Independent media needs you. Join the Tyee.

The Hook: Political news, freshly caught

Long awaited Site C enviro review expected Thursday

A much-anticipated environmental review of the long-planned Site C dam will be released tomorrow.

The report from the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency's Joint Review Panel into BC Hydro's $8-billion plan to build a dam that would flood 83 kilometres of the Peace River was submitted May 1 to federal Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq and the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office, but there was no obligation to release it to the public for 45 days.

"The fact that they decided to share it just after they got it themselves is a little bit surprising, but we are feeling optimistic and hoping for the best," said Andrea Morison of the Peace Valley Environment Association, whose organization opposes the dam.

The panel's recommendations, put together after 26 days of hearings, are not binding on government, but are likely to outline issues and possible solutions as well as indicating whether some environmental problems are insurmountable.

The report will be posted on the CEAA's website Thursday. The provincial and federal governments must make their own decisions within 174 days, or six months, of the report being issued.

"The province has been very clear from the get-go that they support Site C," said Joe Foy, Wilderness Committee's national campaign director.

However, if the federal government decides it can't support the project, Site C would probably die, Foy speculated.

In February, the federal government rejected the New Prosperity Mine near Williams Lake, despite it having provincial support, after concluding the mine would have environmental effects that could not be mitigated.

Premier Christy Clark has made it clear she supports Site C. Much of the last election campaign was built on proceeding with Site C as a key building block of developing a liquefied natural gas industry.

Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett has consistently been more cautious, and said shortly after the election, when revelations were made about BC Hydro's new capital costs and construction cost overruns, that he wanted to make sure that government would not be facing cost overruns with Site C. Because BC Hydro is a Crown corporation, cost overruns would be borne by taxpayers.

Bennett also recently told the Globe and Mail that there could be another level of screening on Site C costs. Government previously decided to circumvent the Crown corporation's regulator, the B.C. Utilities Commission, which would have looked at financial issues. The environmental review is not expected to look closely at cost, necessity or practicality.

Questions have also been raised about whether liquefied natural gas plants would find hydro power too expensive and would be more likely to use gas to feed their massive electricity needs.

Paul Kariya, executive director of Clean Energy BC -- an industry trade association that represents independent power producers, including gas generators -- recently told DeSmog Canada that the major LNG companies are looking at powering their plants via natural gas.

"Times have changed. We've been through an era of building big dams," Kariya said. "When you build a dam, you get this one massive lump of power and that's not the way that energy is planned for anymore."

Site C, which gets its moniker from being the third dam proposed for the Peace River, has been on the books since the 1970s.

It was first turned down by the independent B.C. Utilities Commission in the early '80s, which said BC Hydro hadn't demonstrated that the power was needed or that the dam was preferable to all other sources of power.

In the '90s, BC Hydro suspended the project again because the need for power was still considered insufficient.

Judith Lavoie reports for DeSmog Canada, where a longer version of this article appears. With files from Emma Gilchrist.

Find more in:

What have we missed? What do you think? We want to know. Comment below. Keep in mind:


  • Verify facts, debunk rumours
  • Add context and background
  • Spot typos and logical fallacies
  • Highlight reporting blind spots
  • Ignore trolls
  • Treat all with respect and curiosity
  • Connect with each other

Do not:

  • Use sexist, classist, racist or homophobic language
  • Libel or defame
  • Bully or troll
  • Troll patrol. Instead, flag suspect activity.
comments powered by Disqus