NOW: By Wes Keller Orangeville Citizen
Melancthon, one of the first townships to take a stand against spreading Toronto’s sewage sludge a few years ago, has now petitioned the provincial government for a moratorium on industrial wind farm development.
The township council’s Feb. 4 decision was based on a combination of the Green Energy Act (GEA), the reassessment of an Amaranth property on the basis of transformer noise, and the fact that the council had learned of plans for a 100-megawatt wind farm on 3,500 acres only by way of a news release.
The 1,132-household township, which already has 111 wind turbines, was also the first municipality in Ontario to have negotiated amenities payments for each turbine in the Melancthon wind farm from then-Canadian Hydro Developers Inc. (CHD).
That negotiation was meant to offset, at least in part, the effects of the provincial assessment cap of $40,000 per megawatt capacity. The payment was $1,000 per turbine in the first phase of the project. It was hiked to $4,000 per turbine in the second phase.
Those payments will continue to be made by TransAlta Corp., which now owns CHD. “Without question, TransAlta will honour these agreements and looks forward to seeing the betterment projects and services the communities are able to develop with the annual payments associated with the agreements,” said Lindsey Moen, TransAlta’s communications adviser.
But TransAlta’s director of communications, Jason Edworthy, says the Calgarybased firm, Alberta’s largest energy generator and an international presence in the industry, never had amenities agreements with any municipalities until it acquired CHD.
Garry Matthews, Melancthon mayor at the time of the amenities negotiations, said in effect that the provincial assessment cap would have been devastating without the payments.
The cap remains in place, but Deputy Mayor Bill Hill said the GEA would not allow for such negotiations.
In fact, despite the Ontario Municipal Board’s (OMB) direction that a Wind Projects Committee be formed, Mr. Hill said the GEA “virtually eliminates public or municipalities in discussions or involvement” in industrial wind farm developments.
As an example of the GEA’s apparent effect, Mr. Hill said 401 Energy had approached the council about two years ago with plans for a 10-MW farm and promised to keep the council informed.
Then, in January, a resident called the council’s attention to 401 Energy news release advising of plans for a 100- MW wind farm.
“It is your government’s policy that has allowed them to ignore council and residents,” Mr. Hill said in his draft of a letter to Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Jim Bradley. It was endorsed by the council, and sent over the signature of Mayor Debbie Fawcett last Thursday.
The letter notes that lawyer Eric Gillespie has applied for a judicial review of the GEA in October 2009 based on the precautionary principle.” It asks that there be a moratorium until there is a judicial decision and, additionally, until “the potential impact” of the property reassessment can be ascertained.
Will the Assessment Review Board’s finding on the property near the transformer substation affect the wind farm owners? TransAlta would say only that seven seasonal acoustic audits over three years, “carried out in compliance with Ministry of the Environment audit procedures, have consistently shown the transformer station in compliance with MOE guidelines in all seasons. “Each acoustic audit readily available to the public, agencies and stakeholders on our website, www.transalta.com.”
Meantime, representatives of 401 Energy are scheduled to appear Melancthon council’s Feb. 18 meeting.