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Financial incentives OK: wind energy boss

DENBIGH – Offering financial incentive to a township council in exchange for support is a legal and accepted practice, according to the head of one of the companies working to build a large wind energy project in Lennox and Addington County.

Ben Greenhouse, executive director of NextEra Energy Canada, in a letter to the Bon Echo Area Residents Against Turbines (BEARAT), wrote the community vibrancy fund agreement with Addington Highlands Township complies with Canadian and United States law.

The letter was a response to BEARAT filing a complaint last month with the United States Department of Justice against NextEra’s American parent company.

In his letter, Greenhouse wrote that BEARAT and its public relations consultant, John Laforet, have “continuously shown a pattern of ignoring several important facts.”

The complaint alleged that Florida-based NextEra Energy and Colorado-based Renewable Energy Systems Americas, the two companies proposing wind enery projects in Lennox and Addington County, violated the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act when their Canadian subsidiaries offered financial compensation in exchange for resolutions of municipal support.

“This, and all other similar agreements we have entered into with other municipalities, have been thoroughly reviewed and approved by each municipality’s respective legal counsel as well as ours. In short, these are perfectly legal documents that are compliant with U.S. and Canadian laws,” Greenhouse wrote.

Greenhouse also rejected BEARAT’s claims the company violated the rules set out by the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) that govern communications and negotiation between companies and municipalities, and that community vibrancy fund agreements have never been used in Ontario before.

“Neither statement could be further from the truth,” Greenhouse wrote. “The IESO encourages proponents to meet and discuss proposed projects with local municipalities. In fact, the IESO prioritized projects that had entered into agreements with municipalities. Mr. Laforet’s assertion that these agreements are ‘not legal’ in Ontario is simply not accurate.”

Greenhouse wrote that the company has not received a copy of the justice department complaint or the IESO complaint.

“We are confident that our actions are entirely within the bounds of law and the rules of the IESO’s procurement and will stand up to any scrutiny. To imply otherwise is disingenuous,” he wrote.

NextEra and RES-Canada are among more than 40 companies approved to bid for the renewable energy contracts from the Ontario government.

RES-Canada is proposing to build 170-megawatt Denbigh Wind LP and NextEra is proposing its 200-megawatt Northpoint II project in Addington Highlands Township.

According to the minutes of the June 15 township council meeting, Stephen Cookson of RES-Canada told councillors the company would provide $25,000 in bursaries, $30,000 a year during development and an ongoing community benefit fund of $2,000 per megawatt in the project.

In a June 5 presentation to council, a delegation from NextEra Energy Canada told councillors the company would offer annually $1,750 per megawatt produced.

Both companies asked for a resolution of support from council, which would strengthen their applications to the Independent electricity System operator.

Addington Highlands Township council voted 3-2 in favour of supporting both projects on July 20.