A group of four farmers – all of whom say they don’t want wind turbines on their Lambton County property – say they want to negotiate a better deal for farmers who do want them.
A group – called Community Turbine Alliance – made up of farmers from Watford to Wallaceburg held the first of four public meetings Monday night to talk about some of the problems farmers are facing with the current wind leases. Roger Buurma of Brooke-Alvinston says right now, farmers are left on their own to negotiate with wind energy companies and more often than not, they are unhappy with the results.
Buurma says there are a host of problems in North Lambton where several wind projects have been built. Farmers have had no say on where access roads are built and the heavy machinery used to build the giant turbines damages land and the tile underneath ruining the land for at least one growing season.
Buurma, and other members of the group, say history has shown that farmers can “eventually be bought” and sign wind leases because they’ve been told the project is coming and they might as well be part of that.
But Buurma says the landowners hold the balance of power. “The pen that you hold in your hand actually stops them.”
“We want to act on behalf of those who would sign agreements,” he says. “It is still your choice to say yes or no; but those who are going to say yes, we want to help you get the best contract.”
Buurma and the group say the same tactic worked when Union Gas first started building pipelines. Farmers at the time banned together and collectively bargained for better agreements for the lines to run through their fields.
“This is an all or nothing deal,” says Brooke Leystra another member of the group. “If half sign up with the committee and the other half don’t, where do you think those (wind companies) are going to go?”
“It’s is naïve to think nobody is going to be interested in turbines,” she adds.
A number of people in the crowd of over 200 at the Wilkesport Community Hall thanked the group for their forward thinking and said it seemed like the right way to go. However others were skeptical.
Larry Smale was part of the group several decades ago which negotiated agreements with Union Gas. Now he’s a representative of CORE Conserve Our Rural Enniskillen – a group set up to stop turbines from being built in the township.
“It is good to see you guys out here; to me, that is the best thing to happen,” says Larry Smale who is a part of the Enniskillen group CORE.
He says he knows working together can lead to better agreements “but the best thing to do is still not to sign these things.”
“I worked with Union Gas for 30 years (negotiating land deals) and it was a hell of an uphill battle…Don’t sign the damn things.”
And some of the landowners in the room were firmly against the idea of signing any type of wind agreement, no matter how good it is.
“Aren’t we giving up a little too quick,” asked Robert Johnson who farms near Beecher. “If we have so much collective power…shouldn’t we be doing everything we can to hold these people (wind companies) up.”
Enniskillen Township Mayor Kevin Marriott listen through the entire meeting. He understands what the group is trying to accomplish, but he’s concerned. He’s urging farmers to make sure if they are going to sign a lease, they consult their own lawyer.