There’s always a catch

Posted: April 1, 2016 at 8:52 am   /   by   /   comments (5)

“Catch-22 says they have a right to do anything we can’t stop them from doing,” wailed the old woman.

“What the hell are you talking about?” Yossarian shouted in bewilderment.

Joseph Heller set Catch-22 on a dusty Mediterranean island during World War II, presenting both a tragic and funny window into the bureaucratic absurdity of war. It describes equally well, I think, the madness of the Green Energy Act (GEA) in Ontario in 2016.

Consider this. A developer wants to build a large industrial installation in a pastoral rural area. It knows before it is built how much profit it will generate. It has a contract from the province of Ontario to sell every kilowatt of power it generates—whether it is needed or not. (It’s not.) Whether or not the province will have to dispose of these excess kilowatts at its cost. (It will.)

The developer is set. It has no competitors. No market risk. All it needs to do is get its turbines up, plug them in and generate money. Lots of it. With the single-minded determination of a lamprey, it seeks only to latch onto the province and gorge itself for the next 20 years.

But it has to get those turbines up.

The developer easily slips through a largely self-serve regulatory process and is awarded a renewable energy approval permit at the end. But there is an appeal. Long days of hearings, witnesses, experts and rulings. Unexpectedly, a pair of adjudicators conclude the project poses a serious and irreversible threat to endangered and vulnerable species.

A showstopper? Not quite. Fairness, in the context of this dystopian landscape, dictates that the developer has the right to propose remedies to address the threat to the little brown bat and the Blanding’s turtle that its project will create.

It is up to the developer to figure out how its project will kill fewer bats and turtles. The wolf has been sent to find out what is killing all the lambs, and to develop a plan to stop it.

Moving past the sheer absurdity of the proposistion, this process will take months. More hearings. More experts. And finally, a ruling.

In the meantime, the developer is free to clear the project site, haul in the heavy equipment, erect turbines and run connection lines from Milford to Elmbrook. The turbines may, in fact, be cranking out profits by the time the developer’s remedies are heard.

Then what? If the proposed measures prove inadequate to reduce the threat to the species at risk—does the developer take the turbines down? Does anyone believe that is going to happen? The turbines on Wolfe Island kill far more birds and bats than the developer predicted before that project was built—yet the turbines keep spinning.

The Green Energy Act made the regulatory screening process virtually impenetrable by the general public and those residents most likely to be impacted (the creatures, sadly, never stood a chance.) When the GEA was enacted, we were told not to worry, the public would get their say. The Environmental Review Tribunal would hear any and all concerns. If it found these projects posed serious risk to either humans or nature (but neither property nor livelihood) it had the power to stop them. It turns out even that narrow protection was a lie.

There may be no stopping them.

This week, council will consider an agreement enabling the developer to use County roads—to haul equipment, turbine parts and to run connection lines. It isn’t an agreement in the way most of us would use this word. Mostly, the developer has dictated the terms and the County has agreed. Or ceded authority to the province.

The County said it wanted connection lines rerouted away from Maypul Layn—a pretty treelined road in South Marysburgh. The County suggested a right-of-way as an alternate route. The developer didn’t want to do that. So the County agreed not to ask for it.

It is that kind of agreement.

The County said it wanted $450,000 per year plus 4-per-cent profit sharing. The developer countered with $189,000 per year and no profit sharing. So the County agreed.

It is that kind of agreement.

When that deal was criticized as ‘blood money’ and after the Tribunal gave it the go-ahead to construct the project, the developer withdrew its offer. It has left the door open for some money to go to the County—but it will set the terms and the amount.

It is that kind of agreement.

County staff and its solicitors will argue this week that the agreement gives the municipality a measure of control over how the developer uses its roads and rights of way. It doesn’t. They will contend they have outwitted the developer and put it in a box by which they can control its action on their roads. They haven’t. They will argue that a few hundred thousand dollars of security will ensure the developer follows the rules spelled out in the agreement. It will—right up until the developer decides it is no longer in its financial interest to do so. It will always do the thing most profitable for the developer.

Any agreement, however, will come as little comfort to those County residents who have invested their time, energy and savings into the fight to protect the natural environment, endangered species, their homes, their businesses, our shared history and the idea of Prince Edward County.

In the end, it is about the money. Everything about the Green Energy Act is in place to push industrial wind and solar projects into communities, homes and countrysides, where they aren’t wanted. It has been developed with the express purpose of overwhelming public objection.

The developer is armed with truckloads of financial incentive to combat every resident, every nature and conservancy group, and every small-town mayor or council that gets in its way. It has every reason and authority to use the bounty headed its way to silence its opponents.

We can agree—or get out of the way.

It is that kind of agreement.

They have a right to do anything we can’t stop them from doing.


Comments (5)

  • April 17, 2016 at 8:44 am Melodie Burkett


    You know damned well that a landowner can not do whatever he wishes on his land if it will junk up or devalue or disturb other landowners. Note: You can not have a scrap yard, a race track, a dump site, a circus etc.

    The money made from the wind company and ratepayers is the only reason someone would want to prostitute their land. And that my friend hurts everyone. Many farms that sold out their neighbours are not living on their farm but rather are absentee land owners and some have retired and living in Florida all winter leaving their neigbours to live with the industrial 3 ring circus now surrounding their land. Call it what you want but admit the “Greedy” part of the equation.
    Have you checked out what is happening in Germany lately? They are stopping subsidies! They want the turbines gone when they break down or become abandoned. Their people are suffering with the high cost of electric power caused by the wind turbines. They have not reduced emissions at all because the intermittent turbines require coal plants to remain on , hot at the ready for when the wind does not blow. Nce eh? The UK has also had a rethink of this madness and want to end subsidies. Denmark is in trouble too. Who can afford to fix or service Off Shore wind turbines? No one. It is over. The parasitic wind industry will collapse. It will take a generation to get rid of all the abandoned rusted out hulks that have scarred historical tourist sites all over the UK and Europe. The Trillions invested in wind power will take generations to pay off. I am old now so I will be dead and not have to pay for this foolishness but your children and grand children will be in this debt their whole lives. The worst is that all that money could have built hospitals and schools or paid university tuition. All those manufacturing jobs would not have been lost when companies left town or the province or country due to the totally unnecessary high cost of power. The success and prosperity of the whole free world was built on the availability of cheap power. Ontario has a n abundance of water for hydro power, an abundance of gas for gas power and has a surplus of power which is why we have to dump or spill water at Niagara to take on expensive wind power, or steam off Gas plants to take on wind and sell our surplus to the US for pennies on the dollar that WE PAID FOR! A friend in Florida with a 3 bedroom house told me her electricity bill was going up. She said that last month it climbed to $69.00 !!! Compare that to the bill we pay here folks. Oh an by the way. With all the trillions spent on wind power world wide the contribution from wind to the grid is less than NET ZERO PERCENT. BUT as you know, some landowners made money, the wind companies made money and local governments got contributions. The rest of taxpayers and ratepayers got hosed. My advice to young people now is ” Get out of Ontario while you are still young enough to build a better life”

  • April 13, 2016 at 9:07 am Ryan

    what about the owner’s of the land the turbines are being erected on? Do these people no have a right to do what they wish (within the law, of course) with their own land? The argument that the developer is “pushing” these turbines on unwilling hosts has no merit. It is, in fact, the resistance groups that are trying to push their own beliefs and desires on WILLING landowners.

  • April 7, 2016 at 10:30 am Mario

    I Love this – honest, direct and yes we all know its that kind of agreement. As a new business land owner in the WPD affected area our small business currently rents our land at a modest profit to a local farmer. Our business plans to further develop our land uses will consider only uses that enhance and build on current community supported and accepted land uses. For us blending into the community is more important than making more money from our county land investment.

    As a fellow business owner operating in the county I’m very disappointed in the owner of WPD. By his actions he continues to push around our community in a very divisive way. He “buys” local “volunteer run” community radio time to promote only his views. He has profits from off shore turbine farms to hire the best lawyers and the best matter experts to overcome any and all community objections. He is in my opinion acting like a wolf in our community hen house and our Ontario elected farmer is asleep leaving us helpless to defend our shared community values.

  • April 6, 2016 at 12:23 pm lynda

    Excellent piece of writing. The story of green energy in a nutshell. Well done! Unfortunately true Canadians (in general) are not good protestors. We’re too nice for our own good, too politically correct, truly inofensive and mindful of our fellow man oops I meant to say man and woman of course. Too bad the politicians don’t feel a need to act like true Canadians, they’re more like a goon squad telling us what’s good for us without any discourse or consultation. No, our protests go unheard. We need to look to the US to learn how to really protest. Heck perhaps we could hire some of them. After all, they are the best in the business and they get results.

  • April 4, 2016 at 11:48 am Marc

    Same as North Korea

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