Field Notes from a Landowner/NextEra Wind Meeting
I attended a meeting of ~ 20 landowners along the proposed 115KV transmission from the Adelaide Wind project north to the “tap” into the 500 kv line at Nairn. The NextEra/FPL project manager was there with 2 “landmen” (that’s what they’re called). The whole meeting was about 1.5 hours total. It was a “mixed” meeting in that roughly half the attendees were signed to wind leases. NextEra agreed to the meeting in the hopes that they could answer questions about the trans line and hopefully get the adjoining landowners to sign easements that would facilitate placement and alignment of the poles.
To better understand the situation, it is helpful to know the layout:
1) County Rd. #6 is an old, narrow roadway with houses very close to the road. An historic building, the old Keyser General Store literally sits on the roadway, in fact, only about 10′ of the store are on the owners’ property.
2) For a distance of over 5 miles, adjoining landowners are refusing to sign transmission easements. One property owner turned down an amount in excess of $200,000. Another refused over $150,000. These are people who do not want to sell-out and move; nor, do they want their farm operations damaged.
3) Residents who have not signed wind leases feel no obligation to help Nextera, especially when the compensation being offered is far less than the loss of property value that will result.
4) Landmen have repeatedly sought to sign up landowners using a “Jekyll and Hyde” approach – sometimes supplicant and sweet offering cash; at other times threatening to put the line “…right in front of your house.”
Soooo…..The meeting started out polite and cordial; but after an hour residents, fed-up with the bull-headed attitude of the company and with little left to lose, off-loaded onto the three reps – eventually asking one of them to leave (politely but firmly). Here are some of the highlights:
– Project manager states that it has been 3-4 months since they had a meeting with the Middlesex Cty. Engineer, which speaks volumes about the consultation process.
– Resident asks who will be responsible for transmission line in case of outage, accidents, etc. Project manager replies that, “NextEra would give….sell (for $1) the line to Hydro”. I wonder what Hydro One thinks about that?
– After project manager states that the company would go to the OEB to seek permission to build, a resident says, “As a company from a different country you can come in and…” the project manager interjects and says NextEra is a transmitter of electricity in Ontario and “… has the right to use the right of way.”
– Resident asks if the company has considered other routes. Another resident adds , “You’ve got a roomful of people who don’t want it, you’re telling us the neighbours do want it and they’re signing up, you’re telling us lies.” Others interject and say they have heard this also. A landman tries to deny this. A resident cuts him off saying, “Yes you are (lying)…yes you have.”
The frustration has been building for an hour. Residents see that NextEra won’t budge, so now the aggravation of all the tricks the wind reps used to sign people come to the surface – people have not forgotten nor forgiven them for their deception. A landman tries to clarify by saying, “We haven’t said the neighbours on THIS section have signed up.” At which point there are loud guffaws from the crowd with people correcting him. Project manager then states, that “It get’s harder and harder to change the route.”
– A resident who signed a lease says angrily to the project manager, “You don’t care about us, but we care, we have a farm. You don’t care, so what does it matter? Where’s your conscience? – You don’t have a conscience….leave our farmland alone. We’re trying to grow food for you guys in the city.”
– Resident points at the 2 landmen (now very quiet) saying, “You two, you’ve been at my place I don’t know how many times trying to get me to sign an easement. Why? Because you want to make money. It doesn’t matter about our kids and grandkids …it doesn’t matter.. .you gotta make money.”
– Landman says, “There are a lot of landowners (who want the turbines)” . To which a farmer retorts, “That’s because you guys brain-washed them all. You came in here, I was one of them. You told a bunch of lies, and you did come in and tell people that the next door neighbour was signed-up… you guys are all liars.” Then he asks the one landman, “Can you go home now, please?” – and the guy gets up and goes outside to wait in the car – rather thankful to leave he was.
– After he leaves, I ask questions about “ILA’s” (independent legal advice) for the leaseholders. Project manager becomes more and more testy in this exchange. He denies having specific knowledge about it. I state that from my knowledge of the project, none of the leases has had an ILA written.
Frustrated the project manager blurts out, “Harvey, you seem to know more about the project than I do.” Well, I do live here, so I suppose you’re right.
Trying to take hold of this issue, the project manager states, “We offer to pay for ILA’s, whether people take us up on that or not.” That’s a laugh. People who have been approached tell me that IF compensation is offered, it is only on the understanding that a lease is signed. If anyone anywhere has had wind company pay for their ILA, please let us know. It would be an exceptional find.
– Another resident lays into the landmen about the methods used. The resident is quite angry and cuts off his attempts to respond.
– Resident states, “That’s it.” and the meeting breaks up.
This meeting lays out the issues – the principal one being the use of the old “divide and conquer” ploy to herd people into signing the leases without proper consultation – and then they’ve got you chained to a 50 year lease. This wouldn’t happen if the same rules of practice applied that are used for “franchise ” companies (e.g. – Tim Hortons) or a “family law” contract. In these cases Independent Legal Advice (ILA) is mandatory or there is no contract. This effectively levels the playing field.
Though I’ve raised this issue repeatedly, no Liberal will reply to this simple suggestion. They have no desire to level the playing field.