Prince Edward County is sending senior staff and legal counsel back to the negotiating table over a Road Users Agreement with wind developer WPD Canada.
Thursday the committee of the whole, sought legal advice on the ramifications associated with denying or deferring RUA – a required aspect in WPD’s Renewable Energy Agreement for the 27 turbine project planned for South Marysburgh and Athol wards.
The County solicitor Wayne Fairbrother explained to the committee in front of a packed gallery that the REA gave WPD six months to come to an agreement with the County and that expired in February.
“All WPD has to do is go to commissioner and say ‘we’ve done our best efforts to come into an agreement,'” said Fairbrother. “If it’s deferred don’t be surprised if they go back to the director and say ‘we tried to negotiate we can’t wait for deferral.'”
Fairbrother went on to say Section 41 of the Green Energy Act strips municipalities of the right to slow the process down. “They can make the application and don’t need consent of the county, if the RUA is deferred or denied we can fully expect they will go to the Ontario Energy Board we will have no protection. The director will give them their check mark and we will get nothing. The RUA has nothing to do with the ERT, or outstanding approvals it is a protection for the tax base.”
The committee opted for the deferral so senior staff and Fairbrother could provide text changes within the proposed RUA. Councillors also seemed intent on having Fairbrother analyze research Quaiff and his friend completed that suggests the Ontario Power Authority could possibly cancel the White Pines and Ostrander Point projects.
The mayor said both Ostrander Point and White Pines were offered contracts on April 8, 2010. There are many versions of the FIT contract but this one (WPD) is dated just before the April 8 offers were made he added.
Key terms include: The contract start date had to be on or before May 6, 2010 as the company was only given 20 business days after the offer to finalize the three year contract; Both contracts were among those granted one year extensions in 2011 so their milestone date for commercial operations was May 6, 2014. This was the basic target date for the project to be up and running; Though they were supposed to be operational by the milestone date for commercial operations, the contract provides another 18 months to achieve commercial operation status i.e. November 6, 2015. If they do not meet this date, it is a default by the Supplier allowing the OPA to cancel the contract.
“Obviously neither of these projects has started construction and the ‘final’ deadline has passed,” Quaiff said. “This is where the process gets complex as the companies can get extensions based on situations encountered in the approval process.
Based on Quaiff’s calculations WPD has 71 days to complete the entire project. He said Ostrander Point is even more complex. Quaiff said he thinks that if Gilead Power doesn’t have a clear path to complete the project by May 6, 2016, the contract is at risk of termination.
Fairbrother accepted the task of looking over the research and his findings will be delivered at a later date.
A Community Benefits Agreement was on the agenda until it was withdrawn last week by WPD Canada president Ian MacRae after reading several press reports.
Leading up to Thursday’s meeting mayor Robert Quaiff issued a statement to council and the media that the motion represents by far the worst situation they have had to confront for the good of their constituents for as far back as he can remember. He called the the deal bribery with blood money.
Quaiff apologized for his comments asking that they be retracted.
“I realize that those comments are not correct,” said Quaiff. “But my opposition nonetheless, remains and I continue to believe that industrial wind turbines should not be allowed in municipalities that are not willing hosts and especially here in Prince Edward County.”
South Marysburgh councillor Steve Ferguson said he accepts Quaiff’s apology stating ‘this issue has brought out bad behaviours on both sides of the argument.’
Council is expected to address the amended RUA at the meeting on April 26.