Good news for Wallaceburg area residents came Friday from Queen’s Park, as Premier Doug Ford followed through on his promise to cancel renewable energy projects in Ontario.
In a release Friday, Ontario Minister of Energy, Northern Development and Mines Greg Rickford announced ratepayers will benefit from $790 million in savings thanks to the government’s decision to cancel and wind down 758 renewable energy contracts, including the Wallaceburg Otter Creek Wind Farm project.
“We clearly promised we would cancel these unnecessary and wasteful energy projects as part of our plan to cut hydro rates by 12 per cent for families, farmers and small businesses,” said Rickford in making the announcement. “In the past few weeks, we have taken significant steps toward keeping that promise.”
Rickford said all of the cancelled projects have not reached project development milestones. Terminating the projects at this early stage will maximize benefits for ratepayers. He also confirmed that the government intends to introduce a legislative amendment that, if passed, will protect hydro consumers from any costs incurred from the cancellation. Even after all costs are accounted for, ratepayers can expect to benefit from $790 million in savings from this decision.
Violet Towell, spokesperson for the Wallaceburg Area Wind Concerns group who opposed the Otter Creek project, said Monday people are slowly becoming aware of the news.
“It’s a huge relief,” Towell said. “It’s fantastic news. It’s what the PCs promised and they are carrying through on it. We are pleased and relieved, with all the concerns we had with the impact on water wells and noise issues.”
Boralex, the company behind the Otter Creek Wind Farm project, just last week announced they were changing the project to change the foundation construction of the 12 wind turbines from a pile-driving method to a spread footing foundation to acknowledge the community’s concerns. The REA permit final approval for the project was still pending.
Boralex officials said they are reassessing their options at this point for the 50-megawatt wind power project.
“At Boralex, we’re committed to providing safe and reliable renewable energy. We are disappointed by the government’s decision to wind down the LRP1 contract of this project which is meant to create made-in-Ontario electricity and made-in-Ontario jobs,” said Patrick Lemaire, Boralex’s President and Chief Executive Officer. “At this point, Boralex will evaluate its options in regard to this project.”
The project, developed by Otter Creek Wind Farm Limited Partnership, is a partnership between RES Canada, Walpole Island First Nation and Boralex, and was expected to be built and commissioned by the end of 2019.
Towell said while her group is very happy with this step in the right direction, there is still the outstanding judicial review regarding noise issues with projects still in play in Romney and North Stormont that have passed milestones that were the cutoff for cancellation. Also at issue, she said, is supporting the call for the health hazard investigation in Dover and Chatham townships regarding water well sediment contamination, which started for some residents after construction began on the turbine projects.
The North Kent Wind projects in Chatham and Dover townships are not included in the cancellation announcement and are a point of contention for well owners who say the pile driving during construction and continued operation of the wind turbines are causing large amounts of sediment, confirmed to contain Kettle Point Black Shale, to clog their wells and filtration systems.
The group Water Wells First that has been fighting to have the government investigate the sediment and its cause was told by Ford during the election campaign that his government would support launching a health hazard investigation into the potential effects of ingesting the black shale, known to contain toxic material such as mercury, lead, uranium and arsenic.
The government and local medical officer of health have, so far, refused to test the sediment or acknowledge residents’ concerns about long-term health effects of ingesting particles of the black shale.