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Leader’s Blog – The End Doesn’t Justify the Means

July 27, 2010It was late June. I was on a cable TV panel talking about environmental legislation, the Greenbelt, and the gas generation peaker plant in King Township when fellow panelist Rod Northey brilliantly captured what is wrong with governments ramming legislation and regulations through without due process. A clip of his comments from that interview is posted here.

This morning, like many of you, I read a front page story about how a controversial G20 police measure was rubber-stamped with at least 116 orders-in-council (OIC) at an end-of-session Cabinet committee last month. That too is a form of abuse of process.

There is a real fear the government might do it again this week at its last session of the “Legs and Regs” Committee before September. CAUTION. We want to send a clear message to the Premier and to all members of caucus and that Committee: Don’t repeat the mistake of ramming things through without full attention to and consideration of its ramifications.

I don’t know the agenda for the Cabinet Committee nor the length of the list of proposed OICs at this time, but talk is the G20 scenario is expected to be repeated. In the pile is a regulation to circumvent the Planning Act, the first use of the regulation, to give a green light to a power plant project in King Township that has been the subject of a flawed process and may not even meet environmental and planning standards and guidelines. We can’t be sure because so much of the process has been circumvented, bypassed or ignored.

The power plant could have been built in any of 8 other sites throughout the Region. Instead, a site that is in the protected countryside of the Greenbelt, is part of the provincial government’s designated Ansnorveldt complex wetlands, is linked to the eco system of the Holland Marsh and is less than 400 metres from a heritage hamlet’s church and elementary school. Did I mention it’s also on a flood plain?

It was Northey, the much-respected, award-winning, municipal planning and environmental lawyer, who stated it best when commenting that this simple act of misusing this regulation, in a manner contrary to its own enabling legislation, could forever impact Greenbelt legislation and numerous other pieces of environmental and planning legislation. This sets a dangerous precedent for the entire province and every municipality. Northey went on, that in his view, this could serve to destroy any hope of a green legacy from the McGuinty government’s changes to the planning process in Ontario.

Why? Dalton McGuinty is a nice guy. How could he and his Cabinet put this legacy at risk just to push through a gas generation plant that can’t meet its operational start-up date any way? Also, in the expert opinion of consultants and lawyers hired by King Township, the plant should NOT be built on the designated site. It’s the nanny-state mentality. It is the “Dalt-Knows-Best” attitude to ram it through and dismiss the local citizens raising legitimate concerns as NIMBYS. WRONG. It’s very wrong.

The legal action I am taking with local residents to request a Judicial Review of process will serve the government too. There’s time to get it right. The plaintiffs I have joined are not anti-power, but they are opposed to abuse of process. The end doesn’t justify the means. Our action will NOT delay the government from taking us off coal by 2014. It will permit all involved to review what’s gone wrong and get it right.

Come on. Don’t ram this regulation through with hundreds of OICs using the same process that gave us something more Draconian than the War Measures Act.

It’s time for GREEN THUMBS UP to stopping this insanity and to have the McGuinty Government abide by its own legislation, policies and public commitments.

Looks Like a Flood Plain

If it walks like a duck and sounds like a duck, it might be a duck and this duck might live in a flood plain. It sure is quacky!!How many times has it been said the proposed gas fired peaker plant is NOT on a flood plain? Well, the people of King Township know that particular site is a flood plain that regularly floods. In fact, according to the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority and the Ministry of Natural Resources, the chosen site for the gas fired peaker plant is under the constraints of the PPS because it is a flood plain. These pictures are of the proposed site after a heavy rainfall.

If the municipal planning process had been permitted, there would have been a full review of the issues related to building on a flood plain, within the Ansnorveldt complex wetlands and the protected countryside of the Greenbelt. The development of this plant has NOT been subjected to the usual municipal official plan review, zoning application or site plan review, plus it circumvented the OMB review that was underway.

We all ask, why? We all just want due process to be followed. There were so many alternate sites, why build a gas fired peaker plant on a flood plain in an environmentally sensitive and unique area?

In the post BP oil spill world many now feel power plants and eco sensitive areas don’t mix. Sort of like oil and water, this gas and wetlands plant doesn’t work for us either.

Not NIMBYISM. Just good planning practices.

GPO, Ottawa Business Leaders Demand Government Honour MicroFIT Commitments

NEWS RELEASE

For Immediate Release

July 23, 2010

NEWS

Green Party of Ontario (GPO) representative Kevin O’Donnell joined local solar businessmen Rob Beckers (President, Solacity Inc.), David Long (President, Pheonix Radiance) and James Cummings (President, Clearly Solar) at a news conference in Ottawa today to demand the McGuinty government honour its promise to pay green energy entrepreneurs 80.2 ¢/kWh for solar projects under 10 kilowatts.

O’Donnell criticized the McGuinty government’s decision to change the microFIT rules without any consultation from the solar industry or their customers.

Beckers described how the OPA and the Ministry of Energy have cast a shadow on the industry’s future without any real justification for the sudden pricing changes.

Long described how the slow processing time for microFIT applications, culminating in the pricing reversal, has shaken consumer confidence and will make it very difficult for solar companies to win back customers.

Cummings described how the sudden price change shows a lack of commitment by the government to their own program which has led to instability and uncertainty in the solar power industry.

The Green Party is launching a province-wide campaign to call on Premier McGuinty to honour his word and stand behind the promised pricing for all current solar microFIT applications. Click here to learn more about the campaign: http://www.gpo.ca/node/2615

QUOTES

“The Green Party considers the solar sector to be an emerging industry that Ontario can be a leader in. We must ensure that investors, businesses and individuals can depend on the Ontario government to honour its commitments. We see the unexpected rate changes as damaging to this emerging industry and damaging to the ability of entrepreneurs to fulfill Ontario’s potential as a sustainable energy leader.”
– Kevin O’Donnell, GPO Representative in Ottawa Centre

“This sudden price change shows a lack of commitment on the part of the Ontario Government to their own program. Changing the rules half way through the game demonstrates instability and uncertainty – the last thing investors want to see. It will kill jobs.”
– Jim Cummings, President, Clearly Solar Inc.

“This rate change has cost us several orders, and discouraged many potential customers. By taking 6 months to process applications the OPA is in essence changing the rules of the MicroFIT program retro-actively, and causing great uncertainty for industry and home owners investing in green energy. A more equitable system would fix the rules, including the feed-in-tariffs, as they apply on the application date. The justification given by both the OPA and the Ministry of Energy are not based on realistic data, and we would very much like to see a real analysis of the costs involved. Keep in mind that even if the $1B number would be correct, this works out to just $1.38 per months on our hydro bill. Is that worth throwing away the future of a vibrant new industry that provides employment for Ontarians, and that can propel Ontario to be a world leader in green energy?”
– Rob Beckers, President, Solacity Inc.

“The introduction of the MicroFIT program created a surge of interest for prospective solar customers in Ontario. It stimulated the growth of Phoenix Radiance, the new green energy division of SageTea Group. There is no question that the slow processing time for MicroFIT applications has impacted our business. This reversal by the Ontario Government will make it difficult to win back potential customers. Ground mounted solar projects are the best ones to do because they have the lowest construction costs. Drilling into people’s rooftops, especially when it involves third party roof warranties made rooftop based solar systems something that we chose to avoid. Since the government is targeting our exact product line, we must now re-evaluate our green energy marketing program.”
– David Long, President, Phoenix Radiance – SageTea Group Renewable Energy Division

QUICK FACTS

  • The Ontario Power Authority (OPA) says it has received over 15,000 contract applications since the microFIT program was announced 9 months ago.
  • The majority of applications have been for ground-mounted solar panels predominantly in rural areas. Ground mounted panels are the target of the government’s cuts.
  • The OPA had only approved 3,000 of the contract applications when the cut was suddenly announced. This means close to 10,000 people could be affected by this cutback which will reduce the income on their investment by 27%.
  • A 10 kilowatt solar project costs $70,000 or more to install.

    – 30 –

    Contact:
    Kevin O’Donnell
    (613) 203-2620
    kevin@kodonnell.ca

  • What is the REAL cost of MicroFIT

    Major media outlets do a disservice to the public when they don’t check their facts before they run with stories. In an editorial yesterday entitled “The Solar Divide”, the Toronto Star picked up the government’s refrain that the original MicroFIT feed-in tariff rate for ground mounted solar projects was exorbitantly expensive for Ontario taxpayers. The editorial argued that the rate needed to be cut from $0.80 to $0.58 per kilowatt hour before “it ends up costing electricity ratepayers an unnecessary $1 billion in extra costs.”

    The $1 billion in extra costs which is cited in government press releases and picked up in the Star editorial sounds like a very big number indeed, but closer examination of the numbers released by the government tells a different story.

    There are approximately 10,000 MicroFIT projects that applied for contracts at the original $0.80 rate but which have not yet been approved yet. Assume for a moment that these are ALL ground mount solar projects. The Ontario Power Authority published figures which show that the difference per project between the original tariff and the reduced tariff is $2,950 per year in electrical cost (averaged for tracking and non-tracking installations). 10,000 projects x $2,950 per year = $29.5 million dollars per year in extra power cost. By comparison, in its 2009 financial report, HydroOne reported total costs of $3.9 billion per year.

    The cost to meet the government’s MicroFIT feed-in tariff commitment for the 10,000 existing projects is less than 1% of HydroOne’s annual cost. Is that too much to pay to maintain investor confidence in the future of community solar energy in Ontario…especially in comparison with the government’s $7 billion backroom deal offered to corporate giant Samsung?

    Schreiner Joins Residents and Farmers in Launching Legal Action Against Ontario Government Over King Township Peaker Plant

    NEWS
    Green Party of Ontario (GPO) Leader Mike Schreiner joined King Township concerned citizens and Holland Marsh farmers in launching legal action against the Ontario Government to force it to stop ignoring local democracy and concerns related to a gas generation plant being developed in King Township.

    The Government was served with a statement of claim this morning. The plaintiffs are seeking a Judicial Review claiming that the Government has ignored its own legislation, its own promises and its own procurement rules which has served to deny citizens and the municipality the right to have concerns properly aired and addressed.

    The claim cites clear and numerous examples of abuse of process and power. Schreiner is making this a Green Action Priority* and engaging all parties and all concerned groups to require the Government to stop, to respect proper process and their own commitments including: full respect for municipal planning process; full engagement of the public; and, complete respect for all applicable legislation and processes.

    QUOTES
    “The Liberal government’s actions in circumventing the law to railroad this plant through are unprecedented, are unfounded in law and could have a devastating impact on municipal and environmental processes for communities across Ontario. We are fighting for what’s right for all Ontarians.”
    — Mike Schreiner, Leader, GPO

    “We are standing up for citizens across Ontario to ensure that the government follows its own laws and processes while engaging citizens and municipalities in smart planning.”
    — Debbie Schaefer, Concerned Citizens of King Township

    “Our family grows healthy local food for all Ontarians, we follow strict rules, and I can’t understand why the government would break its own rules to push through this proposed plant located on a floodplain in the Greenbelt on protected countryside.”
    — Avia Eek, Holland Marsh farmer

    QUICK FACTS
    – The proposed plant is located on an active flood plain, in the Ansnorveldt wetlands, in legislatively-protected designated countryside of the Greenbelt.
    – The closest elementary school is less than 400 metres from the proposed gas plant.
    – King Township has publicly indicated on numerous occasions this site does NOT conform to municipal planning requirements.
    – This plant will no longer serve local power needs as it cannot meet OPAs “islanding” requirement.
    – *Green Action Priorities is a non-profit organization that is a plaintiff in the claim established by Schreiner to facilitate citizen participation in this legal action.

    -30-
    Contact:
    Jaymini Bhikha (416) 275-8573

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