Grey Highlands appeals energy ruling

by Don Crosby, Owen Sound Sun Times

Grey Highlands is appealing a ruling by the Ontario Energy Board to allow wind energy developer International Power Canada to use municipal road allowances for distribution lines from its Plateau Wind Project in the Maxwell Feversham area.

“We are pleased that the mayor and council are requesting a review of the Ontario Energy Board decision,” said Virginia Steward Love, a spokesperson for Preserve Grey Highlands Citizens Alliance Inc. following a recent council meeting.

She said the decision to appeal is consistent with a request passed last spring by the former council calling on Premier Dalton McGuinty to impose a moratorium on the construction of wind turbines until it’s been determined what the possible health effects are of living close to them.

The Ontario Energy Board (OEB) regulates natural gas and electricity utilities in Ontario. This includes setting rates and licensing all participants in the electricity sector including generators, transmitters, distributors, wholesalers and electricity retailers, as well as natural gas marketers who sell to low volume customers.

In its Jan. 12 ruling the OEB accepted the argument put forward by IPC that it was a distributor of electricity and entitled to access municipal road allowances for its transmission lines.

IPC appealed to the OEB following council’s refusal last July to vote on a proposal by the company for an annual payment of $50,000 to the municipality as part of a proposed agreement to the let the wind developer install new utility poles along municipal road allowances.

The agreement would have allowed the company to replace 7.8-metre hydro poles with taller ones, which would be used to carry electricity generated by the 11 turbines planned for southern Grey Highlands in the Maxwell/Feversham area.

The company made a similar request to Grey County council to use the road allowance along a portion of County Road 2 south of Feversham.

“In a democratic society our municipal government cannot stand by and allow private enterprise to expropriate public property for their own profit. Road allowances are an asset of the whole community,” said Love, who noted that more than 150 people support council’s decision.

“People are still e-mailing and asking if there’s still time to add their name.”

The appeal will be heard by OEB. If the municipality is not satisfied with that decision it can appeal it to the Divisional Court.

Coun. Stewart Halliday agrees with the appeal saying the OEB is giving IPC the same status as Hydro One Networks which is licensed to distribute electricity provincewide.

“It’s not clear in the language that IPC uses that they have those rights. It’s quite clear the way we read it that they don’t have these rights. We don’t think the OEB has the right to tell people other than a government agency that they can come on municipal property and put in hydro poles,” Halliday said during an interview on Saturday.

He noted that under the proposed agreement with Grey Highlands once IPC had completed construction of the transmission lines along municipal property the lines would be turned over the Hydro One.

Love said council’s decision to back an appeal sends a strong message to everyone including those on council who voted against the appeal.

“In our municipality we need to make those decisions and not the developer or the province for that matter, ” she said.

Coun. Dave Kell voted against the motion to appeal the OEB ruling because he doesn’t think it’s a fight the municipality can win.

“I think it’s a no-win situation. I think it would be a hard one to beat,” said Kell who doesn’t have any strong feelings one way or the other about wind turbines.

“If people think something should not be fought simply because there is a good chance you’re going to lose, then what happens to democracy,” Love said.

Mayor Wayne Fitzgerald said his decision to vote against the motion to support the appeal is consistent with the position he took during last year’s election campaign.

“I believe that as long as the Green Energy Act is in place I didn’t think it was in the best interest of all of the taxpayers to appeal it from a cost point of view. That was my stance in my election campaign and I stuck with it and I made no secret about that, ” Fitzgerald said.

Halliday said the OEB decision is a further example of the extent to which the provincial government is going to control municipalities that are already chaffing under the restrictions of the Green Energy Act.

The act has removed local control over planning approval process for alternate energy projects.

“Municipalities are being told we can’t decide anything any more for our constituents . . . the Ontario Energy Board has decided that this is the political will of the province . . . we’re saying we don’t agree,” Halliday said

No date has been set for an appeal.

10 thoughts on “Grey Highlands appeals energy ruling

  1. When Government overrules the wishes of the majority then it no longer represents the interests of the Public!….this is what is defined as a “tyranny” and that’s what we find ourselves in the midst of in Onatrio.

    Time to take a stand people!…………Grey Highlands seems to understand their RIGHTS!….too bad others don’t!

  2. Seeing that the Ontairo Government has sold-out our rights to multi-national corporations, the Ontario Divisional Court may become a very busy place in the coming months.

    Now they are contemplating giving them our Provincial Parks too!!

    It is so encouraging (and refreshing) to see councillors prepared to stand up to this sell-out – councillors who actually care about their constituents and the future of their municipalities.

  3. If and when power lines and poles need to cross private property then you are into eminent domain issues.

    The central question is whether or not a private individual or company has the right to force the use or take over of private property by having the “state” condem the property through the eminent domain legal process.

    In other words, a private party or company says they have the right to use,take, convert one’s private property for their use without the owner’s consent as this is for the “public good”.

    This is accomplished by having the “state” take the private property and then turn the property over to another private owner for their financial benefit.

    The U.S. Supreme Court does allow this to be done if it is for the “public good”
    which was a major change in U.S. law a few years back.

    “Public good” used to only be for public use like roads, bridges,parks,schools,etc.

    Now it includes the conversion of private property as for” public good” if for example a factory is built that will employ people or if a local government can get increased tax revenue from the property that is higher/more than the former owner was paying in taxes. At least some U.S. states have reviewed this change in
    the law and won’t allow this to happen.

    So watch out Ontario as this could become a case of “monkey see,monkey do” or copy U.S. laws.

    A case in point a few years ago in the U.S., was the condemnation of property by the City of Detroit for the construction of a new G.M. auto plant. The City condemed private property and then sold the properties to G.M. This was justified as for the “public good” because G.M. was to provide many jobs in Detroit.

    But what really happened was the “state” was allowed to take people’s homes,at fair market value, and turn the property over to G.M. for private financial gain.

    The jobs produced never did reach the projected number that was promised by G.M.

  4. Al these companies are multi national, wake up Ontario it is a way of syphoning money from rich countries to poor. In the end we will have nothing,and where will all our money be, not in Ontario. Whose getting all the money.

  5. ““Municipalities are being told we can’t decide anything any more for our constituents . . . the Ontario Energy Board has decided that this is the political will of the province . . . we’re saying we don’t agree,” Halliday said”

    I’ll bet the Supreme Court of Canada will side with municipalities on this one!

    They already have in similar cases in other provinces.

    Governments in a democracy are ultimately responsible to the people. It matters not the level of government, it is what the people want, not what the government wants.

    Otherwise, democracy is DOOMED!

    B.B.W.

  6. Barbara, You are corrrect on the eminent domain issue. This was used to effectively take acres from a Manitoba farmer who had generously allowed the public to picnic there and government decided that should be a park for “the public good”. I can’t remember exactly where this was published some time ago last year. It certainly is a worry in this case, but given the road allowance is already in the domain of the public (taxpayers), I wonder how this would play out. The Municipality, although existing at the behest of the Provincial Government, does have the rights of a private citizen. Also it must perform its fudiciary duty towards those citizens in guarding their welfare. There we are back to the precautionary principle where it must be proven those new lines will not be of harm.

    There will be more cases like this coming up, so it is refreshing to see Grey Highlands sticking to their guns. Any and all support will help and encourage all Muncipal Governments.

  7. Maybe someone who is “legally informed” on this matter could look into it. I heard through a councilor several years ago that IF any Government body deems that a persons private land is to be “expropriated for development” then that person has a right to defend his case in the courts by a lawyer PAID FOR by the Government!

    This happened up our way about a decade ago where a chap was to have part of his land “expropriated” for an expansion of a waste site that was adjacent to his property. He hired a lawyer who had expertise in this area and that lawyer was paid by the Government of Ontario to represent the owner!

    Of course all that could have changed over the years but at the time it was not ‘public knowledge” for obvious reasons!

  8. Would not count on the Canadian Supreme Court siding with the people as people in the U.S. were let down by the court on the eminent domain issue.

    Creation of jobs is now “public good” which is new in the eminent domain process.
    There are some U.S. states who crafted “new” laws to keep the issue the way it was prior to the Supreme Court ruling thus continuing to protect their citizens.

  9. Barbara, we cannot compare our constitution to that of the US, our is not policed, theirs is.

    They actually take theirs seriously and all elected officials which includes their judges, swear to uphold it. In Canada, NO ENTITY elected or otherwise swears to uphold ours!

    That is entirely up to “the people” at our own expense!

    Yeah, I can’t afford to either!

    B.B.W.

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