MOOREFIELD – Mapleton residents are among those who have been approached about leasing their land for a potential wind turbine project in the area.
Bruce Rumph, who lives on Concession 6 near Moorefield, was one of two people who raised their hands when organizers of a Sept. 6 Concerned Citizens of Wallace and Mapleton (CCWM) information meeting asked if any township residents were approached this summer by a company attempting to secure options on behalf of international wind giant WPD.
“He was pretty pushy,” said Rumph of the representative of Elexco, a land service company hired to assemble leases for a wind project bid planned by European-based WPD.
CCWM organizer Lee Anne Andriessen of North Perth said the organization believes no residents of former Wallace township, which borders Mapleton to the west, have signed options to lease their land to WPD, although quite a few have been approached.
Rumph indicated he has no intention of signing the contract offered to him.
“I’ve already burned it,” he told the Advertiser.
Rumph said he had many concerns about the document presented to him for consideration.
“Every page is not for you. It’s all about them.”
Rumph’s interpretation matched information presented at the meeting by speaker Warren Howard, a retired banker and former North Perth councillor who is active with the lobby group Wind Concerns Ontario.
Howard cautioned landowners that signing the options being circulated by Elexco is an unbreakable commitment should WPD be successful in an upcoming round of the Large Renewable Procurement (LRP) process, the Independent Electricity System Operator’s (IESO) competitive process for large renewable energy projects in the province.
“It commits you to sign the lease as well. So you might as well sign the lease while you’re at it,” said Howard.
Signing the option, Howard said, also commits a landowner to sign “any further document needed to execute the agreement.
“Some landowners are actually being presented with new leases. So the WPD thing is about 20 pages. They’ve got a 200-page lease. Oh by the way, they’ve got a new lease here and you have to sign it,” he cautioned.
Howard said signing on with a turbine company can have an impact on a landowner’s control of the land and also affect their ability to use it as collateral.
It also gives the company “the absolute, unfettered right to assign the agreement,” he said, adding, “they can sell it to anyone they want and you don’t have a say.”
Howard warned that could become a problem at the time the lease concludes.
“Since you don’t know who’s going to own the project 20 years from now, that should raise some questions,” he stated.
“If the company’s not there, it’s the landowner that is ultimately responsible for all the structures on their property … You better make sure your protected on the decommissioning side.”
Howard also warned landowners about the potential for third-party legal action as a result of hosting a turbine operation.
“If you sign a lease, you’re impacting your neighbours: their health, the noise, the shadow flicker – all those things – their property value,” he said.
“There’s lots of threats of lawsuits flying around. None have come forward yet, but make sure you’ve got protection, if you sign the lease, against those damages … Once you sign, you can’t pull back.”
Between 35 and 40 people attended the meeting in the Maryborough Community Centre, far fewer than the 200 or so who were on hand for an Aug. 24 meeting in Listowel.
A show of hands indicated about five of those present were from Wallace, with almost all the rest coming from Mapleton.
Andriessen, who co-founded the organization with her husband Doug, said she was pleased with the turnout.
“If we impact 10 families, then that’s great.”
She said it was important to learn for certain that Mapleton residents have been approached WPD agents.
“We had been argued against that was happening and now we have confirmed it is happening in Mapleton, so we need to be very aggressive in supporting your area as well,” she told the gathering.
“It’s really important that we build a broad community base that represents both Wallace and Mapleton,” said Andriessen, citing the potential negative impact of a turbine project on both communities.
“It can cause huge rifts, huge challenges in the community with neighbours and even between families … if we stick together and we all decide that we are not going to sign leases we actually grow our community stronger.”
In an Aug. 29 interview, WPD Canada spokesman Kevin Surette confirmed Elexco is doing work for the company.
“It’s in the very early stages,” Surette said. “We’re prospecting basically … We’re just looking to areas … where we might be able to put a project.”
He said his company is looking at “a few” different locations in the province.
The LRP II qualification submission deadline for developers was Sept. 8.
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