On January 20, BC Hydro issued a press release singing the praises of a new hydro transmission line not far from where preliminary work has begun to build the $9-billion Site C dam.
The release, headlined “New transmission line to power development in the south Peace,” featured boosterish quotes from Premier Christy Clark, Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett and BC Hydro CEO and president Jessica MacDonald, but made no mention of the dam.
Yet it highlighted for many one of the most vexing questions about why the dam, which is the single-most expensive megaproject in the province’s history, is being built at all: Why this project at this time?
“This line doubles the amount of power we can provide to the region,” enthused MacDonald. “We know it’s a growing region and BC Hydro needs to be one step ahead and ensure we can get power to where it is needed most. We want industry in B.C. to use clean power that comes from BC Hydro’s hydroelectric facilities.”
What MacDonald didn’t say, and Clark and Bennett did nothing to elaborate on either, is that the $300-million and counting transmission line is but the first of at least three in the region. Another two lines, which the provincial government wants exempt from review by the provincial electrical utilities regulator the BC Utilities Commission (the province also exempted the Site C dam project from similar review), will add hundreds of millions of dollars more to the tally for taxpayers.
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