Sunday, November 29, 2015

NAFTA suit alleges Ontario gov't cronyism in wind power contracts

For Pickens, Wind Claim May Be Last Power Play - The New York Times - Alexandra Stevenson:

October 15, 2015 - "T. Boone Pickens made billions drilling for oil and gas and squaring off in bare-knuckled corporate takeover bouts. Now the 87-year-old tycoon ... is using his rights under the North American Free Trade Agreement to bring claims against the Canadian province of Ontario.... He is seeking $700 million in damages for future losses related to bids that his wind power company, Mesa Power, lost in wind power auctions in Ontario.

"Mr. Pickens and Mesa Power contend that [a] Florida company, NextEra, was granted exclusive access through private meetings with important government officials that ultimately tilted the bidding in its favor.

"The province of Ontario granted NextEra $3.8 billion in energy contracts. Mesa Power contends that $18,600 in donations that NextEra made to the ruling Liberal Party in Ontario before elections in 2011 had undue influence on the auction.

"NextEra did not respond to a request for comment....

"When Ontario enacted a Green Energy Act in 2009, ... the government created a program to provide incentives for companies to invest in renewable energy projects. Companies that were awarded contracts would be paid premium guaranteed prices set by the government.... Cole Robertson, who was vice president of finance for Mesa Power at the time, not[ed] that the government’s set price in 2011 was double that in Texas at [that] time.

"Mesa Power submitted several project proposals through the program. But when the first rankings came out in late 2010, its executives disputed the assessments, arguing that Mesa Power’s projects should have been higher.... Ontario government officials have countered that Mesa Power did not submit its applications properly....

"Mesa Power later disputed an auction in the spring of 2011, complaining of a lack of transparency around the process of awarding contracts and insufficient time for public consultation. Mesa Power executives wrote to Shawn Cronkwright, an official with the power authority, seeking clarification and meetings with the agency and the Ministry of Energy. Mr. Cronkwright told Mesa Power executives that these meetings would not be possible because the agency had yet to award contracts, according to court documents....

"A review of documents and emails between NextEra executives, lobbyists and government officials show that NextEra met and held calls with high-level officials at the Ontario Ministry of Energy, the premier’s office and the power authority, even as Mesa Power executives were told they could not speak to officials until contracts were awarded. When NextEra lobbyists requested more information, officials sometimes responded within hours.

"Mr. Pickens’s lawyers argue that NextEra was able to wield influence because of its chief lobbyist, Bob Lopinski at Counsel Public Affairs. A former adviser to the Ontario premier, Dalton McGuinty, Mr. Lopinski was hired in 2010. He contacted former colleagues in the premier’s office to set up meetings for senior NextEra executives including Mitch Davidson, the chief executive. He also arranged for meetings at the Ministry of Energy and the power authority....

"For NextEra, whose operations include electricity plants in Hawaii and wind farms in North Dakota, such political contributions are not unusual. In the United States, the company has spent millions of dollars in political donations to both the Republican and Democratic parties.

"'You can’t win an election in Florida without the support of NextEra,' said William Pentland, managing partner at Brookside Strategies, an energy consulting firm."

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1 comment:

  1. Picken should feel so bad. No Ontario based company got any contracts either. Nor solar farms.