In the wake of last week’s announcement of an agreement reached between TC Energy and the Department of National Defence that will allow for the next steps to be taken in the corporation’s effort to develop a hydroelectric pumped storage facility on the 4th Canadian Division Training Centre lands, both the Municipality of Meaford, and local advocacy group Save Georgian Bay, issued statements in response.
“The Municipality of Meaford has received formal notification dated July 28, 2021, from David Thompson, Director General, Portfolio Requirements and Assistant Deputy Minister of Infrastructure and Environment, that the Department of National Defence (DND) has signed an Agreement in Principle with TransCanada Energy Corporation Limited (TC Energy) to proceed with an approval process for the establishment of a proposed Pumped Storage Project on the 4th Canadian Division Training Centre lands,” said the municipality after the agreement was announced. “The approval process requires TC Energy to complete Impact and Environmental Assessments which are required by both the federal and provincial governments. DND has identified that TC Energy will commence the assessments which could take approximately three years to complete.”
Mayor Barb Clumpus advised that the municipality will retain a project manager to oversee the municipal response that the process unfolds.
“The Municipality has received this notification of the agreement between DND and TC Energy at the same time as a media advisory was released by TC Energy as a public announcement” said Mayor Clumpus. As TC Energy and the Federal Government proceed with Environmental and Impact Assessments, the Municipality will engage in the processes and provide comments throughout that process. “The Municipality will retain a Project Manager to coordinate the review of the various studies and, as studies get submitted, the Municipality will retain qualified consultants that have expertise in these types of assessments to assist with our commenting.”
TC Energy has previously agreed to cover the reasonable cost of the Municipality to undertake the peer reviews.
As a next step, the Municipality will generate a process to share with residents of Meaford any progress reports and further information about the proposed project.
Save Georgian Bay, a local advocacy group that has been working to raise awareness of, and opposition to the proposed facility since the proposal was first announced in the summer of 2019. The group has held a number of protest rallies, and have collected thousands of signatures on petitions opposing the proposed facility. After TC Energy announced having come to an agreement with the DND, Save Georgian Bay issued a response.
“We are disappointed and disheartened by the news today of the DND putting in place an Agreement in Principle, providing permission to TCE to proceed to the Impact Assessment Phase, for use of the base for a pump storage plant drawing water from Georgian Bay,” said the group in a media release. “Save Georgian Bay is a group of Georgian Bay community members, who have accepted a mission of studying this project and sharing information with fellow community members. Save Georgian Bay has hosted and participated in dozens of public meetings, shared documents on the project, including producing a detailed Strategic Environmental Assessment last summer. The Strategic Environment Assessment outlines the many adverse effects such a project will have on the escarpment, species on the projected site and the fish and wildlife of Georgian Bay.”
The group expressed concern about potential negative impacts should the project be allowed to move forward.
“The many years of construction and the long-term effects of the plant will cause great and irrevocable harm to the environment. We find in this decision that the DND, and possibly Ontario’s government, are choosing dollars over preservation, and therefore, putting the Georgian Bay ecosystem at great risk,” Save Georgian Bay suggested. “Save Georgian Bay has asked the DND and TCE to identify for the public any organization in North America proposing to, or in the process of building a new dam over the heads of as many as 1,000 nearby residents and employees of businesses. None have been identified in our research, or by DND or TCE, leading to the conclusion that no responsible corporation is building such a project over the heads of so many nearby souls.”
The organization is encouraging all involved to closely review potential environmental impacts that many fear will result from the development of the facility.
“Save Georgian Bay encourages both TCE and the regulators, who will now be involved in the Impact Assessment Phase to closely view these environmental impacts. SGB believes there is not a way to do no harm, which was the commitment made by TCE’s project leaders. TCE and the regulators also must study how the dramatic changes in the world over the past two years are changing electrical demand,” noted Save Georgian Bay. “TCE had the hypothesis they could use nighttime energy at low cost to fill the reservoir and sell that energy during the day at the high price cycle. With electric cars, which would be charged at night, growing their presence on our roads, and business electrical use being transformed by new ways to office, electrical demand is changing. It is quite possible that electrical pricing will change, making this project no longer feasible, not needed, or worse, resulting in an infrequently utilized burden on tax and rate payers for decades.”
For many months Save Georgian Bay has countered suggestions that the project is a ‘green energy’ investment.
“Save Georgian Bay’s analysis concludes this project is not green. It is estimated at 70% efficient, compared to solutions which are more quickly available and 90% efficient. For this reason and others we disagree with TCE’s claims of carbon reduction from the project. The Clean Air Alliance has proposed an alternative that would provide Ontario with 2000MW of power at a cost of $80 million. TCE is proposing half that amount of capacity at a cost 50 times more, $4.3 billion,” suggests Save Georgian Bay.
TC Energy on the other hand, says their proposal is a green initiative that would consume inexpensive off-peak power at night to pump water from Georgian Bay into a 374-acre storage reservoir located 150 metres above the Georgian Bay shoreline on the military base. The reservoir, which would hold 20 million cubic metres of water, would be emptied back into Georgian Bay during peak usage periods, driving hydraulic turbines to generate electricity.
To learn more about the proposed Pump Storage project visit https://www.ontariopumpedstorage.com/.
For information about Save Georgian Bay, visit: www.savegeorgianbay.ca