Guess what: There are no soil studies on Severn solar ‘farms’

Persistent Severn mayor was ‘misled’ by province, enlists county support in quest for transparency

By Kate Harries AWARE News Network
Severn Mayor Mike Burkett has got some upper-tier backing for his campaign to ensure that solar projects don’t take place on agricultural land. Simcoe County Council voted yesterday to have staff prepare a report on public access to site-specific soil studies required to establish renewable energy projects.

But council went further, instructing Warden Cal Patterson to send a letter to Environment Miniser requesting that the Green Energy Act be amended to provide for local decision-making authority regarding solar power and wind energy projects. The reason for the stepped-up demand: fancy footwork by provincial officials to conceal the fact that proper oversight was not exercised.

Burkett detailed the saga of his dealings with the issue, starting with repeated requests to Recurrent Energy, which is building two solar projects in Severn, for the site-specific soil studies.
He then turned to the Ontario Ministry of Energy and the Ontario Power Authority and after lengthy dicussions with a variety of officials, he was told the documents are confidential.

But last week, he cornered two provincial officials – Mirrun Zaveri, Deputy Director of the Renewable Energy Facilitation Office in the Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure and JoAnne Butler, Vice President Electricity Resources for the Ontario Power Authority- at the Association of Municipalities of Ontario conference in Ottawa.
Burkett learned from them that the soil studies he’s been pursuing since June do not exist. There are no documents, confidential or otherwise, he told council.

“There is no report that will provide the information,”Burket said. “I was misled.”

Tay Mayor Scott Warnock said all municipalities are in the same situation and have heard “the same song and dance.”

Deputy Warden Harry Hughes said residents are asking councils to ensure that Green Energy Act regulations are upheld. “Without soil studies being made available we cannot do that,” he said, referring to an Oro-Medonte project where no boreholes were dug and which proceeded on “just a drive-by look.”

The Green Energy Act prohibits projects on Class 1-3 agricultural land and, in cases where there is a mix of classifications of whatever grade, requires site-specific soil studies.

The authority for soil classification is the Canada Land Inventory, an assessment that dates back to the 1960s.

AWARE Simcoe is calling for an end to the use of the Canada Land Inventory in all planning decisions. The following, part of its comment on the draft Simcoe County Official Plan, explains:

10. Do not rely on the Canada Land Inventory

Planners use the Canada Land Inventory to determine the quality of agricultural land (there are 7 classes, with Classes 1-3 considered most worthy of protection). But this inventory is old (dating back to the 1960s), outdated and in many cases completely wrong because of the methodology of extrapolation (the scale of the survey is one inch per mile or 1:63,360, which allows for significant variations to be missed in the mapping).

The Inventory does not reflect improvements that have resulted from modern farming practices, nor does it allow for recent re-evaluation of certain types of land (pasture to produce healthier and more productive grass-fed beef, for instance). Scientists at the University of Guelph, as well as the land planners at the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs acknowledge the inadequacies of this system of guidance for land acquisition and use. The Official Plan should mandate site-specific soil studies before allowing any redesignation of agricultural land.

11 thoughts on “Guess what: There are no soil studies on Severn solar ‘farms’

  1. Relentless pursuit of the ‘paperwork’………………………..

    ‘[excerpt] He then turned to the Ontario Ministry of Energy and the Ontario Power Authority and after lengthy dicussions with a variety of officials, he was told the documents are confidential.

    The intimate experience:
    ‘[excerpt] But last week, he cornered two provincial officials – Mirrun Zaveri, Deputy Director of the Renewable Energy Facilitation Office in the Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure and JoAnne Butler, Vice President Electricity Resources for the Ontario Power Authority- at the Association of Municipalities of Ontario conference in Ottawa.’

    Day ‘light’ – Day ‘bright’
    ‘[excerpt] Burkett learned from them that the soil studies he’s been pursuing since June do not exist. There are no documents, confidential or otherwise, he told council.’

    The Ontario Power Authority – a temporary agency – signs energy contracts
    and then………………………..
    All according to plan:
    Leave no paper trail – behind.

    McGuinty’s Ontario: Confidential
    Ugh!

    • The issue here is that a government contract worth a lot of money was awarded despite the fact that required studies/soil sample work was not done? What else wasn’t done?
      Then attempt/attempts were made by government employees to conceal this information?

  2. At least in Canada, your government “pretends” to protect agricultural land. Here in the U.S. we take the best farm land in the midwest and put wind turbines on them. Because ah… we must have those wind turbines to “save the world”, they are so good, and take such little space according to the wind sales people. As far as I know the solar stuff goes out in other places — but give us time.. Government transparency, ha. it is all so disappointing.

    • If you have been following the posts at OWR then you can follow the paper trail from Canada to the big players in the U.S. and then try to follow this into your state.

  3. You got em Mayor Mike! We are so proud of you! I guess you know you are my favorite Mayor in the whole world. xxxooo

    Mel

  4. Barbara, I just spoke with Mike and he was so grateful for your info. He knew they sold but they were not honest about how much of the project they sold and his concern is that the township (us) will be left with the clean up. Thank you so much for your relentless pursuit and all the details of who is who. These companies must shake in their boots when they see what you crank out on them. You are amazing…we are all so very grateful to the countless hours you volunteer. You are a special person indeed.

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