OPG garnishees IDRA Bank Accounts
Community Group could be forced into Bankruptcy
INVERHURON, Ontario – May 15, 2003
Ontario Power Generation (OPG) has garnisheed the bank accounts of the Inverhuron and District Ratepayer’s Association (IDRA) to recover partial payment of $33,148.10 in court costs.
The group, centered in the hamlet of Inverhuron on the east coast of Lake Huron beside the Bruce nuclear power facility, will meet over the long holiday weekend to discuss a possible solution to the situation created by the garnishee. Unless something is worked out, the half century old volunteer community organization faces bankruptcy. OPG is also said to be examining a proposal.
Three levels of courts ordered the IDRA to pay costs as a result of two years of unsuccessful litigation. IDRA took OPG and a number of federal agencies to court over the process which was followed in licensing construction of above ground, high level nuclear waste storage facilities at the Bruce nuclear power site in the hamlet of Inverhuron.
A total of $28,071.63 was garnisheed from two IDRA bank accounts by OPG. One of the accounts contained $2,484.61 in IDRA operating funds. The other account contained $25,587.02 which the IDRA held in trust for the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR).
Some years ago, the MNR contracted with the IDRA to have volunteers from the community group collect fees from Inverhuron Provincial park visitors and manage certain aspects of the operation of the Provincial Park. The contract was let after the Ministry received sever budget cuts in the 1990’s. IDRA has sent a request to OPG on behalf of MNR to ask that the money be returned to the Ministry.
Terry Squire, senior manager of OPG Communications and Public Affairs told the Kincardine News that there was no indication the funds belonged to anyone other than the IDRA. But the Toronto Star reports that the IDRA/MNR account was labeled “Inverhuron & District Ratepayers Association (Capital M.N.R.)” and that a note kept by the bank reads “In trust re: Inverhuron Park.” MNR says it is looking into ways to recover its money from OPG.
However, IDRA President Peter Aunger told the Bruce Centre that the Star report was misleading. “The bank account in question now contains the word MNR in the title. We specifically requested that modification this spring. When the garnishment occurred in January, the two bank accounts had no such distinction, an unfortunate circumstance leading to the current confusion of funds.”
When asked why OPG took the funds, Squire told the Kincardine News: “OPG has a responsibility to its shareholder and ultimately the taxpayers to ensure there is some redress for litigation which is deemed by the courts to have no merit.” He said the situation was unfortunate, and went on to say OPG has already given away the funds to local charities. The utility is said to be some $38 Billion in debt.
IDRA is a volunteer group that was formed in the mid 40’s as a social and recreational organization that looked after the affairs of the hamlet of Inverhuron. An IDRA Committee of Concern dealt with such issues as potholes in roads and safety matters on the beach. In the 1980’s, local concerns began to grow over environmental aspects of the operation of what has become the world’s largest combined nuclear power generation and nuclear waste management facility. The IDRA Committee of Concern began to conduct research and ask questions of the then owners and operators of the Bruce Nuclear Generating Station, Ontario Hydro.
After years of what they considered a failure on the part of responsible institutions to address their concerns, the IDRA launched a court action against certain federal agencies over the process by which the new high level nuclear waste facility was licensed. Ontario Hydro asked to join in the court action as a co-defendant.
The Federal Court and the Federal Court of Appeal both said they were “not an academy of science” and thus not qualified to rule on the matter. Each court awarded court costs against the IDRA. The Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear the case, but awarded more costs against the volunteer community group.
Peter Aunger, President of the IDRA, told the Kincardine News that the IDRA is “essentially out of existence unless that garnishment is lifted.” On March 26, 2003, Aunger wrote to Terry Squire, senior manager of OPG Communications and Public Affairs that “The recent action of OPG to garnishee IDRA’s last $2,484.61 is an extreme measure that will effectively force IDRA into bankruptcy. As a result, many valuable community services such as safe public swimming programs and popular social events like the corn roast (485 attendees this past season) and children’s Canada Day will no longer take place.”
There is no doubt that the IDRA has been critical of the OPG’s environmental record in Inverhuron. But as one observer put it, the OPG action in tgarnisheeinghe IDRA funds “is like Godzilla killing a flea by dropping a load of concrete blocks on it.”
The Toronto Star said Bob MacKenzie of Inverhuron “was worried that OPG will pressure the ratepayers to back away from mounting any further opposition to OPG activities — notably plans to set up a permanent storage site for low level radioactive waste near the park.”
After hearing that OPG had distributed the funds from the IDRA account to local charities, Eugene Bourgeois of the Bruce Centre was reminded that “the IDRA is a registered charity too. OPG could have garnisheed the funds from our bank account to fulfill their responsibility to taxpayers, and then could have given the money back. It would have been great public relations.”