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St. Columban wind project gets year extension to build transmission lines

Faced with the need to build a 45-kilometre transmission connection, St. Columban Energy LP has asked for and received an extension from the Ministry of the Environment to submit an REA (Renewal Energy Approval) application for the 15-turbine project.

A letter from the MOE to Julia Ciccaglione, VP of Regulatory and Government Affairs for Veresen Inc. was in the council package for Huron East council at its Oct. 18 meeting.

Clerk-Administrator Brad Knight told councillors that the project will be delayed by the fact that Hydro One Networks Inc. will not be building the transmission connection required by the wind project in St. Columban.

“The transmission line will be their responsibility so that will delay their process,” he said.

The letter provides a Sept. 30, 2012 deadline for an REA application and points out that additional meetings and additional studies will need to be completed to fulfill provincial requirements.

Huron East Against Turbines (HEAT) member Rob Tetu, who was at council to report on the latest Inter-Municipal Wind Turbine Working Group, called the letter, “excellent news from our point of view.”

“If they have to build 45 kilometres of transmission line, it’s going to be pretty darned expensive to build 15 windmills,” commented McKillop Coun. Bill Siemon.

Knight said the municipality has been spending time going through the documentation and making notes about what to query St. Columban Energy about the proposed wind project in the municipality’s interests.

“From our perspective, this takes the urgency off things,” he said.

Knight said he had been working on setting up a meeting between the municipality, St. Columban Energy and HEAT but hadn’t made any progress during the provincial election.

“There is still the offer to do that,” he said.

Julia Ciccaglione, of Veresen, said in a phone interview from Calgary, Alberta that St. Columban wind project continues to be in development despite the news that Hydro One will not be installing the 45-kilometre transmission connection, which will travel through Huron East, Howick and Morris-Turnberry.

She said the need to build the transmission connection is not an unexpected cost even though St. Columban Energy LP was working under the assumption that Hydro One would build it.

“It is a change but as far as cost impacts go, there is little or no change. We can do it a bit more efficiently,” she said. “The cost of the transmission line was always going to be borne by St. Columban Energy – it was just a matter of who would undertake the development and construction.”

Ciccaglione said she is anticipating that St. Columban Energy LP will have to do more environmental impact studies regarding the transmission line, which will add to the REA process.

While the Ministry of Environment has stipulated that additional meetings and studies will be required, Ciccaglione said she’s not yet certain about the specific details of how many additional meetings and studies are necessary.

“We need to seek guidance from the MOE in that regard,” she said.

Ciccaglione said St. Columban Energy LP had been planning a second public meeting with another open house in the near future, a date has still not been set and she added that the company will also have to consult with the municipalities in Huron East, Howick and Morris-Turnberry where the transmission line will travel.

In a phone interview after the meeting, Tetu said HEAT has been given some “room to breathe” with the year-long extension to the St. Columban wind project.

“We were very concerned that they would call their second meeting and apply for a permit to proceed right after the provincial election. Now that the project area encompasses lines running to Wingham and environmental studies have to be done, we’re hoping the project is back to square one again,” he said.

Tetu said that a minority provincial government, along with two current lawsuits against wind companies in Southwestern Ontario, is giving the anti-wind movement more hope. He said he’s hoping the government will end up restructuring the Green Energy Act to return power over wind turbine sitting back to the local municipalities.

HEAT has been sending letters to the Ministry of the Environment and to Huron-Bruce’s MPP Carol Mitchell asking that the first public meeting the St. Columban wind project held in May be held again because of recent changes to the project that require the building of a new substation.

As well, Tetu said HEAT is asking Huron East to consider following suit with the municipality of Grey Highlands which has refused to sell a wind company the right to use its municipal road allowances for transmission lines during the past few months.