Thursday, July 25, 2024

Pumped Storage Advisory Committee Members Have Been Selected and They Are About to Get to Work

The citizen members of the newly created Pumped Storage Advisory have been selected, and will soon get to work.

A total of 24 applicants were interviewed over three sessions on March 27, April 3, and April 4, and the interview panel’s recommendations were presented to council during a closed session held on April 15. The appointments were approved in a bylaw presented at council’s April 29, meeting. The citizen members of the committee will be Bob Baranski, Ginny Ellis, Howard Fletcher, Doug Haslam, Martin Hederich, Lindy Kingston, Bob Peel, David Richardson, and Adam Vaughan.

The first meeting of the new committee will be held on May 9, and while the initial meetings will be focused on training for the committee members, it won’t be long before the committee members delve into the meat and potatoes of what has proven to be the most contentious proposal this municipality has seen in recent history.

The role of this committee will be to provide advice to council as the process continues to move forward, and there will no doubt be many challenges ahead.

It can be difficult, if not impossible, to balance the opinions and desires of everyone, so providing advice to council related to the pumped storage proposal will be no easy task for the committee. Though it is important for everyone to remember, for this committee, facts will be more important than opinions.

As with most mega project proposals, the loudest voices we hear are understandably those of opponents, with those who either support a proposal or who are indifferent, most often remaining silent throughout the process. But the advisory committee should help to tease out a wider range of opinions which will be helpful for council as the process moves forward.

With a major issue such as the proposed pumped storage facility, opinions can vary of course, but they can also be complex, far from cut and dried. My own position is complicated, and that can be frustrating for folks who have had their mind made up regarding the proposal for nearly four years.

Personally, I am most looking forward to the coming environmental impact studies to help fully flesh out my stance on the proposal. I know that I frustrate some people by my seeming lack of concern for the many potential environmental impacts that opponents have been beating the drums about for the past four years, but as I have written previously, before I can develop an opinion related to potential environmental impacts, I need more information, and my hope is that information will come from the impact studies.

As I mentioned, I admit my personal position on the proposal is complex, though as I have discovered over the past few years, I am far from alone in withholding a definitive position until we see the environmental impact studies. I hear from folks all the time who either support the proposal, or are indifferent, or feel they don’t know enough at this time, and are also awaiting the environmental impact studies in order to fully understand the proposal and its potential impacts on our local environment.

Further frustrating some in this community is that I have shared that pumped storage itself, even in an open loop system, doesn’t bother me generally speaking, though as I have written a closed loop system would always be preferred. While some have insisted that pumped storage is ‘ancient technology’, with no place in a modern world, my typical response has been ‘so is the wheel, but we all rely on wheels every single day’. I have some knowledge of these systems from my previous career, and I see them as a valuable tool to have in the toolbox, but as I have also written in the past, I definitely object to our military bases being offered up for corporate profit. It turns my stomach to think of any corporation setting up shop on federally controlled military bases, though as TC Energy reminded me after I expressed that view in a 2021 editorial, corporations have done so in the past, oil companies out west for example. But that battle was lost once the DND offered their green light, and rather than dwell upon battles lost, I accept that whether I like it or not, our local military base could become home to a corporate operation.

Even the Bay-area governments are divided in their opinions, with four municipalities approving resolutions opposing the proposed project, while the Municipality of Meaford’s council along with Owen Sound and Grey County council have all offered conditional support, subject to a laundry list of conditions, including “approval of the proposed facility by all relevant jurisdictions, including environmental impact assessments and all other required regulatory approvals.” It is important to remember that while Meaford’s council has been said to have offered up this community as a ‘willing host’ by opponents of the project, they have not. What Meaford’s council did approve in February of last year, as did the City of Owen Sound and Grey County recently, is conditional support only at this point.

The new Pumped Storage Advisory Committee will be tasked with sifting through the various opinions, while drawing primarily on facts that are already before us, and those that will come from the future impact studies which should begin later this year, and are expected to take three years to complete.

I don’t envy the new citizen committee members, but I am thankful they have offered their time and ideas, and that they have volunteered to sit on perhaps the most important committee in the history of this municipality. They will no doubt be bombarded with email messages supporting one side of the issue or another, and they will without question be overloaded with information to sift through. They will do so knowing that whatever advice the committee as a whole provides to council, they will be second guessed, if not vilified, by some, while applauded by others.

Best of luck to the new advisory committee members: you have taken on an important job, and your willingness to take on that job is appreciated and respected by this scribe.

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