Unwilling Turbine Hosts Tell Senate: Australia’s Most Notorious Wind Power Outfit – Infigen – a Team of Bullies, Liars & Thugs

Upson

Jonathan Upson: Infigen’s head bully.

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Lies, treachery and deceit are the hallmarks of the wind industry – fraud of all manner of descriptions is de rigueur for wind power outfits; and whether it’s bribery and fraud; vote rigging scandals; tax fraud; investor fraud or REC fraudcrooks and corruption rule.

These boys are the grand masters of fleecing customers and shareholders; and hood-winking rural communities alike – see our posts here and here and here.

One of Australia’s most notorious exponents of the ‘craft’ is Infigen (aka Babcock and Brown) – an outfit that was born the bastard child of Enron. Check out the CVs of the characters in these links here and here and here – a fair number of them brag of ‘solid’ backgrounds with Enron, lobbed at Babcock and Brown and – when it went into melt-down – scurried off like indestructible cockroaches to hide elsewhere in the wind industry. No surprises there.

During its first incarnation as Babcock and Brown, these boys fleeced investors and creditors to the tune of something like $10 billion (while its directors pocketed – and somehow managed to retain – 10s of $millions at creditors’ and investors’ expense). Having spectacularly crashed and burned, Babcock and Brown then shamelessly phoenixed into Infigen – which is about to do it all over again: its losses continue to pile up, it’s bleeding cash, its share price is rocketing South and its mountain of debt is fast-becoming insurmountable:

Australia’s Most Notorious Wind Power Outfit – Infigen – says “Move Over Pinocchio, Here We Come”

STT has always had a soft spot for Infigen and the goons that front it:

Jonathan Upson: Thuggery, Bullying and Harassment – just another day at the office

But don’t just take our word for it, here’s first-hand evidence of the malice, meanness and malevolence that Infigen wears like a badge of honour. Here’s an extract from what follows in the evidence given by Robert Griffin – a farmer who contracted to host turbines for Infigen – that says it all really:

It is hard for us to generalise because we have one man, Jonathan Upson, from one company, Infigen. I must say he was really shocking. He was an incredibly arrogant man. He was arrogant about everyone. All the protesters were just idiots. You could never have any discussion. They were just idiots. The department of planning were dopey. When we raised problems, we were the troublemakers.

We never got anywhere with him at all, except to get threats. Even when the department of planning first said that they would have to get our written signature on a document after the date of approval we never got any consultation. We read in the local newspaper that we were going to be made to come into line. For six months we did not get one bit of consultation from them. They could not come around and try and sweet talk us—’What’s your problem?’—none of that. We just got threats straight away, right from the word go. We were told, ‘They will be made to step into line.’ That was the thing in the local newspaper and that was the attitude.

And that’s just the tip of a very stinky iceberg. Here’s some of what lurks below the surface.

Senate Select Committee on Wind Turbines – 19 June 2015

GRIFFIN, Mr Robert John, Private capacity

ROWETH, Mr Alwyn, Private capacity

CHAIR: We will now resume. In light of the fact that it seems that we are experiencing some technical difficulty, I suggest to the committee that Mr Griffin and Mr Roweth be called now. Welcome. Could you please confirm that the information on parliamentary privilege and the protection of witnesses has been provided to you?

Mr Griffin: It has indeed.

Mr Roweth: Yes, it has.

CHAIR: The committee has your submissions. I now invite you to make a brief opening statement and at the conclusion of your remarks I will invite members of the committee to put questions to you.

Mr Roweth: We are involved in the wind farm proposal, and in the beginning with the little information that we were given everything seemed quite okay. But as time has gone on we could see that there was a distinct lack of information to help us decide on things. I have personally come to the conclusion that I do not know why I became involved in it in the beginning. Everything has dragged on for so long that you get very disillusioned, even in the company that has proposed the wind farm in our area.

Mr Griffin: In my submission I have limited myself to a couple of issues. One deals with the way we have been treated by Infigen.

We are part of the Flyers Creek Wind Farm. The contract we signed ran out almost two years ago. Infigen tried to insist on a force majeure clause for our contract, which continued on because they had not been able to get development approval for the project. The development approval was so long in coming mainly because Infigen had not been able to satisfy the department of planning’s requirements.

This was over two years ago. We informed them that our contract was over and that we did not accept the force majeure. With that information we were threatened to be sued for millions of dollars. I have submitted the letter which, they sent to us, and if you would like to read it I think you will find the language is completely over the top. It is as threatening as a letter could possibly be. It could only be understood as being intimidation. It was meant to make us fall into line and not stand up for our own legal rights. I do not want to speak about anything more.

I have provided that evidence and a written overview. I have also addressed the problem of blind contracts. All landholders who have wind farms have to sign blind contracts. That is, they do not know how many turbines they are getting, where the roads will be, where the lay down areas will be. It is a complete open contract. What they do is sign a contract which only says how much money they will get for the turbines that they are given. They do not know what they are signing up for. There are a lot of landholders who only get one turbine.

In the case of Mr Oborn, who is with me here today and who was also threatened, the roads go through his best paddocks, his lucerne paddocks, and the lay down areas had two hectares in the middle of his best lucerne paddock. So he is a loser out of the whole process. By having being part of the wind farm he is a net loser. This is why they want to continue not having a design for the wind farm before they start. Then it is up to anyone to negotiate as best they can, but they have already signed the contracts and their negotiating strength has gone.

It has been very interesting in the last few year as Infigen have tried to get people to sign the new contract. They still say the old contract exists but they are trying to get people to sign new contracts. They have actually had to negotiate with people because people knew where they were going to put their roads and the lay-down areas.

All of these things have been a complete mystery from the time we signed their contracts. This is something that needs to be looked at. Farmers should not be put in the position where immediately they have no power. They are more or less powerless; the wind-farming tenants in fact have all of the rights. Even though the contract says they should consult with the landholders, they never do and there is no reason why they should. They just do what they like. That is the process.

While I have got the torchlight in front of me, I would like to shine it into a really dark little corner that has come about quite recently—that is, the New South Wales department of planning. Under the planning process, the department of planning gave provisional approval for the project—provisional in that they had to settle deferred commencement conditions, all of the things that they had not done to satisfy the department of planning.

One of the deferred commencement conditions was that they had to have approval of all of the landholders, and they had to have that within 12 months of the PAC—I do not know if you are familiar with the Planning Assessment Commission, which is the final arbitrating body in the New South Wales planning department. The Planning Assessment Commission gave that condition, and it had to be fulfilled by March this year. Come March, New South Wales planning approved an extension of that by six months.

Now, the process whereby this took place is quite incredible, and this is what I want to draw some attention to. The officers in the department of planning who had been taking care of this matter for all of this time were completely dismissed from the project and it was taken over by management.

The management made a decision to make this a secret matter and no submissions were allowed. It still should have been in the power of the minister but the department had taken it into their own hands to make the decision on the basis that there were no objections raised. The notice asking for an extension was given at the back of their website—four steps into their website—a week before the decision was made by the department of planning. The department of planning have made no consideration of any other view besides the wind farmers’ view. Six times, I think, they referred to it as an ‘essential project’, which is it not. It is a hollow document; it is intellectually pathetic, it is illogical and it is just a shame that the people in the department can take over like this.

The only explanation I can think of for why this radical change has taken place is that there has been very effective lobbying by the wind farm industry. It is exasperating for us. I have sent emails to the person who is making the decision and I get no reply. We have had barristers write to them and we get no reply. They now regard it as a matter that is completely up to these couple of bureaucrats in the department. We have no power and no influence and the things that need deciding for us are taken out of our hands. That is something I would like to draw attention to.

Fortunately, I have been overseas for the last two months, so I have not had to think about it, but I will have to think about it now, about what we can do to approach this and review this decision—having people involved who look at all sides of the argument. The PAC did this exactly: the minister delegated the power of planning to the Planning Assessment Commission and they listened to all sides. People have two days to make all of their presentations. Infigen had another two meetings trying to get rid of this particular clause and they could not. We are having one person of the department making a secret decision like this. We are completely out of it. These are the issues I would like to bring forward to your attention in my five minutes here.

Senator LEYONHJELM: Thank you for coming, gentlemen. Your submission raises some interesting issues. Obviously you do not have wind turbines yet, so we are talking about the process leading up to getting them. The issues that you raised relate to the behaviour of one of the wind turbine companies Infigen Energy, previously Babcock & Brown, and the other one is that you have had a change of mind. When you signed the contract with Babcock & Brown as it was known at the time, what was your understanding of the benefits to you of that contract?

Mr Griffin: I probably should preface this by saying at that time I just had a heart attack and a triple bypass. I was at a particularly vulnerable time. I saw what the New South Wales government did when they approved the project. They did say it was critical infrastructure. There was such momentum on that issue that I thought I would be absolutely powerless to stop it; it was going to go ahead whether I liked it or not.

In that project I could only think about positive things for the future and approaching the future without a fight on my hands. As time went on, things changed. I never thought of changing my position until the contract had expired. I must say that I never liked the idea of wind farms. I think that they are ugly, they are noisy and they destroy everything that I moved to the country for 25 years ago. I want a peaceful life.

Senator LEYONHJELM: What was the anticipated financial benefit?

Mr Griffin: The financial benefit was about $8,000 a turbine, so it would have been around $16,000 a year.

Senator LEYONHJELM: So you were going to have two turbines?

Mr Griffin: That is right.

Senator LEYONHJELM: Mr Roweth, what was your situation at the time? What did you expect the benefits would be?

Mr Roweth: I had not really thought about what the benefits would be. Part of the district and the surrounding land owners were going with it. I thought at the time that maybe it was the way things were going to go. Having not had any experience with any of the large-sized turbines, I did not think there were going to be any problems.

Senator LEYONHJELM: What financial benefit did you think there might be?

Mr Roweth: I only had one turbine, so I did not think it was going to be great. As time went on, I came to the conclusion that the benefits of one turbine were not worth the hassle of putting up with the construction.

Senator LEYONHJELM: So that leads me to the question as to what prompted you to change your mind. You obviously agreed to them at the time you signed the contract. You no longer want them on your property. Between then and now, what went through your mind to lead you to the position where you no longer want them?

Mr Roweth: The problem was mostly the information that was starting to come out in the public arena about the effects of wind farms overseas and what problems people were starting to experience. Where our house is, originally there was going to be a ring of turbines, about 180 to 200 degrees around the hills around the house, and I was told that those situations were where problems can be the worst. As time went on I gradually came to the conclusion that I do not think I want them.

Senator LEYONHJELM: So you anticipated adverse health effects, and you mentioned the hassles?

Mr Roweth: Yes, it was just a combination—bringing a lot of unknown things out into the open—and I thought, ‘I don’t know what the results will be. If we can get rid of the thing I won’t have to find out whether there’s negatives associated with it.’

Senator LEYONHJELM: Mr Griffin, what was the reason for your change of mind?

Mr Griffin: It was just the reality.

As I said, initially, I did not like the idea of wind farms but I thought we would probably have to sell the farm. I had to face a new reality at the time when I had my heart attacks. It made me look at the world in a different way. I thought that, if I could not put up with the wind farm, I would be better off probably selling the farm, because it would be all around us anyway. If you are not part of it, you are still included in it. You are just not getting any economic benefit—you have got to look at these turbines.

Also it could affect the value of my property. If I were surrounded by wind farms, it would be quite hard to sell but, if I had some turbines on the farm, I could sell it. It was a very practical thing. I just had to think about what was best for my family and I think a lot of other families do exactly the same. At the time, as I say, I was very vulnerable.

Senator LEYONHJELM: When the contract was presented to you, what process did you go through in order to decide to sign it? Did you ask anyone about it? Did you go to a lawyer, friend, neighbour or relatives?

Mr Griffin: I did go to my solicitor. We did workshop it—we had a few dinner parties with friends, neighbours and so forth and workshopped to the idea. Some were solicitors; others were just neighbours. We tried to work out, as best we could, how to go about it. We were in a very particular situation.

Senator LEYONHJELM: Because you were expecting you might sell the farm because of your heart attack.

Mr Griffin: That is right, yes.

Senator LEYONHJELM: Mr Roweth, before you signed the contract, who did you talk to? Did you ask anyone about it?

Mr Roweth: We talked to our lawyer a little bit. He went through it with us. He did not really explain all the implications for us. We did a bit of research and went down to Wonthaggi in Victoria, where there were turbines—not quite as big as what we were anticipating at home. That was possibly when I started to change my opinion of it. The ones we saw were almost on the coast. We went over a kilometre away from them, but the turbines were still coming through above the noise of the ocean and the wind that was around at the time. So it started to make us think, ‘If that’s close to the house, how is it going to affect us, being like that?’

Senator LEYONHJELM: So you talked to your solicitor. Did you have to pay your solicitor?

Mr Roweth: No. Infigen

Senator LEYONHJELM: Infigen paid for your lawyer Would you have gone to a solicitor and got legal advice if that had not happened?

Mr Roweth: It is hard to say, isn’t it, because legal advice was offered—up to a certain amount of money.

Senator LEYONHJELM: Do you think the legal advice you got was good legal advice?

Mr Roweth: I do not think it was adequate in hindsight—definitely not.

Mr Griffin: It is very hard for a small town solicitor to come up with a contract like this. He had never done it before. He had never seen a wind farm or a wind farm contract. What are they actually looking for? It is hard. Just offhand, it is hard. They have their own professional in-house lawyers dealing with these contracts all the time. We do not, nor do our solicitors in a small country town.

Senator LEYONHJELM: In retrospect, who do you think you would have liked to have heard from before signing that contract when it was presented to you?

Mr Roweth: Probably people who are living near wind farms—

Mr Griffin: Yes, with experience of—

Mr Roweth: to know what they have experienced with them.

Mr Griffin: We are isolated. Farmers are always isolated. We are not in contact, so it is very hard.

Senator LEYONHJELM: I now want to talk to you about Infigen’s behaviour towards you. I think we have heard examples of some of the wind turbine companies being very hard-hearted, and then others are not all the same. Pacific Hydro is a good example because they incorporated a study on the adverse effects of noise. Your experience with what was Babcock & Brown, now Infigen, can you take me through their behaviour and their attitude towards you?

Mr Roweth: In the beginning they were very cooperative. They would try to answer questions but they did not really give you any more information than they had to. As time went on, and once we had signed the contract, their attitude changed. You could ask a question and they would say, ‘Oh, we don’t have to—you have signed the contract.’

Senator LEYONHJELM: Did they refused to give you information?

Mr Roweth: They did not refuse, but they were not quite so friendly about things.

Senator LEYONHJELM: I see.

Mr Griffin: No one got any satisfaction with any problems they had once the design came out. For years and years it went on.

It is hard for us to generalise because we have one man, Jonathan Upson, from one company, Infigen. I must say he was really shocking. He was an incredibly arrogant man. He was arrogant about everyone. All the protesters were just idiots. You could never have any discussion. They were just idiots. The department of planning were dopey. When we raised problems, we were the troublemakers. We never got anywhere with him at all, except to get threats. Even when the department of planning first said that they would have to get our written signature on a document after the date of approval we never got any consultation.

We read in the local newspaper that we were going to be made to come into line. For six months we did not get one bit of consultation from them. They could not come around and try and sweet talk us—’What’s your problem?’—none of that. We just got threats straight away, right from the word go. We were told, ‘They will be made to step into line.’ That was the thing in the local newspaper and that was the attitude.

Senator LEYONHJELM: Tell me if I have this right. The date on the contract has expired, but because they invoked force majeure, they are arguing that the contract is still on foot.

Mr Griffin: That is right.

Senator LEYONHJELM: And you want to be relieved of the contract or you want to treat the contract as expired?

Mr Griffin: Yes.

Senator LEYONHJELM: In that light, they have written to you, threatening you with action for withdrawing from the contract or regarding it as null and void. Am I right there?

Mr Griffin: Yes, that is right.

Senator LEYONHJELM: Has as the letter come from the company or a solicitor?

Mr Griffin: It has come from both. It has come from Gilbert and Tobin, solicitors in Sydney, who act for them, plus it is come from their own—

Senator URQUHART: Thank you, gentlemen, for coming along. Mr Griffin, you mentioned something about property prices when you are talking a moment ago. Can you just give me some more detail? Have you had your property evaluated or anything like that? Can you talk a little bit more about what you meant?

Mr Griffin: At that particular time, when I went to the agents they would not handle the property because it was uncertain. It was uncertain about how many turbines I would have on the property. That was after the initial time when I had signed. So they would not even handled the property first off.

Senator URQUHART: Did they actually refuse?

Mr Griffin: More or less. They said, ‘Look, there are too many unknowns here. We don’t know whether there is going to be a wind farm or whether there isn’t, or how many turbines you are going to have. Let’s just wait until all of this is resolved and we will see what situation is.’

Senator URQUHART: At that time, were you contemplating on putting your property up for sale?

Mr Griffin: I had not before the wind farm.

Senator URQUHART: No, but at the time you went to the real estate.

Mr Griffin: Yes.

Senator URQUHART: And they would not—

Mr Griffin: No, they would not list it, given that degree of uncertainty.

Senator URQUHART: They actually refused to list it?

Mr Griffin: This is a really big thing which should be known about wind farms too—there is a big cost. One thing that upsets me about it is that—

Senator URQUHART: Sorry, I just want to go back to the question. Did they actually refuse to list your property?

Mr Griffin: Yes, that is exactly what he said.

Senator URQUHART: Mr Roweth, you are nodding your head. Did you have the same issue?

Mr Roweth: Not with trying to sell. You mentioned land values. I do not know whether it was a coincidence or not, but since the start of the wind farm the value of my property has dropped $500,000. Whether it is a coincidence or whether it is because of the wind farm, I do not know.

Senator URQUHART: Have you questioned that?

Mr Roweth: No, I have not really questioned that because I have not been thinking of selling. Until you go to sell it, you cannot really—

Senator URQUHART: It does not affect you.

Mr Roweth: It does not affect you.

Senator URQUHART: Yes, I understand that. Are you able to provide the committee with that evidence—the difference in the value?

Mr Roweth: I would be able to. I can go back through the certificates.

Senator URQUHART: That would be great. Senator Leyonhjelm asked a lot of questions about getting a solicitor’s advice. Mr Griffin, I think you said a country solicitor does not have that expertise. I understand that. You need to deal in a specific area of law to be able to give adequate advice. Were you confined to which solicitor you could get advice from or was it left to you to choose the solicitor you wanted?

Mr Griffin: We were allowed to choose our own solicitor.

Senator URQUHART: You went to your own solicitor, as most people do. I can understand that. You have a family solicitor and you tend to go to them for everything. Did your solicitor suggest to you that they did not have the expertise and that you might be better off getting advice from somewhere else in relation to that contract? Or were they just happy to look at the contract, be paid the money and perhaps not provide you with the proper advice?

Mr Griffin: The solicitor said exactly that—that he had no experience in this matter and had never dealt with it. But he was happy to do it, still. He is our solicitor.

Senator URQUHART: So even though he said to you, ‘I do not have any expertise in this’, he did not then suggest to you that you should go somewhere else and give you a name?

Mr Griffin: No.

Senator URQUHART: And was it the same for you, Mr Roweth?

Mr Roweth: It was the same for me, yes.

Senator URQUHART: Mr Roweth, I was just reading in your submission that you said:

Doctors and others are now giving their patients details of possible side effects so as to avoid being sued.

Can you just explain what you mean by that?

Mr Roweth: If you go to the doctor for general health things and they say you have to have an operation, they have got to tell you what the possibility is that that things could go wrong. The wind farm companies would prefer anything that might go wrong to be buried.

Senator URQUHART: So you are not actually talking about doctors not giving you information; it is about the wind farm proponents?

Mr Roweth: It is about the difference between the situations. If you go to a doctor, that is the situation he is in. The wind farm companies just do not want to give you any information that might be detrimental to their business.

Senator URQUHART: Do you think that the wind farm companies are the appropriate people to give health or medical advice to you?

Mr Roweth: No.

Senator URQUHART: What sort of advice are you looking for on that?

Mr Roweth: It is more to do with research into possible health effects. It is about making sure that it is researched properly and not just brushed over like you see in some of the reports from wind farm companies where they have been doing their research in a way that masks any problems.

Senator URQUHART: Were either of you able to get any sort of medical evidence such as what we heard from the NHMRC earlier? Were you able to receive any information like that? I know that it is difficult if you are not in that sphere to even know where to look, so I guess what I am asking is if you inquired as to any of that sort of stuff.

Mr Roweth : I did not really know where to start.

Senator URQUHART: It is difficult, yes, of course.

Mr Griffin: A lot of the information I have had since has been from watching television programs and seeing victims and being absolutely convinced of their authenticity. I have seen the Four Corners program, for example, and the people being affected were quite clearly honest people, telling their problems. I mean that has a big impact on you—

Senator URQUHART: And I do not think—

Mr Griffin: It has more impact on me than it does hearing the committee say there are no health effects. What is happening to these people? I believe them. They are absolutely convincing to me. What reason do they have to make up these stories?

Senator DAY: We have seen hundreds of them.

Mr Griffin: Yes.

Mr Griffin: For us and our families, we make decisions. Now I would be happy to make the decision ‘no’ for health reasons, because I think it is too much of a threat to me and my family.

Senator BACK: Just to be clear, contracts were signed in 2008 with Babcock & Brown for a five-year period. They became Infigen Energy, as I understand it. They had to commence construction within five years, by June 2013. They did not, so the contract should have been null and void. What was the basis on which they claimed force majeure? Was it bad weather?

Mr Griffin: No. They claimed it based on the fact that they could not get planning approval.

Senator BACK: Okay. Now, that would have been through the New South Wales Department of Planning and Environment.

Mr Griffin: That is right.

Senator BACK: Was that the case? Did the New South Wales Department of Planning and Environment hold them up?

Mr Roweth: I do not think it really was the way they are claiming. I think the department was asking them a lot of questions about things that they had not included in their original submission.

Mr Griffin: And we have correspondence from the department of planning saying that they did not accept any responsibility for the hold-ups or delays in planning.

Senator BACK: The New South Wales department of planning did not accept any responsibility?

Mr Griffin: That is right.

Senator BACK: They disputed the force majeure?

Mr Griffin: They disputed the force majeure—not so much the force majeure as such, because they would not come out and say it. They would not take any responsibility—

Senator BACK: They disputed that they caused any delays.

Mr Griffin: That is right—delays by Infigen in giving them the information they needed to make the decision.

Senator BACK: All right.

Mr Griffin: And, two years later, they are still waiting for the information.

Senator BACK: In that case, then, the contracts are null and void, aren’t they?

Mr Griffin: That is right.

Senator BACK: It is two years ago. For whatever reason, you signed up in 2008; after the five years, you do not want to participate again. Have you sought legal advice, maybe this time from lawyers, who spend more time in this space, saying, ‘Basically, if there’s an issue, it’s between the New South Wales department of planning and Infigen and has actually got nothing to do with you at all’?

Mr Griffin: My solicitor did get the advice of a barrister who works in the New South Wales Land and Environment Court. That advice was that there was not force majeure. We have submitted that to Infigen. That is the process we went along. We did argue a legal line. We found that what we had to do was say, ‘We do not accept the force majeure but we reserve our right to end the contract,’ because, if we ended the contract, their letter says, as you will see, ‘by Friday of this week, legal proceedings will have begun’.

Senator BACK: That is a threat, isn’t it?

Mr Griffin: Of course it is a threat.

Senator BACK: That is just a bully’s threat.

Mr Griffin: Of course it is. It was meant to intimidate us, and it did, because what are we going to do? Are we going to say, ‘Meet you in court’? I have had advice since to say we should have toughed it out. But it is hard to know what to do in these situations.

Senator BACK: It is very easy for someone who has no skin in the game, Mr Griffin, to make those sorts of statements.

Mr Griffin: That is right. So our tactic has been to try to state our legal position the whole time: we do not accept the contract, the contract is over and we reserve our right to end the contract at any stage—and that means tomorrow at the moment. What we have been hoping for the whole time is that New South Wales Planning do not give planning permission because there are not binding contracts over the landholders who do not want to sign the new contracts—so the deferred commencement conditions have not been met, therefore there will not be a wind farm. That would solve all our problems so we do not have to worry about solicitors.

Senator BACK: Have you sought legal advice to the extent of what action you as a group might have against the New South Wales department of planning?

Mr Griffin: No, we have not.

Senator BACK: That would appear to be a step that needs to be taken.

Mr Griffin: I must say the New South Wales department of planning has been fantastic, up until this period in time.

Senator BACK: Now they have given an extension on the planning approval—

Mr Griffin: Yes but this is different people. Management have just taken over this whole thing onto themselves, made it secret.

Senator BACK: So this is after two days of meetings with PAC, which one would assume in Australia means that both sides come before an independent arbiter, they hear the evidence, they do not need to meet anyone else, but then you tell us, I think, that independent of that they have now met on two further occasions with Infigen Energy. Have you guys been invited back for another further meeting?

Mr Griffin: No. They will not even answer anything.

Senator BACK: They being the New South Wales department of planning?

Mr Griffin: The former officer invited me to make a submission on the legality—whether they had an existing contract—which I did, and which he acknowledged, but then he told me that he could not speak to me, he could tell me nothing about the matter whatsoever. It was completely secret now and contact was over.

Senator BACK: I think the department understands why. Thank you very much for appearing gentlemen, I appreciate it.

CHAIR: Just to be crystal clear, Mr Roweth and Mr Griffin—from your testimony before the committee today, when the wind farm was proposed you signed up to it in good faith, is that correct, and you were not opposed to wind turbines?

Mr Griffin: That is right.

Mr Roweth: Not in-principle.

CHAIR: One of the issues that you have expressed to the committee today is inadequate disclosure of the position of the roads and the turbines—you have come to learn more after you have signed the contracts, is that correct?

Mr Griffin: Yes.

CHAIR: You have also told us that when you approached a real estate agent, Mr Griffin, looking to possibly put your property on the market, they would not list it because you could not inform them of how many turbines were going to be on your land, the position of them, and of any roads et cetera—this had a detrimental effect on your ability to list the property. Is that right?

Mr Griffin: That is right.

CHAIR: One of the many issues that you have raised here today before the committee is that you feel there was inadequate disclosure to you of the potential effects, positioning, et cetera, on your properties, and now you are saying if you had proper disclosure of these things you would not have signed a contract.

Mr Griffin: It is not only us, it is other landholders. Mr Osborne, at the back, for example, described this as the worst decision that they had made in their lives when they were talking to the department about it—because of the impact of where they put the roads in low down areas. It is devastating for them to lose their most productive land. All of this would not have occurred if there had been a design there.

CHAIR: Thank you, gentlemen, for your appearance before the committee today. There maybe some questions put on notice to you, so we would hope that you would be happy to answer them for the committee.

Mr Griffin: Yes. Thank you, Senators—sincerely, thank you.

Hansard, 19 June 2015

The evidence given by Rob Griffin and Alwyn Roweth is available on the Parliament’s website here. And their submissions are available here (sub81_Griffin) and here (sub182_Roweth).

stasi-9

Jawohl, Herr Upson! Whose lives do you want us to destroy today?

 ***

Hmmm … where to start?

That Infigen is to corporate social responsibility what the Stasi were to East German community relations is no surprise to STT followers. Lies, treachery and deceit are part and parcel of Australia’s most notorious wind power outfit.

However, what might be news to some, is the fact that Infigen treat their contracted turbine hosts with exactly the same callous disregard and high-handed contempt as the victims who neighbour their operations (see our post here).

Wind power outfits paying peanuts to bumbling local solicitors – with skills limited to conveyancing and wills – to give preordained and utterly incompetent advice is standard practice. Small town incompetence or inexperience blending perfectly with the blatantly obvious conflict of interest created by receiving money from one party to a contract and, purportedly, acting in the interests of the other, to result in “advice” that can only favour the developer: some might call it “astonishing” in its audacity. But, that’s the wind industry.

And it’s not just Infigen. Oh no, the same tactics are employed uniformly, such as those by AGL in its dealings with Clive and Trina Gare:

SA Farmers Paid $1 Million to Host 19 Turbines Tell Senate they “Would Never Do it Again” due to “Unbearable” Sleep-Destroying Noise

The Gare’s experience in dealing with AGL is pretty much on a par with the evidence given by Rob Griffin and Alwyn Roweth.

What the experiences of these people screams out, is that if you’re a farmer thinking about entering a contract with a wind power outfit to host turbines: DON’T.

And, if you’re in a contract to do so, then obtain competent legal advice (not paid for by the wind power outfit in question) to get out of your contract NOW.

The starting point – obvious to any experienced legal practitioner – will be the misrepresentations and misleading and deceptive conduct by which you were induced to enter your contract in the first place; matters which are usually sufficient for a court to order that a contract be set aside.

In those cases, like Rob Griffin’s, where you were suffering from some type of vulnerability at the time you entered your contract (eg, ill health, advancing age or mental infirmity) “unconscionability” will provide a further or independent basis upon which a court will gladly set aside your contract. This will be especially so, where the wind power outfit’s employees bullied and threatened you in the style laid out in the evidence above.

Turbine hosts around the world have worked out that they are simply wind industry “road-kill” too; that, for a few measly dollars, lose control of their farms; the ability to sleep, live in and otherwise enjoy their homes; and end up being hated by former friends, neighbours and relatives:

Turbine Hosts’ Lament: Hammered by Wind Power Outfits; Hated by Former Friends, Relatives & Neighbours

Unwilling Turbine Hosts Set to Revolt, as NSW Planning Minister – Pru Goward – Slams Spanish Fan Plans at Yass

Turbine Hosts Line Up to Tip a Bucket on Wind Power Outfits, as Senate Submissions Deadline Extended to 4 May 2015

Five or ten years ago, farmers entering contracts with wind power outfits could have been forgiven for being innocent dupes. But that was then; this is now. Don’t be a perpetrator and a victim of the greatest fraud of all time.

She's had a few

Don’t let them be yours.

About stopthesethings

We are a group of citizens concerned about the rapid spread of industrial wind power generation installations across Australia.

Comments

  1. marenjasmine says:

    Hello Australia, We, in many parts of Canada, have been hit with wind energy. Our electricity bills are sky-rocketing even though we are energy rich and sell our surplus electricity to neighbouring provinces and the US. The wind energy companies are subsidized with our tax dollars even when not producing electricity which they produce very little of. As well they are an ugly scourge, kill wildlife and millions of bats and birds. Green they are not! There are many Facebook groups from Ontario with information https://www.facebook.com/WindConcernsOntario?fref=ts (One thing the farmers weren’t aware of here was that the companies were putting liens on their farms!) Very interesting video of the farmers’ plight! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=55-jBCjtJ88&feature=share

  2. Some years ago, members of our family were offered a contract in the infamous Tuki windfarm proposal at Smeaton. It was clear then that the contract was shonky and there was no way it should be signed. The lawyer told them only a fool would sign that, and yet the owners of the Tuki trout farm and a few others had no hesitation in doing so, obviously.

    It would seem not much has changed. Why any farmer would sign one of these contracts that takes away their rights is beyond me?

  3. Jackie Rovenksy says:

    Firstly the Senators are doing a great job, they have conducted themselves in an exemplary manner, making it possible for people to give evidence without fear of reprisal. The Terms of Reference were broad and covered every aspect of this industry. They are not ‘choked’ by having to restrict their consideration to ‘peer reviewed’ academic ‘evidence’, which has caused other studies of this industry to only taking into consideration biased and ideologically driven information.

    Now, the duplicity of the NSW Government Planning Department stands out clearly. Why would they remove those employees who had been dealing with the ‘case’ of Flyers Creek with their Department heads taking over if it wasn’t to ensure Infigen got what it wanted?

    Honest hard working people replaced by lackeys of Infigen.

    Today in the South East of SA on ABC radio Infigen presented what was in essence an advertisement, informing listeners of how great the industry is doing and how wonderful they are.

    Even talking about the Woakwine proposal which is an addition to the Lake Bonney and Canunda installations and how they are going to connect to the Eastern Grid to ensure excess energy, which they will produce plenty of, will be able to be sent off to those poor renewables (wind) deficient Victorians, but in the process forgot to say Wattle Range Council had refused to extend their approval after they had not commenced construction within the 3 years allowed under the approval!

    Nor did they say anything about having installations on the market, waiting for uninformed buyers to lose money on.

    Hopefully companies thinking of investing in this industry in Australia will be keeping an eye on:
    http://www.energy.anero.id.au/wind-energy
    checking on the performance or lack of it of wind energy installations connected to the Eastern Grid. This past few days alone would cause them to query the sense of investing in the wind industry here.

    At 10.49pm in SA on the 7 July 2015 the whole of the grid connections in SA were producing a massive 11MW, Victoria 51MW, NSW 37MW, Tasmania 76MW. At 3.02pm the same day NSW managed a great 1MW. (Times are SA time). Throughout that day the whole grid almost ground to a halt.

    Also its funny how the ABC doesn’t have advertising but unashamedly provides the service to this industry in the guise of a ‘news’ or ‘information’ story.

    • Jackie Rovenksy says:

      Addition to the above:
      “Pursuant to Regulation 48(1) of the Development Regulations 2008, any consent or approval granted under Part 4 of the Development Act, will lapse at the expiration of 12 months from the operative date of the consent or approval. If the relevant development has been lawfully commenced within 12 months from the operative date of the approval, the approval will not lapse if it is substantially or fully completed within three years from the operative date of the approval”

      Robe DAP April 2015 also refused to extend the lapsed consent.

      With respect to Kingston, the third Council involved in this project it seems they may have approved that part which lies within their boundary but I cannot confirm this at the moment.

      The guestimate number of turbines proposed has ranged from 152 to 121, but the final appears to have been 124 turbines in total, with the number for Kingston not know though 83 were earmarked for the Wattle Range district and 9 for the Robe district, leaving 32 for the Kingston district.

  4. Stop the Wind Bullies says:

    Phenomenal STT! And thank you senators! The cesspit which the Wind Industry has dug for itself just got a whole lot deeper. The stench is overwhelming. Corporate bullies, standover tactics, smear and vilification of those raising legitimate questions, and the rorting and corruption of government funds and officials. These companies do not care who they damage, in their pursuit of slimy ‘green’.

    It cries out for ROYAL COMMISSION, NOW!

  5. Barbara Durkin says:

    RE: “bastard child[ren] of Enron” and Enron on Enron

    ENRON CEO Ken Lay’s public policy guru and speech writer for 7 years, Robert L. Bradley Jr., was with ENRON for 16 years. Bradley makes a compelling case against this business model of wind energy (ENRON’s) as an ENRON insider. Bradley calls industry alleged wind benefits the ENRON “Myth”. Bradley observes ENRON (Wind) required government intervention. And, that President Obama’s Energy Plan is this ENRON model that benefits rent-seekers who help craft regulations that give special government favor to their industry. Citizens’ need for reliable energy sources that are commercially reasonable are presently being addressed by regulators who are the regulated and many former ENRON executives.
    Robert L. Bradley, Jr.: Obama’s Enron Problem:

    ENRON execs, more than a decade following the CA Energy Crisis their energy market traders triggered, dominate the on and offshore wind energy markets in New England.

    APEX EVP of business development Steve Vavrik is also listed as Apex Clean Energy, Inc., Chief Commercial Officer. Vavrik was VP of First Wind, and Vice President of Risk Management for UPC in 2006 that changed its name to First Wind in 2008. Vavrik was with ENRON in London in a project development and gas trading capacity. His role at ENRON included trading natural gas forward contracts and negotiating structured power deals. Vavrik is/was Chair Managing Director of SunPower Corp. (Loss to investors, taxpayers, and ratepayers approaches $10 Billion dollars combining ENRON and SunPower losses).

    UPC First Wind President Michael Alvarez is responsible for First Wind operations and assets. After beginning his energy career with GE Capital, he joined ENRON in London.

    DEEPWATER WIND BOARD OF MANAGERS
    DeepWater Wind Board Member Brian Redmond is Founder of Paragon Energy Holdings, LLC; former President of Houston Pipe Line Company and President of Louisiana Resource Company, Managing Director of ENRON, and Executive Director of UBS Warburg Energy
    MICHAEL ALVAREZ
    http://dwwind.com/about/board-of-directors
    is President of Kenetech Energy Systems (that formed EcoElectrica) .
    http://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/807708/0000807708-98-000020.txt

    EcoElectrica is a Bermuda limited partnership formed by affliates of KENETECH Energy Systems, Inc. (KES) and Enron Development Corporation (Enron). EcoElectrica’s general partners are KES Bermuda, Inc., and Buenergia, B.V., each which holds one percent interest. Ecoelectric’s limited partners are KES Puerto Rico, L.P. and Buenergia Enron de Puerto Rico, C.V., which are both indirect wholly-owned subsidiaries of KENETECH Corp., which also owns KES. Buenergia B.V. and Buenergia Enron de Puerto Rico, C.V. are both indirect wholly-owned subsidiaries of Enron Corporation, the Parent Company of Enron Development Corporation.
    http://www.fossil.energy.gov/programs/gasregulation/authorizations/orders/ord1042.pdf

    In 2002, GE with CEO Jeffrey Immelt, spent $358 million to buy the assets of the bankrupt ENRON Corporation, Zond Wind, founded by James Dehlsen in 1980. Months later, GE petitioned the courts for the return of over half the money they spent on ENRON assets claiming the value of these assets wasn’t worth the price GE paid. GE’s Immelt led President Obama’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.

    Mike Cutbirth is former head of Global Finance for Zond Corporation and ENRON Wind. He served 4 years as the first CEO of Clipper Windpower formed by ENRON.

    The first customer of the $40 million dollar, publicly-funded, Charlestown, MA Wind Turbine Testing Center was Clipper Wind, founded by ENRON Director James Dehlsen. Clipper Wind has since filed for bankruptcy protection. MA Wind Turbine Testing Center Executive Director Rahul Yarala is a staffer at MA Clean Energy Center (MassCEC), and the former Director of Engineering at Clipper Windpower, Inc., formed by ENRON.

    CGEI Wind is jointly owned by Good Energies and Champlin Windpower, LLC and is lead by Mike Cutbirth. Mike was formerly head of Global Finance for Zond Corporation and ENRON Wind and served 4 years as the first CEO of Clipper Windpower.

    ENRON Energy Services Chris Wissemann is Fishermen’s Energy Chief Executive Officer and General Manager of Freshwater Wind. Wissermann is Chief Operating Officer of Winergy Power, LLC and the Founder of DeepWater Wind, and past President of Garden State Offshore Energy. Wissermann spearheaded legislation to create long term power purchase agreements for DeepWater Wind which he founded.
    http://www.fishermensenergy.com/leadership.php

    History Repeats

    Senate Government Affairs November 12, 2002 ASLEEP AT THE SWITCH: FERC’S OVERSIGHT OF ENRON CORPORATION–VOL. I
    The 107th Congress transcript, in part, states-

    Senator Levin: “The Enron scandal began by exposing dishonest accounting at a number of major U.S. companies that, unbeknownst to most, had begun to eat away at the reliability of their financial statements. It has since exposed the conflicts of interest that have made investors distrust investment reports issued by leading U.S. financial firms. It has exposed how those firms have become unwilling participants in shell companies, phony trade deals, and complex financial transactions used to inflate earnings, hide debt, and increase stock prices..”

    Levin: “corporate executives have walked away from corporate disasters with millions in their pockets, often from exercising stock options, while pension funds, investors, employees and creditors have lost everything.”

    [cut]. http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CHRG-107shrg83483/html/CHRG-107shrg834
    http://self.gutenberg.org/article/WHEBN0000010166/Enron

    Follow the money…

  6. Terry Conn says:

    The situation of the ‘hosts’ giving evidence to this inquiry are ‘sad’ to say the least, and should these matters ever end up in a ‘real’ court of law (ie not the NSW Environment Court that is a nothing more than an ‘Eco Fascist’ left wing boondoggle invented by Neville Wran), then I’m sure they will find ‘relief’.

    In the meantime, there are still a bountiful number of potential hosts who live a long way from where they are gleefully happy to inflict their neighbours with all the misery of wind turbines, so that they can siphon off other people’s money for their own benefit with all the panache of a nasty predator.

    As STT points out, that may have worked 5-10 years ago, but now things have changed — now they know, or ought to know, the damage inflicted by these gigantic mechanical monstrosities and they will, personally, have to pay the damages — an indemnity clause from Infigen, AGL, Goldwin, Wind Prospects etc is worthless.

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