Several councillors and members of the public shared concerns with a request on behalf of the wpd White Pines Wind Project for an exemption from the County’s reduced load bylaw during last week’s committee-of-the-whole meeting.
Committee ultimately voted to receive the request and referred the issue to staff for a report. The reduced load bylaw is meant to protect municipal roadways from damage during thaw conditions.
The request was made in the form of a letter from legal firm Polley Faith LLP and addressed to municipal solicitor Wayne Fairbrother.
The letter says wpd is seeking an urgent exemption to the municipality’s reduced load limits which would allow the operation of trucks carrying weight of up to 7,000 kilograms per axel, up from the reduced limit of 5,000 kilograms per axel.
“wpd is eligible for an exemption under s. 110 (1) of the Highway Traffic Act,” the letter says. “Absent an exemption, the bylaw load restrictions would be inoperative under s. 14 of the Municipal Act to the extent they would frustrate wpd’s provincial Renewable Energy Authorization (REA) allowing construction of the project.”
The exemption is critical both to wpd’s REA and is beneficial to the municipality, the letter argues. It says the exemption would minimize damage to roads by reducing the number of truck movements required to complete the project, requiring about 1,600 total movements — about 2,000 to 3,200 fewer than with the reduced load restriction.
The exemption would allow the company to begin receiving shipments of concrete. A cubic metre of concrete weighs about 2,350 kilograms and a fully loaded truck can carry about 9 cubic metres. A truck operating under the reduced load can carry only one cubic metre. An empty concrete truck alone weighs more than 15,000 kilograms.
The letter says the municipality is protected from financial harm through its road use agreement with the company and wpd is prepared to take additional steps to protect the county. The company is prepared to assume liability for all damage caused by its continued use of roads and is prepared to conduct, at wpd’s expense, road inspections following each concrete pour.
“To reiterate, the failure of wpd to obtain an urgent exemption from the County’s load restrictions would risk frustrating wpd’s provincial REA, or would force wpd to attempt to quadruple the number of truck movements, causing greater harm to both County roads and the environment,” the letter says.
Retired lawyer Garth Manning, and Anne Dumbrille of the County Coalition for Safe and Appropriate Green Energy (CCSAGE) Naturally Green asked councillors not to grant the exemption.
Manning said the letter advised that special permits with conditions can be granted under the Highway Traffic Act and that the Municipal Act says any municipal bylaw that is in conflict with a provincial statute is without effect. He said the reduced bylaw is not necessarily in conflict with the Green Energy Act or any provincial statute.
“It does not prevent the construction of turbines,” he said. “wpd has several other alternatives. It can increase axels, utilize heavy lift helicopters or wait for drier weather. It is not your fault that its construction is behind its own schedule.”
Dumbrille said many County roads are already failing and fixing them is a major expense. She suggested the road use agreement would cover only the cost to repair a small portion of the roads used and only if it could be proved wpd’s work caused the damage.
“It is not reasonable or justifiable to favour one industry or corporation over other companies or private citizens, such as home builders,” she said. “Either the restriction is in place or it is not.”
She said the load restrictions shouldn’t come as a surprise to the company.
Councillor Kevin Gale initially put forward a motion to simply receive the request and take no further action.
“There’s a reason why the half loads are on,” he said.
He said he’s been contacted by several contractors who are inconvenienced by the load limits and has had to convey that the exemptions are for certain services that residents need such as water or heating fuel. Granting an exemption to wpd could complicate the issue, he said.
“This just opens up a great big huge Pandora’s box,” said Gale.
Councillor Dianne O’Brien supported Gale’s motion. She said considering the exemption would equate to giving preferential treatment to wpd.
“We’re showing favouritism to White Pines versus other trucking companies,” she said. “If I owned a trucking company I would just get my lawyer to send off a letter to this council and bingo, they’re going to consider giving me an exemption.”
However, the motion was withdrawn following some concern shared by Mayor Robert Quaiff. He said, based on the Polley Faith letter, he couldn’t support the motion. He said it was the potential of frustrating the REA in particular that cause the consternation.
“It’s incumbent upon this council to follow staff’s direction, get the report from our commissioner of engineering based on the conversations that he’s had with our legal team and then review that recommendation at a further council meeting, rather than making an amendment to just say no,” he said. “I’d rather have the report and have that substance and that background to make the decision with.”