Challenge of Inexpert Experts

Over the past several years, anti-wind campaigners without credentials or experience related to wind energy and its effects on humans have attempted to elevate themselves into the role of expert witnesses in civil suits, Environmental Review Tribunals (ERT) in Canada, and Environmental Resources and Development (ERD) proceedings in Australia. This report singles out 16 individuals based on the courts’ dismissal of their expertise or evidence.

Sarah LaurieDr. Nina PierpontDr. Robert McMurtryDr. Michael NissenbaumDr. Carl PhillipsDr. Daniel ShepherdBill PalmerMike McCannBen LansinkRichard JamesEric ErhardLes HusonDr. Colin HansenDr. Adrian UptonDebbie ShubatLori Davies

Sarah Laurie

Sarah-Laurie321x375In 2011, Ms. Sarah Laurie attempted to testify at an ERD proceeding in Australia. During the testimony, Laurie admitted she was not an expert in the subject matter she was called to testify on, and qualified experts in additional testimony discredited her submission. But, this did not stop Laurie from submitting future testimony.

In a judgment released in December 2013 from an ERT in Ontario, Bovaird v. Director, Ministry of the Environment, Laurie’s evidence was rejected almost entirely. The remaining evidence was deemed biased and of low reliability.

Five pages in the judgment devoted to Laurie’s background determined:

  1. Ms. Laurie is not a doctor and must stop referring to herself as one, as part of an agreement with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA), based on the outcome of an ethics complaint.
  2. She is not licensed or permitted to diagnose patients because she is deregistered and non-practicing. However, she has continued to diagnose people.
  3. Most of her planned testimony required her to diagnose patients.
  4. Ms. Laurie has no training in research methodology and design.
  5. Ms. Laurie is not a trained acoustician.
  6. Ms. Laurie has not performed a comprehensive literature review related to wind farms.

In summary, the Ontario ERT considered her a biased witness, and gave less weight to the evidence she submitted.

Also in 2013, the Ontario ERT prohibited Laurie as an expert witness in a case regarding the Adelaide project proposed by NextEra Energy Resources. She was rejected as a witness very early in the proceedings, after she admitted that she could no longer call herself a doctor.

Months later, Laurie was allowed to testify in a hearing for the BullCreek Wind Project in Alberta, Canada. Despite her earlier admission, she portrayed herself as a doctor. However, the commission gave its opinion on her competence, skills, and testimony, stating:

Dr. Laurie’s written evidence also included her interpretation and discussion of numerous published and unpublished epidemiological and acoustical reports and studies. In the Commission’s view, Dr. Laurie lacks the necessary skills, experience and training to comment on the interpretation of epidemiologic studies or the interpretation of acoustical studies and reports. The Commission gave little weight to this aspect of Dr. Laurie’s evidence.

Dr. Nina Pierpont

Dr-Nina-PierpontDr. Nina Pierpont was a long-term campaigner against wind farms near her home who conducted a minor and very poorly constructed health survey. This survey was the basis for her self-published book which coined the phrase, “wind turbine syndrome.” This “syndrome” is widely referenced by people campaigning against wind turbines. Pierpont claims that wind turbines cause tinnitus, dizziness, heart-palpitations, nausea, tingling, and loss of sleep, among several other symptoms. However, the book is deeply flawed.

Pierpont interviewed 23 people by phone. They were chosen by advertising through anti-wind groups that blamed wind farms for their health issues. Pierpont also accepted statements about an additional 15 household members without speaking to them and did not assess health histories of the participants outside of verbal statements by people surveyed. She hypothesized a connection of infrasound and created 60 pages of charts, graphs, and tables, a level of statistical analysis far beyond anything supportable by the data. The symptoms she identified are very commonly found in the general populace.

There have been 22 literature reviews on wind turbine health and many point-specific studies on wind turbine noise, vibration, infrasound, and shadow flicker, conducted by public health doctors and scientists, acousticians, epidemiologists, and related specialists. The studies considered Pierpont’s book along with other published literature. In every case, they found that her work was lacking in credibility. Recent major reviews have been conducted in Ontario, Massachusetts, Oregon and Australia with the same results. 

In October of 2013, Pierpont attempted to gain expert witness status at the Adelaide ERT wind farm hearing in Ontario. She wrote:

I will attempt to teach the representatives of NextEra and the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, as well as the members of the Tribunal, enough about brain and ear physiology and pathophysiology, population-level studies in free-living organisms, and medical interviewing that they can understand the wind turbine-associated health issues.

Pierpont has no expertise from education or experience in “brain and ear physiology and pathophysiology, population-level studies in free-living organisms, and medical interviewing.” Her evidence included her self-published book, which along with her testimony, was dismissed.

Dr. Robert McMurtry

dr-robert-mcmurtryDr. Robert McMurtry is an orthopedic surgeon, founder of the anti-wind Society for Wind Vigilance, and long-serving Board Member of the anti-wind Association to Protect Prince Edward County (APPEC). McMurtry is also the owner of a rural retirement residence in Prince Edward County Ontario near proposed wind farms, and initiated, with his wife, a $2.5 million lawsuit against a nearby wind farm.

McMurtry’s main contribution to anti-wind literature is a draft case definition of impact from wind farms that he published in Bulletin of Science, Technology, and Society. The publication has been de-indexed since 1995, a sign that indexing services regard the journal to have fallen below acceptable academic standards. 

There is little evidence of peer review of any substantive nature in the set of anti-wind articles published in the special edition in which McMurtry’s case definition was published.

In 2011, McMurtry participated in a challenge to the regulated minimum 550 meter setbacks from wind turbines to homes in Ontario Superior Court case, Hanna v. Ontario (Attorney General). McMurtry asserted that there was medical uncertainty and risk associated with the setback that had not been considered in establishing it. During the case, McMurtry was forced to admit that none of the evidence he brought to bear was new:

The applicant acknowledges that virtually all of the information relied on by Dr. McMurtry to form his assessment regarding the health impacts of industrial wind turbines was known to the ministry at the time the regulation was being considered.

In 2013, McMurtry testified in the Ostrander Point-related tribunal, Alliance to Protect Prince Edward County v. Director, Ministry of the Environment in 2013. While permitted to testify, his case definition was dismissed as evidence:

With respect to the proposed Case Definition of AHE/IWTs, the Tribunal finds that it is a work in progress. It is preliminary attempt to explain symptoms that appear to be suffered by people with whom Dr. McMurtry is familiar, who live in the environs of wind turbines. Dr. McMurtry’s case definition has admittedly not been validated; thus there is currently no grouping of symptoms recognized by the medical profession as caused by wind turbines.

The Ostrander tribunal ruled against the wind farm based on impacts to the endangered Blanding’s Turtle, that was overturned on appeal, and as of July 2014, the approval is stayed pending another appeal.

In the Bovaird v. Director, Ministry of the Environment Tribunal, McMurtry attempted to testify about concerns well outside the boundary’s the ERT provided for him. The ERT found that McMurtry’s affidavit discussing Ontario’s energy mix and generating capacity were “clearly not within Dr. McMurtry’s area of expertise.” The Tribunal did not admit the testimony as evidence, and wrote that the testimony he was qualified to provide was of no value.

A more recent Tribunal found:

Dr. McMurtry failed to provide any support for his proposition that a non-trivial percentage of persons who both live and work near turbines will be highly annoyed. … Nor is there any evidence about how any of the subjective influencing factors that affected the response of residential dwellers…

Furthermore, the Director of the Ministry of the Environment questioned McMurtry’s judgment regarding wind turbines: 

The Director questions Dr. McMurtry’s objectivity and is concerned that he is advocating on behalf of the Appellant. The Director submits that his evidence is largely improper reply evidence, and should be regarded with extreme caution and given little weight.

In February 2014, a Superior Court appeal of the Ostrander Point ERT decision was released. Judge Nordheimer, in rejecting appeals related to human health, had this to say about McMurtry’s testimony:

[122] It is not sufficient for the purposes of relying on a novel scientific theory to simply conclude that the theory may be correct. In that situation, the theory will not have crossed the threshold of reliability for the purpose of establishing the necessary causal link between the activity in issue and the consequences said to arise from that activity. Rather, the party attempting to rely on a novel scientific theory must first establish threshold reliability before the fact finder may consider it. 

[123] The Supreme Court of Canada has set out four factors to be considered in determining whether threshold reliability is met. In R. v. J.-L.J., [2000] 2 S.C.R. 600, the four factors were identified, at para. 33, as:

(i)whether the theory or technique can be and has been tested;

(ii) whether the theory or technique has been subjected to peer review and publication;

(iii)the known or potential rate of error or the existence of standards; and,

(iv)whether the theory or technique used has been generally accepted.

[124] Viewed from the medical perspective, and that is the perspective that is relevant in this case since harm to human health is being asserted, the expert evidence offered by APPEC, through Dr. McMurtry, failed when tested against any of these factors. Dr. McMurtry’s theory has not been tested, it has not been medically peer reviewed, it is not known what the error rate might be and the theory has not been generally accepted.

If Dr. McMurtry were not a long-serving and respected member of the Ontario medical establishment — which I fully respect as well — there is little doubt that he would not be granted expert status in virtually any Ontario court due to obvious issues with bias and lack of actual expertise.

Dr. Michael Nissenbaum

Dr-Michael-NissenbaumDr. Michael Nissenbaum is a radiologist, not a researcher, acoustician, epidemiologist or public health expert. Additionally, he is a member of the Advisory Board of the anti-wind group, Society for Wind Vigilance. 

Nissenbaum performed a “health survey” of people near two wind farms in Maine, where he lives. The survey was deeply flawed because of the insignificant sample size and the low response rate. Health surveys require at least a 50 percent response rate to be considered useful. The survey identified that it was assessing wind energy noise and health problems, and the questions were leading and pushed desired responses upon the respondents. 

McMurtry attempted to enter Nissenbaum’s study into evidence in the 2013 Bovaird v. Director, Ministry of the Environment ERT in Ontario. The evidence was dismissed.

Nissenbaum has also published a report regarding wind energy and health in a credible peer-reviewed and indexed journal Noise and Health. However, two separate critiques of his paper were published in the same journal pointing out significant errors and erroneous conclusions.

In 2010, Nissenbaum attempted to serve as an expert witness in an ERT in Saskatchewan, Canada. The case was over the Red Lily Wind Energy Corporation proposed wind farm near the townships of Martin and Moosomin, Saskatchewan. The Tribunal wrote: 

Dr. Nissenbaum is a medical doctor. He has not had any specialized training in any of the issues I have identified that are required in order to provide opinion evidence to support the injunction application. Although he has some limited experience as a result of his survey on the Mars Hill project, the nature, size and methodology used in that survey is of no value to the current application…

Dr. Nissenbaum has obtained a great deal of information on this subject, but information is not knowledge, and Dr. Nissenbaum does not have the type of knowledge referred to in the court cases that makes him an expert in any of the areas that I have identified as necessary.

In 2011, Nissenbaum tried again in another Ontario ERT. The Tribunal took the position that most witnesses brought forward would be allowed to testify, but the areas where they were explicitly considered experts would be listed, and their testimony considered in that light. The Tribunal allowed Nissenbaum to give his expert opinion in the areas of diagnostic imaging. 

However, his entire testimony was outside of his area of expertise. The ERT found:

The Nissenbaum Study and Dr. Aramini’s application of it, raise enough questions about the Study to suggest that its results do not meet the legal threshold that wind turbine noise will cause serious harm to human health at the 550 m setback at the Kent Breeze Project. These questions include issues pertaining to: study design, statistical analysis, causation analysis and the transferability of the findings, given the difference in wind turbine design and in the physical lay-out and topography between the study site and that at the Kent-Breeze Project.

Most recently, Nissenbaum’s study was presented as evidence at the Bull Creek Wind Project siting in Alberta in 2013. The final judgment stated: 

The Commission does not find the Nissenbaum study to be compelling evidence that wind turbine noise below 40 dBA will cause sleep disturbance or health effects. The Commission considers that the study’s use of noise data from publicly available records and from a single day of measurements is not a sufficient basis for drawing conclusions about a dose-response relationship for wind turbine noise.

In February of 2014, the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council reviewed Nissenbaum’s study as part of an exhaustive review of wind turbines and health concern studies. The council classified the quality of the study as “poor” because of the clear bias Nissenbaum demonstrated. 

Dr. Carl V. Phillips

Before Dr. Carl V. Phillips was being presented as an expert witness at wind development planning hearings, he was a fixture in courtrooms related to tobacco health suits. His ties to the tobacco industry and acceptance of tobacco funding ultimately caused the end of his academic career. Phillips then set up his own research foundation and has come out against peer-reviewed research, specifically regarding wind turbines.

Phillips published a paper related to epidemiology and wind energy in the un-indexed Bulletin of Science, Technology and Society. He is also a member of the Science Advisory Group of the Society for Wind Vigilance.

In late 2013, Phillips testified in an Alberta court related to the Bull Creek Wind Project. The final judgment stated:

The Commission carefully reviewed the evidence provided by Dr. Phillips and finds that his prediction that three per cent of area residents will experience severe health effects and approximately 50 per cent will experience some health effects is not supported by the evidence for the following reasons.

First, Dr. Phillips provided little rationale for his predictions regarding the number of people who would experience health effects from the project. Dr. Phillips stated he based his prediction that 50 per cent of nearby residents will experience health effects on “things like the Nissenbaum study” but did not elaborate further…

Second, Dr. Phillips confirmed that his conclusions were not based upon any particular adverse event reports and, in fact, he had not reviewed any adverse event reports in the preparation of his written evidence…

Third, Dr. Phillips confirmed that the data he looked at was not organized in a systematic way and that he did not break down the data to determine a dose-response relationship between wind turbine operation and the symptoms he described. In other words, he did not correlate the prevalence or the intensity of the constellation of symptoms he identified with the sound levels at the persons’ residences or the distance between the person experiencing the symptoms and the turbine(s) in question.

Fourth, Dr. Phillips conceded that he had not specifically defined the population upon which his conclusions were based upon…

Dr. Daniel Shepherd

Dr-Daniel-ShepherdDr. Daniel Shepherd received his PhD in psychoacoustics and is a Senior Lecturer at the Auckland University of Technology. He performed a study on the Makara Valley wind farm in New Zealand. It had a very small sample size of 39 participants, and a non-equivalent control group that found no self-reported variance in health or illness. Nonetheless, Shepherd asserted that setbacks of wind farms greater than two kilometers (1.2 miles) were required in hilly terrain. As with others on this list, he is a member of the Society for Wind Vigilance.

Shepherd has been granted expert witness status at several hearings in Canada and New Zealand. However, his testimony did not convince the review bodies that wind farms caused health problems, that setbacks should be changed, or that acoustics standards were inadequate. 

And in 2011, he testified at a New Zealand Environment Court hearing for the Hurunui wind farm in Canterbury. Judge Melanie Harland, and Commissioners Marlene Oliver and Bruce Gollop wrote:

Dr. Shepherd referred to papers by Pierpont and Harry to support his theory that health effects can arise from turbine noise, but… Dr. Pierpont’s work in this area has been criticized and should not be considered reliable.

Shepherd tried again at an Ontario ERT pertaining to the Suncor’s Chatham Kent wind farm in 2013. According to the Tribunal, Dr. Kenneth Mundt, based on his 5 years of application of epidemiological concepts to potential environmental harm, said:

Dr. Mundt asserted that Dr. Shepherd does not provide scientific evidence to support his claims regarding stress related health effects caused by noise induced sleep deficits and annoyance. He stated that many of the references that Dr. Shepherd includes in his report are not peer reviewed published scientific research. Further, the interpretation of the results cited by Dr. Shepherd is severely limited due to the methodological issues in the designs and methods used in conducting these studies… Dr. Mundt stated that Dr. Shepherd did not explain how he identified and assessed the literature for quality and comparability, and therefore, it cannot be determined whether his conclusions are based on a thorough review of the literature or only a few selected studies… Dr. Mundt questioned the data presented in Dr. Shepherd’s evidence, as he included no description of methodology for collecting or analyzing his data. Dr. Mundt stated that Dr. Shepherd fails to define “degradation of amenity” in his report and provides no scientific evidence to support his opinion that degradation of amenity at the Kent Breeze Wind Farms will cause serious adverse health effects.

Shepherd’s testimony did not convince the judge in the Tribunal that wind turbines cause health problems. 

Bill Palmer

Mr. Bill Palmer has a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering, is a Professional Engineer, and worked for Bruce Nuclear, a Canadian nuclear power generating station, as a shift supervisor and trainer. He took early retirement to oppose wind energy development, and has been attempting to introduce evidence at Canadian ERTs with little success.

In a 2011, the Ontario Erickson ERT discussed his  qualifications at length. In the end, the Tribunal said it did not matter if he were rendered expert status as his evidence was unconvincing and irrelevant compared to that of the acknowledged experts in his areas of concern:

It is quite clear that, even if the Tribunal were to accord Mr. Palmer’s evidence full status as expert evidence, there is no question that the Tribunal heard much more detailed and convincing evidence on the issues raised by Mr. Palmer from the other relevant witnesses… 

In sum, even if the Tribunal were to treat Mr. Palmer’s evidence as expert evidence, the best that can be said of it is that Mr. Palmer provided evidence of some “risks” of harm that fall well below the statutory test applicable to this proceeding.

In October of 2013, Palmer attempted to serve as an expert witness again, this time at the Adelaide ERT in Ontario. This time he was limited in his testimony only to his areas of expertise, which ultimately eliminated most of his submitted evidence and testimony.

Palmer has often ignored the constraints. In this case, the Tribunal judgment stated:

…in his evidence, Mr. Palmer baldly states that shadow flicker will occur and states his opinion that it will distract drivers. However, Mr. Palmer was not qualified to give opinion evidence on the impact of shadow flicker.

Mr. Palmer does not provide any explanation, nor was he qualified to give opinion evidence, on how a driver might respond to such flicker, and, to the extent it caused distraction, whether the nature of the distraction could interfere with a driver’s ability to safely drive the vehicle.

In light of the deficiency in Mr. Palmer’s assessment and the un-contradicted opinion evidence of Mr. Dokouzian, the Tribunal finds that the Appellants have not established that shadow flicker will cause serious harm to drivers on Highway 402.

In summary, due to the numerous deficiencies in Mr. Palmer’s assessment, and limitations respecting the evidence adduced in response to Mr. Palmer’s evidence, the Tribunal finds that it has received insufficient evidence to make any definitive findings regarding the probability that blade throw, tower collapse, and damage resulting from a tower fire, would cause harm to human health. 

Despite being told at least twice that he is not an expert and that his evidence failed every test of relevance applied to it, Palmer attempted to gain expert status on multiple subjects at the ERT in Ontario regarding the Arnow wind project.

Mr. Palmer gave evidence as a participant. He asked to be qualified to give opinion evidence as a professional engineer with expertise on acoustics and several matters related to public safety. Following submissions from the parties, the Tribunal qualified Mr. Palmer as a professional engineer with expertise in public safety risks due to turbine failure and some experience in the acoustics of wind turbines. The Tribunal directed Mr. Palmer to confine his testimony to public safety and acoustical assessment and to not speak to topics outside his area of qualification, such as health effects or shadow flicker along highways.

His evidence created conflicts, with actual experts pointing out numerous faults in the topics he was allowed to present to the Tribunal:

It was his [Mr. Dokouzian] position that Mr. Palmer selectively referred to a few statements in that study and used them out of context, while ignoring the overall conclusion of the study, that is, that the wakes of adjacent turbines did not increase the level of noise from a wind farm.

Mr. Dokouzian repeated the approach he used to calculate maximum sound power levels and took issue with Mr. Palmer’s approach. He criticized him for “cherry-picking” the highest sound power level at each octave band, adding them and adjusting them to reach a figure that is higher than the maximum possible sound power level. He stated that such an approach is not indicated in any standard or guideline and is not justified with wind turbines. He explained that the specifications Mr. Palmer found for the Siemens models that were used in a wind farm in Nova Scotia were specifications from the 2009 models of those turbines, whereas for the Project, he used the specifications from the 2013 models, which indicate evolution in the certainty of their measurements, and somewhat lower sound levels as a result.

Mr. Coulson commented on the noise measurements undertaken by Mr. Palmer that were reported in the papers he has presented at conferences. Mr. Coulson identified a concern with the instrumentation used by Mr. Palmer as being not of high quality for acoustical measurements and having a large degree of noise associated with the equipment that Mr. Palmer did not account for. He also expressed concern about Mr. Palmer’s lack of familiarity with the noise measurement standards and with some of the aspects of the locations he chose for carrying out his measurements.

Mr. Palmer was questioned about the papers he has prepared and presented at  conferences. These papers were largely based on noise measurements he carried out at existing wind farms in Ontario. He asserted that his measurements were conducted in accordance with international standards, but was unable to identify the particular standard to which they conform and was unable to state the confidence limits with his data, although he suggested it might be around +/- 1.5 dB.

Mr. Palmer identified his concern that the Project was within the minimum setback from 500 kV power lines established by Hydro One so that a turbine failure could lead to a failure in the electrical system corridor. When questioned, he admitted that he had never seen a Hydro One standard or technical guideline and did not know whether his concern was the basis for a setback between turbines and power lines.

Palmer has been accused of cherry-picking and using discredited data, using inaccurate instruments inappropriately, being unfamiliar with regulations, and not accepting the variance in amplitude modulation. Yet, he continues to attempt to testify against wind turbines. The Approval Holder noted:

Regarding the evidence of Mr. Palmer on the risk to public safety due to turbine collapse, blade failure, fire and ice throw, the Approval Holder submits that his evidence is unreliable, unscientific, provides no meaningful analysis of risk and is misleading.

Mike McCann

Mr. Mike McCann is a real estate appraiser from Chicago. He’s a regular in anti-wind circles, constantly attempting to push his flawed case studies and statistical analyses to prove that wind farms cause property value harm. At present, he has conducted two small studies covering 81 property transactions, compared to the 10 major studies in North America and Europe covering 1.3 million property transactions. Using appropriate statistical methods, these studies show no damage to property values.

McCann was slated as a witness for the appellant at an ERT in Ontario regarding the Adelaide project in October 2013. He was slated to testify about habitat destruction from wind farms, a clear divergence from any expertise he might have. He was rejected as a witness before testifying:

Ben Lansink and Michael McCann, whom the Tribunal has ruled cannot testify in this proceeding.

Ben Lansink

Mr. Ben Lansink, like Mike McCann, is a property appraiser. Similarly to McCann, Lansink has a case study covering only 12 property transactions, which he claims, in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, proves property value harm. For this, he is regularly cited and encouraged by anti-wind campaigners. 

Also like McCann, Lansink was slated to testify on habitat destruction at an ERT regarding the Adelaide project in October 2013. Lansink was rejected as a witness before testifying:

Ben Lansink and Michael McCann, whom the Tribunal has ruled cannot testify in this proceeding.

Richard James

rick-james-wind-acousticsMr. Rick James is a professional acoustician. When testifying or advocating against wind turbines, James has difficulty staying within the bounds of his actual expertise. 

When he has attempted to testify at wind farm related lawsuits in the United States, his testimony has been demonstrated to be lacking in substance, his noise studies lacking in any rigor and his credentials and experience unrelated to measuring wind-related noise. He was slated to appear at the ERT in Ontario regarding the Adelaide project and attempted to introduce testimony unrelated to acoustics. The ERT restricted his testimony strictly to matters of acoustics, eliminating most of his submission.

James also gave testimony at an ERT pertaining to the K2 Wind Huron County project. The council for the Ministry of the Environment noted:

The Approval Holder states that Mr. James has a bias against wind development and purported to give evidence beyond the scope of his expertise, and in so doing breached his obligations as an independent expert and the Tribunal’s Practice Direction for Technical and Opinion Evidence (“Practice Direction for Opinion Evidence”).

The ERT agreed:

 [T]he Appellants had not established that the threshold to establish a deprivation or “serious psychological or physical harm” had been met.

James also appeared at the Armow ERT, and his testimony included areas outside of his expertise and made substantial errors:

The Tribunal considered the submissions of the parties on this issue and qualified Mr. James to given opinion evidence on matters related to acoustics and noise control engineering and wind turbines. The Tribunal excluded from its consideration evidence provided by Mr. James concerning the health effects of wind turbines, and epidemiology.

He is a member of the Institute of Noise Control Engineers (“INCE”), but is not certified by the INCE as an acoustical engineer, nor is he a registered professional engineer in any jurisdiction.

He did concede that he is not an epidemiologist and was not aware of the limits of the Waterloo study identified by Dr. Bigelow. He also agreed that he did not include reference to epidemiological studies that came to differing conclusions in his witness statement.

James is not a certified acoustician or a registered professional engineer, but identifies himself and sells his services as both. He is prone to hyperbole while on the witness stand. He attempts to make erroneous claims despite having been corrected in exactly the same type of ERT proceedings previously. Yet, he continues to put himself forward as an expert.

Eric Erhard

Mr. Eric Erhard is a retired professional engineer who lives near a proposed wind farm in southern Ontario. He attempted to gain accreditation as an expert witness related to application of ISO standards on noise modeling to wind turbine noise specifically. He based his experience with the relevant ISO standard in his professional career for the Chatham-Kent Wind Action Inc. v. Director, Ministry of the Environment tribunal.

The Tribunal was not convinced and stated:

In reviewing Mr. Erhard’s submissions, the Tribunal finds that he does not have the specialized education, training or experience to qualify him to give expert evidence with respect to the application of ISO 9613-2 to noise from wind turbines. Mr. Erhard did not specifically submit that he had any specialized education or training with respect to the application of ISO 9613-2 to noise from wind turbines. Instead, he relied on his experience working for a company as an engineer and working with ISO 9613-2.

For the purpose of giving expert opinion evidence, the Tribunal finds that Mr. Erhard has failed to establish that the ISO standard can be applied to evaluate a project as complex as an industrial wind turbine facility by someone who does not have specialized knowledge and experience for this type of application.

The Tribunal agreed that he could speak to the ISO standard, but as he had no expertise on its application to wind farms and presented no evidence that his concerns related to application of the standard would have any impact on health, it was irrelevant testimony.

Les Huson

Mr. Les Huson is an engineer and acoustician running a small acoustics consultancy, L Huson and Associates Pty Ltd. This business is a member of the Association of Australian Acoustical Consultants. He regularly submits material against wind turbines and gains expert standing based on his credentials.

However, his testimonies often are disputed once submitted. During an ERD proceeding in 2011 related to the Allendale East wind farm, Huson attempted to bring evidence based on an alternative noise model to the standard ISO model more generally used. He then misused the model he was presenting and was forced to backpedal under cross-examination:

In cross-examination, Mr. Huson… was forced to concede that the authors of the ENM model had issued a Technical Note stating that the ENM had propensity to predict unusually high noise levels for this type of noise. In the Technical Note, the authors recommended that, when using the ENM, a correction needed to be applied to wind speeds for sources having a height greater than 10 meters. 

In the circumstances, we reject the evidence of Mr. Huson.

Huson also submitted a lengthy set of material to the Victoria VCAT case related to the Cherry Tree wind farm in 2013. His testimony was referenced in the decision as being accepted over objections, and the Cherry Tree decision ruled in favor of the wind farm. Huson gave evidence the same year at an Environment Court in New Zealand for the Hurunui wind farm proposal. Again he attempted to discredit an existing standard with inadequate understanding of it, and his evidence was dismissed.

Huson has a several year history of submitting material that does not bear scrutiny, yet continues to be brought forward as an expert witness.

Dr. Colin Hansen

Dr-Colin-HansenProfessor Hansen is an Emeritus Professor of the School of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Adelaide. He received his PhD in Mechanical Engineering. 

In 2010, he testified in an ERD proceeding for the Hallett wind farm in South Australia:

Hansen is highly qualified and an expert acoustic engineer, but he has very little experience with wind farms. Professor Hansen’s brief from the appellants was basically to provide a critique of Mr Turnbull’s evidence and other information about the acoustic properties of the proposed wind farm. He was not, therefore, in a position to put a prediction of his own up against Mr Turnbull’s. Professor Hansen was concerned that, at higher wind speeds, the wind may exceed Mr Turnbull’s predictions. Part of the basis for this was a desire for proof beyond the manufacturer’s assurance that the noise level would not increase at wind speeds over 12 m/s. No factual basis was provided for Professor Hansen’s concern. Mr Knill’s explanation of the manufacturer’s assurance was provided in his statement at para 42:

[…]

92. We accept Mr Knill and Mr Turnbull’s evidence on this point.

Hansen continues to provide submissions to wind siting proposals.

Dr. Adrian Upton

Dr. Adrian Upton, Emeritus Professor of McMaster University, is a relatively new addition to the ranks of purported experts called against wind farms. Last year, he submitted testimony regarding the Bull Creek Wind Project. The judgment by the Alberta Utilities Commission stated:

In the Commission’s view, Dr. Upton did not appear to have specialized knowledge or experience specifically with respect to wind turbines and their health effects (other than epilepsy). Dr. Upton appeared to be unfamiliar with the qualifications of some of the authors of the reports he relied upon in forming his opinion on the health impacts of wind turbines or whether the reports he referenced were published or peer reviewed. The Commission took this apparent unfamiliarity with the subject into account when it weighed Dr. Upton’s evidence regarding the general health impacts of wind turbines on nearby residents.

It’s likely that courts will be seeing more of this Dr. Upton in the next couple of years, as he testifies on his actual area of expertise, agreeing that wind turbines will not cause epileptics any problems, but then proceeds to submit unsupported testimony in unfamiliar areas.

Debbie Shubat

Ms. Debbie Shubat is a Registered Nurse and teaches nursing at Sault College in Sault St. Marie in northern Ontario. As pictured, she has been protesting plans for a local wind farm near Bow Lake.

The Environmental Review Tribunal appeal related to the wind farm differed in their decision released July 9, 2014:

[28] Ms. Shubat asked to be qualified to give opinion evidence as an expert in public health nursing and the interactions between wind turbines and human and community health. She has a Master of Science in Nursing degree, and was qualified as an expert community health nurse in a previous REA appeal, Moseley v. Director (Ministry of the Environment), [2014] O.E.R.T.D. No. 23 (“Moseley”). The Approval Holder and Director opposed her qualification on the basis that her expertise does not extend to the impact of wind turbines on human health.

[29] The Tribunal declined to qualify Ms. Shubat as an expert, ruling that the subject matter of her expertise, that being nursing and community health nursing, does not qualify her to give expert opinion evidence on the impact of wind turbines on human health. As outlined by the Supreme Court of Canada in R. v Mohan, [1994] 2 S.C.R. 9 (“Mohan”), the field of expertise must be relevant to the issue to be decided, in order for the Tribunal to receive opinion evidence. The Tribunal reviewed Ms. Shubat’s witness statement and found that all of the opinions she expressed were related to the impact of wind turbines on human health. She testified that any expertise she possesses in this regard comes from self-study. Ms. Shubat was clear that, as a nurse, she is not qualified to diagnose medical conditions and would not purport to do so. Ms. Shubat proceeded to give her evidence as a lay (fact) witness.

[30] A number of documents about the impact of wind turbines on human health were attached to Ms. Shubat’s witness statement as documents that she wished to rely upon. However, as Ms. Shubat was found not to have the qualifications to interpret and explain them for the Tribunal, or to put them into context within the existing scientific debate around wind turbines and human health, the articles could not be accepted for the truth of their contents and were not admitted into evidence.

Lori Davies

Ms. Lori Davies is a registered social worker who operates a small therapy business after having held various formal positions in social work. As with Shubat, Davies attempted to gain accreditation as an expert witness in the Bow Lake ERT and was rejected as documented in their July 9, 2014 decision:

[34] Ms. Davies requested designation by the Tribunal as an expert in social work. Ms. Davies has a Masters Degree in social work and considerable professional experience. The Approval Holder and Director had no issue with her professional qualifications as a social worker, but objected to the Tribunal qualifying her to give expert opinion evidence in the hearing on the basis that her qualification does not extend to the impacts of wind turbines on human health.

[35] The Tribunal ruled that Ms. Davies’ expertise as a social worker is not sufficiently related to wind turbines and harm to human health to give the opinions she is purporting to give, and declined to designate her as an expert. In this respect the Tribunal relies on Mohan, as above. As with Ms. Shubat, the Tribunal also did not allow into evidence the documents Ms. Davies wished to rely on in forming her opinion, which were all outside of her area of expertise. Ms. Davies therefore gave her evidence as a lay witness.

These 16 individuals and the lawyers who attempt to bring them into court have overstated the relevance of their credentials, as well as the depth and breadth of their expertise. These individuals lacked expertise and substantial evidence as detailed by courts around the world. Their claim that wind farms impact human health is dismissed in nearly every hearing, or given little weight by the judges. Additionally, these non-experts often introduce hundreds of pages of what they term evidence, but the vast majority of the documents are poorly constructed opinion pieces by other non-experts. The documents can usually be found on websites maintained by wind energy opponents. They often attempt to introduce “studies” that are methodologically and statistically weak. As more anti-wind experts continue to appear, often pushing the same material, we expect more testimony from anti-wind “experts” will be rejected. This evidence takes significant time and court resources to assess and discount; therefore, the trend to disqualify their evidence early in legal proceedings is important.