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Controversy surrounds proposal for multi-billion-dollar energy storage facility in Meaford

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A contentious proposal to bring a multi-billion-dollar energy storage facility to Meaford sparked protests as residents packed into municipal chambers on Monday to voice concerns over its potential environmental impact.

The proposal, brought forward by Alberta-based TC Energy, outlines plans for a pumped storage facility on military land in Meaford, with projected costs now exceeding $4 billion.

"Stop the project," said Kellie Haslam with the Save Georgian Bay Association.

The association and four municipalities along Georgian Bay have urged the province to halt the project, citing concerns about its impact on freshwater ecosystems and endangered species.

The province pushed back its approval to the summer after the independent Electricity System Operator stated the project couldn't provide net benefits to Ontario's electricity systems or ratepayers as is.

Councillors sought to create a citizens advisory committee, with protestors aiming to ensure TC Energy didn't have a seat at the table - which wasn't guaranteed after pushback from the company earlier this month.

"I want you all to know that I have a very balanced approach," stated Meaford Councillor Tony Bell, which ultimately led to TC Energy's exclusion from the committee.

Mayor Ross Kentner acknowledged residents' concerns when it seemed the committee wouldn't represent the community's interests.

"When it appeared for a while that it wasn't going to be a community committee, then naturally, they're upset," the mayor noted.

Residents saw the exclusion of TC Energy as a small victory, though some, like Clair Balfour, felt opposition to the project was diluted.

"The committee was then radically changed," said Balfour.

Specific group mentions, such as the Save Georgian Bay Association, were removed, and the number of councillor members increased from one to two.

"I was kind of disappointed to see that members of council wishing to have, in fact, two votes, one at the committee level and one as a council," the mayor added.

An amendment to give councillors voting power during committee meetings was defeated, but their voices will still be heard during meetings.

The municipality's deadline to appoint committee members has been extended to March 8, with more than 10 applicants already vying for positions.

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