Warwick Mayor Todd Case says the latest process to bid for wind energy projects amounts to extortion and his municipality won’t be part of it.
Four wind energy companies are in the process of bidding for industrial projects in Warwick, Brooke-Alvinston and Enniskillen. As part of the process, the companies are approaching municipalities to talk about what is going on and hoping to gain some form of support to improve their chances of approval.
Under the new process approved in June, companies receive bonus points for some forms of municipal approval. There is a form to say they have met with the municipal government which bears no points. If a company signs an Community Commitment Agreement with a municipality, it receives points which make the project more likely to be approved. Municipalities can also endorse projects; those projects are mostly likely to be approved.
Suncor Energy and NextEra, which are both preparing bids for projects in Warwick, are pressing the community to sign Community Commitment Agreements which include compensation for having the turbines in the community.
But Mayor Case says Warwick is not about to sign anything and shouldn’t be penalized financially because of it.
“The process, in my opinion, stinks,” he tells The Independent. “The province says it now gives municipalities a chance to weigh in but there are points for the companies if you sign (for compensation). That’s extortion in my point of view.”
Case says it is clear Warwick is not a willing host but because of the way the process is not structured, it can only get compensation for the projects if it helps the companies by signing the required forms making the project more likely.
“Wind turbine companies come in and say ‘sign on the dotted line if were approved you’ll get this huge amount of cash. If you don’t sign and we’re approved, you get nothing.”
So Case says Warwick is getting creative – and political – to point out the flaws in the new system. It’s had lawyers draft a letter which has been sent to the companies outlining what the municipality expects for compensation should the projects be approved. There is about $45,000 to reimburse the municipality for legal costs, $6,000 for every turbine they put up and flat fee of $200,000 among other things.
“They like to put things in front of us to sign…if you really want to talk the talk, walk the walk,” says Case. “We could sit back and do what were doing,…but let’s throw something back at these guys…this is what you’ll be paying if it’s approved against our wishes.
“If the process is going to disrespect our community we feel you should pay compensation anyway.”
So far, Case says one of the companies has refused to talk about the letter, the other has spoken to them but made no commitments.
The municipality is hoping to catch the province’s eye with the move hoping to change the process. “The Green Energy Act where everything is laid out and it’s mucked up.”
Case has asked for a meeting with the Energy Minister during the annual Association of Municipalities conference in mid-August. He’s just been told that won’t happen and he’ll be meeting with the parliamentary assistant instead.
“This is a big enough issue for rural Ontario right now, you’d think the minister would meet with us,” says Case. “We’ll take the meeting …but I’m totally disappointed of the total disrespect for rural Ontario.”