In the first part of our three-part series examining GateHouse Media’s story “In the Shadow of Wind Farms,” we examined how the GateHouse Media team ignored crucial analyses and studies highly relevant to their story.
That resulted in a story about wind farms that lacked context and balance. In this second article of our three-part series, we’ll examine how GateHouse consistently ignored scientific consensus and analysis on the issues they were reporting on.
In its recent, extensive series, GateHouse portrays the science around alleged health effects from wind turbines as a “Health Impacts Debate,” and asserts a “lack of scientific consensus.”
But that’s flatly wrong, and GateHouse knowingly engaged in a textbook case of false equivalency by citing a few studies and experts while ignoring the vast majority of scientific literature — and the leading international experts on the topic.
The fact is that there is a scientific consensus on this issue, and it’s firmly established.
The best review of the research literature was compiled by Professor Simon Chapman, an Emeritus Professor in the School of Public Health at the University of Sydney, Australia. Chapman is one of the world’s leading experts on this topic of human health and wind farms. He has actually written the definitive book on the topic: Wind Turbine Syndrome: A Communicated Disease. Chapman has also compiled the top 25 studies on the topic of wind farms and human health.
GateHouse’s reporting did not include any comment from Chapman. It also bypassed the two other internationally recognized experts: Occupational medicine specialist Dr. Robert McCunney, who has conducted research for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) on the topic, and Fiona Crichton of the University of Aukland.
GateHouse instead gave prominent play to Michigan State University Professor Jerry Punch, who argues that the scientific literature has missed the impact of low-frequency sound from wind farms on human health. The term is “infrasound,” which was debunked in an extensive June piece in The Atlantic. Punch’s research was not published in a peer-reviewed journal.
Neither Emily Le Coz nor Lucille Sherman, the main GateHouse reporters, responded to a request for comment on why they bypassed the world’s leading expert on the topic at the center of their reporting.
The GateHouse report also relies on an anti-wind lawyer, Bradley Tupi, and home appraiser, Michael McCann, to assert that there is a research consensus on a drop in home values for those living near wind farms.
The list of research contradicting Tupi and McCann’s position is from major universities and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The “other studies” GateHouse reports as supporting Tupi and McCann’s position is a shorter list, and it’s unclear that any of it was published in peer-reviewed journals. Two pieces of research were written by McCann himself.
The Energy and Policy Institute reviewed all studies on the topic as of 2014 and their report is worth quoting:
“Ten major studies in three countries of 1.3 million property transactions over 18 years of data have found no connection between wind farms and property values. […]
“By comparison, only two moderately reliable studies with some statistical significance found property value impacts, and they are both challenged in different ways. Five other often referenced studies are merely case studies with no statistical significance, done by appraisers who show strong evidence of bias, and in one case there is clear evidence that they ignored the reality of the property they appraised.”
GateHouse also relied on retired Denver Wind Technology Center scientist Neil Kelley. Dr. Kelley is a credible expert, but his research cited by GateHouse was on the Mod-1 turbine that is vastly different than modern wind turbines. The technology studied by Kelley was an early, experimental prototype of a behind-the-mast turbine. It is not used in today’s commercial wind farms.
Every utility-scale turbine in operation today has the blades in front of the mast. The Mod-1 tried to have blades behind the mast. The blades stalled in the turbulent air every time they passed behind the mast, creating a frequent, low-pitched thumping. No operational wind turbine today uses this approach. Le Coz and Sherman did not respond to a question about the dated nature of Kelley’s research.