Ontario lacked scientific evidence to approve wind projects safely: Ottawa Citizen
Further proof that Ontario’s Green Energy Act was not based on any real scientific evidence, or that its setbacks and other regulations were really created for public safety. Former Energy Minister George Smitherman’s testimony is revealing.
Reevely: Ontario’s wind-power decision makes it look like a ‘banana republic,’ ex-deputy premier tells tribunal
Ottawa Citizen, June 2, 2016
By David Reevely
George Smitherman, former Energy Minister: no one told him there was a problem with offshore wind farms. But no one had a problem with the lack of science for onshore wind power, either.
The Ontario government would not have bailed out on its plans to allow wind farms in the Great Lakes without agreement from the premier’s office, Dalton McGuinty’s former deputy testified at an international tribunal dealing with some of the fallout of that 2011 decision.
“Every time there’s a decision of significance it’s coming with an intervention from the centre,” George Smitherman testified. That could have meant the premier, it could have been meant his chief of staff or principal secretary. Maybe the premier’s office would have initiated it, maybe a minister would have. “(B)ut the central command and control would be a consistent element, no matter the pathway.”
That’s directly opposite to the way the Ontario government says it decided to abandon a big chunk of its green-energy plan.
Smitherman was the energy minister and deputy premier who pushed that plan through but was no longer in with government when the decision was made to call off the plan. The plan included ways to let private companies install hundreds of windmills several kilometres out in the province’s big lakes.
Since then, the government has commissioned zero research on the subject. Wilkinson lost his seat later in 2011 but the moratorium he imposed is still in place.
The government is being sued by one would-be wind-farm builder and has been taken to an international court by another, which claims it was specially harmed because it’s American — a no-no under the North American Free Trade Agreement. The two companies are demanding about $500 million each in compensation for their blown projects.
Both of them were very large wind farms that would have been built at the eastern end of Lake Ontario, off Kingston. Either would have generated as much power as a nuclear reactor.
Both companies allege the premier’s office had to be involved in the decision to cancel their projects, and numerous others elsewhere in the province, all in one February 2011 announcement, and the fact that it’s produced almost no documentation of that involvement shows deceit and impropriety. The Ontario Provincial Police are investigating it as a criminal matter.
The Permanent Court of Arbitration, based in The Hague, heard that NAFTA case between Windstream Energy and the Canadian authorities over two weeks in February and three arbitrators are working on a decision. The court posted transcripts of the sworn testimony on Wednesday.
In Smitherman’s testimony, he said that if Wilkinson decided personally to ball up a whole section of the province’s green-energy plan, that was like no other decision he saw in six-plus years in government. The environment minister would have had that authority but in real life ministers simply did not make calls that important on their own.
Smitherman was not involved in the decision to scrap Great Lakes wind projects, which came after he quit provincial politics to run for mayor of Toronto in 2010, he acknowledged.
“I wasn’t there at the time,” he testified, “but I can say that in every other decision of a similar circumstance or magnitude, the person that declares the consensus is the head of the government, that’s the premier or one or two of his most senior staff.”
Wilkinson testified that the decision to cancel all the lake wind projects was his alone.
“I did not discuss the issue of offshore wind development with the premier or seek his counsel before I made the deferral decision, and he did not attempt to influence my decision in any way,” Wilkinson testified.
The premier’s office was told and backed him up, Wilkinson said, and McGuinty’s chief of staff Chris Morley was involved in planning how to communicate the decision — including vetoing a draft of a press release from Wilkinson’s ministry — but Wilkinson wasn’t acting on any orders, he said.
(Neither McGuinty nor Morley testified in the case.)
Wilkinson reached the decision abruptly when his deputy minister couldn’t assure him the government had enough science on hand to be sure that dozens of foundations for windmills could be sunk into lake bottoms without swirling up toxic metals and fertilizer residue that could lead to dangerous algae blooms, he said.
Nobody ever brought that up while Smitherman worked for years on Ontario’s Green Energy and Green Economy Act, the ex-minister of energy said. Nobody objected that the province lacked the scientific expertise to approve wind projects safely. Everyone knew for years that the government was planning to pay high prices for all sorts of wind-based projects — through a thing called a feed-in-tariff — to boost Ontario’s renewable-energy industry.
“The rollout of the Green Energy and Green Economy Act was lengthy,” Smitherman testified. “At no time whatsoever did colleagues of mine, formally or informally, raise concerns with me with respect to the implementation of wind power as one of our chosen fuel sources for the feed-in-tariff.”
Read the full story here.