for about 5 seconds and rules against us.
DK tells us that all points within 1.5 km are compliant for sound. This is, again, based on a computer model.
In reference to Bill Palmer’s testimony the other day about ice throw and turbine failure, he says that there aren’t enough examples to be significant, and since most failures occur in severe conditions people tend not to be out so the risk is very low. As for the 402, he says that flicker isn’t as bad when you are outside as it is in your home. Asked about farmers working the fields se says that it wouldn’t be a problem with a slow moving tractor. He doesn’t deal with the 50 ton, 110 km/hr tractor trailer with several turbines. He also says that the shadow from a row of trees is worse than turbines for drivers.
Harvey asks if they modeled the sound from the turbines below the audible level – infrasound. No. It’s not required.
Harvey asks about risk to non-participating residents when towers can be built just 60 m from property lines. Again DK says even if it happened, low to negligible chance someone would be there at the time. Harvey quotes Palmer that an engineer should always assume someone will be there. DK says, ”We don’t.” (so there!)
Harvey asks him what courses he’s taken in risk assessment . In-house, only. This means someone has sat him down and shown him how to operate the program.
Harvey asks a very technical question about how the sound levels are modeled and our expert in sound says he’s not a specialist. Lol
Harvey elaborates and the lawyers object. The chair points out that they are required to be below 40 dBA and the tribunal has to assume they will be compliant. He concedes that Harvey might have valid concerns but this isn’t the place for them. This wasn’t the point Harvey was trying to make but they aren’t interested. Move on.
EAGLES AND NOISE
Esther asks about the noise levels at the eagle nest – or for the eagles when they are out hunting. Apparently raptors are not receptors. She asks why they don’t model low frequency sound. Because it’s not required.
Esther asks if DK will suffer from the noise in the project. Will he be living near Adelaide Metcalfe? The chair says that’s not relevant. Esther points out that his witness statement says he has no interest in the outcome of the appeal, but if he’s wrong, HE won’t suffer.
She asks him if drivers on the 402 are considered receptors. He answers no – and there’s a turbine in Toronto that is only 30 m from the road and Esther comes right back with “it’s on the north side and it’s only a baby.” DK says you can get shadow flicker from the north as well.
And so it goes. And so it goes. (quote from Kurt Vonnegut Jr.)
DON’T SHOOT THE MESSENGER!
In closing – I’ve received some very kind comments about my reports, and I do enjoy them, but I want to point out that I actually enjoy doing this, so it is no hardship – and very easy. I’m just the messenger. Harvey and Esther have put in countless hours doing real dog work – pouring over thick books of truly boring and often misleading information. Muriel and Marcelle are in the background of this particular appeal, but they too are part of the years of work that have built the foundation upon which this appeal is based.
They have rented the halls from under Nextera’s incompetent hirelings. They gathered the information and put on information nights. They dreamed up the 402 event and put it all together – and these are just some of the highlights.
I’m a recent convert to the cause, and I happen to have pretensions of being a journalist. I’m sometimes front and center, but I mostly do easy stuff with a bit of flash, and sometimes all I do is get in the way.
Please don’t forget who is doing the real work here.
Bob – junior wind warrior – studying under the masters. (They’re all women, so I’m tempted to say ‘mistresses’, but that might be misunderstood.)