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B.C. Scales Down Energy-Saving Measures to Manufacture Demand for Site C: UBC Report

Christy Clark Site C dam, energy conservation cancelled

Way back in the good ole days of 2010, B.C. released the Clean Energy Act, a plan that required the province to conserve massive amounts of energy.

And, all in all, B.C. has been pretty good at that. But that all changed in 2013 when the B.C. government approved the Site C dam.

According to a new report released this week by the University of British Columbia’s Program on Water Governance, since 2013 B.C. has “moderated” energy conservation measures even though those measures would have reduced B.C.’s power demand, at a significantly cheaper cost than building Site C.

These measures include codes and standards for building efficiency, stepped rate structures to reduce energy consumption, and programs like low interests loans and tax breaks designed to encourage the adoption of more energy efficient technologies and practices.

Five Facepalm-Worthy Facts from UBC’s New Analysis on the Site C Dam

Site C dam

The Site C dam no longer makes economic sense and construction on the project should be halted immediately, according to researchers from the University of British Columbia.

That recommendation comes on the heels of a major new study that examines the business case for Site C given major changes in economic and energy market conditions since the project was first proposed in the 1980s.

We brought together a team of experts in energy and engineering and took a look at the business case for Site C as it stands today,” Karen Bakker, professor at the University of British Columbia and co-author of the report, told DeSmog Canada.

In fact it’s so weak, we’re arguing the project should be paused.”

The Startling Similarities Between Newfoundland's Muskrat Falls Boondoggle and B.C.'s Site C Dam

Ken Boon, Site C dam construction

Residents of Newfoundland and Labrador are preparing for electricity rates to double in the next five years, adding an estimated $150 per month in power costs for the average homeowner, as a consequence of building the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric dam — and experts warn it could be a cautionary tale for British Columbia.

“Muskrat Falls was not the right choice for the power needs of this province,” public power company CEO Stan Marshall told the press last year, confirming the project is a “boondoggle.”

“It was a gamble and it's gone against us.”

Meantime in British Columbia, debate continues over whether to continue building the 1,100 megawatt Site C hydro dam on the Peace River, estimated to cost $9 billion, at a time that power demand has been essentially flat for 10 years, despite population growth.

There are a lot of parallels between British Columbia and Newfoundland,” David Vardy, former CEO of the Newfoundland Public Utilities Board, told DeSmog Canada. “There’s the same fixation with the megaproject.”

VIDEO: Site C Dam an ‘Economic Disaster,’ Says Former Premier Mike Harcourt

In a sit-down video interview, former B.C. Premier Mike Harcourt told DeSmog Canada the Site C dam, proposed for the Peace River, is “a bad idea” and should be abandoned immediately.

Tweet: “#SiteC is going to be a disaster economically, environmentally, culturally for #FirstNations & shouldn’t be built.” http://bit.ly/2mnDX9DSite C is going to be a disaster economically, environmentally, culturally for First Nations and shouldn’t be built,” Harcourt said.

Site C, originally projected to cost B.C. ratepayers $5.5 billion, is now estimated to cost $9 billion.

Harcourt said Site C follows a long history of hydro project cost overruns.

The average overage cost of dams worldwide over the last 70 years have averaged 90 per cent overage. So you can assume Site C is going to cost, probably, $15 billion to $17 billion dollars,” he said.

BC Hydro Let Off Hook for $400,000 Site C Dam Fine … Again

Site C dam construction

Sandbags, bales of weed-free straw, crushed gravel and silt fencing are among the extra supplies BC Hydro has stockpiled at the Site C dam construction site to avoid federal fines.

In early January the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency issued BC Hydro with a Notice of Intent to Issue an Order after inspectors found that “no erosion and sediment contingency supplies” were to be found at three sites.

The agency also noted BC Hydro could face fines of up to $400,000 for not meeting the conditions set out in its environmental certificate. 

It’s not the first time BC Hydro has been found in contravention of the law. In May, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency found BC Hydro had failed to measure air pollution and threatened BC Hydro with a $400,000 fine.

BC Hydro, in a Jan. 5 letter to the Environmental Assessment Agency, said all measures had been taken to restore the Site C project to a “state of conformity,” and, after studying photographs supplied by BC Hydro, the agency agreed that there was no need to issue the order, which could have resulted in hefty fines.

Logging Crew Mobilizes Near 'Irreplaceable' Wetland, Slated for Site C Flooding

Watson Slough near the Site C dam

A “landmark” wetland and birding hotspot in the Peace River Valley is slated to be destroyed by the Site C dam, after the B.C. government preserved it as a model conservation project.  

The area around Watson Slough, which provides habitat for two dozen bird, plant and amphibian species vulnerable to extinction, is scheduled for imminent logging by BC Hydro contractors in preparation for flooding the area for Site C. Preparations are being made for logging crews and security had arrived at Bear Flat near Watson Slough Wednesday morning in prepration for clear-cutting the Bear Flat/Cache Creek area.

Peace region residents say logging the area around the slough this winter will prematurely rob them of a favourite outdoor spot, as treasured locally as Vancouver’s Stanley Park or Beacon Hill Park in Victoria. 

It’s discouraging,” Karen Goodings, a Peace River Regional District director, said in an interview. “Watson Slough is one of the landmarks of this area and I really believe it is irreplaceable.”

BC Hydro Shows Trump-Style Attacks on Media Can and Do Happen in Canada

When Donald Trump held his first news conference this month following his election as U.S. president, observers worldwide decried his shameless attack on the media and his critics.

In an onslaught against the press, Trump labelled CNN “terrible” and “fake news,” lambasted the digital-media powerhouse BuzzFeed as a “failing pile of garbage,” then turned his sights on the BBC, calling the news outlet, “another beauty,” and refusing to answer a reporter’s questions.

Could something similar ever happen in Canada? You bet it could.

In B.C., a slightly abridged version of Trump’s scorched-earth offensive against the media and his critics is already underway, led by BC Hydro, with disquieting consequences for the principles of freedom of expression and freedom of the press. 

Besties? BC Hydro and Premier’s Office Too Close for Comfort, Experts Suggest

Fast-tracking Site C dam construction before May’s provincial election is an unusual decision driven more by politics than need, according to a Canadian expert in Crown corporations who suggests the relationship between BC Hydro and the Premier’s office may be “too close for comfort.” 

Luc Bernier, the former head of the Institute of Public Administration of Canada, said Premier Christy Clark’s vow to push Site C past the “point of no return,” when B.C. has a surplus of electricity and Clark is still searching for a buyer for Site C’s power, leads him to believe that that “there’s too much politics around BC Hydro.”

What seems unusual to me is the idea of locking up this project before the provincial election,” said Bernier, who holds the Jarislowsky Chair in Public Sector Management at the University of Ottawa.

If B.C. doesn’t need the electricity for the next decade or so there’s no emergency to build it…The only emergency in this project is the coming election.”

Revealed: Inside the B.C. Government's Site C Spin Machine

BC Hydro officials and members of Premier Christy Clark and Energy Minister Bill Bennett’s offices were all involved in a coordinated attempt to discredit DeSmog Canada’s reporting on the $8.8 billion Site C hydroelectric dam, according to documents obtained through Freedom of Information requests.

The documents detail a flurry of e-mails following a DeSmog Canada story that quoted former BC Hydro CEO Marc Eliesen saying that Site C was proceeding without due diligence, would lead to escalating hydro rate increases and was “scheduled to become a big white elephant,” a story later referenced by the New York Times.

BC Hydro officials were concerned that major B.C. media would pick up on the DeSmog Canada story, based largely on a BC Hydro progress report to the B.C. Utilities Commission. That report noted that Site C had fallen behind on four out of seven key milestones and outlined project risks and reasons why Site C had spent more money than anticipated by the end of last March, while saying that the project’s overall forecast still remained on track.

Inspectors find BC Hydro Violating Rules During Site C Construction

Site C Construction by Garth Lenz

Two enforcement orders released by the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office detail BC Hydro’s failure to comply with environmental protection rules during construction of the Site C dam.

The orders, issued to BC Hydro in late December and first reported by the Globe and Mail on Sunday, detail on-site inspections that found BC Hydro out of compliance with permit conditions related to the protection of drinking water and amphibian species.

One non-compliance order found BC Hydro failed to comply with two conditions outlined in Site C construction permits for the protection of amphibian species.

Condition 19 requires BC Hydro to “avoid and reduce injury and mortality to amphibians on roads adjacent to wetlands and other areas where amphibians are known to migrate across roads.”

A related condition, number 16, requires BC Hydro to conduct amphibian surveys at Portage Mountain to “identify specific mitigation structures and placement prior to road construction.”

However in late August, Alex McLean, a compliance inspector with the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office found BC Hydro had constructed an access road at Portage Mountain without conducting amphibian surveys or installing amphibian mitigation structures.

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