Even as the Alberta Utilities Commission puts a pause on renewable energy projects, in large part because rural landowners have not been properly engaged, one energy corporation continues to “play games”.
Residents of the Northern Valley near Elk Point, Alberta where a proposed industrial wind project would be built among their homes and farms, have joined a collective legal fund. They have repeatedly asked the company behind the project, Elemental Energy (EE), to engage directly with the environmental law firm representing the residents. EE has refused to answer numerous letters requesting information and data.
Then, during a public Open House, residents attempted to have their questions and concerns answered as a group, but were again repeatedly refused by the Vancouver-based company — an exchange that was captured in a stunning video.
“That exchange, we were told, was forwarded to some within the government and may, in fact, have contributed to the province’s resolve to enact this moratorium,” says Wind Concerns Editor in Chief, Mark Mallett. “It is a textbook example of how rural residents across this country are being utterly mowed over by the ‘green rush’.
“Most people don’t realize that by the time rural residents even hear about a proposed project in their area, it’s pretty much a done deal. Lease agreements have been covertly signed with their neighbors and submissions to regulatory bodies are underway. So-called “public consultations”, at that point, are mere publicity stunts. They have nothing to do with actually listening to the public’s concerns. This is why the moratorium is a shock to the renewable energy industry: they can’t believe the province is actually paying attention to rural residents.”
Mallett says that, despite the bad publicity of EE’s stonewalling, the company continues to refuse to engage in meaningful dialogue. “As residents, we have serious environmental and other concerns, which is why we choose to have a serious discussion through our legal representation”. But Wind Concerns has learned that EE has now sent out information packets with a letter claiming that these are an ‘invitation to engage directly with Elemental Energy.’ The corporation has also tried contacting residents by phone, rather than respecting the process that residents have chosen, says Mallett.
“We saw in the Open House how they wanted to separate residents who were often given conflicting and confusing answers; Elementary Energy was caught a few times playing word games. This is why we insist on an appropriate forum and why we will be asking the Alberta Utilities Commission to overhaul the process of public consultation.”
One suggestion, offers Mallett, is to regulate that landowner lease agreements cannot be signed until the entire community has had a chance to learn of the project, raise their concerns, and have a proper debate. “And this isn’t just for those opposed to these projects. We’ve also spoken with some landowners down south who agreed to have wind turbines on their property, but who now have deep regrets. A public consultation weighing the pros and cons would help in that decision process as opposed to leaving it to the often sneaky sales tactics of these corporations. We’ve spoken to landowners who’ve been outright lied to in order to manipulate them into signing contracts in secret. This has to stop.”
Mallett says Northern Valley residents are eager to engage the AUC in their six-month inquiry into how these processes can restore public confidence, as well as express general concerns on the environmental harms of solar and wind projects.
The AUC has asked that submissions be made by August 18, 2023.1