A standing-room-only crowd that filled the Milford Town Hall Tuesday night heard no stone will be left unturned in effort to stop industrial turbines from affecting South Marysburgh.
Delays in paperwork, approvals, permits and threats of legal action loom as the municipality, its legal team and citizen groups seek ways to navigate the Ontario government’s rigid Green Energy Act.
About 150 people were in attendance at the meeting, set up quickly by the township’s councillor Steve Ferguson.
“We’re at an interesting juncture,” said Ferguson. “wpd has threatened intrusion beginning next Sunday and Kathleen Wynne’s government agreement allows that intrusion. The Green Energy Act violates the principles upon which Prince Edward County was founded… To have this corporation come in and say ‘we’re going to stake 500-foot towers around the village of Milford’ is just unacceptable to me. But the Liberals have informed us, and every other municipality, that we have no rights, saying the Green Energy Act is going to prevail and we will put turbines wherever we want… re-arrange the paperwork after the Environmental Review Tribunal removed 20 turbines, reducing the project to nine. They keep moving the goalposts.
“Prince Edward County – the poster child of tourism, is being violated by nine turbines that will not do much more than power a toaster,” said Ferguson.
Prince Edward Hastings MPP Todd Smith agreed the project is providing energy the province does not need and is being pushed through by the Ontario government.
“I know we were all very hopeful after the Gilead decision came back that it was going to be lights out for the wpd project as well. (REA for nine turbines on the south shore was revoked after six-year legal battle with the Prince Edward County Field Naturalists),” said Smith.
As the Energy Critic for the Official Opposition at Queen’s Park, Smith said it’s uncanny how many projects have been going ahead from those who made financial contributions to the Liberal government.
“We do have a caged animal on our hands here with wpd. I commend County Council for standing up to corporate bullies… The amount of energy and money that this community has contributed to this fight is impressive and we’ve had wins along the way, a few losses, but where we are right now is the most precarious precipice that we’ve been on in the last few years. Keep up the fight.”
Prince Edward County Mayor Robert Quaiff explained the County’s continued conversations with the IESO (Independent Electricity System Operator) and others.
“The REA needs two amendments – the first because the transmission line was shortened and came from underneath to on top, on poles, and the next is going from 69kvs to 49kvs, that also needs an amendment,” he said. “We asked about the start of construction and there is no amendment needed. They can just go ahead. Just another area, in my opinion, where the Green Energy Act is flawed.”
He also noted substantive changes to the Road Users Agreement (RUA) which includes entrance permits, building permits, overloads and large equipment that were also not addressed.
“I’ve had more conversations with the IESO today and I’m waiting for information from them. I also spoke to minister Thibeault’s office (new Minister of Energy) who will also provide information tomorrow. I will share that information. Famous ballplayer Yogi Berra said ‘It ain’t over ’til it’s over’ and although it looks like doom and gloom right now with these nine turbines, we are keeping that thought of Yogi’s in mind. We’ll keep fighting the fight.”
Nine turbines on private properties of six landowners have been allowed by the Environmental Review Tribunal.
For the County, as an official “unwilling host” and many citizens surrounding the affected areas, and beyond, that’s still nine too many and the changes in the downsizing of the project have unearthed further difficulties.
The County’s was notified on July 31 by wpd Canada that it plans to get its nine turbine project under way as soon as Sunday, Sept. 10. A further letter dated Aug. 23 stated wpd would engage legal action should the County refuse to issue permits by Sept. 7.
Council, at a special meeting called by Mayor Robert Quaiff Aug. 31, unanimously agreed to inform staff not to issue any approvals or permits until wpd fulfills requirements of the Road Users Agreement (RUA) and provisions of the Renewable Energy Approval (REA) related to the County’s roads.
The County, however, has limited authority, said Dave DeMille partner in the Templeman Menninga law firm, retained by the County. Its ability to stop any work related to the turbines, is limited to impact on the County’s roads.
“The authority given the County in the Green Energy Act is for roads, use of roads and even then it is given begrudgingly,” said DeMille. “Ordinarily the municipality can control development through official plans, bylaws and site plan controls for what development and where development happens and the details that go along with that but under this particular act, the government has decided that municipalities will not have that authority. It has been taken away.”
He explained the road use agreement protects the County’s interests vis-a-vis the roads – regulate what construction is done and when on the roads and exits, along with indemnity provisions if someone is hurt and a letter of credit (money) in case the company disappears.
“That is the extent of the municipality’s authority with respect to this project,” said DeMille. “They have to observe the contents of the agreement that affect the County’s roads. For example, distribution lines that were underground and are now on poles have not been approved by the REA so the County, in my opinion, has an argument that this affects their roads and they cannot do it until they have approval under the REA.”
Garth Manning, of Hillier, commended council on its resolution to withhold permits, and suggested seeking a second opinion from an independent litigator to declare the road use agreement ‘frustrated’ under the Ontario Frustrated Contracts Act.
“Would you not prefer the courts to decide rather than the suspect Queen’s Park bureaucracy where the fix is already definately in?,” asked Manning.”
DeMille explained the act is based on performance obligations and wpd is prepared to perform.
Angela Miller lives on Maypul Road and worried that no contact has been made by wpd regarding the tearing up of the road that may affect water for their 140-herd cattle, milk delivery and the issue of ‘stray voltage’.
Some citizens suggesting banding together for protests. OPP constable Nicole Lott explained ways the police can assist with lawful demonstrations and protests.
“We do a lot of mediation in support of lawful demonstrations. We don’t take an opinion one side or the other. Our main focus is public safety.”
Several people suggested the importance of gaining national media attention. Celebrity support was presented as an option as was starting a new religion, or perception of a new religion, where the turbine is the greatest of unholy symbols. Use of social media was encouraged.
Bob McMurtry, professor emeritus at Western University, suggested council research bylaws related to ‘vibroacoustic disease’ regarding the body’s response to excessive exposure to low-frequency noise.
Steve Ferguson thanked the crowd for attending and participating.
“I know there are still questions and we are trying to get answers. There is no shortage of effort going into dealing with this project and this company… Rest assured all at this table, APPEC, Garth and Dr. McMurtry and so many others will look under every stone.”
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