Central Bruce residents file complaint: impending disaster at K2 wind farm

"Lake K2"
“Lake K2”

Yesterday, residents of Central Bruce and the Central Bruce Wind Action community group, filed a letter with the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and the Office of the Ombudsman of Ontario, regarding serious environmental issues associated with the K2 wind power project in Ashfield-Colborne-Wawanosh.

The letter, which was accompanied by almost 300 signatures from local residents, details the fact that issues concerning the danger to the water table and municipal water supply were raised repeatedly during the comment and approval process for the 270-megawatt power facility. K2 is being developed by a consortium of Capital Power, Samsung, and Pattern Energy.

The letter states: “In 2011 a K2 employee, Mr. David Harrelson, advised of close to surface aquifers at the substation site. Their presence is verified by Well Record A029342 from June 20, 2006. The well records from the site specifically make mention of the ground water table at one foot (12 inches) below surface. The MoE in Owen Sound had documentation in mid-2011 regarding the water issues at this site. The Approvals Branch of the MoE was notified and provided with this information as well.”

Almost immediately upon commencing construction for K2, the land became flooded, with water spilling into municipal drains and ditches; the water was so significant that locals branded it “Lake K2” and the developers had to post a warning sign, complete with a lifesaver attached. The developer is now trucking water from the site.

Clearly, the Central Bruce letter writers state, the documents filed with the application for K2 were incomplete, and important issues not considered by the Ministry of the Environment.

The letter concludes with the demand that K2’s approval be revoked, given its basis on incomplete and inaccurate documentation: “It is not for the residents of Ontario to bear any repercussions from an incomplete REA Application. K2’s application was incomplete. Given the current situation, we question the terms under which the REA was granted. The approval was premised on inadequate and unsupported information. We are therefore requesting that the Renewable Energy Approval for the K2 Wind Ontario Inc. project in Ashfield-Colborne-Wawanosh be revisited and revoked.”

You may view the letter here: Letter to Agatha Garcia-Wright – July 19, 2014-1

Wind turbines ordered removed at Chatham-Kent airport

Kirk Dickinson, July 6, 2014, Blackburn News

Transport Canada has issued an order for the removal of eight wind turbines near the Chatham-Kent Municipal Airport by December 31, 2014.

Chatham-Kent Mayor Randy Hope says the municipality was surprised to learn that Transport Canada is demanding that the turbines be removed because of their proximity to the airport. He says two months ago, the municipality’s chief legal officer met with Transport Canada officials and proposed that the eight turbines be recognized as “exceptions.”

“I believe it’s ridiculous, there is an alternative that is there in front of (Transport Canada),” says Hope. “We’ve waited for months for them to reply to us, and they never replied, and came down with this order, which we don’t feel is right… We believe Transport Canada is just playing some politics with us.”

According to a media release from the municipality, this “simple solution” would be a one-time approval just for the eight turbines and would not affect the restriction of future construction near the airport.

Hope says multiple aeronautic consultants have stated the eight wind turbines do not impact airport operations or present any safety concerns for planes.

Hope says the municipality does not have a course of action regarding the order to remove the turbines, and that it is up to GDF Suez, the owner of the affected turbines, to file an appeal.

Read the full story and comments here.

RELATED STORY: MPP Pleased With Wind Turbine Removal Order

Editor’s note: GDF Suez’ CEO is Mike Crawley formerly of AIM PowerGen, and past president of both the Ontario and Canadian Liberal parties. His companies have gained contracts worth millions from the Ontario government.

German state Bavaria sets new wind farm setbacks

GERMANY: Germany’s new renewable energy law has passed through parliament in the second and third readings, in parallel with a law allowing each federal state to independently set the distance of wind turbines to the nearest houses.

The law has gone through despite additional last-minute demands from the European Commission made on 23 June.

Amongst other points, the commission had demanded that imported renewables electricity should not be subjected to the German renewables levy. It argues this has the effect of an import duty. (The intervention is believed to anticipate a European Court of Justice judgement due at the beginning of July 2014 on a dispute surrounding a Finnish wind station looking to participate in the Swedish renewables support system.)

Bavaria is setting a minimum distance of ten times the turbine height, which threatens to virtually rule out wind development in the state.

Both laws are to take effect on 1 August. Federal states setting minimum distances must do so before the end of 2015.

The new Renewable Energy Act caps onshore wind expansion at 2.5GW per year not including net additions from repowering projects. Offshore wind is limited to 6.5GW by end-2020, albeit with some flexibility allowed for installations to reach up to 7.2GW.

The law is a three-year interim measure, to be followed by new legislation setting out the rules for renewables tendering procedures beginning in 2017 and on market integration of renewables, according to federal economy minister Sigmar Gabriel.

Read the full story here

Controversial wind power co-op claims approval coming soon

Tara Bowie, Woodstock Sentinel-Review, June 6, 2014

A local energy co-op that has caused some controversy in the county continues to move forward.

The Oxford Community Energy Co-operative (OCEC) announced the Financial Services Commission of Ontario approved its formation.

“The board of directors of the Oxford Community Energy Co-op is very excited that we have received the receipted Offering Statement from FSCO. We can now start our capital raising campaign. We would like to talk to anyone in this community who wants to become a part owner of the Gunn’s Hill Wind Farm because I am confident that we can offer a very attractive return on the investment,” Helmut Schneider, president of OCEC, said in a press release.

The first project on the co-op’s radar is the Gunn’s Hill wind turbines in Norwich Township being developed by Prowind Canada Inc.

Juan Anderson, vice-president of Prowind, said he expects the project to receive its Renewable Energy Approval by August after the Ministry of Environment completes its technical review of the application.

“We anticipate that under any new government there will be increased involvement of municipalities in the development process of renewable energy projects. We also see potential for further emphasis on co-operative and First Nations ownership in projects and we feel that the work we are doing with Oxford Community Energy Co-operative and Six Nations can be an example of how to share the benefits of a project more widely,” Anderson said when asked how a change in provincial leadership might effect the project.

The OCEC is looking to raise up to 49% of the project equity, which is approximately $9 million.

As per the OCEC website (http:// oxfordcommunityenergycoop. wildapricot. org), the hope is to raise $1.2 million of the equity from Oxford County investors and the remainder from across Ontario.

Currently the co-op has more than 50 members.

“The anticipated investment returns for preferred shares will be paid annually in the form of dividends, which are projected to be in the range 10 %,” the website stated.

The project is facing several hurdles in its last leg before possibly receiving approval to start building.

The East Oxford Community Alliance has notified Prowind of potential litigation if the project moves forward. Norwich Township deemed itself an unwilling host for the project several years ago and maintains that status.

Read the full story and take the poll here.

Editor’s note: Mr Anderson is possibly premature in his announcement; the documents filed by Prowind with the Ministry of the Environment which were deemed “complete” ae now the subject of a complaint to the Office of the Ombudsman of Ontario due to serious omissions and inadequacies in the documentation. Mr Anderson must also be unaware that there is an election in Ontario June 12th, and the further approval of wind power projects has been an important issue in the campaign.

 

Public in the dark on Kawartha Lakes appeal

Industry and the Ministry of the Environment not telling appellants or Tribunal what they’re up to.

Wind farm appeal on hold until August

Kawartha Lakes councillor Heather Stauble says appellants aren’t sure when hearing will move forward

Kawartha Lakes This Week, June 5, 2014

(KAWARTHA LAKES) Ward 16 Councillor Heather Stauble says it is disturbing that the Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) hearing the appeal of a wind energy project in Manvers Township is not getting information from the developer and the Province.

Last December, the Province granted wpd Canada approval for its Sumac Ridge wind energy project, which would see the installation of five large turbines near Bethany.

READ MORE: Councillor Explains Rationale Behind Wind Turbine Fight

Manvers Wind Concerns, Cransley Home Farm Limited and the Cham Shan Temple are appealing. The Cham Shan Temple is an initiative of the Buddhist Association of Canada that will mirror the four great Temples in China. One is almost completed and three more are planned for the City of Kawartha Lakes, a total investment of about $100 million.

On Wednesday (June 4), Coun. Stauble noted the hearing was originally scheduled for three months, ending in June. But, after several date changes, she says it has been postponed until Aug. 13. “We don’t know when this will move forward.”

Coun. Stauble said there has been ongoing correspondence between wpd Canada and the Ministry of Environment, but the appellants and the ERT panel have not been privy to that information.

Asked why not, Coun. Stauble said, “That’s a great question. Something has changed and we don’t know what it is.”

Read the full story here.

Wind power documentary reveals victim suffering

The documentary film Down Wind airs tonight at 8 PM EDT on the Sun News network.

Here is a column from journalist Jerry Agar on the film.

DownWindPoster

JERRY AGAR | SUN NEWS NETWORK June 3, 2014

It is heart wrenching to see and feel the pain of fellow Ontarians breaking down in tears as they explain how the Liberal government drove them from their homes.

But to understand how cold and callous our current political leadership is in this province, you need to experience it.

Rebecca Thompson’s documentary, Down Wind: How Ontario’s Green Dream Turned into a Nightmare (Surge Media Productions), airs on Sun News Wednesday at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m.

It is a story of reckless, agenda-driven politics resulting in shattered lives.

The Ontario Liberal government’s Green Energy Act isn’t just an economic failure; it is an act of brutal indifference to the human cost of politics.

A cost ignored by people living far from the thump of the giant wind turbines, secure in their downtown Toronto homes and politically correct theories; a safe distance from places like Ripley, Clear Creek and Lucknow, Ontario.

Many may not care – worshiping as they do at the altar of so-called green energy – that the jobs promised by the Liberals through their Green Energy Act were never delivered, while the cost of hydro skyrocketed.

But the human cost should matter to us all.

Giant wind turbines, as high as 50 storeys, with blades the size of a 747, were foisted on communities in rural Ontario with no consultation or agreement from the residents, their municipal governments having been stripped of their planning powers by the Green Energy Act.

Unlike politicians who pay lip service to “serving others” while stomping all over people’s lives and looking after themselves, Norma Schmidt spent her life in Underwood, Ontario in the actual service of others as a nurse and instructor of future nurses.

She and her husband spent their lives in the home they lovingly restored over the years; a place they had hoped to share with their grandchildren.

But Norma has been forced out of her home by severe migraines and depression, brought on by the relentless noise and vibration from the industrial wind turbines erected practically in her back yard.

She left both the job and the home she loved, escaping to a room in her daughter’s house.

It is not the life she worked all these years to achieve, and it is not what she deserves.

Do Norma’s tears, and those of others similarly affected, fall to no effect at the feet of Premier Kathleen Wynne?

Norma’s story is one among many, some of them told in Down Wind.

This is the same Dalton McGuinty/Wynne Liberal government that used public money to reward violent aboriginal protesters who seized private property and terrorized people in Caledonia.

That “occupation” continues today and the government, knowing that their voting base in Toronto couldn’t care less about some rubes in the country, keeps the issue quiet by caving into thugs, rather than protecting law-abiding citizens.

Would the government be as forgiving to people across rural Ontario if some were to blow up a few of the industrial wind turbines that have made their lives hell? Of course not.

There are no turbines thumping the night away in Don Valley West or Toronto-Centre.

It remains to be seen whether the people in such ridings, who overwhelmingly voted Liberal in 2011, will care more for their fellow citizens in rural Ontario this time around.

There are any number of political parties to support other than the Liberals.

(Another) legal opinion on cancelling FIT contracts

Here from law firm Gowling Lafleur Henderson an opinion on whether FIT contracts can be cancelled, following a change of government. The answer? It depends. If a contract is at the stage where the Notice To Proceed or NTP has not been issued, then a contract may well not be fulfilled.

Read the full article here, and an excerpt follows.

“A perhaps somewhat overlooked section of the form of FIT Contract deals with the consequences of “discriminatory actions” by the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. Non-discriminatory action clauses, developed and refined over the past three decades by project sponsors working on projects reliant upon concessions from government counterparties somewhat less reputable than Ontario, seek to provide project sponsors with some form of protection should the government take action to unilaterally amend the terms of the concession contract or affect an increase to the taxes, regulatory burden or other costs associated with the project in a way that could not have been reasonably expected under the terms of the original concession.

Ontario’s FIT contracts all contain a short-form version of a non-discriminatory action clause which, though protective of the supplier, is subject to key exceptions, including the passage of laws that are of “general application” and new regulations created under theGreen Energy and Green Economy Act, 2009. It is also worth noting that, unlike project finance concession agreements designed for use in emerging markets, which might provide for dispute resolution outside of the jurisdiction, the FIT contract is subject to dispute resolution provisions contemplating arbitration in Toronto.

The non-discriminatory action clause contained in Ontario’s FIT contracts is less than perfect from a sponsor’s viewpoint; however, it does provide some basic protection.

The possibility exists of new laws or regulations coming into force after the election that would have an adverse effect on suppliers who are in a post-NTP or post-commercial operation position under an existing FIT Contract. Given Ontario’s long history of carefully honouring electricity sector concession holder’s contractual rights, it seems unlikely that a new government would seek to use regulatory or legislative change to indirectly penalize electricity sector investors – particularly given the clear pre-NTP cancellation rights already existing in the FIT contracts. If unilateral legislative or regulatory change is promulgated, the challenge for suppliers will be to demonstrate that a specific law is not of general application or to challenge the scope of a regulation under the Green Energy and Green Economy Act, 2009. A government seeking to table unilateral changes of a material nature to the FIT program would presumably be made cognizant of the potential impact that such changes would have on the province’s reputation, as a contracting party and its credit rating by the Ministry of Finance.

In summary, we see parties holding FIT contracts which are pre-NTP as being most at risk from a possible change in government in Ontario and view post-NTP and, particularly, currently operating projects as being less at risk.”

Can government end “green” contracts? YES, says Queens law prof

Killing green energy contracts

Hudak’s Ontario Conservatives can easily and legally negate the giveaways the Liberals had lavished on renewables developers

Tim Hudak says the Ontario Conservatives, if elected, will cancel lucrative wind and solar contracts put in place under the Liberals’ green energy program. Can he do so without racking up huge compensation costs?

The answer is yes – if he does it the right way.

The wrong way is to direct the Ontario Power Authority to simply terminate existing contracts, which have robust compensation clauses. The liabilities would dwarf the $1.1-billion paid out by the Liberals for cancelled gas plants.

The right way is to legislate: to enact a statute that declares green contracts to be null and void, and the province to be free from liability. The compensation clauses in the contract will be rendered inoperative if the statute says so.

Statutes can override iron-clad provisions in a contract because that is the nature of legislative supremacy: Legislatures can pass laws of any kind, as long as they are within their jurisdiction and do not offend the constitution. Legislating on electricity production is clearly a provincial power, as are “property and civil rights.”

Since the Canadian constitution does not guarantee property or contract rights, there are no obvious constitutional limitations on a provincial legislature’s ability to change any contract as it likes. Unlike the U.S. Constitution, in Canada there is no constitutional right to compensation for property expropriated by government.
Courts interpret ambiguous statutes as implicitly requiring compensation be paid to the owner of expropriated property. But if the statute is clear that no compensation shall be paid, the words of the statute govern. Where a statute and a contract are in conflict, the statute prevails. Although unilateral and retroactive changes to established contracts might seem to offend the rule of law, the Supreme Court of Canada has said that prospectivity is not a constitutional requirement for legislation.

What about NAFTA? Could a U.S. or Mexican firm with a cancelled green energy contract in Ontario seek compensation for discriminatory expropriation under Chapter 11? If government action singled out a specific party’s contract for termination, it could well be characterized as discriminatory. But if Hudak’s statute cancelled large numbers of contracts for a public policy objective and treated domestic and foreign firms similarly, then NAFTA protections are unlikely to apply.

So, done the right way, a new PC government could indeed rip up green energy contracts with no liability. …

Read the full story and comments here.

Bruce Pardy is Professor of Law at Queen’s University.

Editor’s note: This is one approach to the idea of whether the contracts can be cancelled; another is that they are simply not fulfilled. Under the Environmental Protection Act (section 47), it is clearly stated that the Director of the Ministry of the Environment has the power to choose NOT to approve a Renewable Energy project, and even to rescind an approval, if it is in the “public interest.”

Wind Concerns Ontario wrote to the Minister of Energy Mr Bob Chiarelli some months ago on this topic, citing legal precedents; we received an acknowledgement but have received no response to our questions on this issue

WCO: MPAC study a “self-serving” exercise

WIND CONCERNS ONTARIO

STATEMENT ON MPAC 2012 ASSESSMENT BASE YEAR STUDY: “IMPACT OF INDUSTRIAL WIND TURBINES ON RESIDENTIAL PROPERTY ASSESSMENT IN ONTARIO”

April 25, 2014

The Municipal Property Assessment Corporation or MPAC, the independent property assessment body which reports to the Ontario Ministry of Finance, released its long awaited report on the effect of industrial wind turbines on property assessment in Ontario in mid-April.

Anyone waiting for this report, which was more than a year late in coming, was disappointed: despite studies done by real estate appraisers in Ontario showing significant loss in value for properties near wind turbines, MPAC said it “cannot conclude any loss in price” due to proximity to a wind turbine.

Wind Concerns Ontario consulted with several individuals including real estate appraisers and finance professionals about the MPAC report.

“It’s just a self-serving, bureaucratic  exercise in mathematics done by MPAC for their government masters,” said Wind Concerns Ontario president Jane Wilson. “The study was done by assessors, not appraisers—this was not a real-world study using on-the-ground valuation techniques such as direct comparison to property sales.”

In fact, Wilson said WCO’s advisors point out that the MPAC study actually does show a property value loss of 25%. “They claim there is no value loss, but then they present a chart that shows there is, and the effect extends out as far as five kilometers,” Wilson said.

What they left out

What MPAC left out of the study is more interesting than what’s in it, says Wind Concerns Ontario.

Here’s a summary:

-MPAC studied areas near turbines 1.5 megawatts or larger in capacity—this excludes areas with older, less powerful but still large-scale turbines; these are areas where studies by independent real estate professionals have indicated significant property value loss.

-MPAC used only sales after 2008, which means for areas like Kincardine and Ripley, the damage was already done, and is reflected in the data they are using for comparison

-MPAC chose not to include properties that are now vacant, such as those that have been purchased by wind power developers as they have become uninhabitable

-MPAC left out the sales that would have been most informative, i.e., those that sold for significantly less than their assessed values and surely demanded some further investigation before being dismissed.

-MPAC as assessors study sales data only—there is no data on houses listed for sale that do not sell, or which are on the market for extended periods of time

U.S.-based real estate appraiser Mike McCann examined the study and concluded that the assessors went against their own professional standards for assessment methodology: “the IAAO (International Association of Assessing Officers) standards discourage regression analysis and instead recommend the use of paired sales methodology, with direct, detailed comparisons of individual sales data, near and far from the environmental disamenity in question,” he said. MPAC’s regression studies actually show a loss of property value, he explains, when the raw data is sorted by distance, yet the authors somehow concluded there was no impact on value.

The real meaning of MPAC’s report

Prior to the Green Energy Act being passed in 2009, countless municipalities asked the Ontario government for economic analysis of the impact of wind power projects on their communities. “They never got that,” says Jane Wilson. “And the Auditor General in his 2011 annual report said Ontario never did a cost-benefit analysis for the impact of wind power generation projects on Ontario’s economy—we never got that either.

“This government doesn’t want the public to know the true impact of its decision to rush into large-scale industrial wind power on Ontario’s small towns and rural communities—property value loss would be one metric of just how badly this decision has harmed our economy.”

Instead, Wilson says, “ MPAC obliged its government masters by coming up with this flawed and self-serving study that was designed to produce a specific result, which will doubtless now be used by the government and its wind power industry partner to put a ‘chill’ on requests for re-assessment, and on legal actions based on lost property value.”

CONTACT

Jane Wilson WCO.president@gmail.com

MPAC study available here.

MPAC sales chart showing loss of value: http://www.mpac.ca/pdf/AppendixD2.pdf

 

 

 

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MPAC releases property assessment report

More than a year past its scheduled release, the report from Ontario’s Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) on the effect wind turbines may have on property values has just been released.

You may see the report and its statistical appendices here: http://www.mpac.ca/property_owners/IndustrialWindTurbines.asp

We will be conducting an analysis of the report and will provide an opinion on the findings, soon.