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CVADA board gets to work on green energy

By Jaymie L. White Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

CODROY VALLEY — The recently elected board members of the Codroy Valley Area Development Association (CVADA) are Ron Laudadio (Chair), Tracy Keeping (Vice-Chair), Craig Collier, Brad Moore, Dion Devoe, Lucy Poirier, Shelley Gale, April Gillam, Amy Taylor, Chris Bruce, Francis Peddle, Lana Thorimbert, Carolyn Aucoin, Nancy Power, Elissa Hinks and Dale Lomond. “It’s a big board, which is a huge coup. It’s awesome. And I think what really might have triggered that, for sure, was the concern about the wind turbine events and projects. So people felt inspired to coming out and having a conversation. Some of the people that just wanted to hear what was going on actually got nominated and they accepted the nomination” said Laudadio. “There’s a couple even that showed up at the AGM (Annual General Meeting) that didn’t even attempt or expect to get nominated and be on the board. However, that said, they joined the board and we actually have 16 wonderful people on the board. They’re diverse in their thinking, they’re diverse in their opinions, and there’s a lot of passion. But what’s amazing is that they’re very supportive, they’re collaborative and they’re all open minded, and we’re taking it very seriously. I even had everyone sign nondisclosures for confidentiality and an oath of office document and everybody willingly signed it.” Laudadio said that the entire board is eager to prove to the community that they are ready and willing to represent them. “There’s been no infighting, despite difference of opinion. It’s been just open mindedness and a great, wonderful conversation. What I’ve been doing, even though I wasn’t the chair last year, I’ve been taking a lot of initiative and trying to set up. So I set up the website, thecodroyvalley.com, and I suggested to the board that we finally issue our minutes publicly,” said Laudadio. “So it’s transparency completely and, if you go to the website, you’ll see that we’ve done that before now for the last, I think, eleven months, and the board this year is really excited to continue to perpetuate that. They really feel that that kind of transparency leads to a lot of accountability, but also it reduces a lot of people’s fears about what we’re trying to do as initiatives.” Laudadio said that transparency and communication makes the harder topics much easier to tackle. “I think what I love about this, too, is that, despite the fact that we all have our differences of opinions, when you look at the World Energy GH2 project, there’s a lot of emotion and passion behind it and we all can kind of get a sense that some of us are for and some of us against, but we’re very careful to keep each other in check and we’re also very careful to make sure that we’re reflecting the sentiment of the community and not just our intent,” said Laudadio. “So we’re not trying to use our power position to influence anyone else. We’re transparently trying to reflect the sentiment of the community. We’re asking the community what they want, which is why we had that session a couple of weeks ago.” One of the issues with major projects, such as those surrounding green energy development, is that misinformation can spread quite rapidly, and the CVADA board is trying to combat that. “Right now there’s a lot of misinformation, there’s a lot of anger, there’s a lot of fear and unknown when it comes to these (World Energy) GH2 projects, and when we started asking around informally, we realized that a lot of people were forming opinions, but it was actually based on misinformation. For example, there was someone who was vehemently against the wind turbines because they didn’t want the water in the Codroy River to dry up and be used for the electrolyzers. Little do they know there’s no electrolyzers in this area. They’re all in Stephenville,” said Laudadio. “His opinion is legitimate, but it would be better that that individual formed that position on truth. So what we decided to do is have a four-step process where we could actually support the community.” The first step in the process was to ask the community what they want. “We had that session where we provided no answers and we actually provided no bias and no influence. All we just said was what are your questions? What are you assuming is happening and also, what side are you on? Are you for them? Are you against them? Are you undecided,” said Laudadio. “That was purely to inform the CVADA, because then what we can do is take it to another step, get these questions answered, have another poll where they can decide which way they want us to go and then the CVADA will take a position whether it’s in support or opposition based on the majority of the poll results from the community. So the transparency is all there. Everybody who asked a question, it was provided in the report. Everybody who made a statement, it was provided in the report. We were extremely careful about the poll results. When we counted the poll results, we had Brian Osmond oversee us. We took two random citizens from the community to observe us, and four board members were there while we were counting our poll results. So everything we’re trying to do is trying to be as transparent as possible.” The initial poll results, which the CVADA has made public, show that the majority of residents voted against wind development in the Codroy Valley. “In the report it shows very clearly how the results were, and 71 per cent of those were opposed, and I think it was 15 per cent were for and 14 per cent were undecided,” said Laudadio. “In the report, we articulate our four-step process. The first one is, what does the community know or think and what are their questions? The second step is to connect with World Energy GH2 and all of our counterparts. So I’ve already had a supper with Scott Reid. He’s fully aware that he’s going to get all these questions. He’s fully aware that most of them are actually pointed towards the premier and the minister, but we’re asking him as a representative to be able to communicate through him.” Laudadio is prepared to go to Minister Andrew Parsons and Premier Andrew Furey to get the answers. “We’re (the board) very firm. The fact that the government has been so silent on the position of these turbines, we say it’s alarming and they keep on saying, ‘check our website,’ and we do, but while it’s very articulate about the process, it says nothing about why Andrew Furey thinks this is a benefit to Newfoundlanders, and it would be good to know that kind of stuff. So what we’re going to do is we’re going to ask everybody to responsibly answer these questions,” shared Laudadio. “We’re going to publicize all of the answers, and then after that, we’re going to have another meeting where we actually invite GH2. Alicia and I from the board just came from Stephenville, and we actually had a sit down with GH2 and they’re taking this report very seriously.” The plan is for World Energy GH2 to go to the Codroy Valley and have another information session with the community. “John Hogan and Angela Gill have agreed to come down if we host it because they really respect the way that we ran the last session as a facilitated, non-confrontational, collaborative, open conversation. Now, it’s hard because these are hard topics, but there was no fighting and there was no arguing and there’s no chair throwing and podium yelling like what most people expect,” said Laudadio. “So on that faith, they’re comfortable that they’re going to come down to the community again and help us answer these questions. I haven’t heard anything yet from Scott or from the Minister (Parsons) or the Premier, so I’m going to send a letter out specifically to them, even though they were aware that these questions were coming out in the report, just to make sure that they answer the questions. Once we get all these questions answered and we’re inviting the Premier and the Minister to actually come down here, but we know the Premier won’t come down, but hopefully the Minister does.” After the information session, another poll will be taken. “Now that they are informed, because now they have a lot of conviction and understanding about what it really means to say that they’re opposed or that they’re supportive with that, then we will take the direction of the CVADA. We will position ourselves appropriately. We’ll prepare ourselves for the community commenting period. That is triggered by GH2 submitting their EIS (Environmental Impact Study), and then we’ll support the community as best as we can,” said Laudadio. “What we’re trying to do is support the community and the reason for that is because we want, like, if someone from the community wants to band together, create their own group and have their own conversation with GH2 or the government, we don’t want to stand in the way.” Laudadio wants the residents to understand that their board is going to work hard to ensure that they earn the community’s trust. “I think there’s no doubt that the CVADA has taken a radically different approach than what the CVADA has done in the last 15 years, and I think that’s a good message, but at the same time we really haven’t demonstrated our worth, because the value of the four step process is really a clear and proper representation support of the community and then the latter steps. So in a way, I think it’s a wait and see. But the clear thing that I think is important is that the CVADA is actually quite strong. They’re very positive, they’re very optimistic and it really shows a culture change that’s very supportive and open. We embrace our diversity and we don’t hold it against each other because how better to represent the community than to have opinions that represent the diversity of the community? And then with that transparency, we can keep ourselves honest. And I think it’s a beautiful feeling, really. It feels great,” said Laudadio. “I really think that this year, that kind of work that we did last year has really set a beautiful bed, a culture bed, for the kind of camaraderie and support that we have each other for this year. I really think the community is going to benefit us substantial from it because now hopefully we can engineer and cultivate a relationship between the community and the CVADA that’s very supporting and trusting because quite honestly, the feel I’m getting right now is we have to earn it. I think we made some good steps, but we still have to earn it.”

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