By Jim McPherson, Guest Columnist: The Toronto Sun, October 28, 2017
An incorporated group of citizens in Prince Edward County has applied for a judicial review (JR) of the process by which 60 industrial wind turbine projects have been approved by Ontario’s Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MOECC).
This is a serious action, comprising thousands of pages of testimony in dozens of affidavits, from deponents who live not only in Prince Edward County, but in rural communities across Ontario.
In these already-approved projects, there are at least 1,200 giant wind turbines, of which about 1,000 are already operational.
Many additional wind energy proposals are in the MOECC approval process, awaiting government decisions.
The wind industry today is a multi-billion-dollar business in Ontario.
It will be up to the courts to decide the merits of this citizen-inspired request for a judicial review of the government decision-making process which led to the approval of these wind projects.
But in preparation for the day when the case from Prince Edward County’s incorporated group is completed, there are things people should be thinking about now.
Suppose the court rules in favour of the appellants.
Suppose it finds the process by which these 1,200 wind turbines were approved — with more in the pipeline — was improper?
What will happen to these 1,200 monster machines that already populate rural landscapes across Ontario?
Will they continue to operate? Should they be demolished?
What will be the status of the “feed-in tariff” contracts under which they supply intermittent and heavily-subsidized electricity to the grid?
Who will act as trustees in the event a court ruling forces existing turbine projects into bankruptcy?
What will be the rights of landowners upon whose properties turbines have already been built?
How will the public, municipalities and local businesses be compensated for their losses in terms of health, livelihood, property values, quality of life and economic vitality due to wind turbines?
What will be the future of wind energy in Ontario?
These are complex questions.
For governments, citizens, and multinational wind energy corporations, the issue is huge.
It’s potentially bigger than the Ontario Liberal government’s decision to cancel two natural-gas fired power plants at a cost of $1.1 billion.
It’s potentially bigger than the recent VW Canada payout of $2.1 billion to owners of Audi and Volkswagen vehicles due to the emissions scandal.
Answering these questions will be much more complex than addressing the legality of the processes that led to the approval and construction of wind turbines in Ontario.
For these issues, there are no precedents to provide guidance.
The personal, social, corporate and political consequences could be profound.
The people who caused the proliferation of industrial wind turbines across the province are not only multinational wind power corporations.
The main perpetrator is Ontario’s Liberal government.
It took away the planning rights of municipalities with regard to the location of industrial wind turbines through its 2009 Green Energy Act.
It turned neighbour against neighbour as communities were divided between those who opposed industrial wind farms and landowners who agreed to lease their properties to wind developers.
Whatever the outcome of the judicial review, it is time for Ontario to learn from its sorry past with regard to wind energy.
It is time to prepare an imaginative, productive and socially acceptable way to exploit wind energy, in light of the fact that given our current state of technology, the electricity it generates is today unpredictable, unreliable and expensive.
If these questions can be properly addressed with the skills and imagination that Ontario citizens are capable of mustering, then, perhaps this judicial review could be the needed opportunity, to get Ontario back on the right path to a greener and healthier future.
As published in the Wellington Times, Wednesday October 25, 2017.
Under the enabling statute, the Ontario Auditor-General (A-G) is non-partisan, reports to the Legislative Assembly and protects the public interest. Thus when the current government does not present financial information fairly and transparently, she must speak out.
And that’s exactly what Bonnie Lysyk, the current Auditor-General, did in her devastating Special Report released on October 17th, 2017, dealing with the so-called Ontario Fair Hydro Plan which became law on June 1st, 2017. To say that she was concerned about fiscal transparency, accountability and value for money under that Plan would be putting it mildly. Here’s a summary.
The A-G cannot question the government’s decision to reduce Ontarians’ electricity bills, it being the government’s prerogative to set policy. Her valid concerns were that the planned accounting for the budgets and consolidated financial statements was incorrect and that the government knew beforehand that its scheme would cause significant unnecessary costs for Ontarians.
The government’s deliberate intention was to avoid the costs associated with the hydro rate reduction affecting its fiscal plan, to avoid showing a deficit in budgets and consolidated financial statements for 2017/18 to 2019/20 and to show no increase in the Provincial debt.
It created a needlessly complex accounting/financing structure to achieve that deliberate intention, utilizing officials and staff from eight ministries and organizations and hiring private sector accountants, lawyers, bankers, broker-dealers and investment advisers. Those outside advisers cost Ontarians a minimum of $2 million, one law firm receiving a retainer of $500,000.
Senior civil servants involved warned in advance that the design planned by the government would result in higher costs for Ontarians, that it was doubtful if the Canadian Public Sector Accounting Standards would permit the accounting treatment planned and that the A-G would likely disagree and express her concern about the additional cost planned to be incurred.
Indeed, the A-G found as facts that the complex accounting rules applied are NOT in accordance with the Canadian Public Sector Accounting Standards and that in essence the government was making up its own accounting rules.
Under the government’s plan, money will have to be borrowed to fund the hydro bill reductions and from 2022 on, Ontarians who pay hydro bills will be charged more than the actual cost of producing electricity to repay that borrowing. That amount plus interest will be at least $39.4 billion.
A future government could decide not to charge this just to ratepayers but to all Ontarians generally.
The increase in the Province’s net debt overall will be $26.2 billion.
The complicated scheme involves both Ontario Power Generation (OPG) and Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO), both controlled by the Province. In addition, the government will direct another of its creatures, the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) to approve rate changes as required.
In 2017, the A-G gave the government a “qualified” audit opinion, that is an opinion that the financial statements contained one or more material misstatements or omissions resulting from the misapplication of Canadian Public Sector Accounting Standards. Specifically, she found that the net debt and the accumulated deficit were understated by $12.429 billion for 2016/17 and by $10. 985 billion in the previous year.
The A-G ended her Special Report by recommending that the government record the true financial impact of the Fair Hydro Plan’s electricity rate reduction on the Province’s budgets and consolidated financial statements; and use a financing structure to fund the rate reduction that is least costly to Ontarians.
The above is just a summary of the basic, important, points. The A-G was extremely thorough in explaining the various requirements and actions involved in straightforward, understandable, language. She certainly spoke out as her mandate requires and is to be congratulated by all Ontarians who care, irrespective of party. Her Special Report was indeed a bombshell, devastating in its logic and conclusions.
The government’s reaction? In effect “we disagree with the Auditor-General and it’s just a question of accounting discussion”.
The government has borrowed money to fund the reduction in hydro bills, incurred incredible cost in so doing and pushed the repayment of that cost down the road beyond the election scheduled for June, 2018, and with deliberation broken accounting rules along the way.
What the A-G’s Special Report does is continue the criticisms of herself and her predecessor of many aspects of the undemocratic Green Energy Act, the scam imposed by a combination of this government and the wind industry particularly on rural Ontario. Every day, more power is produced than Ontario needs and every day the excess is sold to neighbouring States and Provinces at a loss while wind and solar proponents are paid NOT to produce. All these costs are paid by Ontarians in their hydro bills and Provincial income tax.
Thank you Auditor-General Lysyk. A ray of hope and decency in the swamp that the current government has become.
Why? The project has been dramatically scaled down over the years due to various agreements and environmental rulings.
It could have simply been terminated, but now its huge cost will be paid over 20 years by all Ontario ratepayers, who will be charged above-market prices for electricity generated by these nine unneeded turbines and many others.
Neighbouring residents and wildlife will suffer as well.
This is an example of the disdain demonstrated for rural Ontarians by the Wynne government, and before that, the government of her Liberal predecessor, Dalton McGuinty.
Since the Liberal government’s enactment of the Green Energy Act of 2009, Ontario, in many respects, has become an energy dictatorship.
Last Sunday, an angry crowd of locals braved 50 km/h winds as they marched to the county’s 446-seat Regent Theatre to demand this project’s cancellation.
Ontario’s energy dictatorship is so disdainful of its rural residents, it forces them to accept industrial wind factories near their homes and favours large, foreign corporations over its own citizens.
To illustrate, let’s compare how wind energy is managed in Ontario’s Prince Edward County, versus Portugal’s autonomous region of Madeira, where I was recently on vacation.
Madeira is an island community, with 10 times Prince Edward County’s population, on 20% less land.
But Madeira is similar to the county in several ways:
Both are islands.
Both have bucolic natural environments.
Both are highly dependent on tourism.
Both have widely recognized wine industries … Madeira for several centuries, the county for a decade.
Both have abundant wind energy that can be harvested by giant turbines.
Both have environmentally-conscious governments.
But there are major differences:
Madeira has a shortage of electricity.
The province of Ontario, in which Prince Edward County is located, has a surplus.
Madeira needs wind power to reduce fossil fuel imports. Ontario exports surplus wind power at a loss, but approves and subsidizes more and more wind projects.
Madeira’s wind energy supplier is owned and operated by a local public corporation, having a mission of domestic benefit.
Many of Prince Edward County’s wind energy proponents are multinational corporations motivated in large part by subsidies that yield profits for foreign investors.
In May, 2009, through the Green Energy Act, the Ontario legislature, ruled by the governing Liberals who have been in power for 14 years, made itself the authority over all energy-related industrial wind turbine developments.
Individual property rights were expropriated and local
planning authority was transferred from municipalities to the province.
In effect, Ontario proclaimed itself an energy dictatorship.
Madeira, by contrast, treats its citizens with respect.
In energy-hungry Madeira, there are only two wind farms, both far from dense urban communities where people live. One is on a mountain top near the centre of the island, the other on the island’s industrially-zoned eastern peninsula. Additional turbines are located on a small nearby island.
Prince Edward County residents have been fighting for 17 years to keep unsafe industrial wind turbines away from their tranquil, rural neighbourhood.
This fight has cost them over $1 million in legal fees.
But Ontario’s energy dictatorship expropriated their rights and their freedoms.
It stripped their municipalities of their historical authority to regulate electricity-related development.
Instead, it teamed up with multinational corporations.
It is subsidizing the operation of unwanted and unneeded industrial wind turbines located as little as 550 metres away from private homes
In a 2012 referendum, Milford area citizens were 90.2% opposed to industrial wind turbines.
Last Sunday, they rallied to stop this highly disruptive and unpopular form of industrialization, forced upon them by Ontario’s energy dictatorship at Queen’s Park.
A Rally and Town Hall Meeting to demand the cancellation of wpd Canada’s White Pines Wind Project in South Marysburgh
Sunday, October 15th in Picton
March (rain or shine):
1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. down Main Street, Picton. Assemble on Cold Storage Road in Picton by 12:30 p.m. and bring along your personalized sign, placard or poster.
2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the Regent Theatre
Learn how the 9-turbine White Pines Wind Project WILL affect you and Prince Edward County, and what you can do to help. Local politicians, County residents, business people and experts will provide impact statements, updates, and answer your questions about: loss of landowner and municipal rights because of the Green Energy Act; human health effects; destruction of heritage, tourism and endangered species; and other concerns.
Mayor Robert Quaiff; MPP Todd Smith; Winemaker Norman Hardie; Wind Concerns Ontario President, Jane Wilson; Dr. Robert McMurtry OC; and other knowledgeable individuals. Moderated by Councillor Steve Ferguson
Contact logistics coordinator Les Stanfield at 613.476.5363 or Contact Councillor Steve Ferguson at 613.827.7174 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Your participation really matters!
Prince Edward County Residents Standing Up for their Rights! Huge rally to protest wpd wind project and the Green Energy Act
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
PICTON, ON., October 7: Prince Edward County residents will rally together to voice their opposition to wpd Canada’s White Pines Wind Project that involves erecting nine 150m-tall (500 FT.) industrial wind turbines in and around the hamlet of Milford in the ward of South Marysburgh.
The County is an unwilling host to industrial wind turbine projects that disrupt the lives and livelihoods of County residents; that destroy the County’s historic landscapes; and that cause irreparable harm to the County’s wildlife and natural environment.
This much anticipated rally will consist of a march coupled with an information session at the Regent Theatre in Picton. “Our hope is that this rally will motivate the government to cancel this project once and for all”, says Les Stanfield, logistics coordinator for the rally. “We want people to be creative in preparing for the march through floats, banners and placards that personalize their message to wpd and Queen’s Park”, adds Stanfield.
Those wanting to participate in the march can gather at the end of Cold Storage Road by 12:30 p.m. for departure at 1:00 p.m. or join the march at any point on the route along Main Street to the Regent Theatre. At 2:00 p.m. people can participate in an information session at the Regent. County residents, local politicians, business people and experts will provide impact statements, updates and answer questions about: anticipated personal impacts; loss of land owner and municipal rights because of the Green Energy Act; human health effects; destruction of heritage, tourism and endangered species; and other concerns.
“We hope every single person who has expressed concern about this wind energy project will come out and not only show support for the residents of South Marysburgh who will be directly affected by the White Pines project, but also to express their strong opposition to the government legislation that allowed the project to happen in the first place,” says Steve Ferguson, Prince Edward County Councillor for South Marysburgh. “All residents of Prince Edward County need to fully understand the implications of the White Pines project.”
For more information contact Les Stanfield at 613-476-5363 or visit the Facebook page: (https://www.facebook.com/Prince-Edward-County-Field-Naturalists-271617866218688/
Ontario’s Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) has approved numerous wind energy projects across the province.
But what if many of these approvals were improperly done, as determined by a court?
Rural residents have appealed several wind projects to provincial tribunals, but most are denied because Ontario’s Green Energy Act permits these appeals only on very narrow grounds of irreparable harm to the environment or human health.
For that reason, a citizen’s group in Prince Edward County recently filed for a judicial review of Ontario’s wind turbine approval process, in Superior Court in Ottawa.
The appellant is a not-for-profit corporation composed of hundreds of Prince Edward County residents, who claim their Charter rights have been violated by Ontario’s Green Energy Act (GEA).
They contend their rights have been violated by the “institutional bias” of the MOECC, and by its failure to properly consider matters of direct relevance to the wind energy project approval process.
The filing also alleges “an egregious instance of regulatory capture”, of MOECC and its affiliated provincial agencies.
None of the allegations have been tested in court.
In the view of the appellants, rural Ontario citizens receive only minimal procedural fairness under the GEA.
During the project approval processes, they are not entitled to present direct evidence but are restricted to submitting comments to a website.
In many cases, the information on which they are asked to comment is incomplete, as yet undisclosed, or subject to later amendment.
Appeals to Ontario’s Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) are possible, but again, only on very narrow grounds of proven, irreparable harm to the environment or human health.
Property owners living close to wind turbines have complained about the pollution of wells, restriction of land use, fires, flying debris, health impacts, killing of wild life, property value diminution and inhabitability of homes.
During and after construction, many municipalities are concerned about potential road damage, water pollution and financial damage to local economies.
Many residents complain that once wind projects are completed, the province fails to meaningfully enforce regulations connected with their operation.
Provincially regulated setbacks of turbines, while inadequate in the view of many rural citizens, nonetheless effectively mandate that wind energy projects are built only in rural neighbourhoods, as opposed to cities like Toronto.
Unlike cities, vote-poor rural communities are unable to successfully pressure the government to relocate wind projects they say are inappropriate.
By contrast, in vote-rich Oakville and Mississauga, urban residents convinced the Liberal government, leading up to the 2011 provincial election, to relocate two proposed natural gas-fired electricity plants at an eventual public cost exceeding $1 billion.
The Liberal government also suspended a proposed offshore wind project impacting urban ridings in Scarborough after protests by local residents.
Under the GEA, municipalities can no longer use official plans or land use bylaws to protect citizens from inappropriate land use.
Many believe this is a reprehensible failure by Ontario’s government, but it cannot be attributed solely to the provincial regulating agencies.
In many cases, skilled, professional staff working for these agencies have basically been rendered inoperative by provincial legislation that makes them ineffective.
Comparing rural citizens fighting industrial wind turbines to the Liberal government pulling the strings, one is reminded of what was said about Allied troops in the First World War: “We have lions led by donkeys”.
Perhaps the judicial review requested by Prince Edward County residents will help restore fairness to the battlefield.
The war of residents against industrial wind turbines is being fought by rural communities in many countries.
Their common enemy is the financially-powerful wind industry, which is failing miserably in its efforts to deliver affordable and reliable electricity. It survives because its revenues are government-contracted.
In Ontario, Premier Kathleen Wynne’s government won’t let local residents win this war.
While I’m not comparing the two in scale, Ontario’s wind war does have some things in common with World War II. Both were (and are) multinational with long-lasting effects.
Both have been waged over basic human rights and freedoms, with easily-identifiable villains and heroes.
Both have been costly.
Precious heritage assets, and wildlife, have been lost forever in turbine-ravaged communities.
Industrial wind turbines are driving up electricity prices, while driving down real estate values. Out of phase with demand, wind energy is inherently unreliable and inefficient. Much of it is exported at a loss.
Many rural residents oppose industrial wind turbines because they destroy neighbourhoods, kill birds and bats and bulldoze wildlife and habitats.
Many people say their low-frequency sound radiation makes them sick.
The Wynne government has already admitted it doesn’t need any more big, industrial wind projects because Ontario has an energy surplus.
Nevertheless, “Big Wind” fights on and continues to devastate rural Ontario landscapes.
In Prince Edward County, a wind farm development was originally proposed in 2008 as a 75-turbine project that would supposedly help Ontario’s “green energy” program.
After being acquired by another company, it was downsized to 27 turbines.
Earlier this year, following very costly appeals by local citizens, 18 of these turbine sites were disallowed by an Environmental Review Tribunal, leaving nine to be built.
Then, without public consultation, the Wynne government reduced the proponent’s contracted deliverable energy contract, so the deal could go forward.
It could have and should have been terminated it, in the view of many local residents.
Which raises the question of why does the Wynne government keep stubbornly supporting Big Wind?
The wind developer has announced it intends to begin construction of its severely-downsized, nine-turbine project surrounding the community of Milford.
Milford adjoins an internationally-designated “Important Bird Area” (IBA) on a multi-species migration flyway.
Colonies of vulnerable Little Brown Bats help Milford farmers protect their crops from insects. Turbines are dangerous to bats.
The wind developer, based in Germany, is a respected world leader in energy technology.
At a recent packed town hall meeting, Milford residents explored ways to save their community from more wind turbine industrialization.
One resident suggested the government of Germany might not want to inflict environmental harm in Canada more severe than that allowed in Germany.
Like Prince Edward County, Bavaria is a bucolic, tourism destination.
In Ontario, industrial wind turbines can be located 550 meters from residences, even though Health Canada reports this can cause sleep disturbance and severe annoyance.
In Bavaria, the legal setback for giant wind turbines is a much safer two km.
To protect wildlife, most European governments keep turbines away from IBAs.
In 2011, the Canadian Senate unanimously backed a motion calling on the province to institute a moratorium on wind-farm development along eastern Lake Ontario.
Six years later, the Wynne government continues to allow the wind industry to further its desecration of rural Ontario, despite the fact we have an energy surplus. Why?
IMPORTANT EVENT !! WPD Project Town Hall Meeting ~ Please Plan to attend at Milford Town Hall ~ Sept 5, 7-9 pm
Tuesday September 5, 7-9 PM, Milford Town Hall***
***note change of location
South Marysburg Councillor Steve Ferguson has organized a town hall meeting to provide residents with the latest information about WPD’s announced plans to start construction of the 9 wind turbines left in their project.
The Mayor, several Members of Council , Chief Administrative Officer James Hepburn and a member of the engineering staff will be there to explain what actions the County is taking with respect to WPD’s plans for road modifications, demands for permits, etc.
Speakers from APPEC and CCSAGE will provide background on how we have reached this point, the scope of the proposed project, new information on transmission lines and what is happening with WPD’s FIT contract.
The goal of this meeting is to provide greater public awareness and send a message to Queen’s Park about how residents of the County feel about the project and WPD’s tactics.
Further details will be in this week’s Gazette.
All are encouraged to attend.