By Wes Keller, Orangeville Citizen
At a loss of $500,000 plus undisclosed legal fees, the municipal council of Grey Highlands has opted for a Divisional Court challenge of a ruling by the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) under Section 41 of the Ontario Electricity Act (OEA) that would provide the same access to roadways for alternative energy generators as that provided to Hydro One.
Section 41.1 states that “a transmitter or distributor may, over, under or on any public street or highway construct or install such structures, equipment and other facilities as it considers necessary for the purpose of its transmission or distribution system . . .” It does not specify the nature of ownership, but does state that one of the purposes of the Act is to encourage generation of electricity.
The council’s interpretation of the law differed from that of the OEB, which ruled that the Plateau wind farms fell under the required definition of a transmitter or distributor. The council therefore launched an appeal of the OEB ruling while, at the same time, drafting a roads agreement with Plateau.
The alternative to the challenge would have been acceptance of a roads agreement with the under-construction Plateau wind farm adjacent to Melancthon whereby Plateau would have paid the municipality $500,000 for the privilege of burying most of its transmission lines, and at the same time dropping the Division Court challenge.
The municipal council’s choice in a 4-3 recorded vote at its most recent meeting was to reject the agreement and to continue with the challenge.
And now Friends of Wind Ontario has launched a local ad campaign in papers in the municipality criticizing the deputy mayor and three councillors who voted down the agreement, and referring to them as “the gang of four.”
“We think of Deputy Mayor Paul McQueen and Councillors Paul Allen, Stewart Halliday, and Lynn Silverton as the Grey Highlands Council’s ‘gang of four’ because they vote as a block (sic) to represent the noisy minority of wind opponents in Grey Highlands,” reads the ad in part.
It goes on to term the vote as “strange” because the same four had earlier voted in favour of drafting an agreement.
“The new agreement would bury most of the lines out of sight with only a few poles, put more of the line on private property not on the road allowance and provide a contribution of $500,000 to the municipality. Don’t the ‘gang of four’ care about their community or do they just do what the wind opponents want?” the ad says.
It goes on to say that Plateau owner International Power Canada is proceeding in any event to build transmission lines in accordance with the OEB ruling, and to complete the wind farm, and that all the vote accomplished was to create more overhead wires and to cost the municipality money it might need, as well as making wind opponents happy.
According to a report from CAO Dan Best, quoting the municipality’s lawyers, Divisional Court might well rule in favour of the OEB decision. Should it rule in favour of the municipality, according to the report, Plateau would have the option of appealing to Ontario’s highest court.
As well, according to the lawyers, a Divisional Court ruling would not necessarily be binding on future wind farm developments and, additionally, the province could amend the OEA to clarify its position on transmission lines.
Deputy Mayor Paul McQueen hadn’t returned a phone call to his home number at press time.