As in a courtship, pretty pictures painted, verbal promises and solid verbal commitments between the landowner and developer mean nothing once an agreement is signed.
Windless in Woonsocket – How not to sign a wind turbine agreement
I marvel how many South Dakota landowners sign a wind turbine agreement or an oil and gas lease without the benefit of good counsel. I have seen the end product. It is not pretty. Though we are taught about the seven deadly sins of this world also called the seven cardinal sins or capital sins, yet a wind turbine agreement may contain an even greater smorgasbord of “contract sins” all of which should be discovered, remedied and purged by any negotiating landowner before entering into a long term land use agreement. I will in this opinion piece visit a few contract issues. Let us first however examine a difference one occasionally finds between a North Dakota landowner and a South Dakota landowner. I am reminded of an old Aberdeen lawyer friend who has now passed away. He once said, “In North Dakota they spend money to make money and they spend money to save money, but in South Dakota they just don’t spend money.” Consider that many wind turbine agreements are private contracts in which the parties have an unequal bargaining position. To be involved with one is not the time to practice parsimony.
A particular contract term used by wind farm developers is the confidentiality agreement. This stratagem requires landowners sign a confidentiality agreement often before even seeing a form lease. The clause attempts to give a developer an advantage over landowners by prohibiting the sharing of information among landowners. Such a “gag” provision is also found in a final executed wind lease in order to protect the contract terms from disclosure. A confidentiality clause makes it a bit more challenging to determine what the regional “market” payment terms really are for a given project. And in turn the clause hinders a landowner’s ability to knowingly negotiate terms which are fair for a particular project in that particular market. The absence of market knowledge gives a competitive advantage to project developers. When I consult ag land appraisers to discuss regional wind turbine payment terms I usually find these experts bereft of much information on the subject. While there are methods for learning what a fair payment term should be, the methods are a bit more expensive than what might be found in an open and transparent market.
I will list some important terms found in a wind turbine agreement. This is a sobering list, and should motivate the landowner to seek the exact parameters for each term. Common agreements contain: a construction and land use option all in favor of the developer; an access easement to cross and use one’s property; the right to construct roads; the right to construct large turbines on one’s land; the right to construct underground and above-ground transmission lines and substations; and terms that bind on one’s heirs or any subsequent purchasers of the land….
Everybody loves renewable energy, right? That’s what surveys tell us with global support for renewable energy consistently polling above 80 percent.
But don’t tell that to the people of the Province of Ontario, Canada. On June 7, the electorate handed a stunning defeat to its Liberal Government after 15 years of reign. The election winner: Conservative Doug Ford, brother of Toronto’s infamous crack-cocaine smoking mayor, Rob Ford. The issue in the forefront of voters’ minds: sky high electricity prices.
Ever since the Ontario Government invoked its Green Energy Act in 2009 to transition away from coal power to wind and solar energy, electricity prices have risen a whopping 75 percent. In Ontario, electric bills have become as frequent a topic of water-cooler conversation as apartment rents are in Manhattan or San Francisco.
Without question, on every measure of ratepayer protection Ontario is an egregious case of how not to design a renewable energy program:
Most Feed-in-Tariff (FIT) rates set not by competitive bidding but instead by Government decree at levels as high as $C 80.2 cents ($US 62 cents) per kWh for 20 years
No mechanism to automatically adjust FIT rates downward as capacity deployment thresholds were reached
Domestic Content requirements that raised domestic equipment prices above global average selling prices
A rule that ratepayers still provide FIT payments for energy even when energy production is curtailed
An allowance of five years after FIT contract execution for facility construction, creating windfall gains for developers as equipment costs declined while preventing ratepayers from participating in any of those savings. How did Ontario get their renewables policy so wrong?
I have heard the stock statement answers from the premier, MOECC minister, his staff, Chatham-Kent mayor and council, municipal administration and the main owners of the North Kent wind farm that it is making me sick.
These stock answers are:
–We take the concerns about ground water seriously.
–We take a very cautious, scientifically-based approach when setting standards for renewable energy projects to protect the health of the Ontario people.
–Pile driving vibrations do not affect water wells.
–Our Government is committed to clean energy.
The concerns of residents in some of the affected areas in the former Dover Township have been made aware to the Ministry in 2012. The problem arose in the former Chatham Township shortly after pile driving started in June of this year, just as was predicted by Water Wells First, based on what had happened in Dover which has the same Kettle Point Black Shale in the aquifer. MOECC’s solution was to take turbidity tests which represents the clarity of water and not the heavy metals that are being carried in the water, some visible and some only visible under a microscope.
Dr. Colby states that the lead, arsenic mercury and uranium carried in the particles in the water will not render it unsafe. At the same time, he refuses to touch or have it tested and certainly would not drink it.
Scientific based approaches are as effective as is intended by those doing the testing.
I saw a vibration monitor on the Centre Side Road that was affixed to a well casing, which is not in contact with the bedrock, with a hose clamp that was not tightened to hold it tightly against the casing to pick up vibration. In addition, it was less then 100 meters from the road and at least 550 meters from the pile driving site. Does it seem reasonable to have a busy road between the site monitored and the sensor? Does it seem reasonable that no analysis is being done on the black matter suddenly appearing in wells that have been pristine for decades? Is that what a scientifically based cautious approach is all about?
So, computer models and engineer’s theory say that pile driving does not affect water wells! No one has heard of a major water well problem for years, yet within two or three months of pile driving at least 16 water wells have been adversely affected. Engineer’s theory also said that the Titanic was unsinkable. Engineer’s theory and model said that the O ring in the Challenger space shuttle was adequate, but its failure caused an explosion and a major crisis in the USA space program. There is precedence for engineer’s theories and models for being wrong. Could this be another? Does actual observation not have preference over theory?
Our government is committed to clean energy apparently at the cost of water wells. Perhaps if the following questions were answered, it would shed some light on why they have this commitment.
How much money was paid by the wind industry to individuals, political parties and the Ontario government for the privilege of building turbines in Ontario without interference?
How much money was paid by the wind industry to individuals and the municipality to become friendly hosts for turbine construction?
How much money would it take to stop construction and stop operation of turbines until their negative impact on environment issues, especially water, are properly assessed by an independent party, since our politicians, local and provincially, obviously had not done “due diligence” prior to signing the agreements?
Are the citizens of this province being used as pawns in a system that is broken? Are some ministries, such as MOECC, actually company self-monitoring agencies that are incorrectly being paid by our tax dollars rather then the companies that they refuse to police. How do we change things? Is common sense dead?
Three people were arrested and various homes and office buildings were raided on Tuesday in an investigation into 8 million euros worth of fraud committed by Dutch investment company Hollandsche Wind. The Public Prosecutor and tax investigative service FIOD also seized several cars, Tubantia reports.
According to FIOD, the now bankrupt Hollandsche Wind was used to commit Ponsi fraud – an illegal pyramid scheme. Investors paid a minimum of 5 thousand euros and were promised high returns on wind energy projects. But their returns were paid with money from new investors. No money was ever invested in wind farms or real estate. According to the Prosecutor, the fraud amount is around 8 million euros…..
On Dec. 7, Lambton County Coun. Bev MacDougall accepted a donation of $50,000/year for four years, on behalf of the county, for Lambton’s Creative County Fund, from the Cedar Point wind project, which is jointly owned by Suncor and Nextera.
To put the total donation of $200,000 into perspective, Suncor/Nextera will receive approximately $700 million from the Ontario government, through our electricity bills, over the life of the wind project contract.
The media announcement came as a surprise to some county councillors, including Lonny Napper, whose municipality was sued by Suncor over bylaws intended to protect its residents.
The historical actions of the county council give context to this issue. Council passed motions to support a moratorium on turbines and to declare itself an unwilling host to turbines. Most importantly, county council became an opposing party in Nextera’s Jericho Wind Project Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT), and in the Suncor Cedar Point Wind Project ERT.
During the Jericho and Cedar Point ERT hearings, David Cribbs, Lambton County’s counsel, argued that the siting of the massive galvanized transmission pylons close to traveled roadways posed a health and safety risk to motorists. Those appeals were rejected by the tribunal.
The county’s media release contained a photo of MacDougall accepting the donation from Suncor representative Jody Hood, who was a witness for Suncor in the ERT hearing against the county. Would that not be considered hypocritical?
One of the stated aims of the Creative County Committee is to improve the quality of life in Lambton County. At every government-mandated public meeting held by Suncor since the Cedar Point project became operational, nearby residents have spoken out about their diminished quality of life because of nearby wind projects. We have also heard from affected individuals outside of the public meetings, including a family that has moved from their family farm because of the impacts of the turbines.
But the greatest detrimental impact this industrial project has had involves the irreparable damage to relationships between family members, and neighbours, in our community. This donation will cause even more divisiveness between the dedicated groups receiving the funds and those suffering because of the project.
We don’t oppose the county funding worthy causes locally. But we do take issue with the warden and the councillor accepting what had to be known as a controversial donation from the wind developers, on behalf of all county councillors and its citizens without their knowledge and without debate.
Warden Bill Weber states that the donation comes “with very few strings attached”. We disagree.
Lambton County now has the dubious distinction of voting itself as an unwilling host to turbines, while taking money from the wind developers through the back door. Accepting the cash could be viewed as tacit support for wind projects. It has damaged the credibility of the county’s “Not a Willing Host” resolution. It has undermined the work done by the county to protect its residents to date, and it will make it awkward for council to voice opposition to further wind projects already planned for Lambton by Suncor, Nextera and others.
These are more than a few strings with predictable outcomes that would not have been lost on Suncor or Nextera.
Audrey Broer, Bob Broer, Mary-Lynn Cooper, Elizabeth Bellavance, Ingrid Willemsen, Louyse Larochelle, Pam Ernst, Floyd Maidment, Lois McKay, Santo Giorno, Kristen Rodrigues, Doug Smith, Ed Vanderaa, Yvonne Vanderbeld, Bill Yates, Sue Wright, Joe Zanyk
Lambton County residents
Published January 10, 2017: http://www.theobserver.ca/2017/01/10/countys-acceptance-of-funding-awkward
One of the skills acquired in fighting wind turbines is how to obtain and extract information held by the Ontario government using Freedom of Information (FOI) requests. Information that should be freely accessible without obstruction but is not. Knowledge is power and who controls the data controls the known story.
Details of wind projects, bird and bat kills by wind turbines, negative impacts to environment, and even how many people have filed complaints about adverse health effects are within the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change’s jurisdiction. Information and data held, protected and only released reluctantly in bits and pieces with persistent repeated requests. The process is convoluted, bureaucratic and most importantly time consuming. The time involved enables strict time lines applied in appeal hearings at the Environmental Tribunal Review. The government has an expected service response time of 30 days and if not met the delay must be given with a justified explanation. That is not what has happened.
“…auditors concluded dates “were systematically adjusted by staff” in the FOI office to show completion of requests within the 30-day requirement period.”
A recent audit shows the MOECC failed in its duties and has been changing the dates of FOI requests. The government has lied by falsifying the dates. MOECC has now been caught begging the question what else has also been falsified?
Wind Power Complex installations demonstrate a common, reoccurring and global pattern of adverse effects and harm. The following mirrors the range of issues being reported and documented by impacted residents in Ontario, Canada.
Massive conflict of interests, no adequate measurement of noise and deliberate misinformation of residents.
13 May 2016
The president of the Polish National Audit Authority (NIK) told a parliamentary committee on 12 May 2016 that in up to one third of all the rural municipalities covered by the NIK investigation, decision makers responsible for granting permits for wind farm developments, or close family members of such local officials, were beneficiaries of land leases for these projects.
These are the findings of a multi-year study by the Polish Audit Authority, which sought to investigate if the public interest was adequately safeguarded in the planning and permitting process for publicly-subsidized wind power developments. Krzysztof Kwiatkowski, NIK president, told the parliamentary committee on infrastructure that the study included a total of 70 inspections in 51 municipalities and 19 county-level local government administrations.
In 90 per cent of inspected municipalities, local authority’s approval of wind farm developments was made contingent on the developer’s funding the preparation of planning documentation or making donations to the municipality. Yet, under Polish law such expenditures must be covered from the municipality’s own budget. According to the Polish Audit Authority, such actions may give rise to conflict of interests between the developer’s preferences and the interests of municipalities and local communities.
Mr Kwiatkowski also noted that the existing regulations on noise measurement did not guarantee “reliable [assessment] of nuisance resulting from the operation of a wind farm”. Specifically, under the existing regulations noise was measured at low speed levels, with wind speed below 5 m/s. However, the noise is most intensive at wind speeds of 10-12 m per second, which are optimal for wind turbine’s performance. Furthermore, the regulations did not require measurements of other impacts such as infrasound and shadow flicker, according to President Kwiatkowski.
The Polish National Auditor also noted that in the absence of clear laws and consistent caselaw of courts, wind farms were occasionally built in areas of outstanding landscape value.
The inspections also disclosed that in one third of the municipalities there were conflicts of interests involving “individuals who were primary beneficiaries of wind farm projects”, that is people who concluded land lease contracts for wind turbines. Such people tended to be “mayors, members of their immediate families, municipality officials, council members” who had approved changes to local zoning plans enabling the construction of wind farms in the first place.
The Polish National Auditor also questioned the manner in which local communities were being informed about the planned developments. At times, meetings were announced in a manner intended to make it difficult for interested residents to attend and then the failure to attend such meeting was considered to imply consent on the part of local population.
Mothers Against Wind Turbines Inc. has launched an Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) against the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MOE) and the Niagara Region Wind Corporation (NRWC). The NRWC has been granted approval by the Ministry of the Environment to construct 77 industrial wind turbines in West Lincoln, Wainfleet and Haldimand County. These IWT’s are the largest turbines to be placed on land in North America with the smallest set back. They will generate more empty homes, hospital expenses and higher electricity bills.
BIG WIND By Rico Michel http://www.dliproductions.ca/films/big-wind/ Margaret Welcome to the wacky world of green power, where misguided governments have sparked a massive corporate feeding frenzy (at taxpayers’ expense) to achieve little or nothing of any social benefit. — Margaret Wente, Globe & Mail
It has taken decades for us all to understand the pressing urgency of protecting the Earth’s environment by finding alternatives to fossil fuels. At last, the development of a green energy industry is presenting the opportunity to heal the environment… along with the opportunity to exploit it further. For politicians, going green provides a convincing election platform. For business, it offers the chance to make hundreds of billions of dollars. Green energy is the future and those who get in there first will benefit greatly. But not only honest players are championing this new industry. And nowhere is this more evident than in the massive development of industrial wind power.
Big Wind is a surprising and compelling documentary about the unprecedented rush to develop industrial wind turbines and how this is transforming the landscape in Canada and the world. The film investigates why governments are spending billions on wind power without first conducting health and environmental studies,why corporations are grabbing up precious farmland to put up hundreds of thousands of enormous industrial wind turbines, why people living near the turbines are falling ill, losing their animals and their farms,and whether these new “green” wind turbines are actually helping our environmental aims.
The rush to go green is pitting corporations against residents,government against citizens, neighbour against neighbour. Through the process the people are being stripped of their due democratic process.
Big Wind is a story of unethical political systems, corporate greed, and ordinary citizens who have had enough and are standing up to big government and big business. They are part of a growing revolution in rural communities in Southern Ontario and around the globe– people fighting to defend their homes, their way of life and the environment against Big Wind. It is a battle that will profoundly impact the green movement, as well as the well being of citizens in Canada and citizens worldwide for years to come.