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More dialogue needed around energy exports: environmental groups

Environmental groups criticized the British Columbia government's push to increase energy exports in a set of six recommendations released this morning.

“Under current direction from government exports could grow significantly,” noted the six-page paper written by the David Suzuki Foundation, Pembina Institute, Watershed Watch Salmon Society and West Coast Environmental Law and endorsed by 25 B.C. groups.

That shouldn't happen without a “meaningful public dialogue” about the terms and conditions under which exports of renewable electricity “should occur, if they should occur at all,” they said.

Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources Minister Blair Lekstrom told the Tyee in August that the government was supportive of developing an export-based renewable energy industry, a commitment also made in the throne speech.

Other recommendations included making energy conservation and efficiency the top priority, strengthening the environmental assessment process and planning in a way that limits environmental, social and economic impacts while maximizing public benefit.

“The opposition caucus is endorsing these recommendations as a good first step,” said New Democratic Party energy critic John Horgan. “I'm glad to see groups like Pembina and Suzuki putting aside the carbon tax for two minutes to talk about other issues that are important to British Columbians.”

Horgan said he supports exporting surplus energy, but argued against building new capacity purely for export. “To build to export means we're putting our natural environment at risk so others won't have to make the tough choices on protecting their environment.”

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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