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Wind Turbine Opponents Claim Health Concerns Ignored

As the provincial government moves ahead with its ambitious plan to ramp up wind farm construction, a few hundred residents living in the shadows of turbines turned up at Queen’s Park Wednesday claiming the Liberals’ Green Energy Act is endangering their health and democratic rights.

Bruce County resident Norma Schmidt held a sign listing the health problems she’s experienced since turbines were installed 450 metres from her home about a year and a half ago. Those problems include high blood pressure, headaches, tinnitus and difficulty concentrating and sleeping.

“When I’m away from my home those symptoms disappear,” she said.

 “I’m here to say I’m proof that it is a [health] problem — empirical evidence.”

The health problems Schmidt says she experiences have been referred to as “Wind Turbine Syndrome”, a term coined by American researcher Dr. Nina Pierpont who published a book on the subject last year.

While many of the protesters were from rural communities, there were some people there to express concern about the possibility of wind turbines being installed off the Scarborough Bluffs. Toronto Hydro is currently testing the area on Lake Ontario to determine the viability of harnessing wind power there.

Over the past few months the province announced two major renewable energy initiatives. The government inked a $7 billion deal with a South Korean consortium, led by Samsung, to build wind and solar farms across Ontario. It also plans to hand out an additional $8 billion to fund renewable energy projects in an effort to end coal use by 2014.

Some protesters said they support wind power and other renewable energies, but not so close to their homes. Provincial guidelines require turbines be installed at least 550 metres from a residential area.

“This government has ignored our concerns for far too long,” protest organizer John LaForet, a Ward 43 candidate in Toronto’s October election and president of the group Wind Concerns, told the crowd.

Energy and Infrastructure Minister Brad Duguid said the government reviewed all credible international studies before moving forward with its wind energy plan, but didn’t comment specifically on Pierpont’s work.

“The conclusion, certainly that we’ve reached, is that there’s no credible study that we’ve uncovered that would suggest that there are health effects to wind turbines,” Duguid told CityNews.ca, adding a council chair has been set up at the University of Waterloo to monitor any problems associated with renewable energies.

“It’s an issue that we don’t dismiss. It’s an issue that we have to go with the best science available.”

Toronto politicians Coun. Paul Ainslie and Coun. Brian Ashton last week called for a moratorium on wind turbine development, including the proposed Scarborough Bluffs project that they claim would harm nearby residents, wildlife and lake water.

On Wednesday Progressive Conservative energy critic John Yakabuski announced he also wants a ban on industrial wind turbine projects until a third-party study of health effects is completed.

His party tabled an Opposition Day motion in the Legislature Wednesday afternoon calling for a moratorium.

“I want to challenge every Liberal MPP to stand with their communities, not take their marching orders from Dalton McGuinty and the energy elite,” he told protesters.

Premier Dalton McGuinty dismissed requests for a moratorium, claiming wind turbines have been used for decades with no reported health complications.

Yakabuski also claims the Green Energy Act “totally” eradicated the rights of municipalities.

Duguid said the legislation requires community consultation.

“It’s a necessity that all the community residents and municipalities be consulted,” he said.

Yakabuski claims the consulting requirement is nothing more than “lip service.”

shawne.mckeown@citynews.rogers.com