Friday, July 12, 2024

What I’m Hoping to Learn From TC Energy’s Public Meeting

Stephen Vance, Editor

Next week TC Energy will hold a public meeting at the Meaford & St. Vincent Community Centre (Wednesday, December 11, 5:30 p.m.), and like many others in the community, there is much that I am hoping to learn from that meeting.

TC Energy’s proposed pumped storage facility has caused quite a stir in the community, and rightly so. While it is very early stages, this feasibility study phase of the process is intended to determine if the project is possible and practical, and as I have done some research over the past few months, my list of questions and concerns has continued to grow.

I have found that I have many major concerns along with some lesser concerns about the proposal. Topping my list of concerns is what impact the proposed facility would have on the health of Nottawasaga Bay and the eco-system contained within.

I agree with Councillor Harley Greenfield, who at a recent council meeting suggested that the standard we should expect TC Energy to meet is that of zero damage, not mitigation, but the start point should be a commitment to zero environmental impact.

I suspect that will be a difficult bar to meet, and it should be. There are no second chances in situations like these, and if this proposal is ever to move forward and become an actual project, Greenfield is right that the only acceptable position is that there can be no damage to our local environment.

As I have done some reading I have found myself wondering why, if this proposed facility is truly needed, isn’t TC Energy looking at building a facility with an upper reservoir and a lower reservoir rather than using the bay.

I would like to have an understanding of why two reservoirs could not be constructed, one high, and one low. Obviously this would greatly impact the cost of construction, and possibly the operation of such a facility, but the added cost would pale in comparison to the cost to the local ecology should the worst fears that some have expressed come to fruition.

I’m also concerned about how such a large project would impact the community itself.

A large project such as this would have an enormous impact on our small community. The influx of hundreds of workers might at first blush be a boon for local businesses, and it could very well be, but it could also put strains on other areas of the community and our economy, particularly if Meaford loses its popularity as a fishing destination.

Another concern I have is one that I have expressed before – with projects such as this there is nothing altruistic; no company is willing to invest billions of dollars in any project unless they anticipate significant profits, so at the end of the day this proposed project is about profits, and when profits are involved, we all need to ask hard questions.

Some worry about the potential for some sort of ‘sweetening of the deal’ with local governments with offers of funding for new facilities in the municipality, and you can’t blame people for expressing those worries. We live in a world where money talks, and that can often have dire consequences, so we must all be on the alert for any attempts to use carrots to convince anyone to support the project.

Residents who live in close proximity to the proposed project are rightly concerned about any impact on their property values, not to mention the inevitable inconvenience of several years of large trucks moving to and fro, and the noise and dust and other irritants that accompany huge construction projects. Those are genuine concerns, and I am looking forward to learning what impact TC Energy thinks the project would have on nearby residents, and what measures they will take to address those impacts.

Also I would like to hear from TC Energy’s perspective how this project would contribute to the greater good. As I have written previously, I have yet to form an opinion on this proposed facility. I understand the logic put forward by TC Energy for the use of pumped storage, the technology makes sense to me, but I would like to hear from TC Energy why they feel this type of facility is best suited for their purpose. What alternatives have they explored? And if such a facility is worthwhile and profitable, would it be possible to construct a dual reservoir system and still be profitable, even if less so, and thereby not risking an impact on the bay?

Again I would remind everyone that we are in the infancy stages of this proposal. This feasibility study is intended to determine if the proposed project would be possible and practical, and should it move beyond this feasibility stage, there will be many long years of studies and public meetings to follow.

I hope TC Energy arrives at the community centre with plenty of real answers and not platitudes and corporate speak; we’ve all seen and heard enough of that in every generation before us.

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