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.

Posted by Energy and Policy Institute