Legislation tabled Monday would cancel nine-turbine project retroactive to July 10, compensate developer for costs incurred to that point and decommissioning
With the cancellation of the White Pines Wind Project included in the Urgent Priorities Act, Monday, local MPP and government house leader Todd Smith is optimistic he could turn the page on the issue once and for all.
“It’s very satisfying for sure. We’ve been able to act on a lot of different issues. To have this in the this act is very satisfying not just for me but for the people of Prince Edward County who have been fighting this project for a number of years, who thought it was dead a number of times just to see it live on.”
While Smith said he’s learned in his political career never to presume the outcome of anything, he’s confident that with the support of cabinet colleagues and caucus members in the majority Progressive Conservative legislature at Queen’s Park the bill — which also intends to end York University strike and usher in new executive compensation practices at Hydro One — will pass in the next couple weeks.
The Bay of Quinte MPP said given the project’s position on environmentally sensitive land, it should have been killed when its nameplate capacity was reduced from 60 MW to 18.45 MW due to an Environmental Review Tribunal, but the previous government or the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) allowed it to continue. That happened despite the objections of it host municipality.
Smith said the Urgent Priorities Act stipulates that the project, its permits, and its power production agreement will be terminated, retroactive to noon of July 10, when he announced on the government’s behalf it would cancel the project. He said the project proponent wpd White Pines Wind Incorporated will be able to recover money it sunk into the project until that date, provided it continues through with decommissioning of the project and restoring lands to their original condition.
He said the IESO has made wpd aware of the legislation, but wpd continues to build the project.
“The way that our government has approached this is very straightforward. The company needs to understand we are serious about this and any work they’re doing will be a cost they incur down the road or will be money that they’re responsible for,” he said. “The best advice for the company is to honour the will of the government standing up for the will of the people.”
The compensation will include amounts for adding wpd’s costs for development, land acquisition, leasing and construction costs; employee termination payments, subcontractor losses or landowner losses and decommissioning and wind-up costs and its debt relating to the project. No compensation is included for loss of goodwill or possible profit.
Smith said legislation also includes clauses that protect the government from domestic litigation on behalf of the proponent or other parties.
He added even with a payout, the deal represents a “net benefit” to Ontario energy consumers. With the province paying higher rates for renewable energy procurement than more traditional sources, like gas or hydroelectric power, and offering priority access to the grid the Green Energy Act was driving up rates. He has long argued that Ontario doesn’t need the procurement.
“Previously, as an energy critic, I had the opportunity over the last three years to speak with many members of the renewables industry in Ontario. They told me if the government had continued the path it was on with proper procurement and a market-based approach to introducing renewables to the energy grid, we’d probably end up with the sane number of projects we have now,” he said. “This uncompetitive, subsidy-based approach was not in the busy interest, clearly, of the electricity customer in Ontario. It created a gold rush that was completely unsustainable.”
He also said it should really come to no surprise to anyone the government is moving to cancel White Pines and 758 other renewable energy projects that planned.
“We have to do what’s in the best interest of electricity consumers. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. This is what we campaigned on and we campaigned on it hard,” he said.
Smith also scoffed at public suggestions — including from wpd president Ian MacRae — that the cancellation was akin to a repeat of the Liberals’ move to cancel two gas plants in the Greater Toronto Area.
“It’s nowhere near a gas plant scandal. The McGuinty governments and Wynne governments back in the day decided to make these companies whole. They ignored the advice of experts who said they should have legislated an end to the contracts. They decided to make these companies whole while allowing them to build and they also honoured power production agreements.”
In a statement to media, Alliance to Protect Prince Edward County (APPEC) chair Gord Gibbins expressed satisfaction the legislation was tabled at Queen’s Park, but indicated the group wasn’t ready to celebrate just yet as another turbine tower was transported to a site in South Marysburgh and directional drilling and excavation for underground distribution lines continued in the project area.
“While this comes as great news, celebrations are on hold as wpd carries on with construction,” Gibbins said.
He added APPEC has been granted a court hearing following a successful motion to the Ontario Court of Appeal and it will proceed with its efforts to try to halt construction in advance of the legislation.
“We will be back in court soon with our stay motion to get wpd to stop,” he said.