Meaford gives conditional support to massive energy project

The Municipality of Meaford has given conditional support to a proposed pumped storage energy generation project to be located at a local military base.

Meaford council voted 5-2 in favour of a resolution to give conditional support to the controversial proposal at a meeting on Feb. 27. The 1,000 megawatt pumped storage hydroelectric generating proposal by TC Energy has been a controversial topic in Meaford and across the local region and has resulted in vocal opposition in the local community.

The facility, if built, would be located on the Department of National Defence’s military training base located in Meaford.

The resolution (found on the agenda here) brought forward by Meaford Deputy Mayor Shirley Keaveney generated significant public interest and the council meeting was held at the spacious Meaford Hall to accommodate the large audience.

Council also waived its procedural bylaw to allow more speakers to address the resolution than would ordinarily be permitted. Dozens of members of the public addressed council on the matter with speakers both opposing and favouring the project.

The temperature in the room was raised during the discussion when Coun. Harley Greenfield said “I will not be bought” when expressing his opposition to the resolution. After Greenfield’s comments, Coun. Tony Bell raised a point of privilege and objected to the comments from Greenfield, who later apologized and withdrew the remark.

Greenfield and Coun. Brandon Forder were the only members of council to oppose the resolution.

“We’re gambling. We’re taking a huge gamble,” said Greenfield. “This is a start down a road there is no return from.”

Forder cited his concerns about the potential environmental impacts of the project.

“I believe the negatives that may come from this project are too significant to discount,” said Forder.

The five members of council who supported the resolution said it was offering conditional support and that it was important for the municipality to be at the bargaining table with TC Energy should the project move forward.

“There are many conditions attached to this motion,” said Keaveney. “Our jurisdiction over this project is minimal. It only makes sense to me that we would engage with this company.”

The four conditions in the resolution are:

Mayor Ross Kentner acknowledged that he is not a “big fan” of the proposal, but said the municipality had to be ready should the proposal proceed.

“It’s very prudent of us to begin discussing the future with TC Energy,” said Kentner. “We have lots of questions for TC Energy. We’re going to hold their feet to the fire.”

The resolution also directed Mayor Kentner to send a letter indicating the municipality’s conditional support to the provincial Ministry of Energy.

The proposed pumped storage facility would include building a large reservoir on the military base. Water pumped up to the reservoir from Georgian Bay using electricity during "off-peak" times would later flow through pipes from the reservoir back down to Georgian Bay powering turbines that would generate the electricity. A large battery would be used to store the energy making it available to the electricity grid as needed.

Approval for the proposal is not imminent. The project must go through an impact assessment through the federal Impact Assessment Act and an environmental assessment at the provincial level.

Chris Fell, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter,