Wind farm liens evidence of serious liability for property owners
A story out of Illinois recently revealed that when furniture giant IKEA (which is engaged in a PR campaign to offset its “carbon footprint” by investing in wind power) and an associated wind power developer failed to pay one of their suppliers, liens were placed on title of the land owned by the farm owners/property owners who had leased their land for the wind power project.
When Wind Concerns Ontario published this story, we received news that this is happening in Ontario, too. In fact, documents were filed in court last year to place liens on property owned by 24 people on Manitoulin Island; the property owners had leased land or received payments for transmission lines on their properties. The sub-contractor, R.M. Belanger, had not been paid $2.03 million owing to the company by another sub-contractor, which was hired by the wind developer for the McLean’s Mountain project, Northland Power.
Northland Power has been approved by the Independent Electricity Systems Operator/IESO as a Qualified Applicant for new renewable power contracts to be let during 2015.
The liability for the $2+ million debt for the Manitoulin Island project is now shared by the 24 property owners, which works out to more than $83,000 liability per owner.
Toronto-based environmental lawyer Eric Gillespie, who has represented community groups fighting wind power projects and private land owners seeking to get out of wind power options and contracts, commented to WCO on the Manitoulin Island situation: “One of the major problems for landowners is the detail and complexity of agreements. Often, people don’t know what they are really getting into. What seems to be happening in Manitoulin right now highlights the fact that what seemed like a ‘good deal’ at the time, can potentially end up being a very bad deal.”
“This is yet another example of how wind power as it is being implemented in Ontario is having a negative impact on farming communities,” said Jane Wilson, president, Wind Concerns Ontario. “All the benefits go to a few corporate wind developers, while the property owners, their neighbours, and Ontario’s rural and small-town communities have to live with side effects.”
Ontario is launching a new Request for Proposal process for renewable power projects on March 2. Emphasis will be on new development in Eastern and Northern Ontario.
“We hope that property owners make sure they know the full range of potential results from signing any type of agreement, including liability for legal actions from developer sub-contractors, and for property value loss and health problems experienced by others in their communities,” Wilson said.
Thanks to Wind Concerns Ontario community group member Manitoulin Coalition for Safe Energy Alternatives (MCSEA) for linking us to the court documents, which may be found here: ManitoulinLienCourtDocs