RCMP investigating damaged equipment at wind power project job site
The RCMP says it's investigating reports of damaged equipment at one of the job sites of a wind turbine project on the Port au Port Peninsula.
In a press release, the RCMP said it's investigating damages to three pieces of heavy equipment at a World Energy GH2 job site in Mainland, on Newfoundland's west coast.
For about 2½ weeks, a group of protesters has blocked an access road to the wind power site in Mainland, saying they're concerned about the community's water supply.
The RCMP says the damage occurred sometime on Monday or Tuesday, while the equipment was parked unattended on Forest Road in Mainland.
RCMP spokesperson Corporal Jolene Garland said Friday the windows of a loader, bulldozer and excavator were smashed.
In a press release Monday, World Energy GH2 said vehicles and heavy equipment at its Mainland test site had been heavily vandalized and an ATV was stolen from the company's site in Piccadilly, about 20 kilometres from Mainland. Police have arrested and charged someone in relation to the ATV theft. Garland said the person is not connected to the protest.
Crown land near Mainland has been identified as a site for a future meteorological evaluation tower designed to collect data and help determine the future viability of a development by World Energy GH2, a Newfoundland and Labrador-based energy company.
Opponents of the project and the construction of the tower say the work has caused problems with the community's supplemental water supply.
"It's hard to know who we can trust anymore because the company is not very transparent and we can't seem to get any answers to our questions," said Zita Hinks, one of the protesters.
"What happened to the protection of the earth? What happened to the protection of the land?"
John Risley, chair of World Energy GH2, says the wind turbine project won't harm the community's environment. He said he understands residents' concerns about the water supply but said the local service district did not accept an offer by the company to investigate and help find solutions to any water issues.
The company says the service district instead installed an "illegal gate" that has blocked its contractors from doing work the company says would protect the water supply.
"We're not quite sure what the problem is, except that they generally want to stop us from doing what we've been asked to do by government," said Risley. "So it's a bit frustrating, as you might imagine."
The company's statement says protesters have "put local people out of work and called into question the ability of the area to embrace economic development and use the unique aspects of the region to assist with the fight against climate change."
"We are also very concerned by the aggression shown towards our contractors, their employees, and their livelihoods, and the true motives behind a few individuals to attempt to block progress and prosperity" for Newfoundland's west coast, says the release.
Police are still investigating the vandalism, said Garland, and protesters co-operated with the removal of the damaged equipment.
She also said protests have not escalated into violence and there's been no reported aggression or threats among protesters that have warranted an RCMP presence at the site.
"We have to respect and protect the rights of a peaceful demonstration or protest as guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms," said Garland.
"If we do receive reports or word of any sort of criminal activity happening, we will be there to deal with it."
Protester says she feels let down by company, government
The Environmental Transparency Committee previously told CBC News that it's opposed to World Energy GH2's proposal to build wind turbines on the Port au Port Peninsula.
Nadine Tallack, a member of the committee, declined an interview with CBC News, citing the vandalism investigation.
Hinks says she feels let down by World Energy GH2 and government officials for refusing to answer protesters' questions about the project and how it will affect their community.
"We are scared. We do not want to lose our water supply, We do not want to lose our way of life," said Hinks.
"It seems like nobody wants to come and speak to us."