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Wind-energy firm Trillium Power sues Ontario

A company that planned to build a series of huge wind farms in Lake Ontario is suing the provincial government for $2.25-billion, claiming it unfairly cancelled all offshore wind projects earlier this year.

Trillium Power Wind Corp. spent millions of dollars over many years planning its projects, and had dutifully followed the government’s application processes, the suit claims, but the rug was pulled from under its feet when the province said it would not consider any offshore development until more scientific studies were done.

Trillium’s statement of claim, filed Wednesday in Ontario Superior Court, also alleges that the decision was made for purely political reasons, to appease wind-power critics in the run-up to next week’s provincial election.

None of the allegations in the suit have been proven in court.

In an interview, Ontario Minister of Energy Brad Duguid dismissed the lawsuit as “ridiculous” and “frivolous” and said the amount of the claim is “laughable.” He noted that Trillium did not have contracts with the government for any of its projects, and said the province had an obligation to ensure offshore wind is safe before allowing any construction to go ahead.

The Liberal government stunned the renewable power industry in February when it cancelled all offshore projects, because Ontario’s much-touted Green Energy Act had encouraged new development in wind, solar and other clean technologies. At the time, the government said it had to take a cautious approach toward offshore wind until the environmental impacts were clear.

Trillium, led by Toronto entrepreneur John Kourtoff, was the most seriously damaged by the decision, because it had four offshore projects on the drawing board and one, near Kingston, in the advanced planning stages. Trillium was set to sign a $26-million financing agreement with Dundee Corp. on the day the plug was pulled.

In its suit, Trillium alleges that the province’s decision constituted “a confiscation of property rights, without warning or substantive justification.” As a result, Trillium had to “effectively cease its corporate operation and organization, to lay off staff and to cancel contracts with advisers,” the suit alleges.

While Trillium had spent about $5.3-million in planning for its first wind farm, the future loss of profits adds up to $2.25-billion, the filing says.

The suit alleges that there is all kinds of scientific evidence that wind projects far offshore – such as Trillium’s – are safe; even if more studies were needed, that would merely require a temporary moratorium, “rather than a wholesale confiscation and cancellation of all offshore wind sites in Ontario.”

The suit also alleges that the cancellation was made for political purposes, to address “the criticisms of potential voters in swing ridings who oppose near-shore wind power installations in the 2011 provincial election.”

The decisions were made in bad faith, to appease people in ridings near Lake Erie and Lake Huron, far from any of Trillium’s planned projects, the suit alleges. The province was well aware there were no water-quality issues relating to Trillium projects, so “the only science involved in the … decision was political science,” the suit says.

Mr. Kourtoff said in an interview that he is frustrated because offshore wind projects could have generated thousands of spinoff jobs in manufacturing in Ontario, but that will no longer be the case.