Sunday, October 24, 2021

What if Amazon Wanted to Set Up Shop at CFB Trenton?

Few were surprised, but many were saddened upon hearing the news that TC Energy, the proponent of a hydroelectric pumped storage facility to be located on the Meaford military base, has reached an agreement with the Department of National Defence which allows TC Energy to move forward to the next steps in their quest to make the facility a reality.

The agreement between the multi-billion dollar corporation and the DND is “subject to conditions and regulatory approval, allows for the development of a transformative 1,000-megawatt clean energy storage project on federal lands.”

Though I have seen many express frustration on social media after hearing the news, I think it is worth noting that though a green light has been activated, there is a long road to travel with many lights ahead that will have to also turn green in order for the project to move forward.

As I wrote in our print paper back in March of this year, I have wrestled with this proposal since first learning of it. On the one hand, I am well aware that pumped storage facilities are very common around the globe for storing energy. I have seen these facilities on three continents. I know they work, and I know they can play an important role in any electrical grid.

I have been reluctant to stand on either side of the issue largely because I have been torn between recognizing the need for such a project, while trying to envision the potential impact on the community and the local environment, both during the lengthy construction phase, and once in operation. The issue is too complex, and potentially too far reaching to come to an immediate position, for me at least, so I wanted to explore as much as possible,” I wrote in the March 11, 2021 paper.

While I might not share the environmental concerns expressed by many (it might be unfashionable, but I personally have some faith in our established processes, like environmental impact studies), I do have concerns about how this small municipality would handle the enormous influx of both workers and heavy equipment. In short, I think it would be a multi-year nightmare. We have all seen the impact of a relatively minor amount of development in this municipality this summer. Large transport trucks and heavy equipment have been moving in and out of town, holding up traffic and causing frustration. Now imagine the volume of transport trucks and heavy equipment required to dig out a 394-acre reservoir and the construction of the facility’s infrastructure.

Frustration and inconvenience are certainly not enough to fully oppose any project, and though I have already expressed that there is value to be found in pumped storage, what bothers me most, and it has bothered me from the very beginning, is that I really don’t like the precedent that would be set by opening up our military bases for corporations to set up shop and earn outrageous profits. Because let’s not forget, TC Energy is not proposing this project out of the good of its corporate heart, they are looking forward to a big payday from this project. That is what corporations do.

For Canada to open up its military bases to corporations troubles me deeply.

What might be next? What if Amazon wanted to set up shop at CFB Trenton. Perhaps Amazon might see logistical advantages to building an enormous distribution centre on the Trenton base where there are conveniently air strips for cargo, and very close proximity to major highways.

Would we all be okay with Amazon using our most important air base in order to earn huge profits? I think many would be opposed, and they wouldn’t need environmental scares, or fears of disasters to convince people that it just doesn’t feel right.

In Meaford this issue is further complicated because of the history of the lands involved. Land taken from good citizens in order to build a military base ‘for the greater good’, and now the government that took that land wants to option it out to profit-making corporations? I find the very concept revolting.

So, while I might not share the view that pumped storage is an ancient useless technology, or that construction of such a facility will harm the environment in some way, I do have serious concerns about how the construction of such a monstrosity would impact this community, and I am offended that our military and our federal government would even entertain allowing for-profit activities on land that is collectively ours, land that was taken for the purpose of national security, not to benefit shareholders.


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