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Plympton-Wyoming mayor calls for wind companies to pay more

The mayor of Plympton-Wyoming wants Ontario’s new government to change the rules so wind turbine owners pay higher property taxes.

Mayor Lonny Napper recently received the backing of town council to ask the province to review how property assessments are set for the 20 wind turbines operating in Plympton-Wyoming.

“The taxation on turbines is very unfair,” Napper said.

“Whether you oppose them or like them, that’s not the issue. The issue is fair taxation.”

Plympton-Wyoming received a total of just over $34,000 in property taxes in 2018 from the 20 turbines in the municipality. They are part of the 46-turbine Cedar Point Wind Energy project owned by Florida-based NextEra Energy and Fiera Infrastructure Inc.

Napper said he believes the property assessment value assigned to wind turbines in Ontario is too low compared to other property.

Paula Chung, with the province’s Municipal Property Assessment Corporation, said wind turbines are assessed using a rate Ontario’s Ministry of Finance set at $50,460. That figure is then multiplied by the installed electricity generating capacity of each turbine.

Napper said the assessed value of wind turbines is out of whack when compared to other industrial properties, such as natural gas and oil pipelines, or agricultural grain elevators.

“Most of that money is going out of the country, and I just think it would be a win-win situation for every municipality to have those tax dollars,” Napper said.

He added that is particularly true in rural communities, where Ontario’s wind turbines have been built.

Napper said that now that Ontario has “scrapped” the Green Energy Act, “I’m hoping there’s an avenue there were they’d scrap this taxation and put it on fair playing field.”

The amount of municipal property taxes wind turbine companies currently pay is “peanuts,” Napper said.

“We’ve got houses that are paying more than they are.”

Napper said he plans to talk about the issue with Sarnia-Lambton MPP Bob Bailey and Monte McNaughton, who is Ontario’s infrastructure minister as well as MPP in neighbouring Lambton-Kent-Middlesex.

Bailey said he’s prepared to take Napper’s concerns to the finance minister but added that he doesn’t want any change leading to higher electricity bills for residents.

“We’re working to get the rates down,” Bailey said.

“But, I’m willing to take a look at it.”

Brandy Giannetta, an Ontario director with the Canadian Wind Energy Association, said in an e-mail the group representing the wind industry believes Ontario’s current approach is a “fair and appropriate process.”

She said the assessment for turbines was increased in 2014 and will be updated as part of the province’s system for re-assessing property.

Giannetta said that along with the assessment on turbines, operators are typically billed at the industrial property tax rate for approximately an acre of land per turbine.

“It’s not appropriate for a municipality to single out wind energy projects in an effort to garner additional revenues,” she wrote.

“Any increase in the assessments of property must be accompanied by consultation and a strong rationale that does not impose unjustified hardship on wind energy operators that continue to provide long-term economic benefits to the municipalities in which they operate.”