By Connor Lynch
Fed up with the Ontario government’s apparent silence over thousands of wind turbine complaints, a grassroots anti-wind turbine group has asked a judge to lay criminal charges against the Ontario environment minister for violating his own laws.
Wind Concerns Ontario (WCO) has filed a “private prosecution” against Ontario’s environment minister Chris Ballard.
WCO says that Ontario’s environment ministry has received 4,394 complaints — more than one complaint a day for 11 years — and has only responded to 97 of 1,394 complaints about wind turbines from 2015 and 2016.
That’s a steep decline, however, from 2006 to 2014, when the ministry did not respond to over half of the 3,000 complaints, a WCO report stated. Only 1 per cent of complaints were considered to be a “priority” response. Many complaints were about the noise and vibration generated by turbines, although they’ve also drawn complaints about disorienting shadow flicker the blades cause when the sun is behind them, well-water issues, sleep problems and headaches.
WCO says that Ballard violated Ontario’s Environmental Protection Act, claiming that the noise from wind turbines causes an “adverse effect,” making it a contaminant, which the Act forbids from being discharged into the environment. “Mr. Ballard, as steward of environmental protection in Ontario, is responsible for allowing this environmental noise pollution to continue,” WCO president Jane Wilson said.
Former environment minister Glen Murray left his position last summer after receiving an offer from Alberta-based environment-focused think tank, the Pembina Institute. Chris Ballard, his successor, took the helm of the ministry last year on July 31.
The transition was a chance for the ministry to change its attitude about turbines and the noise they emit, said Wilson. More than eight months down the road, nothing has changed, Wilson said. “If you’ve still got thousands of noise complaints, something is still wrong.”
A “private prosecution” is used when a person or group believes someone has broken the law. They present the information to a judge or justice of the peace, who can then issue a summons to or warrant for the accused. On April 30, Ballard was issued a summons to appear in court on May. 17. The Crown will review the evidence and decide whether or not to go ahead with charges.