We would like to thank Ms. Karen Bessey Pease for granting permission to post the following letter, which as been submitted to the Editors of several Ontario newspapers.
Esther Wrightman of Ontario, an unassuming young wife and mother, is being sued by one of the biggest industrial wind development companies in the world. NextEra is a multi-billion dollar corporation. Esther Wrightman owns an aging car and little else. So why on earth would this Goliath bother to bring litigation against her?
In my opinion, the answer is simple. NextEra wants to intimidate Esther and – by example – to silence many other individuals. See, Esther dares stand up to this company and call it like she sees it. She has the audacity to publicly refer to this conglomerate as ‘NexTerror’ and ‘NextError’. (Here in the States, we call such audacity ‘Freedom of Speech’ and ‘Freedom of Expression’. I believe Canadians respect those same principles.)
Esther and others have witnessed NextEra’s heavy-handed intimidation tactics in surrounding communities, spurring their claims of ‘terror’. The people of rural Ontario have been subjected to threats of legal action on numerous, well-documented occasions by this company when its development plans have been challenged.
“Some landowners are refusing NextEra an easement for transmission lines and may ultimately be forced to co-operate through provincial orders. ‘We take legal action if we have to,’ [NextEra] said.”
Not only has NextEra threatened to bring ‘legal action’ against individual landowners, they’ve used similar tactics to pressure communities and town officials not to create zoning ordinances which would disallow their turbine projects.
“You may also know that under Ontario law there is potential liability, not only for
municipalities, but also for individual municipal officials…where there are actions taken that result in damages based on unlawful legal actions, such as the passage of a bylaw.” Tyson Dyck, legal counsel for NextEra.
The wildlife of rural Ontario has also suffered at the hands of NextEra when it has stood in the way of a wind project. One example? Early one morning in January 2013, eighteen men armed with chainsaws and bulldozers descended on an active Bald Eagle’s nest and cut it down. Esther videoed the wanton act of destruction. In her video, NextEra’s Tom Bird is recorded as saying “The authorization we got from the Ministry of Natural Resources was to destroy this nest.”
These are just a few instances in which this powerful and wealthy corporation has used ‘terror’, intimidation and brute force to get its way. Those tactics may have been successful in the past…but they haven’t worked on the courageous people of rural Ontario. Most likely NextEra was taken aback to find quiet and unassuming folks such as Esther standing up to oppose its wind turbine projects. Perhaps it was surprised at the backlash of negative publicity it received when its attempts to ‘control the scene’ were unsuccessful. Maybe the company was downright scared that a humble but brave woman might effectively educate her neighbors – not only with facts about NextEra – but about the known negative impacts of grid-scale wind energy facilities, as a whole.
When backed into a corner by facts and ethics, NextEra did what any good bully would do. It SLAPPed Esther Wrightman. In a move sure to gain the admiration of the most proficient playground tyrant, NextEra filed a ‘Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation’ (SLAPP) suit against her. They know Esther is a woman of modest means. They know that even if they win their lawsuit there will be no ‘windfall’ to line their gilded coffers. So what do they hope to gain?
They say they have a case of ‘libel’ because Esther has referred to them as ‘NextError’ and ‘NexTerror’. But Esther claims that is ‘fair comment’ based on documentation of ‘errors’ the corporation has made and the ‘terror’ it has created in Ontario. (For multiple examples and links to articles, visit the Ontario Wind Resistance website.) She also believes individuals have the right to use satire and parody as a means of making a point – of speaking and expressing themselves freely.
Esther is effective in publishing facts about this company. She’s relentless in her efforts to educate the public. And she doesn’t kowtow to bullies. This is evidenced by the fact that – back in March – NextEra gave her ample warning. It threatened her with a lawsuit if she didn’t cease and desist in altering its logo and name in her personal writings. She answered their threat with stoic resoluteness and with polite thanks for the letter the company messenger – unobserved – dropped between her doors.
No, Esther didn’t cave. She didn’t fold. She didn’t tuck tail and run. Esther has facts, integrity and thousands of citizen-supporters on her side.
NextEra has size, might and money.
NextEra also has a Public Relations nightmare.
If this conglomerate is truly interested in protecting its ‘brand’, it will focus on honest and respectful dealings with the public and better stewardship of the land, wildlife and people its projects will impact. But if its aim is to intimidate citizens by threat of legal action and financial ruin, SLAPP suits such as this are certainly one avenue this Goliath can take.
With defendants such as Esther Wrightman, however, that avenue may very well prove to be a dead end.
AT Note: Ms. Pease is a rural Maine native, newspaper columnist, and author. Ms. Pease is active in her community and has worked to bring common sense and integrity back into the picture as it pertains to Maine’s (and America’s) energy plan for the future.
Please be sure to visit Lexington & Concord Townships-Help Protect Rural Maine