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CAW’s Health and Safety Co-ordinator, Ken Bondy radio interview

Ken Bondy discusses the details of the CAW turbine in Port Elgin with Dale Goldhawk on 740AM — December 2011

Listen:  radio interview

Full and Complete Transcript:

 

Dale Goldhawk: “It’s 11:35 here on Zoomer radio and I’m joined here by Ken Bondy, who is the National CAW Health and Safety Co-ordinator.  Ken Bondy, welcome to Zoomer radio.”

 

Ken Bondy: “Thank you very much.”

 

Dale Goldhawk: “Can you tell me first off, I’m a bit curious about this.  Why would a union want to own and operate a wind turbine?  What’s some of the history of that?”

 

Ken Bondy: “Actually, this decision goes back to 2003, when we were spending a lot of time talking about the emerging green energy issues and some of the things we could do that did not pollute our atmosphere.  And so there was a decision made that  on our educational facility we could actually show that we weren’t just talking about those situations but we could actually do that as well.   So the wind turbine was a project that first and foremost was to be used as an educational tool for inspiring our next generation of members to look at renewable energy sources and try to discover ways we could lessen our carbon footprint on the planet.”

 

Dale Goldhawk: “Well, it’s also about money.  I mean you get the Feed-In-Tariff (FIT) when the thing goes into operation, right?”

 

 

Ken Bondy:  “Yeah, we had originally hoped we could run a turbine that took us right off of the grid, but, again, the provincial protocols don’t allow us to do that.  So there will certainly be a financial benefit to us as this will provide about 65% of the power that we use at our centre which is quite a sprawling complex and you know, that the other part of the educational tool is to say that there are ways that we can utilize energy by creating it ourselves.”

 

 

Dale Goldhawk: “But, you’re not diverting any energy …. you’re saying that 65% of your cost of electricity will be deferred by the Feed In Tariff that you’ll be paid for operating the wind turbine.   Right?  That’s the idea.”

 

 

Ken Bondy: “Right.  I mean we have to generate the energy and have to sell it back to Hydro One and then we get that compensation.  Yes.”

 

 

Dale Goldhawk:  “Just like anybody else who operates any of the 900 or so wind turbines in Ontario.  Same deal, right?”

 

 

Ken Bondy:  “I would think, I mean, everybody gets some part of a compensation, that is – again – what the, what the province has mandated and we understand that as the province said that we couldn’t have twenty thousand energy generators throughout the province.  So this is the best plan that they come up with and we have to live under it obviously.”

 

 

Dale Goldhawk:  “But what about all the people who are in Port Elgin who are worried about living under the turbine when it goes up.  You’ve got a lot of angry people there.”

 

 

Ken Bondy:  “Yeah, and we’re, uh, we have tried, ah, to keep an open and positive access to all of this with our neighbours.  We, we feel that we’ve been a good neighbour and we want to remain a good neighbour with all of those folks and actually when we started looking at this project back in 2003/2004, we, we distributed three thousand pamphlets to the area community explaining what we were doing and then had an open house and invited people in and there really wasn’t much opposition at that time.’

Dale Goldhawk: “Well, but back in 2003, not as much was known about the negative health effects of wind turbines as is known today.  I think you know that, right?”

 

 

 

Ken Bondy:  “Well, I mean that’s another thing that we challenge, uh, there’s, uh, as anybody knows there’s always two sides to science and everything that we have sitting in front of us, as far as health studies, don’t point to any negative aspects of wind turbine generation and uh, we have to, as well, rely on the science that the province is speaking to us about, saying that there’s, there’s no real negative impact.”

 

 

Dale Goldhawk: (laughs)  “Yeah, well, that’s the province talking.  I think people who oppose wind turbines, because of their health effects, think that you guys might be drinking the government koolaid.”

 

Ken Bondy: “Yeah, well, ah, not that we are, uh, any strangers to dealing with the government when we have oppositions.”
Dale Goldhawk:  (laughing) “Yes, that’s exactly my point, I think. Yeah.”
Ken Bondy:  “So what we’ve done though is, that we relied on a number of very credible organizations out there, looked at the studies that they’ve done and uh, uh, to this date, we haven’t seen any conclusive evidence on some of the concerns that people are raising.  Whether they’re using the health and safety issue to promote the fact that they just don’t like wind turbines or if, if the science is out there we’re looking for it and the president of our union, Ken Lewenza, has said ‘if there is, is concrete scientific evidence that comes forward than that turbine will not operate’.”
Dale Goldhawk:  “Uh, there is uh, there is scientific evidence out there.  Have you dealt with for example, let me just throw one out … Wind Concerns Ontario … a federation that deals with some SIXTY community groups in THIRTY or more counties across Ontario, all of whom can show you and demonstrate some of the health effects, IF you’re too close.  Not to wind turbines generally, but wind turbines that are too close and apparently, the one you’re going to build is REALLY close to a bunch of houses.”
Ken Bondy:  “And, and, again, the, uh, when we, when we received all of the approvals from the province to put this in, we have scaled back the size of that particular project.  The setbacks are based on noise and we’ve scaled our project back to drop us below that noise reduction level that eliminates those concerns that people talk about noise and wind pressures and things like that.  So we think that we’ve addressed those concerns.”
Dale Goldhawk:  “But, I’m talking about the physical setback, the 500 and 50 metres.  How far away from houses will this turbine be?”
Ken Bondy:  “Well, we, we, we think that through our studies that the closest house to our turbine is about 210 metres.”
Dale Goldhawk:   “Ouch.”
Ken Bondy:  “And, uh, you know – again – I have to, I have to stress that our wind turbine is not an Industrial turbine.  It is a scaled-down model of what people, I think, are conceptualizing when they think ‘turbine’.”
Dale Goldhawk:  “Well it’s, how big is it?”
Ken Bondy:  “So, from the blade tip to the ground is a hundred metres tall.”
Dale Goldhawk:  “A hundred metres.”
Ken Bondy:  “A hundred metres.”
Dale Goldhawk:  “Well, that’s no backyard turbine though, is it?  That’s still pretty big.”
Ken Bondy:  “No!  And that’s interesting that you mention the backyard turbine, because there’s also studies out there that those smaller backyard turbines create more noise than the turbine that we’re talking about.  We….”
Dale Goldhawk:  “Well, I’d like you to send me that literature.  That’d be great.”
Ken Bondy:  “We, we have, we have taken our work with Enercon and their turbines, as far as we could find through our studies, is the quietest turbine that is available today.”
Dale Goldhawk:  “And yet, in some cases, this turbine is going to be within 250 metres of some of the houses and if you’re listening to the debate on this … don’t you guys read the papers?  I mean there’s been a debate on this for, certainly, the past couple of years that’s showing clear problems with people who are THAT close.  Turbines are fine, but in some cases, they’re too close.”
Ken Bondy:  “Well, again, we’re looking for the science that gives us clear evidence of that.  We haven’t seen that.  We understand that Wind Concerns Ontario have a mandate, from what I’ve seen on their website to stop all wind turbine construction across the province.”
Dale Goldhawk: “Well, I think you’re misreading their intention a bit.”
Ken Bondy:  “Well, I mean, then I’m, again, I, we question, where is, where are all of these scientific proofs that say that these things are happening.  It’s not our, it’s not….”
Dale Goldhawk:  “Have you asked to see some of their proof and some of the studies they know about from around the world?  Have you had a chance to read some of that material?”
Ken Bondy:  “We have looked at some of that material and as I’ve said, there’s always two sides to the science.  As a socially conscious union, it is not our intention, in any way, to put anybody’s health at risk.  So we have done our homework, as far as looking at “is there a REAL health and safety concern to this and we haven’t been able to find anything that says so.  Nor have we been able to find anybody that will tell us, ‘there’s a true health concern’ with this turbine being put on our property.”

 

Dale Goldhawk:  “Well what about the environmental review tribunal itself, that in it’s first decision involving a wind turbine project in Thamesville, ah, it approved the project, but it said the case has successfully shown the debate should not be simplified to one about wind turbines causing harm to humans.  The evidence presented to the tribunal demonstrated that they CAN if facilities are placed too close to residences.  The debate has now evolved to one of degree.  So here’s the environmental review tribunal set up in this democratic process, in effect, disagreeing with the Ontario government.  To me, that sounded fairly credible.”

 

 

Ken Bondy:  “Well, I mean, I think the key word there is where it says, ‘they can’, so I mean, there’s many other things that can create…”

 

 

Dale Goldhawk:  “Now you sound like the government.”

 

 

Ken Bondy:  “…problems.  We need to have that, we need to see more of that scientific evidence, you know, if we’re going to be accused of putting people’s health and safety at risk.”

 

 

Dale Goldhawk:  “Well, you find yourself, however, as a socially responsible union, as you say, you find yourself in a pretty tight spot here, I assume.”

 

 

Ken Bondy:  “Well, we certainly did not anticipate, ah, the amount of opposition that we’re seeing here.  We’re struggling with trying to understand it, because this project was, the intention of this project was to do something positive and to do something that, ah, would show the way for future generations on what’s going to happen when eventually the oil runs out and the coal runs out one day.  And so we’re struggling with that….”

 

 

Dale Goldhawk:  “Yeah, but  you guys have studied this.  You know that wind turbines don’t replace coal.  What do you do on a day when the wind doesn’t blow?”

 

 

Ken Bondy:  “Well, we also understand that there has to be an energy source mix out there.”

 

 

Dale Goldhawk:  “Sure.”

 

 

Ken Bondy:  “But that certainly doesn’t mean that we can’t move forward on renewable energy sources.”

 

 

Dale Goldhawk:  “You guys were really insistent on getting this through weren’t you, as well, because the local council there didn’t want it.  You had to fight them at the Ontario Municipal Board to win approval.  Right?”

 

 

Ken Bondy:  “Well, I wouldn’t use the words ‘fight them’, I mean…”

 

 

Dale Goldhawk:  “Well, when you go to the Ontario Municipal Board it’s because you want a decision made by the local council overturned.  Right?”

 

 

Ken Bondy:  “Well, when you go to the Ontario Municipal Board you’re looking for a fair and equal ruling on something that you’re disagreeing with.  We, we at the….”

 

 

Dale Goldhawk:  “Well, but the city council had a different point of view.”

 

 

Ken Bondy:  “…we know what has to happen to find a middle ground on any issue that people are looking at.”

 

Dale Goldhawk:  “But you’re not finding a middle ground.  You’re going ahead because you’ve been invested in this since 2003 and as your president said the other day, ‘We’re going ahead.  It’s too late to turn around.”

 

 

Ken Bondy:  “Well, that’s all we’re….”

 

 

Dale Goldhawk:  “That’s pretty definitive.  You know?”

 

 

Ken Bondy:  “Well, we’re saying to people, again, that, ah, we’ve done nothing wrong here.  We have all of the approvals from the province.  We’ve spent a lot of time, energy and money in trying to engage the community and trying to do the right thing.  And we’re going ahead, because we’re trying to, ah, show that this is a positive project for the future.”

 

 

Dale Goldhawk:  “You’ve got 47 acres there.  You couldn’t put this thing a little farther away from the houses?  Or, there’s no point where you can get away from the houses?”

 

 

Ken Bondy:  “No.  With all the, again, with the engineers that we had, that were doing these studies, the location that we found is, is, actually the furthest point away from anybody in the vicinity and that was where we were, you know, looked at the wind capture that was the best place to be.  So that we really don’t have any other options here.”

 

Dale Goldhawk:  “Okay, it’s 11:47 and I’m talking to Ken Bondy.  He’s the National CAW Health and Safety Co-ordinator.  We’re talking about that wind turbine.  The proposal for the wind turbine now approved in Port Elgin.  If you have a comment or a question for Ken — 416-360-0740.

 

 

*brief pause*

 

 

Dale Goldhawk:  “Talking to Ken Bondy from the CAW about that Port Elgin wind turbine.  Let me try to bottom line this a bit Ken.  So essentially, the turbine goes up and in some cases will be only 250 metres from some of the existing homes in the area, even though the current setback for these turbines is at least 550 metres.”

 

 

Ken Bondy:  “Well, again, our turbine does not fall under the 550 metre restrictions, so ummm, we are, we are not falling out of compliance with the size of our wind turbine.

 

 

Dale Goldhawk:  “So you’re relying on the same technicalities that in other circumstances, you guys in the union would argue against quite strenuously.  Kind of ironic, isn’t it?”

 

 

Ken Bondy:  “No.  I mean we don’t argue against strong science or regulations.”

 

 

Dale Goldhawk:  “It’s not strong science.  It’s a government regulation….550 metres.”

 

 

Ken Bondy:  “That’s correct, for a turbine that would be generating more kilowatt power than what we are.”

 

 

Dale Goldhawk:  “Well, no, that’s not the difference at all.  The difference is you got your approval before the 550 metres went in, but NOW it’s 550 metres.”

 

 

 

Ken Bondy:  “No, actually, that’s the argument that’s being put forward to us.  We did indeed get the approval before the Green Energy Act came into place with the 550 setback, but the setback is based on noise creation and our wind turbine creates less than 102db of noise at the hub.  So we, even under today’s regulations, we would not fall under that 550 setback.”

 

Dale Goldhawk:  “Okay.  Let’s take some calls.  Here’s Scott on the line.  Scott, do you have a comment or a question for Ken Bondy?”

 

Scott:  “Just a comment for Mr. Bondy.  Geez, it sounded like I was listening to an election.  This gentleman sounds a bit like a politician.  I mean, we, we, the very same kind of rhetoric was coming out about cigarettes early on.  That, ‘oh, we gotta see both sides of the science’.  The science is coming out.  It’s, it’s, you know, as far as I’m concerned, a union representing people….you guys should be erring on the side of caution.  And, and, if, if, the restriction is now 500 metres, move your thing out to 500 metres, instead of spouting, ‘oh, we’re within guideines’.  Well, sometimes even the guidelines in the building codes aren’t good enough and it’s created fires.  I just can’t believe the way you’re talking Ken.  For a union representing people who, many times, has been on the side of the little guy.  And Dale made a comment of ‘now you’re talking like a politician’ and boy, you ARE talking like a politician and that’s basically all I got to say today.”

 

 

Dale Goldhawk:  “Alright.  Thanks Scott.  Ken you’d better take some time to defend yourself here.”

 

 

Ken Bondy:  “Yeah.  So on the point of, you know, erring on the side of caution, that’s exactly what we’ve done.  We were actually approved for an 800 kilowatt generation.  We’ve scaled that back, again, in consultation with the township and the people we’ve been having dialogue with, to 500 kilowatts.  Because we want to, again, try to take those issues and eliminate those concerns.  So, we’ve done that voluntarily and I’ll reiterate this again is that our national president has said, ‘if there is any issues that come forward that we have evidence on, we will shut that turbine down’.”

 

 

Dale Goldhawk:  “Even after you dig the hole, put in the concrete and put up the turbine?”

 

 

Ken Bondy:  “That’s the commitment from our national president in a meeting we had 2 weeks ago with the Deputy Mayor of the township and the president of the Port Elgin Beachers Association and, because again, ultimately we will NOT put peoples health and safety at risk, if that is determined after this project has been completed.”

 

 

Dale Goldhawk:  “Alright, here’s Harold calling from Waterford.  Harold you have a comment or question for Ken Bondy.”

 

 

Harold:  “I’d just like to say, uh, I can’t believe that the CAW is actually agreeing with ANY scientific research material that the government has given them.  And in light of this, you said they would shut it down if there’s opposition to it.  Well there IS opposition to it and the opposition is right from the public whom you’re supposed to serve.  So, I can’t understand how you can on one hand say, you’re going to agree with the government’s scientific research, which is faulty at best and which is outdated and yet you won’t agree with the what the public says right around you.  That’s it.  Thanks.”

 

 

Dale Goldhawk:  “Thanks.  One last call from Pete from Tiny Township.  Pete, go ahead.”

 

 

Pete:  “Yeah, first off, I’d like to say, Ken, you’ve been very well-spoken this morning.  And my bias is for wind energy, but, at the same time I acknowledge the problems with infrasound regardless of people not wanting to look at these things and what have you. But I would suggest to your association, you cited that it’s only going to be 100 metres tall and that it’s the quietest turbine available in that size range….I would suggest that a study of the infrasound emanating from a 100 metre tall turbine of the exact same type be measured.  You know, Dale spoke of this in the past few days…”

 

 

Dale Goldhawk:  “Pete, I’m running out of time here.  I get your point.  I’m gonna have to go, I’m up against the news.  Ken Bondy, I take what you say quite seriously and I take you at your word, that if this thing goes up and there are complaints of sleeplessness and standard health effects we hear from these wind turbines, that the CAW will shut this thing down.”

 

 

Ken Bondy:  “We’re open to a consultation and communication with the community and, again, we’ll look forward to hearing from the community as this project goes forward.   But, again, we’re keeping a positive perspective.”

 

 

Dale Goldhawk:  “I know that, but I’m saying… you did say a few moments ago, if there is a problem and it’s making life miserable for people near the wind turbine,  you will shut it down.”

 

 

Ken Bondy:  “Yes, that’s the commitment from our national president.  We are working to put a group together, a committee from the community so we can hear these concerns as time goes on.”

 

 

Dale Goldhawk:  “Well, does that mean you’re putting the group together to hear the concerns before construction begins?   Because we think you’re about ready to dig the hole and put it up.”

 

 

Ken Bondy:  “We are in the process right now, through the communication with the Port Elgin council of establishing that committee, but yes, our project is going forward as we talk.”

 

 

Dale Goldhawk:  “Ken Bondy, thank you very much for spending some time with us to explain all of this.”

 

 

Ken Bondy:  “Thank you.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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