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First Nations 'outraged' at Site C decision

The provincial government's announcement to proceed with the Site C dam has sparked an outcry from the First Nations whose territories would be affected by the massive hydroelectric project.

The Treaty 8 Tribal Association represents six First Nations in northeastern B.C. The association issued a press release this afternoon expressing "outrage" at Premier Gordon Campbell's decision.

"It is clear to Treaty 8 First Nations that the only real priority for the government is the further exploitation of the natural resources of Northeast British Columbia for revenue into the government coffers," stated Chief Roland Willson of the West Moberly First Nations. "We are gravely concerned about this, given the government's recent watering down of environmental regulatory processes. That could enable this mega project to move through with little or no challenges to the application."

Some of the province's largest environmental groups also fired off neagtive reactions following this morning's announcement.

George Heyman, executive director of the Sierra Club of B.C. stated that the government's decision to pursue Site C "shows a lack of true commitment to a comprehensive provincial energy planning process."

"The huge loss of boreal forest due to flooding would eliminate a major carbon sink for B.C., and increase our CO2 emissions far into the future. . . "

Karen Campbell, director of strategy for the Pembina Institute, stated that "there are still serious unresolved concerns about the Site C dam, and the environmental assessment process is not equipped to resolve them.

"Additionally, there's no plan indicating how the electricity from Site C would be used. There are plenty of promises, but no clear strategy showing where the demand will come from or how it contributes to B.C.'s role as a leader on climate change and reducing greenhouse gas emissions."

Wilderness Committee campaign director Joe Foy charged that the electricity from Site C would be used to power shale gas operations in that part of the province.

"Site C is clearly not about BC's energy needs, it is about powering dirty fossil fuel projects and providing a massive subsidy to the private power sector. . ." stated Foy.

The International Union of Operating Engineers also weighed in on the news, but with a cautiously optimistic outlook. Local 115 issued a press release stating that the Site C project is only a good idea if it proceeds with a labour agreement to ensure that skilled B.C. workers are employed.

"This is the biggest construction project in BC history -- we have to get it right and make sure our province gets the maximum benefits from Site C and the minimum negative impacts," stated union spokesperson Gary Kroeker.

Colleen Kimmett reports for The Tyee.

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