In an unfolding plot that is part “The Sopranos,” part “An Inconvenient Truth,” authorities swept across Sicily last month in the latest wave of sting operations revealing years of deep infiltration into the renewable energy sector by Italy’s rapidly modernizing crime families.
The still-emerging links of the mafia to the once-booming wind and solar sector here are raising fresh questions about the use of government subsidies to fuel a shift toward cleaner energies, with critics claiming huge state incentives created excessive profits for companies and a market bubble ripe for fraud. China-based Suntech, the world’s largest solar panel maker, last month said it would need to restate more than two years of financial results because of allegedly fake capital put up to finance new plants in Italy. The discoveries here also follow so-called “eco-corruption” cases in Spain, where a number of companies stand accused of illegally tapping state aid.
Sweetener doesn’t appear to work
Despite throwing out a sweetener – a promise of more than $8 million in local benefits for Snowy Ridge and Settlers Landing wind projects – Sprott Power got the same chilly reception from hundreds of people who attended the meeting.
The company has promised to form a community liaison committee prior to construction, to improve community relations and so locals can be informed.
They have also pledged to contribute $8 million toward local initiatives over the 20-year life of the the projects. They said there would also be property tax revenue for the City of Kawartha Lakes and local spinoffs from construction and operations.President and CEO Jeff Jenner said each project would pump $4 million into local coffers – 60% would be spent during the construction phase, buying local services; 20% would be spent on property taxes and 20% on community programs. Jenner estimated it would mean a couple of hundred thousand dollars a year.
Jenner said they are big supporters of all of the communities they are in For example, in Amherst, Nova Scotia, he said they support the hospital and YMCA.
He said here, they would like the community liaison committee involved in where money is spent.
Asked if he thought that would change anyone’s mind in Pontypool, Jenner said “I don’t think it will sway anyone here tonight.”
That was one thing he and Ward 16 Coun. Heather Stauble could agree on.
Stauble said they first heard about this offer at the Dec. 13 meeting. However, she said the company had been “a little vague” about details.
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With a general idea of the “where,” pinpointing the mysterious “what” that’s causing the Windsor hum might become a reality thanks to some local research expertise and funding from the federal government.
On Monday, Bob Dechert, parliamentary secretary to Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird, came to Windsor to announce the government’s plan to fund a $60,000 research project that will help figure out what is causing the strange l0w-frequency noise that has been plaguing the city’s west end since the spring of 2011.
“We want to protect citizens’ quality of life,” Dechert said. “This study is a step in the right direction.”