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NDP burns 400 litres of fuel on Earth Day, BC Libs use 40

The leaders of British Columbia's two main political parties marked Earth Day by recognizing the need to reduce their carbon footprint.

But New Democrat Leader Carole James left a print the size of a sasquatch when she chartered a plane to fly the media over several run-of-the-river power projects on Wednesday. By the time the plane landed in Vancouver's harbour it had used more than 400 litres of fuel.

In contrast, Liberal Leader Gordon Campbell's campaign used just 40 litres both for a Vancouver harbour boat tour and for his campaign bus.

James justified the trip as necessary to see the environmental harm being done by what she said is the Liberal's private-power agenda.

"It was important today on Earth Day to be able to go and see some examples where environmental protection isn't being looked after," she said after getting off a Harbour Air float plane.

James said the party was keeping track of all travel during the 28-day campaign and is looking to purchase carbon offsets at the end of the campaign.

Her organizers, she said, have looked at many environmental issues in conducting the campaign and they're trying to be as green as they can be.

Campbell told reporters while on the back of a paddle wheel boat in Burrard Inlet that his campaign will be carbon neutral.

"We are trying to make sure that our flying is reduced dramatically from 2005. Our plane is far more fuel efficient than the one we used in 2005," Campbell said.

Even the Liberal's campaign signs are biodegradable and will break down within two years.

Campbell used crawling crabs, starfish and sea cucumbers as his Earth Day props, as examples of how the economy and the environment can work hand in hand. Just outside the newly opened and way over-budget Vancouver convention centre, Campbell said an artificial concrete reef erected in the water when building the new centre has invited new life into a harbour where industry poured its garbage for 100 years.

"There's an old observation that you can be for improving the environment or for improving the economy. I think what we are proving is you can be both," Campbell said.

He also criticized the NDP for opposing all of his party's environmental initiatives, most notably a carbon tax on fossil fuels.

"If you look at their record, they're one of the most anti-environmental parties in the country," Campbell said.

But James said the B.C. Liberals are no friend of the environment.

She said the government has created a gold-rush mentality on run-of-the-river power projects, which allow private companies to generate power with hydro installations along a river.

"We're talking about opening up our province and saying to companies take the resources away. We need to stop this process and put a strong environmental review process in place," James said.

The New Democrats want a moratorium on the projects, saying they require massive infrastructure such as roads, power lines and river diversions into once-untouched wilderness.

Long-time environmentalist Vicki Husband doesn't agree with James' plan to scrap the Campbell carbon tax, but she does agree with her on the river power projects.

"This should not be surging right ahead with inadequate environmental assessment, totally inadequate public process. There, in fact, is not a public process," Husband said.

The Liberals say even some New Democrat MLAs have endorsed local independent power producers.

James replied that there may be places where such projects make perfect sense, "But not with the kind of application process we're seeing now. Not the kind of wide open take British Columbia away from us process that you see under Gordon Campbell and the Liberals."

Terri Theodore reports for The Canadian Press.

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