Horizon Wind says it filed a $126-million lawsuit against the City of Thunder Bay in Toronto’s Superior Court of Justice on Tuesday, but the city has yet to receive notification.
In a release, Horizon claimed the city breached an option agreement and the company was suing for “damages” and “other relief.”
Horizon wouldn’t comment on the lawsuit or provide The Chronicle-Journal with the statement of claim.
City manager Tim Commisso told The Chronicle-Journal that he couldn’t comment until a statement of claim is received.
“The reality of it is it hasn’t been formally served at this point, but we expect that will happen,” Commisso said.
It is thought that the action might be related to a decision made Monday by council on the proposed wind farm.
But councillors were within their rights to move four turbines away from the Nor’Wester Mountains escarpment, Commisso said Tuesday.
The city’s lawyers will review the statement of claim if and when it arrives, and then “respond accordingly,” he said.
City staff held a meeting Tuesday afternoon after hearing about the lawsuit through a Horizon news release.
“Council made a decision that moved the project forward . . . there are provisions in the lease to allow for other resolutions,” Commisso said.
On Monday, councillors approved 14 of the 18 turbines, notifying Horizon that the four turbines closest to the escarpment must be moved back.
Commisso said councillors and city administration were doing their due diligence by approving 14 of the 18 proposed turbines.
Nor’Wester Escarpment Protection Committee member Karl Piirik said he was surprised Horizon wasn’t suing the city for more money.
“Oh, wow, that’s all?” he said on Tuesday.
“I thought they were actually saying $800 million before, (but) that was all rumours and speculation.”
He said he believes councillors were within their rights to choose alternate locations for the turbines.
“I think councillors were reasonable for everything (they did on Monday). They gave Horizon approval for 14 sites and expressed a commonly known understanding that there are issues with the remaining four sites,” he said.
Monday’s meeting, the final council session before next Monday’s election, could be called melodramatic.
After a more than two-hour in-camera meeting that started at 11:45 p.m. Monday, councillors voted 6-6 on the location of the wind turbines on the escarpment.
“The vote is lost,” said Mayor Lynn Peterson, to the delight of the Nor’Wester Escarpment Protection Committee members in the gallery, who cheered and applauded.
Coun. Brian McKinnon, who voted for the project last week but voted against ratifying it on Monday, passed an alternate resolution to the city clerk.
It proposed moving the four wind turbines closest to the escarpment, so that they are no closer than the remaining 14 turbines.
That resolution passed 8-4, with councillors Frank Pullia, Aldo Ruberto, Linda Rydholm and Joe Virdiramo voting against, shortly before 2:30 a.m.
Unlike Piirik, Nor’Wester Mountain Protection Committee co-chairman Mike Payne said he was disappointed with the decision.
“Moving four turbines back just doesn’t do it. Everybody in this city is going to see all 18 turbines whether they move those four back 200 metres or not,” he said.
Before the in-camera meeting, Rydholm said there are issues that should be considered before councillors agreed to the Big Thunder Wind Park lease.
“I am still opposed to signing a lease. I don’t see how this would be good for the corporation or the citizens of Thunder Bay . . . until council knows all the negotiations with the developer have been completed and guarantees are in place.
“There should be time to review a lease prior to signing it,” she said.
Pullia said the city should make sure Horizon is responsible for decommissioning the turbines. He said the company should put $100,000 per turbine toward the decommissioning.
“I suspect once the subsidies diminish you’ll see the developer walking away. Proper risk management requires that we can see past the curve and take remedial action in advance,” said Pullia.
“The developer should assume the costs. As a minimum they should put the money up front as a bond to satisfy the requirements so we don’t have the same problem we had with grain elevators on the waterfront,” he said.
Coun. Robert Tuchenhagen suggested the city indemnify Loch Lomond Ski Hill over possible lawsuits in the future regarding the wind turbines.
“This would be a reasonable attempt to minimize collateral damage that may be caused by the windmills,” Tuchenhagen said.
After the lengthy in-camera session, council rejected the move.
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