More on “Tilting at Windmills”: Ontario Tables Anti-SLAPP Legislation – & How It Could Cover Existing Cases
At just about the same time that news was breaking of NextEra’s controversial lawsuit against Esther Wrightman, the Ontario Government AG, the Hon. J. Gerrertsen, tabled Bill 83 – which would, if passed, introduce some remarkably positive changes to Ontario law regarding #SLAPP lawsuits. The bill, if passed, would provide much needed encouragement of public interest expression, commentary and participation. It would, indeed, serve as a serous chill against litigation of little or no merit that is intended to stifle or prevent public expressions of comment on matters of public interest. @EzraLevant, a well-known Sun News commentator, had some written and verbal comments on June 9, 2013 on the Sun website about NextEra’s lawsuit against Esther Wrightman and whether he sees it as a “SLAPP” suit.
Bill 83 would provide that if a party is sued as the result of “expression” made by a person concerning a matter of public interest, the defendant can move to have the proceedings thrown out unless the plaintiff can show that:
· The proceeding has “substantial merit”;
· The moving party has no valid defence; and
· The harm resulting from the defendant’s expression is sufficiently serious that that public interest in allowing the proceeding to continue would outweigh the public interest in protecting that expression.
Howard Knopf, Excess Copyright
A young mother and environmental activist in southern Ontario is being sued by Nextera, a wind turbine company, which is part of an an American based enterprise that has sales of about $15 billion a year. It apparently cut down a tree with a bald eagle nest, an act which she did not like and which she filmed. Here’s her video.
Here’s Nextera’s Statement of Claim, which required the efforts of three McCarthy’s lawyers to come up with a very long and fulsome list of allegations involving “Offending Material” under the the Trade-marks, Copyright, and Competition Acts and various common law torts including “common-law trade libel”, and one I’ve never heard of, namely “appropriating an insignia in which the Plaintiff has a proprietary interest.” .
As Ezra suggests, this could be another Erin Brockovich story. Moreover, Nextera is likely going to learn the lessons of the Streisand effect, which is that trying to suppress a discussion on the internet usually just draws more attention to it.
Billion dollar wind company, Nextera, sues activist Esther Wrightman, Kerwood, Ontario (Bornish project). Esther had the temerity to satirize the Nextera logo, using the term “Nexterror”, and also refused to remove a video depicting the brutal removal of an active eagles nest permitted literally “over the weekend.”
According to Jim Wiegand, a specialist in bird biology and wind turbine bird kills:
“Nobody has a history of killing eagles like the wind energy company Nextera. So if you were an eagle it would make perfect sense that their turbines would be terrifying. If you were an eagle minding your own business and had your wing severed from a slashing blade, knowing you were going to die, this would certainly seem like an act of terror. Thousands of eagles have died this way. If you had just fledged your offspring and while they were learning to hunt, had them butchered by nearby turbines, this would also seem to be terrifying. The charity that Nextera wants to donate any settlement funds to should come out and say they want no part in any of this. I think a better idea would be for Nextera to donate any settlement funds to a truly independent Wildlife Biologist, for proper wind turbine mortality and cumulative impact studies.”
Did Nextera anticipate the flurry of articles and media interest that has occurred by suing Rock Garden specialist, and anti-wind activist, Esther Wrightman? And what is the subtext to the 32 Billion (Market Capitalization) company (with numerous paid lobbyists), lawsuit that on the surface incorrectly mentions being called “terrorists” by the blogger, Wrightman, and an antipathy for satirical use of its logo? (Wrightman did not use the word terrorists, but merely changed the logo to “Nexterror,” which could be read as Terror, or Error. This satiric branding, in both shapes, it should be mentioned, has been used by many activists for some time now. Read article
Robert Bryce, The National Review
The Goliath of the wind-energy business is suing David. The defendant is Esther Wrightman, an activist and mother of two from the tiny town of Kerwood, Ontario, which sits roughly halfway between Detroit and Toronto.
Wrightman, 32, has angered the Florida-based NextEra Energy (market capitalization: $32 billion) by starting a couple of bare-bones websites, ontariowindresistance.org and mlwindaction.org, as well as a YouTube channel, which she uses to lampoon the company. In its lawsuit, filed on May 1, NextEra claims that Wrightman has misused its logo and libeled the company by calling it “NexTerror” and “NextError.” And while the company doesn’t specify the amount of damages it seeks from Wrightman, it says that it will donate any proceeds from the litigation to United Way.
NextEra owns some 10,000 megawatts of wind-generation capacity, or about one-sixth of all U.S. capacity. And the company is aggressively developing six new wind projects in Canada, one of which, the Adelaide Wind Energy Centre, aims to put 38 turbines just north of Wrightman’s home. (You can see her property and the surrounding land by going here.)
NextEra’s filing against Wrightman is a textbook case of a SLAPP suit, a strategic lawsuit against public participation. And it’s a particularly loathsome one as NextEra filed it in Ontario, the epicenter of the backlash against the encroaching sprawl of the 150-meter-high, noise-producing, bird-and-bat-killing, subsidy-dependent wind-energy sector. Read article
by Eric Nixon, Hayter-Walden Publications
Forget everything you’ve ever heard about industrial wind turbines. Forget about the fact that some people can’t sleep because of them. Or that they cause property devaluations by up to 50%. Or that they’re a blight on the rural landscape.
Forget about the fact that they make life unlivable for many autistic children. Or that many countries in the world are in the process of abandoning them. Or that they only operate less than 30% of the time and often when they’re not needed. Forget about the fact that they create virtually no jobs. Or that they seriously affect tourism. Or that they kill birds, bats and other wildlife.
Forget about the fact that they’re causing the destruction of valuable, productive farmland. Or that much of their profits go to U.S.-based corporations. Or that they cause tinnitus and other hearing disorders for many people. Forget about the fact that it will likely cost us hundreds of millions of dollars to tear them down in two decades or whenever they need to be decommissioned. Or that they’re driving a wedge between rural neighbours. Or that many people suffer headaches, dizziness, vertigo, nausea and other health disorders because of them. Read the rest of this entry
Environmental Registry – SUBMIT COMMENT Due July 6th
Description of Instrument:
This posting is for a proposed Renewable Energy Approval by wpd Napier Wind Incorporated, for the Napier Wind project, proposed to be located at 27904 Brown Road, Township of Adelaide Metcalfe, County of Middlesex, Ontario. This is a Class 4 wind facility with a total expected generation capacity of 4.1 megawatts (MW).
The proposed facility is considered to be a Class 4 wind facility under Ontario Regulation 359/09 (O. Reg. 359/09) Renewable Energy Approvals under Part V.0.1 of the Environmental Protection Act. Applications for Renewable Energy Approvals are required to be submitted in accordance with O. Reg. 359/09 for consideration for approval.
This proposal has been posted for a 45 day public review and comment period starting May 22, 2013. If you have any questions, or would like to submit your comments, please do so by July 06, 2013 to the individual listed under “Contact”. Additionally, you may submit your comments on-line. Read the rest of this entry
Sarnia Lambton Independent
Lambton Shores Council has joined dozens of municipalities which say they are ‘not willing hosts’ to industrial wind turbines. Municipalities have had little say in the planning of the projects since the province brought in the Green Energy Act. It overruled any local planning authority. At the time, then- Premier Dalton McGuinty said it would stop people from objecting to the projects simply because they didn’t want them in their backyards.
But since then, rural communities have organized lobbying groups trying to impress upon local government and the province there are health concerns associated with the industrial turbines even as big energy companies began planning projects around the province. In Lambton Shores, 267 of turbines will soon dot the landscape including two major projects by Suncor Energy (46 turbines), NextEra Energy’s Jericho project with 92 turbines.
Lambton Shores has been carefully pouring over the projects, hoping to offer comment to the Ministry of the Environment on areas where residents are have voiced concerned, such as how far the turbines are from homes, stray voltage, and the health effects from sound vibrations. Lambton Shores has asked for a moratorium on wind development until a health study by the federal government is complete, but so far the province hasn’t responded. Read article
Sarnia Lambton Independent
NextEra Energy is trying to ease fears about the fate of a pair of bald eagles near Parkhill. Middlesex Lambton Wind Action Group is holding a “celebration” near the nest on Kerwood Road May 25 to bring awareness to the fact the eagles will be living within 187 meters of a substation and 800 meters of two wind turbines if the company goes ahead with its plans for the Bornish Wind project.
Muriel Blair of the Middlesex Lambton group is concerned. “It will displace the eagles, even the construction itself will displace them,” she says. “It’s the noise, it’s the vibration that displaces them.”
NextEra raised the ire of landowners, First Nations, environmentalist and anti-turbine activists this winter when it cut down an eagles nest in Haldimand County to make way for a project. Blair is worried that could happen again if the public isn’t aware of the birds, so the get-together was planned to raise awareness. Read article
Sarnia this Week
ST. CLAIR TOWNSHIP – St. Clair Township is not a willing host for wind turbines. That’s the declaration councillors made – unanimously – after a recent discussion to establish a by-law about where they can be placed within the municipality. Deputy Clerk and Coordinator of Planning Jeff Baranek made a presentation to council suggesting it adopt a by-law to establish building permit fees for industrial wind turbines.
“You can’t make revenue off building permit fees,” he said, “but you can ensure all costs… are harboured by the developer.” Baranek’s suggestion was a $10,000 fee per turbine plus $100 per metre to the highest point of the structure. He mentioned that some municipalities – most notably Bluewater – are issuing other fees, like a $220,000 decommissioning fee by that municipality, but such a cost was not among his recommendations. He did, however, suggest that council adopt a two-kilometre setback from any property line, which he said would essentially “sterilize” the township. Read article
Yesterday was a beautiful day at the Bald Eagle Celebration, for so many reasons. But at the very end of the day, as about a dozen of of us were packing up, someone yelled, “Hey, look up!”. One of the Bornish Eagles was flying overhead – he circled around us for about a minute, and then took off in the direction of the proposed NextEra Bornish wind project. Some things you just can’t put words to…. this was one of them.
An anti-wind group has appealed NextEra Energy Canada’s 60MW Bluewater wind project in Ontario. The Middlesex-Lambton Wind Action Group has asked the provincial environmental review tribunal to revoke a renewable energy approval granted in April. The opposition group claims the 40-turbine wind farm will cause serious harm to human health. Preliminary hearings will be held 4 and 28 of June. A full hearing is set for 2 July.
The Ontario Energy Board is conducting a written hearing for NextEra’s application to build interconnection facilities, which include a 23-kilometer 115kV transmission line. In the meantime, the Florida-based developer has filed suit seeking to overturn new bylaws enacted by Bluewater council. Developers would have to pay C$14,000 per turbine plus a refundable security deposit totaling C$420,000 per turbine to cover decommissioning and potential health and property damages and legal fees. Another appeal is underway against NextEra’s 72.9MW Bornish proposal. The tribunal has yet to set hearing dates. Both wind farms are designed with GE 1.6-100 turbines
The municipality will seek intervener status for Next Era’s leave to construct for the Goshen Wind Energy Centre. Since the municipality only had 10 days left to file for intervener status, Bluewater’s Chief Administrative Officer Steve McAuley, asked council how they wished to proceed with the leave to construct.
“We need to deal with this notice because they come fast and fierce. It’s the nature of the beast,” said McAuley at the meeting. McAuley suggested to council that they seek intervener status, so they can be informed of the comings and goings happening with the Ontario Energy Board and also ask for an oral hearing and to have their costs to be covered. The exact same thing council requested for Next Era’s previous leave to construct for the Bluewater Wind Energy Centre.
McAuley said that since the municipality had requested intervener status and an oral hearing with Next Era’s Bluewater Wind Energy Centre, council can expect similar results, including not being appointed costs and not receiving the oral hearing. Read article
Bentley flew the coop, and Chiarelli doesn’t deal with something he views as important as chicken shit, so he wrote this:
Gord Whitehead, Age Dispatch Focus
Was it a gesture of gratitude? A bald eagle circled overhead just as wind turbine protesters were wrapping up a Saturday afternoon community awareness ‘celebration’ aimed at sparing the rare bird’s nest from nearby electrical power developments.
“The day was very enjoyable, with good collective spirits shared,” said Esther Wrightman, spokesperson for the Middlesex-Lambton Wind Action Group. “But to top it off, when we were packing up at 5 p.m., someone said, ‘look up!’. One of the Bornish eagles was circling right above us, for about a minute before he headed south, into the Bornish Wind Project area. Some things I just don’t have words for, and that was one of those moments.”
Wrightman estimated 200 persons dropped in during the all-afternoon May 25 event at West Williams Community Centre, southwest of Parkhill. Group members were joined by supporters from Toronto, Haldimand County, Goderich, Clinton, Delaware-Munsee and Kettle & Stony Point.
By Paul Morden, Sarnia Observer
Ontario’s pledge to increase local control over large wind and solar farms is “a lot of smoke and mirrors,” says one Lambton County anti-wind activist. Marcelle Brooks, a rural Lambton Shores resident with the Middlesex-Lambton Wind Action Group, dismissed Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli’s announcement Thursday that municipalities will have a greater role in where future large renewable energy projects locate.
“There’s not a lot of credibility here,” Brooks said. “Truly, did they change direction, or did they just put a new spin on it?” Chiarelli said Ontario’s Feed-In Tariff (FIT) system for awarding renewable energy contracts will be replaced, for large projects over 500 kilowatts, with a new competitive process where the government says wind companies will be required to work with municipalities on locations and site requirements.
The change comes as a growing number of municipalities are declaring themselves unwilling hosts for wind farms, and some mayors are saying Ontario’s wind energy push is dividing their communities. The Liberals lost the Lambton-Kent-Middlesex riding, and other rural seats, in the last provincial election. Brooks said Thursday’s announcementsdoes nothing for residents opposed to projects that already have FIT contracts, including Nextera and Suncor’s proposals to build a total of nearly 140 turbines in Lambton Shores, Plympton-Wyoming and Warwick Township. Read article
London Free Press
Local politicians and leaders of community groups took turns Thursday piling on the Wynne government, saying new rules for wind farms fall far short of what’s needed. The rules, revealed by Sun Media this week and outlined Thursday by Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli, promise to increase consultation with affected municipalities.
“Unless we can get full veto, I just don’t know if it’s going to be very good for us,” Middlesex County Warden Brad Richards said. “Don’t do it halfway.”
The Liberals still have their work cut out for them in rural Ontario — where they were nearly wiped off the map in the 2011 election — because residents there are going to be “very, very suspicious” about the changes, said political scientist Peter Woolstencroft of the University of Waterloo. “People will question the commitment.” The best way to win over rural Ontario would be to give both sides — the province and municipalities — a veto over large projects, Woolstencroft said.
Many communities in Middlesex County already have wind farms, and more are planned.Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said municipalities will be consulted before major projects proceed. “It’s true that there’s not a veto power involved in this process, but we always have to balance the greater good with the local good,” Wynne said. “I hope it meets the needs of the municipality but we’re going to work on it.” Read article
About 50 protesters greeted Premier Kathleen Wynne when she arrived at the opening of the Goodwill One Tomato garden in Sarnia around 10 a.m. A combination of Save the Jail and STOP wind turbine demonstrators waving placards attempted to talk to the premier as she walked by. Wynne took the stage and began her opening remarks while protesters continued to yell “Hey, hey Liberals, you’re fired, you’re fired” and “Hey Wynne, you’re not listening.”
Mayor Mike Bradley stood at the podium and attempted to quiet the demonstrators during the opening ceremonies. “We appreciate dissent but we also appreciate respect,” he said. Wynne told the crowd that she had earlier told about 20 Queen Elizabeth II students who were serving fresh vegetables to the crowd of 200 that she appreciates freedom of expression. “I am working to address your concerns that have been raised,” she told the crowd. Read article
The weather was warm but not the reception as an Ontario Premier visited Sarnia for the first time since 2007. Kathleen Wynne was met by anti-wind turbine and Sarnia Jail protesters as she arrived for the opening of a Community Garden at Goodwill Industries at Wellington and Murphy. The new Liberal Premier’s first order of business was an interview with Sue Storr on CHOK’s The Talk Show at 9 this morning. She said the province’s new green energy rules are not necessarily retroactive with 22 projects already approved, many of which are in the Lambton-Middlesex area. Read article
Thomas Walkom, The Star
After years of dismissing rural opposition to wind turbines, Ontario’s Liberal government is belatedly trying to defuse the problem. Its efforts may be too little. They are definitely late. In cities, the giant, industrial, three-blade windmills are back of mind. When, as has happened in Toronto, urban voters do object to wind turbines the Liberal government is quick to back off.
But most wind farms are slated for rural Ontario. And here, the government, until now, has been unbending. It refused to accept persistent claims from local residents that wind farms put their health at risk. It overruled municipalities that tried to regulate or ban turbines. Instead, in virtually all cases, the Liberals sided with the big, private generating companies seeking to establish these profitable wind farms.
No wonder then that the Liberals were virtually wiped out in rural Ontario during the last election. Wind turbines helped to deprive them of their last footholds. Read article
(Kerwood) – After tucking in her children at 9 o’clock, Strathroy-area resident Esther Wrightman received a knock at the door and the delivery of a summons. The Kerwood mother of two was served a court notice initiated by Nextera Energy Canada claiming she — among many things — used the company’s logo to mislead the public.
The allegation refers to videos posted on Wrightman’s website altering the Nextera logo to read “NexTerror” and “NextError.” Bayshore Broadcasting News contacted Nextera for comment, but received no response. It was five years ago she learned about the issues surrounding wind turbines when Nextera began planning a wind farm nearby. Suncor also had wind developments in the works in her home County of Lambton.
It wasn’t long after Wrightman tells us she began making videos, which she describes as honest because of their lack of scripting or editing. She says the first video featuring the altered Nextera logo was posted about a year ago, but claims she is not the originator of the terms “NextError” or “NextTerror.” Wrightman tells Bayshore Broadcasting News the community commonly referred to Nextera using the two augmented names because of their reputation for rescheduling meetings, much to the community’s dismay. Read article
Debora Van Brenk, London Free Press
Canada’s wind energy giant has slapped a Strathroy-area rock gardener with a lawsuit alleging she’s harming its reputation. In a Goliath-vs-David dispute, NextEra Energy Canada says Esther Wrightman is discrediting it, depreciating its goodwill in the community and mutilating its copyrighted logo. NextEra Energy’s operating revenue in 2012 was $14 billion.
On the other side is Wrightman, who says she can’t even afford the $144 fee to file her statement of defence. “It’s totally parody,” Wrightman said, defending her manipulation of the NextEra logo. “It’s parody and it’s fair comment on what they’ve done.”
A mother of two, whose income comes from disability supports and selling plants for rock gardens, Wrightman has been a thorn in NextEra’s side for opposing wind turbines planned for the Strathroy area. She’s also drawn the company’s ire for posting a video of the dismantling of a bald eagle’s nest in the path of a Haldimand turbine project. The lawsuit, filed with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, contends Wrightman mutilated the firm’s logo by making it read “NextTerror” and “NextError.” It also says she infringed on copyright, made misleading statements meant to discredit the business, made false representations and showed bad faith. Read article
Calvin Luther Martin, PhD, WTS.com
On September 15, 2004, I fell down the rabbit hole into the make-believe world of “wind energy.” Nine years ago the wind turbine hucksters arrived in Franklin County, NY, oiling their way from townhall to townhall, farmhouse to farmhouse, selling the (palpably absurd) idea of ”clean, green, renewable” wind energy. (Just another snake-oil, yet spectacularly lucrative.)
For nine years, I’ve been witness to a colossal corporate scam that flourishes despite all the contrary evidence of physics, clinical medicine, economics, environmentalism—and common sense. Nine years wracking my brain for ways to vanquish it.
We tried publishing Nina’s book, “Wind Turbine Syndrome: A Report on a Natural Experiment,” thinking (not unreasonably) that 300 pages of clinical and scientific evidence would shut it down. We were naive. Zealots driven by dollar bills and the magical thinking of “clean energy” countered with a tsunami of junk science in various junk formats—and, horrifically, it worked. (Never underestimate the ingenuity of corrupt fools, especially the ones with PhD’s.)
I debated the merits of suing wind companies. Nope, that was a non-starter. I pondered the likelihood of convincing local governments to reject these useless grotesqueries marching across the landscape. This had mixed results. Read article
Sarnia Lambton Independent
NextEra Energy has made good on its threat to sue a local anti-wind activist. The company, which has several wind energy projects slated for Lambton and Middlesex Counties, is suing to stop the use of “offending logos.”
The company has filed a lawsuit in Toronto saying Esther Wrightman’s use of NextError and Next Terror on her websites Ontario Wind Resistance and the Middlesex Lambton Wind Concerns. Court documents say the use of the logos “is false” and is “likely to mislead the public as to the character” of NextEra.
The company takes issue with being linked to terror. “NextEra is operating in full compliance with the law…the defendant is aware or is recklessly indifferent to the fact that the term ‘terror’ and ‘terrorist’ is reserved or organizations with extreme and violent criminal aims,” the lawsuit says adding the terms are usually linked to organizations such as Al-Qaida and Hezbollah. “NextEra is a law-abiding organization that has consulted extensively in the defendant’s community. It has committed no acts of terror or violence.”
NextEra wants Wrightman to remove all references to NextError and Next Terror and a video showing the company cutting down an eagle’s next in Haldimand County. It’s also seeking damages saying Wrightman may have gained financially through donations to the website for various wind groups. Read article
Paul Morden, Sarnia Observer
NextEra Energy Canada is suing Middlesex County wind activist Esther Wrightman over altered company logos that appeared online and in videos posted to YouTube. The Canadian subsidiary of Florida-based NextEra Energy Resources filed a statement of claim in the Ontario Superior Court in Toronto against Wrightman who has been actively opposing wind turbine projects in Middlesex and Lambton counties.
They include NextEra’s Adelaide wind farm near Wrightman’s home, as well as the company’s nearby Bornish and Jericho projects. “Our policy is not to comment on pending legal action,” NextEra spokesperson Josie Hernandez said when contacted Monday. “We look forward to sharing our view on the matter with the court.” The statement of claim says any damages NextEra recovers from the court action will be donated to United Way Canada.
According to NextEra’s statement of claim, a company logo was altered to say “Nexterror,” and appeared on a province anti-wind website, as well as videos posted online. The allegations have not been proven in court. Read article
Bluewater Preliminary ERT Hearing
Date: June 4
Place: The Bluewater Stanley Complex, Community Centre, 38594B Mill Road, Varna MAP
Clinton News Record
A neighbouring anti turbine group has launched an appeal on Next Era’s Bluewater wind energy approval. The Middlesex Lambton Wind Action group filed the appeal on May 7, with the Environment Review Tribunal, stating the approved project would cause severe harm to human health and the natural environment.
Member of the group, Esther Wrightman, said they have launched similar appeals in areas around Ontario, because then, it opens the door. “In a way, it was done because of a lack of anybody else appealing it. We hate to see any wind project not challenged by someone,” she said. With several of Next Era’s projects proposed or in construction in Lambton Middlesex, including the Adelaide, Bornish and Jericho projects, the group also takes note of the proponent’s other projects. “We look at this basically as one huge project, which includes the Goshen and Bluewater projects,” she added. Read article