No other private business, in particular any business that is as highly subsidized by government funds as this one is, has ever been offered this kind of a “break” before.
On Tuesday, June 2, I attended the NEMI council meeting to make my views known regarding the plan to offer substantially lowered building permit rates to Northland Power for the construction of their industrial wind turbine project. Whether or not one supports this project, I believe this decision (which council voted in favour of roceeding with) is one that has been made without consideration for the significant risks and costs that are now being assumed by all residents and ratepayers of this township.
If a business wants to obtain a building permit, the cost of the permit is normally based upon a percentage of the physical size of the industrial structure. A few months ago, Northland approached NEMI council with a request for the lion’s share of these fees to be eliminated in the case of their privately owned company. No other private business, in particular any business that is as highly subsidized by government funds as this one is, has ever been offered this kind of a “break” before. This deal was about to be quietly agreed upon when it was pointed out to council by a concerned citizen that, in order to change the fee structures, council is required to have a public meeting and listen to public input concerning this matter—hence my presentation to council on June 2.
At the meeting Northland appealed to the Green Energy Act as reason why council should give them these deeply discounted fees. In fact, as has also been confirmed by Doris Dumais, director of the Ministry of the Environment’s approvals branch, that building permit fees fall under the Municipal Affairs and Housing Act and, as such, council was and still is free to set whatever building permit fees they deem to be “reasonable.”
Council voted in favour of charging Northland a flat fee of $2,000 per turbine, resulting in a total collection of a mere $66,000 for the initial 33 turbines that are proposed in this first phase of construction in their multi-million-dollar for-profit project. This is supposed to cover all of the time, costs, and involvement of the town’s building inspector with this phase of the project’s construction. By comparison, as was noted in Northland’s presentation to
council, the city of Sudbury is charging $3,745 per turbine and the county of Norfolk is charging approximately $4,950 per turbine. Why is it then, that NEMI is only charging $2,000 per turbine?
Of that $2,000 per turbine, only $182 is allotted for as a contingency fee: extra funds in the event that there are unanticipated costs and demands associated with this project. That means about $6,000, in total, should anything go wrong. Any costs beyond that will be subsidized by municipal tax dollars. I do not agree with council’s decision to give differential and preferential treatment to Northland because this project has been referred to as green.
In the discussion that evening, it was identified that if there are any mishaps, accidents, or incidents during or following the construction of any one of these large wind turbines, each one being the height of a 40-storey building, and if, for example, there is a lawsuit launched against Northland, the township (that’s you and I as taxpayers) would also be named and included, and the deductible on the township’s liability insurance policy (for just one legal action, never mind any more) is $5,000. I doubt that Northland would be donating any additional funds from their profits to the town after the fact for legal resources that may be needed along the way. Do these fees seem reasonable to you?
The only way that I can make sense of this decision is to wonder about the behind-the-scenes agendas, discussions, deals, and agreements that will never be debated in the forum of a public meeting.
As citizens who live and work here, we are already being asked to bear huge economic, social, environmental, and health risks and consequences from this large-scale wind project. I do not think that it is wise or appropriate that those of us who pay taxes here are also putting ourselves at risk of exorbitant financial costs should there be any mishaps as the turbines are being attempted to be set up and activated upon this island composed of much soft rock and multiple natural gas and oil pockets.
No structures this high currently exist in NEMI: the plans for construction are in place; however, there are many unknowns and risks associated with this project happening in this unique geographical location. Welcome to the big experiment in which we are all now participants. If there are any adverse consequences to people from these structures, before or following their construction, we are all taking on some of that liability. I’m glad that at
least some parties have interest in documenting the consequences to the environment, which includes the health of the people, as this unfolds (i.e. Dr. Roy Jeffery’s research proposal for studying the health effects of wind turbines).
To learn more about the views of many concerned citizens in this area, visit www.mcsea.ca and www.WindConcernsOntario.org. At the meeting there was also mention of the recent report from Ontario’s medical officer of health regarding the health concerns associated with industrial wind turbines. For further information and analysis of this report visit www.WindVigilance.com.
I would invite members of the public to do their own research and come to their own conclusions so that informed decisions can be made. Speak to your municipal councillors or consider running in the October elections. Accessing wind-industry research alone is like going to tobacco companies for data on the health effects of smoking. I hope this one won’t take 30 years to dismantle. My hunch is it will go a lot faster than that.
Emily Weber, Honora Bay