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NFU boss warns Lambton farmers to be wary of energy lease agreements

John Phair

QMI Agency

The president of the Lambton local of the National Farmers Union (NFU) has come out strongly against the province's Green Energy Act, and is warning farmers and other landowners to be wary of contracts to lease their land.

Joe Vye, at the NFU's recent annual meeting in Forest, said issues surrounding wind generators and the Green Energy Act were among his greatest concerns for the rural community.

"The thing that had the biggest impact on me are issues regarding wind generators and green energy and the true costs behind them," he said in his report to the membership.

Vye said he hopes no one signs a lease agreement with any energy company - whether it be a natural gas, oil, wind or solar company - without first having it vetted by a lawyer who specializes in that field.

He said he was recently asked to examine a contract from an oil company that wanted to drill on one of his neighbour's land and was astounded by what he read.

"There were clauses in it that stated if the company ran short of funding it would be allowed to mortgage the property and further to that, if the well was not productive, the company could cap it, walk away, and leave the farmer liable for the mortgage," Vye said.

He noted leases for wind generators can be 23 pages in length and are usually very complicated documents.

Vye suggested once wind towers are in place, none of the contracts protect farmers from being sued by his or her neighbours for the devaluation of their property.

The NFU president pointed out this situation is occurring in the Lucknow area, where neighbours with property adjacent to wind farms are claiming their property has been devalued by as much as 49%.

"The farmer gets sued, not the wind companies," said Vye, adding if a wind tower is visible from their property, a neighbour can sue and win for property devaluation.

"Neighbours suing neighbours is a nasty business."

Vye said the bottom line is that energy leases offer little or no protection for farmers and all leases need to be read and interpreted by a professional who specializes in dealing with energy leases.

"This can't be stressed enough."

Guest speaker for the annual meeting was David Colling, an electrical pollution consultant from the Ripley area who conducts tests for what is known as "dirty electricity" on homes, farms and businesses.

Colling said at one time he had his farm leased to a wind company but was able to get out of the agreement.

"I really didn't want to sign a lease, but my neighbours had formed a co-op and I didn't want to upset them so I signed on," he said, adding he and his neighbours were subsequently able to get out of the lease.

Since then, Colling has done a lot of research on wind leases and doesn't believe farmers are receiving proper advice.

"There are a lot of farmers who will be sorry they ever signed one," he said.

"As they say, if it's too good to be true, it usually is."

Colling said there are now five empty homes in the vicinity of the Ripley Wind Farm in his own neighbourhood. The occupants left the houses because they said they had become ill.

He said 19 countries have backed away from using wind and solar generation, mostly because they make no economic sense and people are experiencing health issues.

"If you do your homework, you will find they are having trouble with wind turbines all over the world," Colling said.