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Year-Long Wait for Site C Dam Budget Docs 'Disturbing': Expert

Site C dam construction

Are you curious to know the results of our Freedom of Information request for an updated budget and timeline for the $8.8 billion Site C dam project on B.C.’s Peace River?

So are we.

We were told by former energy minister Bill Bennett’s office that we would have the information on May 30, three weeks after the provincial election and nine months after we filed our request.

But then we received an e-mail from the ministry on May 24, advising us that the deadline had been extended by 45 business days. It had become apparent upon reviewing 880 pages of relevant records, said the e-mail from a government FOI specialist, “that an external consultation is required with BC Hydro.”

No Charges, No Fines For Mount Polley Mine Disaster as Three-Year Legal Deadline Approaches

Mount Polley mine disaster

As the three-year anniversary of the Mount Polley mine disaster approaches, so too does the deadline for the province to lay any charges against mine owner Imperial Metals.

Considered one of the worst environmental disasters in Canadian history, the failure of the Mount Polley tailings pond sent an estimated 25 million cubic metres of contaminated mine waste flooding into Quesnel Lake, a source of drinking water for local residents of Likely, B.C., on August 4, 2014.

I would have expected something to have happened by now,” fisheries biologist and Likely resident Richard Holmes told DeSmog Canada. “I know they had a lot of information to sift through but it has been three years. I’m hopeful there will be some charges forthcoming.”

New Aerial Photos Show Site C Construction Impact As Utilities Commission Review Looms

 Site C Construction Peace River Comparison July 2017

Although former B.C. premier Christy Clark vowed to push the $9-billion Site C dam past the “point of no return” before the May 2017 provincial election, the fate of the most expensive public project in B.C.’s history is still far from certain.

B.C.'s new NDP government has vowed to send the dam for an expedited review of costs and demand by the B.C. Utilities Commission within a speedy six-week timeframe. 

New aerial photos of Site C construction show a small stretch of the Peace River valley significantly altered by excavation crews. The building of the actual dam and associated infrastructure has yet to take place. Unless the project is stopped, construction is expected to continue until 2024 when the filling of the reservoir will flood 107 kilometres of river valley, flooding valuable agricultural land and First Nations historic sites.

An analysis by the Program on Water Governance at the University of British Columbia found that, if completed, Site C would operate at a 100 per cent surplus incurring an estimated $800 million to $2 billion loss to B.C. ratepayers. That same analysis calculated cancellation of Site C by the end of June 2017 would save B.C. between $500 million and $1.65 billion.

Pacific NorthWest LNG Hits Road Block as Gas Pipeline Sent Back to National Energy Board by Federal Court

Site of Pacific NorthWest LNG

The Federal Court of Appeal has ruled that the National Energy Board (NEB) made a legal mistake by not considering whether TransCanada’s Prince Rupert Gas Transmission pipeline is under federal jurisdiction, thus requiring NEB approval.

The 900-kilometre natural gas pipeline would move mostly fracked gas from northeastern B.C. to the proposed Pacific NorthWest liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal near Prince Rupert.

The pipeline was approved by the B.C. government but Smithers, B.C., resident Mike Sawyer requested that the NEB hold a full hearing to determine whether the pipeline is actually in federal jurisdiction.

Kamloops Council, First Nations Ask B.C. Government to Suspend Controversial Ajax Mine Proposal

Ajax mine location

One of the first controversies likely to land on the desk of newly minted Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources Minister Michelle Mungall is what to do about the proposed massive Ajax gold and copper mine on the outskirts of Kamloops that is opposed by Kamloops city council and the Stk’emlupsemc te Secwepemc Nation.

I think this will be one of their first tests and it will be interesting to see how a new government will handle it,” said Councillor Denis Walsh, a vocal opponent of the proposed mine.

Outgoing B.C. Liberals Issue Mining Permits in Tsilhqot’in Territory During Wildfire Evacuation

Tsilhqot'in First Nation Garth Lenz

The Tsilhqot’in First Nation — currently under an evacuation order due to B.C.’s wildfires — learned Monday that permits have been issued for mining company Taseko to conduct exploration for the New Prosperity mine, an open pit gold and copper mine twice rejected at the federal level.

Monday was the outgoing B.C. Liberal government’s final day in power. 

Copies of the documentation obtained by DeSmog Canada show the permit was granted to Taseko on Friday July 14th, as members of the Tsilhqot’in were under evacuation orders due to rampant wildfires in central B.C.

I appreciate this may come at a difficult time for you given the wildfire situation affecting some of your communities, however I made the permit decision Friday, ” Rick Adams, senior inspector with the B.C. Ministry of Energy and Mines, told Tsilhqot’in representatives in an e-mail.

Fort Nelson First Nation Files Legal Challenge to Gas Pipeline Claiming It Will Threaten Caribou Habitat

Woodland caribou

A First Nation in northeastern B.C. is challenging the province’s approval of a proposed gas pipeline that would cut across critical habitat of threatened boreal woodland caribou.

Fort Nelson First Nation (FNFN) has filed for a judicial review of B.C. Oil and Gas Commission’s approval last month of a pipeline, proposed by Rockyview Resources Inc. and Shanghai Energy Corp., that would run through FNFN territory, resulting in 78 hectares of disturbance to caribou habitat.

The 39-kilometre proposed gas pipeline cuts right through core caribou habitat in our territory, in an area with the most concentrated and highest-known use by boreal caribou for forage, calving, rearing and protection from predators,” said Lana Lowe, FNFN land and resources director.

Christy Clark Worried Mount Polley Spill Would Harm New Mine Construction, New Docs Show

Mount Polley Mine Disaster

By Jeremy J.Nuttall for The Tyee.

In the hours after the 2014 Mount Polley mine disaster, authorities were already concerned laws had been broken and the premier’s office was worried fallout from the tailing pond breach would “get in the way” of other planned mines, documents provided to The Tyee reveal.

Almost three years after the disaster, and weeks away from a deadline to lay charges under B.C.’s environment act, no charges have been laid and no fines levied.

The government’s initial reaction to the dam’s collapse is revealed in hundreds of pages of emails and other communications obtained through a freedom of information request and provided to The Tyee by Jessica Ross, an independent researcher and member of the BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association.

Ross said she filed the FOI request almost three years ago and only received the documents July 4.

Feds Never Considered Cumulative Climate Impacts Of Pacific Northwest LNG, Court Docs Reveal

Pacific Northwest LNG approval

The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) never considered the cumulative greenhouse gas emissions of the Pacific NorthWest LNG export terminal, according to documents revealed in a federal court this week.

The documents were submitted to a federal court in Vancouver during a hearing to determine whether the information should be considered as part of a forthcoming judicial review of the federal government’s decision to approve the LNG project.  

SkeenaWild Conservation Trust filed for the judicial review of the project’s approval and received 17,000 pages of federal documents under disclosure — the release of information required by law during legal proceedings. SkeenaWild hired two experts to give expert testimony on those documents.

Site C Dam Late for Key Milestones Under BC Liberals, Report Reveals

Site C dam construction

B.C. Premier Christy Clark made headlines last month when she claimed that even a few months delay in evicting two Peace Valley families from their homes could add $600 million to the Site C dam project tab.

When Premier designate John Horgan asked BC Hydro to hold off forcing families from their homes this coming week as scheduled, Clark wrote to Horgan that “…with a project of this size and scale, keeping to a tight schedule is critical to delivering a completed project on time and on budget.”

But now BC Hydro’s latest Site C report reveals that — well before May’s provincial election and Clark’s headline-grabbing claims — the hydro project was already late meeting three out of eight “key milestones” for 2017 and was at risk of being late for three more.

It begs the question: was Clark trying to deflect blame for Site C construction delays and potential cost overruns onto the soon-to-be NDP government?

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