August 14, 2013

Premier called on to intervene in Melancthon wind war

By Chris Halliday | Orangeville Banner | August 14, 2013 |

Melancthon Mayor Bill Hill is urging Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne to step up and address what he labels the “seriously flawed” powers of the Green Energy Act (GEA).

It’s no secret Melancthon council and Dufferin Wind Power Inc., which received approval to operate a 99 MW wind farm in the township and construct a 230 kV transmission line to Amaranth, have a less than amicable relationship.

With Dufferin Wind filing for expropriation, taking the township to court over the storage of wind turbines, and recently applying to have the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) institute a road use agreement, the township has reached a breaking point, Hill said.

“People are incensed by the bullying tactics employed by Dufferin Wind Power Inc.,” Hill wrote in his letter sent to Wynne on Tuesday (Aug. 13).

“The reason they can act that way is because of the flawed Green Energy Act that allows them to steam roll over municipalities and individuals.”

At nearly every turn, Hill contends the Chinese-owned wind power developer has brought the GEA hammer down to get whatever it wants. The mayor is now urging the premier to “intervene” into the situation.

“It does appear your government has chosen to favour foreign owned wind farm developers, over the interest and livelihood of Ontario farmers,” Hill said. “It is imperative that further charges are made.”

Both Wynne and Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli wrote Hill back on Wednesday. In Wynne’s response, the premier assured Hill she had taken note of his concerns, and asked Chiarelli to respond on behalf of the province.

Since Dufferin Wind’s Renewable Energy Approval (REA) issued on June has been appealed to Ontario’s Environmental Tribunal (ERT), Chiarelli declined to comment on the specifics in Hill’s letter.

“This matter is currently being reviewed by the ERT,” Chiarelli wrote to Hill. “It would be inappropriate to comment on the specific issues raised.”

When asked to comment on the situation, Connie Roberts, spokesperson for Dufferin Wind, argued the company has negotiated in good faith and dealt fairly with Melancthon Township.

“DWPI has followed the rules,” she said in an email. “In some instances, these rules have meant the Township of Melancthon has had to make concessions, as has Dufferin Wind.”

While Dufferin Wind is disappointed by Hill’s “continued negative rhetoric,” Roberts noted the mayor is allowed to express his opinion to the province.

“The (GEA) is a very comprehensive and exacting piece of legislation,” she added. “Time will show the residents of this community that Dufferin Wind Power is a good corporate citizen.”

Wind turbines are more than a regular sight in Melancthon. When Dufferin Wind’s project gets up and running, there will be about one for every 15 residents in the township.

Hill noted the township’s numerous demands for a moratorium on wind farms until independent health studies are completed have been ignored.

So has council’s wish that a capping formula to allow municipalities to calculate or determine how many wind turbines are acceptable within their borders be approved. Given recent history, Hill has little confidence in the province.

“I don’t think she’ll do a damn thing frankly, but at least we’re on record,” Hill told The Banner. “All you have to do is look at what they’ve done and look at what they haven’t done.”

A few months ago, Chiarelli did announce the province planned to tune up its green energy rules, and pledged to give municipalities more of a say in the process. Municipalities won’t gain veto power though, a right many covet most.

However, pending changes to the province’s green energy rules don’t apply to existing applications. Dufferin Wind will remain subject to the current rules.

“The government has been clear,” Chiarelli wrote to Hill. “We will continue to honour existing contracts.”

During an interview with The Banner in June, Wynne conceded there were flaws in the province’s green energy rules. She said then that province was doing everything to ensure a better process was put in place going forward.

“We didn’t do a good enough job putting a good process in place,” Wynne said on June 13. “I know that people would like to roll back the clock. I don’t have the power to do that.”

Hill wasn’t buying what Wynne was selling then or now. He said he doesn’t see the situation improving anytime soon.

“The only end of it that I see is getting rid of the Liberal government. They obviously don’t want to change their GEA,” Hill said. “They gave it lip service. They tweaked it. They didn’t put any teeth behind anything.”

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