IESO bureaucrats breached ‘caretaker’ period by clearing final project hurdle AFTER Liberals’ defeat, alleges Nation Rise critic

Nation Valley News images are combined to show Kathleen Wynne looming over a Brinston landscape, site of the South Branch Wind Project — precursor to the planned Nation Rise Wind Project in Berwick, subject of this letter. Nation Valley News

Freedom of Information request reveals IESO issued crucial notice to developer on June 13, a week after Wynne Liberals’ defeat and a week before Ford PCs were sworn in, according to local letter writer condemning ‘unethical’ move

The Editor:

I’ve recently sent this correspondence to Ontario’s Minister of Energy, Northern Development and Mines regarding the Nation Rise Wind project in North Stormont.

Good afternoon Minister Rickford,

As you know, EDP is required to meet the following two key milestones before allowing their bulldozers to start tearing up our beautiful township:

  1. EDP receiving Renewable Energy Approval (REA) from the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC); and
  2. EDP receiving Key Development Milestone (KDM) notice issued by the Independent Electrical System Operator (IESO).

Plenty has been written about the fact that the highly conditional Renewable Energy Approval (REA) was issued two business days prior to the writ dropping in last spring’s provincial election period therefore I will not dwell further on this piece.

But I am now turning your attention to the timing of the IESO’s KDM notice to EDP…. which was June 13th.

Intrigued, I decided to do a little research on the restrictions that were supposed to be in place for government departments and related entities during an election period.

Through the ontario.ca website I found the following directive dated February 28, 2018 issued to Deputy Ministers and applicable to all staff, chairs and Chief Executive Officers of agencies, boards and commissions.  The directive reminded all of the long held practice of “caretaker role” which would commence with the dissolution of the Legislative Assembly (May 9th) and continue until the swearing in of the new government (the 29th of June).

The directive further explained that the essential element of the caretaker practice is that only routine, non-controversial or urgent business is to be conducted.  The directive provided questions to gauge consistency to the directive such as: 1) Is there a potential for the work to be raised as a political issue during the election?; 2) Do any of the next steps require further political decision or direction?; 3) Is there any reason why the activity cannot wait?; 4) Would the work limit or impact the decision making freedom of a future government?; 5) Would any future government agree the work was necessary during the writ period?

This directive also states: “Prior approval to engage in these activities does not provide authority to continue once the caretaker period has begun. Except for the normal implementation of routine government services and programs, any activity or action that would not reasonably be perceived as routine, non-controversial, urgent or time sensitive, should be suspended once the writ is issued”.

On May 7th a second reminder was sent to Deputy Ministers reminding them of “caretaker oversights” including carefully reviewing all procurement or contract agreements to ensure that the ministry is not committing to expenditures or contractual agreements during the writ period.

On June 8th a third reminder was sent to Deputy Ministers reminding them that the government was still in “caretaker role” where only routine or very urgent business will be conducted until the formal transition of power to the new government.

So it’s very clear that the Ontario Government, its departments, agencies, boards and commissions were instructed and reminded repeatedly that it “was not business as usual” and that they had to be very careful in conducting business through the election period of May 9th to the swearing in of the new government on June 29th.

Late last year, I asked the IESO to confirm the date in which the KDM notice was issued. Unfortunately, the IESO refused to answer my question. Therefore, I was forced to go through the Freedom of Information (FOI) route and was granted a copy of the KDM notice from IESO to EDP.

The IESO issued the KDM notice to EDP on June 13th, which was a full week after the Liberals were virtually wiped off the map of Ontario and a full week and a half before the PCs were sworn into office.

Yes this is true, during the transition period in June, the IESO gave final approval to the largest of the LRP1 contracts, a 20 plus year, several hundred million dollar wind turbine contract.

As you know,  the Nation Rise Wind Turbine Project has been a controversial project since the beginning with the Township of North Stormont voting itself a non willing host to industrial wind turbines. Furthermore, a citizen opposition group filed an appeal against the REA on May 22nd which was subsequently accepted by the MOECC and they informed us that the Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) process was underway on May 28th. The IESO would have been notified of the appeal, according to their guidelinesand they would have been aware of the pending Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT).

As mentioned, IESO’s issuance of the KDM notification is the final approval required before EDP can start the construction for the Nation Rise Wind Turbine project, but we are also reminded of two other very important aspects that are tied to the issuance of the KDM notice to EDP;

  1. Upon issuance of the KDM to EDP, the cost of cancelling the Nation Rise Wind Turbine Project increases exponentially; and
  2. On July 5th you issued an Order in Council directing that all LRP1 contracts (which Nation Rise is the largest) to be wound down where IESO did not notify the project proponent that all KDM’s have been met.

As you can see, the issuance of the notice of KDM to EDP is an extremely important step which triggered the start of construction of Nation Rise Wind Turbine Project and activated the termination clauses that will have significant financial implications to the citizens of Ontario if/when exercised…..plus it’s the milestone chosen by you to differentiate the LRP1 contracts that will be cancelled.

It seems to me there was a severe breach of a directive and protocol during an election period, as the IESO proceeded and approved such a controversial project on June 13th,  knowing full well the huge financial implications of doing so to the rate and tax payers of Ontario and, in the process, contravening one of the PC government’s key planks of their election platform – the repealing of the Green Energy Act (GEA). Bear in mind the PC party had already won the election at this point.

The IESO knew the incoming government planned to repeal the GEA and would NOT have approved the Nation Rise project according to their election platform. They knew it was not “routine” business and was clearly controversial as it was pending an appeal. They quietly issued the approval to commence construction behind the back of the incoming government, committing the people of Ontario to a massive and unnecessary contract and tying the hands of the new government with regards to being forced to honour that contract or face stiff penalties.

I also understand that the IESO issued Notice to Proceed notice (equivalent to KDM for FIT contracts) on the White Pines Wind Turbine Project in Prince Edward County during the writ period which was the reason cited by the newly installed PC government to cancel this project as one of its first orders of business.

I am of the opinion the IESO should not have issued KDM notice to EDP on June 13th based on government practice and norms and I am of the opinion that your government would not have agreed to the issuance of the KDM to EDP once sworn in….but for whatever reason the KDM notice to EDP was indeed issued on June 13th. This seems absolutely unethical. The fact that they would not reveal this date to us willingly only supports that they knew it was not right.

Mr. Rickford, will the residents of North Stormont be afforded the same response that your government provided to the residents of Prince Edward County by way of cancelling the Nation Rise Wind Turbine project? And if the answer is no – then why not? Why is this huge, unnecessary project getting such special treatment at the expense of the people of Ontario and to the detriment of the people of North Stormont? How is the expense to rate payers and the very real risks to human health, drinking water supply and the environment possibly in the public interest? We believe it bears further investigation. We are hoping you truly are “For the People” and will see that if that notice from the IESO is revoked as unethical for having been issued when there was no sitting government to oppose it, that means the KDM’s have NOT been met and the project can then be cancelled with fewer penalties.

Time is of the essence. EDP claims they are starting work in February this despite our belief they have not satisfied the extensive list of conditions. I look forward to hearing back from you soonest on this matter.

Thank you for your time and attention.
Raymond Grady
Crysler

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