Council considers bond to protect landowners, municipality from abandoned wind turbines
Is it a tactic to stall or delay wind turbine development, or a way to protect landowners and ultimately the municipality? Those were the two ends of the debate last week by the committee of the whole, as they chewed over a proposal to compel wind factory developers to post a $200,000 letter of credit to cover the cost to remove and discard 40-storey turbines when they reach the end of their useful life or when the economics no longer add up for the owner of the factory.
Athol Councillor Jamie Forrester characterized the proposed bylaw as simply the latest manoeuvre of opponents to wind energy in Prince Edward County to slow down their arrival in the County.
“This is just one more way to try and stop wind turbines,” complained Forrester. “Just like bird sanctuaries and noise complaints.”
North Marysburgh Councillor Robert Quaiff sponsored the proposed bylaw noting that nothing in the Green Energy Act compels developers to take down their turbines and restore the land once their value has eroded, and that this liability could eventually flow through to the municipality.
Quaiff argued landowners must plan for the day the 420-foot towers come down. He noted that developers seeking to develop a quarry must post a letter of credit to ensure the land is restored once the resource is depleted.
Similarly subdivision developers are required to post bonds to ensure that, should they fail before service infrastructure is complete, there are funds to finish the job or return the land to its previous condition.
“It is only prudent we ask the same for these developers,” urged Quaiff. But Forrester sniffed the odour of obstructionism.
“Do we ask cell tower developers to post a bond?” asked Forrester.
Planning Commissioner Gerry Murphy said the County does not. It was left to others to note that even the tallest cell towers are less than half the height of most modern wind turbines.
Brian Marisett, councillor for Picton, came at the proposal from another flank.
“Where does the liability flow?” said Marisett. He suggested that even if property owners abandoned derelict turbines it wasn’t necessarily the case that the municipality would be compelled to step in.
“I would like a legal opinion. I don’t want to mislead landowners.”
CAO Merlin Dewing said Marisett had it the wrong way around.
“It is the developer who should tell us why our bylaw is inappropriate,” said Dewing.
Meanwhile, Myrna Wood of the Prince Edward County Field Naturalists objected to Forrester’s characterization that those concerned with the Important Bird Area in the County were trying to block wind energy development.
“The position of Prince Edward County Field Naturalists is the same as Bird Studies Canada,” said Wood. “Wind turbines (as other kinds of development) should be on lands that have already been taken away from nature by humans for our use. The amount of significant wildlife habitat remaining in southern Ontario is so small that the destruction of any of it puts in jeopardy the survival of many species.
“The Ontario government itself has said that undisturbed shorelines of the Great Lakes are too important for migrating birds, bats and monarchs for development. That is why we do not understand why Gilead Power, wpd and other wind corporations have been allowed to plan projects in our South Shore Important Bird Area or on Amherst Island and we assume that error will be remedied by the Ministry of Environment denying approval of these projects.”
The committee approved the proposed decommissioning bylaw. It goes to council for ratification on April 10.