Sarah Cox

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Sarah Cox is a writer and strategist based in Victoria, B.C. She spent a decade working in the environmental non-profit sector, including for Sierra Club BC and the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative, and is now writing a book about the Site C dam in northern B.C. Sarah has won two Western Magazine Awards and a Vancouver Press Club Award, and has been nominated for two additional Western Magazine Awards, a Jack Webster award and a Canadian Association of Journalists magazine writing award. She has a Master’s in Political Science from York University, where she focused on Canadian foreign aid and economic development policy.

Site C Dam Costs Could Escalate 40%, Says Auditor's Report

Site C dam construction

The Site C dam project faces “significant schedule and cost pressures” that could inflate its final price tag to more than $12.5 billion, according to a new report by one of Canada’s leading auditing firms.

The report, by Deloitte LLP, was commissioned by the B.C. Utilities Commission as part of an independent review of the BC Hydro project on the Peace River ordered by the new B.C. government.

The report substantiates statements from many prominent critics of the project, including former BC Hydro CEO Marc Eliesen, that the $8.8 billion project faces serious risks of major cost overruns.

‘Stop the Losses’: Former BC Hydro CEO Calls for Cancellation of Site C Dam

Site C dam construction

The decision to proceed with the Site C dam was “reckless and irresponsible” and continuing the project will result in a “series of devastating high electricity rate increases” that will lead to job losses and business failures, the former President and CEO of BC Hydro has told the B.C. Utilities Commission in a formal submission.

Marc Eliesen, who was at the helm of BC Hydro from 1992 to 1994, outlined why he believes the only financially responsible course of action is to cancel the $8.8 billion project and remediate the Peace River site in order to minimize Site C’s negative impact on BC Hydro customers and taxpayers.

Both the former government and BC Hydro’s Board abdicated their fiduciary responsibility to the rate payers and tax payers of this province,” Eliesen said in his 22-page submission to the BCUC, which is conducting a fast-tracked review of Site C’s finances and construction schedule.

There never was a business case for the start-up of construction of Site C, and there is not a business case to support its continuation or postponement.”

EXCLUSIVE: BC Hydro Spent $20 Million Quietly Buying Land for Site C Before Dam Was Approved

Ken and Arlene Boon

BC Hydro spent more than $20 million quietly buying up Peace Valley property for the Site C hydro dam in the four years before the project was approved, according to documents obtained by DeSmog Canada.

The cost of the land purchases has never been publicly disclosed by BC Hydro, and only came to light as a result of a Freedom of Information (FOI) request.

Even then, it took more than four months after the request was filed for BC Hydro to release the figures, and the information was only provided following an appeal to the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner (OIPC) after BC Hydro said it was extending the legal deadline for response. The OIPC found that BC Hydro “did not provide sufficient evidence” to justify a time extension.

It's Finally Happening: Site C Gets Its Date with the B.C. Utilities Commission

Ken Boon

David Vardy has a message for British Columbia about continuing work on the Site C dam while the project undergoes a quick independent review by the B.C. Utilities Commission (BCUC).

My comment to British Columbia is a big red sign saying ‘Stop.’ This is crazy. Don’t go ahead with this [project],” Vardy told DeSmog Canada.

While the review is taking place the activity should be suspended.”

Vardy is the former chair and CEO of Newfoundland’s public utilities board, which reviewed the “boondoggle” Muskrat Falls dam after a new provincial government came to power. As in the case of Site C and B.C.’s former Liberal government, the previous Newfoundland government had refused to allow independent scrutiny of Muskrat Falls.

On Wednesday the B.C. cabinet instructed the BCUC to provide two reports on Site C — a preliminary report by September 20 and a final report by November 1.

What You Need to Know About the B.C. Utilities Commission and the Site C Dam

Site C dam construction

Until 11:13 on Monday morning, the B.C. Utilities Commission (BCUC) had a website that was as much of a snoozer as its name. It had tiny lines of text and looked like something that harkened back to the horse and buggy days of the World Wide Web.

Just as all eyes turn to the BCUC — which will begin a review of the Site C hydro dam project any day now — the commission is striving to find a bit more sizzle and pop when it comes to public relations.

It launched a new website on Monday, with big photos and cute little icons representing BCUC areas of oversight: electricity utilities, gas utilities, intra provincial oil pipelines and auto insurance.

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.”

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?

‘We Just Want the Truth’: Commercial Customers Warn B.C. Hydro’s Forecasts Could Lead to Costly Oversupply

BC Hydro President Jessica Mcdonald

An association representing B.C.’s commercial sector and business interests says it has compelling evidence that B.C. Hydro has over forecasted electricity demand over the past 50 years — leading to anticipated revenues “that won’t show up” and creating a large existing electricity surplus roughly equal to the power from the Site C dam.

The end result, according to David Craig, the executive director of the Commercial Energy Consumers Association of B.C., could be cumulative new hydro rate increases so significant that that some industries in B.C. may no longer be able to compete as well in their world markets, potentially risking the viability of some businesses and the jobs they support.

Craig confirmed that his association is challenging B.C. Hydro’s projections of power demand — known as “load forecasts” — in an on-going proceeding at the B.C. Utilities Commission, the agency responsible for approving hydro rate increases.

We just want to get the truth,” said Craig, who previously spent more than 20 years working for B.C. Hydro in various management positions, including as the head of the utility’s accounting group and internal audit function.

B.C. Government Delays Release of Site C Budget Docs Until After Election

B.C. Premier Christy Clark

After many months of delay and an attempt to charge almost $1,000 to release an updated budget and timeline for the Site C dam, the B.C. government has finally agreed to provide new information about the most expensive publicly funded project in B.C.’s history.

But the public will not be privy to the information until May 30, three weeks after the provincial election, B.C. Energy Minister Bill Bennett’s office has informed DeSmog Canada following a Freedom of Information request.

Sean Holman, a journalism professor and freedom of information advocate, said withholding such important knowledge on the eve of an election is an unfortunate example of continued efforts by provincial governments across the country to “fortify secrecy rather than to facilitate openness.”

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.”

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